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TRENCH GUN USAGE 1915

35 posts in this topic

HELLO,

I've recently being digging through my family history and in particular My Great-Great Grandfather. I've been going through a letter that he sent to his family back home in England dated 6/11/15.

In the letter he states ' I'VE PUT DOWN FOR A NEW TRENCH GUN, TELL YOU MORE ABOUT IT WHEN I GET HOME'.

Now this is curious to me - I thought a Trench Gun was a pump action shotgun - A Winchester.....that was introduced to the front when the U.S.A entered the trenches during the latter part of the war. The fact that this letter is dated late 1915 makes this even more curious.

Its not confirmed whether he was issued with a trench gun - I guess they were not widely used??? especially by British troops??

for info - My G,G-grandfather in question was a Private in the Lancashire Fusiliers - 10th Battalion - 'B' Coy and served in France from the battalions first arrival in France right up until he was KIA August 1918

If anyone has any information that could help me understand this more, please could you share your knowledge - it will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!

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i think that we are applying the wrong interpretation to the then term "trench gun" and also that 'he has "put down for a new trench gun",

I am thinking that what he meant is that he has put 'his NAME down to be part of the new Lewis Gun teams then making their debut on the Western Front.

What do others think??

khaki

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HELLO,

I've recently being digging through my family history and in particular My Great-Great Grandfather. I've been going through a letter that he sent to his family back home in England dated 6/11/15.

In the letter he states ' I'VE PUT DOWN FOR A NEW TRENCH GUN, TELL YOU MORE ABOUT IT WHEN I GET HOME'.

Now this is curious to me - I thought a Trench Gun was a pump action shotgun - A Winchester.....that was introduced to the front when the U.S.A entered the trenches during the latter part of the war. The fact that this letter is dated late 1915 makes this even more curious.

Its not confirmed whether he was issued with a trench gun - I guess they were not widely used??? especially by British troops??

for info - My G,G-grandfather in question was a Private in the Lancashire Fusiliers - 10th Battalion - 'B' Coy and served in France from the battalions first arrival in France right up until he was KIA August 1918

If anyone has any information that could help me understand this more, please could you share your knowledge - it will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!

Although the M1897 Winchester is often referred to as a Trench Gun the term has been applied to a number of other weapons - notably a variety of 37mm lighr cannon used to knock out things like snipers armoured loopholes or machine guns in protected locations. The only one extant at the time you quote was Russian - see http://www.landships...senberg_m15.htm however I believe large calibre express sporting (if you can call shooting elephants sporting) rifles used for the same job were also sometimes referred to as Trench Guns

Alternatively Trench mortars were initially called Trench Howitzers or Trench Guns so he might have wanted to join a Stokes team. Never heard the Lewis referred to as a Trench Gun

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In the letter he states ' I'VE PUT DOWN FOR A NEW TRENCH GUN, TELL YOU MORE ABOUT IT WHEN I GET HOME'.

Now this is curious to me - I thought a Trench Gun was a pump action shotgun - A Winchester.....that was introduced to the front when the U.S.A entered the trenches during the latter part of the war. The fact that this letter is dated late 1915 makes this even more curious.

Its not confirmed whether he was issued with a trench gun - I guess they were not widely used??? especially by British troops??

It appears that in 1915, the term "trench gun" was applied to trench mortars:

http://books.google.com/books?id=GV0MAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA240&dq=%22trench+gun%22+1915&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Lr0xT77GCInf0QH19I2HCA&ved=0CFwQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=%22trench%20gun%22%201915&f=false

http://books.google.com/books?id=6s3UAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA426&dq=%22trench+gun%22+1915&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Lr0xT77GCInf0QH19I2HCA&ved=0CGsQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

I assume that your man meant that he had applied to serve on one of the new trench-mortar squads.

