As machine-gunners our job was to hold the position.
It was pot luck if you were in the font line or on relief when there was an attack. We were used as a defensive weapon; we’d let off a few rounds on a regular basis to make sure Jerry got the idea and kept his head down. If there was an attack you fired point blank – as many rounds as you could get off with out overheating the barrel.
Gun teams were supposed to be made up of five.
There was meant to be a gunner, that was me, someone to feed the belt, one on supplies; another on spares and a fifth as an ammunition carrier. Two was more common. The canvas belts we had held 250 rounds that gave a burst of 30 seconds releasing 500 shots per minute. The machine gun was used like a piece of artillery. Often all we did was lay down a barrage of bullets 1000 yards away, so you wouldn’t see the poor blighters who were getting it in the head.
I could show you a map in the training book set out for machine gun fire.
It’s marvellous how all the Front’s covered. In an attack with a heavy Vicker’s Gun anybody trying to get through was bound to be hit in the crossfire. As a machine gunner you went in to hold a position once they had secured it. There’s a post up and that’s your firing line, otherwise you guessed the range. You’re blasting away, not continuous, just give it a burst.
The alternative was if you saw Jerry coming at you then it was up to you to do your best.