Organization of a Machine-Gun Section

The composition of the machine-gun section remained relatively unchanged from 1915-1918, the composition of which is laid out below. What did change however was the organization of the machine-gun unit in a French battalion/regiment. At mobilization in August 1914, the machine-gun unit was formed around the section and was based at the battalion-level, with one section being assigned to each battalion of a regiment. In other words, three sections per active regiment (for a total of six guns) or two sections per reserve regiment (4 guns). On 22 March 1915, the machine-guns sections were regrouped into companies and thereby expanded to include fours sections like an infantry company (for a total of eight guns per regiment). The effective being 120 men. At the same time, a machine-gun company is created at the brigade level. Starting in the summer of 1916, the machine-gun sections are regrouped again with each battalion receiving its own machine-gun company in replacement of the fourth infantry company of each battalion. There were thus three machine-gun companies per regiment (for a total of 24 guns per regiment). Finally in 1917, the machine-gun companies are expanded to include twelve guns, meaning that each regiment had 36 guns. At the end of the war, an infantry division had at its disposal 108 guns, compared to only 24-28 in 1914.

2 guns

Personnel (and Animals)
Firing section:
1 lieutenant
1 attached NCO
2 corporals (gun commanders)
8 men -- 2 firers, 2 loaders and 2 ammo-suppliers (one for each gun), 1 range finder, 1 gunsmith

1 corporal (commanding)
1 ordinance man
4 suppliers
9 conductors
2 gun mules
6 munitions mules (carrying 6 crates each)
1 "dead-run" (running) mule

Combat Train:
1 corporal
2 conductors
4 horses (pulling a caisson)

Total.....1 officer and 29 men

1 band = 25 cartridges
1 crate = 12 bands = 300 cartridges
1 mule carrying 6 crates = 1,800 cartridges
6 mules carrying 36 crates = 10,800 cartridges
1 caisson = 21,900 cartridges
Mules caisson = 32,700 cartridges

*The following figures apply to the St. Etienne MG; the Hotchkiss was fed by 30-round strips. However, munitions mules were still loaded with 6 crates each.
With the advent of the machine-gun company, the following troop effective came into being in summer 1916:
3 officers (1 captain, 2 lieutenants and 1 adjudant)
1 Liaison NCO
5 section leaders
1 quarter-master corporal
8 gunner corporals
1 armorer corporal
2 echelon corporals
2 combat train corporals
4 armorers (1 per section)
16 gunners
16 loaders
16 assistant-loaders
16 ammo suppliers
3 liaison agent ordinance men
1 distance taker
1 cook
1 nurse
Total: 96 men

Standard firearm was the model 1892 Berthier carbine, worn slung over the shoulder. Machine-gunners also carried the model 1915 Ruby Automatic-Pistol. Often the carbine was not carried, in which case it can be assumed that the gunners were armed only with pistols.

Uniforms and Equipment
Field dress: greatcoat, suspension braces, belt and 3 cartridge boxes (holding packets of 8 rounds), bayonet. At times, machine-gunners were permitted to wear only their jackets

Crossed canons, sometimes with the addition of a flaming bomb above these (for firers).

For more information on machine-guns, see the Properties of the Machine-Gun page.

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