Lewis Machine Gun Aircraft

Machine Guns Weapon

Lewis Aircraft Machine Gun, Model 1914, Cal as 305 rounds, which made the gun too clumsy and breech heavy to be handled without tripod.

The standard Lewis drum holds 47 rounds in two circular rows and is fastened horizontally by a clip to a top post located to the rear in line with the chamber. During operation the drum is rotated counterclockwise by a ratchet pawl working off the reciprocating piston body. It can be exc hanged in a few seconds, in fact so fast that only a slight pause in a long burst is apparent, since belt or links are not required and firing is generally interrupted anyway after 50 shots. 'I his is one of the weapon's many desirable features for military service.

The British made a slight change in the gun o o o by using a closer-fitting metal tube of aluminum in place of the conventional radiator in order to lighten the weapon for aircraft use. This model was employed in the first aerial firing of a machine gun in England. (A similar exhibition, made by Belgian pilots with the I.ewisgun at the Brasschaet Military Aeronautics Grounds in Belgium in December 1912, was the first official demonstration of its kind in Europe.) The British plane, a Graham White biplane, was piloted by Marcus D. Manton, a civilian, and the demonstration took place above the Bisley airfield on 27 November 1913. A machine gunner, from an improvised platform located between the pilot and the landing gear, fired repeated bursts with the Lewis machine gun at targets on the ground and despite his precarious position scored a substantial number of hits.

Although the above test was made a full 10 months before the start of World War I, the only British aircraft equipped with machine guns at the outbreak of hostilities were two seaplanes of the Roval Navy Air Service, and even then they were not permanently mounted. All planes sent to France by the Royal Flying Corps were unarmed when the first British pilots crossed the channel on 13 August 1914. Aircraft at the time were constructed far too lightly to carry very heavy armament. The planes were regarded as of value only for scouting and observation work, without being suitable for inflicting damage on the enemv. Aerial warfare was as yet unknown, although sometimes a pilot took with him a rifle, revolver or a few hand grenades, with which to answer the derisive and obscene gestures usually tendered at such an encounter.

German observers, besides carrying standard military bolt-action rifles, sometimes found it convenient to be provided with a self-loading arm. 1 he most popular one was the highly advanced gas-operated Mondragon, the invention of a Mexican officer, Manuel Mondragon, patented on 8 August 1904, and adopted by his country's army in 1911. It was manufactured in Switzerland by the Schweizerische Industriel Gesellschaft at Xeuhausen on the German border. At the beginning of World War I, all production was diverted to Germany. Large num-

hers ol specially designed magazines holding 30 cartridges each were made up and issued to the observers. They remained in use only until the mounting of flexible full automatic guns.

On 22 August 1914, two young British pilots. Lts. L. A. Strange and Penn Gaskell, helped to make aviation history. These two officers, acting on their own initiative, placed a Lewis gun aboard their aircraft and took off looking for the

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