Training of Infantry on crew served weapons

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by Fatboy Coxy, Mar 25, 2023.

  1. Fatboy Coxy

    Fatboy Coxy Junior Member

    Hi all, during WW2, how were soldiers already serving in infantry battalions given formal trained on the smaller crew served weapons, ie Boys anti-tank rifle, 2-inch mortar and Vickers machine gun. Would that have been done within the battalion, or at brigade level, or would they have attended a training course run by the Division or Army Command. Also, what might the time period be for instruction on these weapons.
  2. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    I believe that originally all the courses for infantry unit support weapons (initially mortars, MMGs and anti-tank rifles, later supplemented by anti-tank guns) were undertaken by the Small Arms Training Schools. At some date, the Netharavon establishment became the Infantry Heavy Weapons School, specialising in MMGs, 3-inch and 4.2-inch mortars and 6-pr anti-tank guns. I suspect there would be similar courses run in the main theatres of operation.

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  3. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member


    I've got some examples from Middle East diaries:

    WO169/10213 - 8 Royal Fusiliers
    19 June 1943
    Lieut. L.J. Taylor left to attend A/Tk course at M.E. Training School, Al Maza.

    WO169/10214 - 9 Royal Fusiliers
    5 June 1943
    Capt. SKILLERN to M.E.T.C. sub unit cmdrs course. Capt DOORN to M.E.T.C. admin course.

    11 July 1943
    Lt. CARTER left for A/Tk instructors course M.E.T.C.

    WO169/8810 - 56 Division G Branch
    5 August 1943
    100 Lt AA – BM 201 Gds Bde has spoken Col. DREW and requested Oerlikon gun course for Gds Bde 9 – 11 Aug and NOT 8 – 10 Aug. OK with Lt AA.


  4. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Bear in mind the purpose of the Schools was to train the unit's instructors. An officer or NCO would attend the School, then go back to his unit to train the 'user'. Some formations might pool their units' instructors to run bigger courses more efficiently (e.g. divisional battle schools).

    In parallel, the Infantry, MG and Motor Training Centres/Battalions also trained recruit specialists from scratch before they went out to their units. Again, the instructors would almost certainly have been through the relevant School.

    Netheravon was a pre-war facility but seems to have grown organically as new weapons came along. Its rebranding as the Infantry Heavy Weapons School was in Jan 1945.
  5. chrisgrove

    chrisgrove Senior Member

    My guess (30 years in the Infantry) is that the Boys AT rifle and the two inch mortar, both being weapons found in any infantry platoon (given the right time scale) would have been taught as part of basic training. The Vickers MMG ( also 3 inch mortar) would have been taught as a special cadre but still within the battalion. Some of the trainers on these two would have attended a specialist course outside the battalion.
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  6. Fatboy Coxy

    Fatboy Coxy Junior Member

    Thank you guys, so to recap, most probably a few men (NCO's) are trained away from the battalion at a dedicated school, and then sent back to train the rest of the men. This would work for the Boys anti tank rifle, just two men, but basically a one man operation, and the 2-inch mortar, skill is more in the aiming than anything else. Both would be relatively easy to maintain.

    Would use of the grenade discharge cup fall into this category too?

    The Vickers machine gun was also operated by Machine Gun battalions, so although there is a simplicity in firing it, in it's use, consideration has to be about fields of fire, logistical support, it needs a lot of ammo, and possibly being integrated into a fire support role. So operation is simple, use, much more complex, and maintenance is a little more.

    Heavier weapons obviously have dedicated crews and are organised in such units.

    However use of these weapons in a tactical sense comes more under the remit of an officer, hence possibly the courses Tom has found examples of.

    Going back to the ordinary infantryman, was it recorded that he had received training in such a weapon, noted in his records, a badge awarded, or something else?

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