Sunday, 30 July 2017

1/4 Norfolk Regiment (TF) and 163 Machine Gun Company 1917

Here are the four outstanding figures needed to complete the 1/4 Norfolks (TF). Three Woodbines and a Footsore Miniatures figure.

A picture of the completed unit.

As part of the project to build 163 Brigade for the Second Battle of Gaza, we need to have the Brigade's Machine Gun Company. Here is 163 Machine Gun Company.. 

A couple of weeks ago I was able to read 163 M G Coy's War  Diary  at the National Archives. A great deal of information can be gleaned from this document starting with the formation of the Company in April 1916 with the amalgamation of the eight brass jacketed Vickers-Maxims from 1/8 Hampshires, 1/4 Norfolks, 1/5 Norfolks and 1/5 Suffolks and their problems in attempting to increase the number of guns in the company to sixteen. Personnel were a problem too. It seems that right up until the Third Battle of Gaza in November 1917, the ranks were filled by very few new men of the Machine Gun Corps being brought in from the UK. The diary indicates that many men were "on attachment" from the battalions of 163 Brigade with groups of men being rotated in and out of the MG Company. Hence these figures all wear different patches on their helmets and a purely conjectural yellow patch on the sleeve to denote being attached to 163 M. G. Coy.

The title page for the month of October 1916 before the Company became a company of 54 Battalion Machine Gun Corps in April 1918.

 So here we have the Company CO, Captain Taylor and his CSM with a scratchbuilt rangefinder....

... and the battery itself.

All these figures are either Mutton Chops  or Footsore Miniatures all with Woodbine headswaps.

Here is a page from the diary that mentions the support given by eight of the Company's guns to a raid on "Beach Post" made by a group of 1/8 Hampshires on 14th October, 1917 a couple of weeks before Third Gaza. 16000 rounds of ammunition were fired in a "barrage" before the Hampshires attacked. By this time the Company was equipped with sixteen Vickers guns shipped in from the UK. The Diary of 1/8 Hampshires has a very detailed description of this raid.... but that is for another visit to the National Archives.

On October 27th, 1917, Captain Taylor writes thus:

Oct 27 GAZA FRONT 202696 Pte. Johnson P.C., 1/5th Suffolks attached, ammunition carrier, was wounded in the head by a premature burst of one of our own shells. His steel helmet was pierced but broke the force of the splinter and undoubtedly saved his life. This was the first parade on which the steel helemets had been worn.

That answers a question of mine.... when did steel helmets reach Palestine?


Peter Douglas said...

Lovely and inspiring work Mark. Those gas masks must have been uncomfortable in any sort of heat. Also very impressed with your researching.
Cheers, Peter

Michael Awdry said...

Wow Mark! These are sensational and seeing the unit together is a joy to behold.