War Machine, Volume 9

_ FRANCE Hotchkiss mle 1909 FRANCE Hotchkiss medium machine-guns In the years up to 1914 the French army was trained in the tenet that the attack (or the offensive) was the key to victory in any future war. The infantry and cavalry were trained to attack at all times overcoming any opposition by the force of their onslaught and by their determination. In this optimistic sce­nario the machine-gun hardly fea­tured but atone point in the early 1900s it was thought that some form of light Hotchkiss machine-gun would be useful for cavalry units and might also be portable enough for attacking in­fantrymen to carry. The result of this suggestion was the Fusil-mitrailleur Hotchkiss mle 1909, which used the basic gas-operated mechanism of the larger Hotchkiss machine-guns though for some reason the ammunition feed was complicated further by inversion of the ammunition feed strip mechanism. When it was in­troduced the cavaly units did not take to the weapon at all and it proved to be too heavy for infantry souse the num­bers produced were either relegated to use in fortifications or stockpiled. However export sales of the mle 1909 were more encouraging for the weapon was adopted by the US Army who knew it as the Benet-Merci6 Machine Rifle Model 1909 it was used mainly by cavalry units. When World War I began the mle 1909 was once more taken from the stockpiles and it was even adopted by the British army as the 0.303-in Gun, Machine Hotchkiss Mk 1 in an attempt to get more machine-guns into service The mle 1909 was produced in the United Kingdom chambered for the British 7-mm 7 (0.303-in) cartridge and in British use many were fitted with a butt and a bipod in place of the original small tripod located under the centre of the gun body. However the mle 1909 was not des­tined to be used very much in the tren­ches: the ammunition feed was a con­stant source of troubles and gradually the Hotchkiss was diverted to other uses The mle 1909 in its several forms became an aircraft gun and it formed the main armament of many of the ear­ I I In the 1890s the only viable machine- guns were those produced by Maxim and Browning both of whom wrapped their products in a tight wall of patents to prevent others enjoying the fruits of their invention. Many armament con­cerns were desperate to find someway of getting around the patent wall, and one of these was the French Hotchkiss company. Thus when it was approached by an Austrian inventor who described to them a novel method of gas operation to power a machine- gun the invention was quickly purch­ased and developed by Hotchkiss, The first Hotchkiss machine-gun was the Mitrailleuse Hotchkiss mle 1897 and although this model was hardly a viable service weapon it was the first gas-operated machine-gun. This was followed by the mle 1900 and later by the mle 1914 the latter being the model mainly used in World War I, These models all had air-cooled bar­rels but as these tended to overheat the company very quickly introduced a feature that was to remain as a virtual 'trademark' of the Hotchkiss machine gun: this consisted of five prominent 'doughnut' collars around the end of the barrel closer to the receiver. These rings (sometimes brass and sometimes steel) enlarged the surface area of the barrel at the point where it became hottest and thus provided greater cooling For operating gas was tapped off from the barrel and used to push aback piston to carryout all the various extracting and reloading operations. It was a system that worked welland reliably and was soon to be used in one form or another by many other machine-gun designers. The weapon had its first exposure to action during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-6 in French and British infantry at the Battle of the Aisne in 1918 in the follow-up to the Allied advance. The gun is a Hotchkiss m le 1900 mounted on them le 1916 tripod with ammunition boxes close to behindhand the gunner. To the left of the gun are two ammunition handlers ready to assist. ly tanks such as the British 'Female' tanks with their all-machine-gun arma­ment and the little Renault FT 1 7 .On the tanks the ammunition feed strips sometimes limited the traverse avail­able inside the close confines of the tank mountings so many guns espe­cially those of the British were con­verted to use the three-round linked strips intended for use on the larger Hotchkiss mle 1914. Some of these guns were instill British army use in 1939 and more were later taken from the stockpiles for use as airfield de­ fence weapons and for arming mer­chant shipping. The mle 1909 was one of the first light machine-guns but it had little im­pact at the time although it was used in quite large numbers. Its main dis­advantage was not so much a technical difficulty as a tactical problem for the tactics involved intrench warfare of the period and the lack of appreciation of the potential of the weapon never gave the mle 1909 a chance to shine. As a tank weapon it made its mark on history but it was less successful as an aircraft gun the feed strip mechanism proving a definite drawback in an open aircraft cockpit. Specification Fusil-mitrailleur Hotchkiss mle 1909 Calibre: 8 mm (0.315 in) Above: The Hotchkiss m le 1909 was Below: A drummer o f the l/7th used by the French the British (as the Lancashire Fusiliers demonstrates a Hotchkiss M k 1) and also by the US Hotchkiss M k 1 to newly-arrived US Army who knew it as the Benet-Mercie. Army soldiers in France in May 1918. Lengths: overall 119 m (4685 in) second barrel 600 mm (2362 in) Rate of fire: (cyclic) 500 rpm Weight: 117 kg (25.8 lb) Feed: 30-round metal strip Muzzle velocity: 740 m (2428 ft)per 1922
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