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Here's a postcard from 1915-1916 captioned "Removing a trench grenade gun to position." As you can see, it's a small trench mortar.

post-7020-0-07174900-1328661367.jpg

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Great stuff - thanks all for sharing your knowledge - Well, It seems that its opened up a few different avenues which to explore...if anyone has any more info please share!

thanks all

Chris

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In 1915 the 3" Stokes was referred to as a Stokes Gun, as well as a Stokes Trench Howitzer.

Martin

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In 1915 the 3" Stokes was referred to as a Stokes Gun, as well as a Stokes Trench Howitzer.

Martin

Hence my suggestion in post 3

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In my experience most of the 1915 trench mortars were still artillerymen although perhaps by this late date (November) we were getting infantrymen forming light Trench Mortar units?? I got the impression few formed before early 1916 - but may be wrong. Some indication may come from when the first TMBs were formed in the 17th Division - where the 10th served, i believe (52nd TMB would that be? .. but looks to have formed in mid-1916??). In the context, the only likely volunteering a Private might do would be for a new unit formation, surely??

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unless "putting in for a new trench gun" refers to a different kind of weapon?

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unless "putting in for a new trench gun" refers to a different kind of weapon?

This is the problem of interpreting the mindset behind an enlisted man's personal correspondence, his nominal description of a new trench gun is probably his unofficial and self censored way of departing from the tedium of day to day in imparting something of interest. I am guessing that he may even have had only have a vague idea of what it actually was. I can envisage a Sgt giving a very limited idea of something 'new' to attract volunteers, at the time mortars were not a new concept either incoming or outgoing and most enlisted men would have known what they were, that is why I elected to suggest a Lewis Gun as a possibility.

khaki

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Another possibility- a SMLE Rifle No. 1, Mark III, rather than the Long Enfields that the men often trained with in "Blighty". I've seen original accounts of the shorter rifle referred to as a "trench gun" or "trench rifle". Just a thought.

Dave

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In my experience most of the 1915 trench mortars were still artillerymen although perhaps by this late date (November) we were getting infantrymen forming light Trench Mortar units?? I got the impression few formed before early 1916 - but may be wrong. Some indication may come from when the first TMBs were formed in the 17th Division - where the 10th served, i believe (52nd TMB would that be? .. but looks to have formed in mid-1916??). In the context, the only likely volunteering a Private might do would be for a new unit formation, surely??

This photo of a Stokes (4 inch) crew in 1915 (NAM) suggests that non RA teams did exist in that year

http://www.nam.ac.uk/microsites/war-horse/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/95333.jpg

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Hence my suggestion in post 3

At time of writing wasn't sure if only 3" calibre Stokes were referred to as 'guns', but have found out since seems all calibres were.

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This is the problem of interpreting the mindset behind an enlisted man's personal correspondence, his nominal description of a new trench gun is probably his unofficial and self censored way of departing from the tedium of day to day in imparting something of interest. I am guessing that he may even have had only have a vague idea of what it actually was. I can envisage a Sgt giving a very limited idea of something 'new' to attract volunteers, at the time mortars were not a new concept either incoming or outgoing and most enlisted men would have known what they were, that is why I elected to suggest a Lewis Gun as a possibility.

khaki

Exactly. The Sergeant thinks "how can I get one of these boobs to volunteer to carry a heavy weapon that attracts German bullets?"

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Exactly. The Sergeant thinks "how can I get one of these boobs to volunteer to carry a heavy weapon that attracts German bullets?"

Except that Lewis guns were not a new concept either, having been (and still were at the time) used by the Belgian army. As I said there is no evidence of Lewis guns ever being called "trench guns" but there is a lot of evidence of Stokes mortars being called this.

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Except that Lewis guns were not a new concept either, having been (and still were at the time) used by the Belgian army. As I said there is no evidence of Lewis guns ever being called "trench guns" but there is a lot of evidence of Stokes mortars being called this.

