Early War MG08 position.
Miniatures from "Great War Miniatures" by NorthStar.
It’s hard to imagine what it would have been like to go “Over The Top”. The senseless fight of flesh against bullets and shrapnel, is perhaps most inherent in the mechanical, almost sewing machine-like, sound of the Maxim machine gun grinding its way through the attacking infantry. In the early and more mobile battles of the Great War, machine guns were used with horrific effect, and an integrated part of offensive as well as defensive tactics. It’s therefore a natural addition to my Early War German collection.
The spotter directing fire.
Originally invented in 1883 by the American Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim, the Maxim was the first recoil-operated machine gun to go into production at a Vickers subsidized factory in London. The machine gun became highly popular, and was used in the colonial wars of the late 19th century, the Russo-Japanese War and of course it became one of the most feared weapons of the Great War.
By the outbreak of the Great War many of the large European powers had adopted the Maxim, or further developed copies of the 1884 original. The German Maschinengewehr08, named “08” for 1908 – it’s year of adoption, was such an enhanced version.
Each MG08 team will be based as ZUG-support on ø60mm bases.
The 57kg water-cooled MG08 could fire 500 shots per minute, via 2 x 250-rounds fabric belts fed into the side of the gun by one of the 5-man crew. Another of the crew members would be equipped with binoculars, effectively directing the fire on the enemy. Compare this for a second with the air-cooled French Hotchkiss machine gun, firing strips of 25-rounds, and thus in need of more frequent change.
The German Maschinengewehr08, named after it's adoption in 1908.
A weakness for the MG08 was the water-cooling system, as it produced a small cloud of steam, sometimes giving away the position of the gun. It was also prone to jamming, or for the barrel to overheat in spite of the water-cooling system. In fact, each MG unit would have 6 spare barrels for this purpose.
The MG08 would shoot 500 shots per minute, via 2 x 250-round belts.
A considerable advantage against the 25-round strips fed into the Hotchkiss.
By 1914 the German army fully understood the value and destructive power of the MG08, and tactical doctrine reflected this in detail. In the 1909 Exerzier-Reglement a comprehensive doctrine update was made, to include the MG08 in offensive action by the infantry. A five-man team would be equipped with a four-legged mount, enabling the team to carry forward the gun, as support to the advancing infantry.
Note the number of ammunition boxes.
Each MG08 unit would carry with it 5 of these boxes.
Engaging enemy infantry effectively at 1.000 meters, the MG08 could lay down a tremendous field of rapid fire, fitting right in with the German philosophy of gaining fire supremacy in parts of the battlefield. It proved a very effective at supressing enemy defensive fire, and ideal for a mobile advance, where the MG08 would often try to take up positions that could pour enfilade fire at any enemy infantry counter charge.
A great little 5 min. documentary on the development of the Maxim,
and it's use in the Great War.
The Maxim gun would undergo further developments during the Great War. LMG versions were developed as well as anti-tank and anti-aircraft models. The Maxim machine gun became one of the icons in the Great War’s gallery of horrific weapons. Feared, respected and deadly beyond understanding, it was part of the arsenal of the new, modern war.
Thank you very much for reading!