It would depend on how much interaction the individual had if any with the Belgian army, most enlisted men were familiar with what they experienced at platoon level maybe even company level. On talking with veterans of the day I found that they could really only relate to what was happening in their immediate area, to themselves and their pals, outside of that their knowledge of other forces and their equipment was limited. In some ways (with no disrespect) veterans who were actually there could not be described as experts, say as opposed to collectors who can identify myriad amounts of equipment of all armies .Even the terminology used, as in the 'letter', may be at odds with how we interpret it today.

khaki

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It would depend on how much interaction the individual had if any with the Belgian army, most enlisted men were familiar with what they experienced at platoon level maybe even company level. On talking with veterans of the day I found that they could really only relate to what was happening in their immediate area, to themselves and their pals, outside of that their knowledge of other forces and their equipment was limited. In some ways (with no disrespect) veterans who were actually there could not be described as experts, say as opposed to collectors who can identify myriad amounts of equipment of all armies .Even the terminology used, as in the 'letter', may be at odds with how we interpret it today.

khaki

You are so besotted with the Lewis gun theory that you miss the point

  • Lewis guns were never referred to as trench guns
  • Stokes mortars were
  • Trench mortars and Lewis guns had both been around for a while

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You are so besotted with the Lewis gun theory that you miss the point

  • Lewis guns were never referred to as trench guns
  • Stokes mortars were
  • Trench mortars and Lewis guns had both been around for a while

A theory is something everyone is entitled to, as is common courtesy,

khaki

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I am thinking that what he meant is that he has put 'his NAME down to be part of the new Lewis Gun teams then making their debut on the Western Front.

What do others think??

khaki

Hey Khaki, just a quick observation from a curious bystander. If you have a theory then stick to it - just don't ask anyone else what they think of it.!

Because your certainly guaranteed on this forum that somebody will be along to do just that, sometimes whether you like it or not ... :thumbsup:

Cheers, S>S

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Hello S>S,

You may have noticed that I have not retreated from what my theory is, however when I ask what people think of it, the request is intended to promote healthy debate., I work in the belief whether misguided or not, that people who share a common interest should demonstrate that individual opinions are just different, not necessarily wrong. If I can assist people I will do my best to give an opinion that they are free to accept or reject. I do not enter into the dangerous realm of lack of proof being evidence of anything. If I am wrong in an opinion, that is fine, no harm done and no hard feelings. Supporting information is fine if it is available, but the lack of it is not a predetermination that any opinion is less worthy.

khaki

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I love this web site and indeed there are many many experts, but I am disappointed at some of the threads and how quick people are to be a little aggressive in their response. I have read and re-read ALL the threads here and every offering has some merit, and every offering could be right. Indeed although all members are always very informed we/you are unable to be definitive. I think Khakis interpretation about ''putting a name down'' is very fair and who is to say that the 'Tom' in the trench might refer to all sorts of wpns 'technically' incorrectly. Most serving soldiers today still call it SA80 and look at the vickers MG- called both a Heavy MG and Medium MG even in issued manuals. Differing opinions are not an attack on others or questioning expertise - it is purely an offered opinion and that is the beauty of such web sites. Please let us not be like one US wpn web site where a differing opinion seems to be received as an attack on parenthood! Do we really have to start saying 'in my opinion'' in every thread to be legally correct?

Mark

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It would depend on how much interaction the individual had if any with the Belgian army, most enlisted men were familiar with what they experienced at platoon level maybe even company level. On talking with veterans of the day I found that they could really only relate to what was happening in their immediate area, to themselves and their pals, outside of that their knowledge of other forces and their equipment was limited. In some ways (with no disrespect) veterans who were actually there could not be described as experts, say as opposed to collectors who can identify myriad amounts of equipment of all armies .Even the terminology used, as in the 'letter', may be at odds with how we interpret it today.

khaki

My thoughts as well.

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My thoughts as well.

The Belgian use of the Lewis gun was all over the British popular press in stories about "the Belgian Rattlesnake" - you just needed to be moderately literate and not live in a hermitage to know about the Lewis Now I can provide plenty of examples of a Stokes being called a trench gun. Can anyone provide one, just one, verifiable example of a Lewis being referred to in this manner?

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