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The Bren Gun

by Peter Dennis Neil Grant

In World War II the Britsh Bren light machine gun saw service in Commonwealth armies and in resistance forces throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia. Adopted in 1938 and remaining in British service right up to 1991, the popular and reliable Bren was an iconic light machine gun, and probably the most recognisable Commonwealth weapon of World War II. Gas-operated and magazine-fed, it was based on a Czech design and was issued in large numbers during and after World War II as a section-level automatic weapon; it used the same .303in ammunition as the Lee-Enfield rifles that equipped British and Commonwealth infantry, and the Pattern 1937 webbing they wore was designed around the dimensions of the Bren's distinctively curved 28-round magazine.Offering remarkable accuracy for an LMG, the Bren had an effective range of 600yd, but could reach out to over 1,500yd. It was generally fired from the prone position using a bipod, but could be fired from the hip when necessary. If kept clean, the Bren gave reliable service in the harshest of environments, from the deserts of Libya to the Korean mountains in winter. As well as seeing widespread infantry use, the Bren was widely supplied to resistance movements in Occupied Europe. It was often vehicle-mounted, notably in the Universal Carrier, popularly called the 'Bren Carrier'; however, the Bren's design precluded its use as a coaxial weapon in tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles.When the UK adopted the 7.62mm NATO cartridge from 1958, the Bren was adapted for this new, rimless ammunition and redesignated the L4; this further improved the Bren's already solid reliability and made it possible for SLR magazines to be used in the weapon. Although officially superseded by the L7 GPMG, the Bren remained a popular weapon in the many post-1945 conflicts involving British and Commonwealth forces, owing to its light weight, manageable length and sheer dependability. Featuring specially commissioned full-colour artwork and based on meticulous research, this is the engaging story of the Bren, the iconic light machine gun that equipped British and Commonwealth forces throughout World War II and in a host of postwar conflicts right up to the Falklands and beyond.

The Lewis Gun

by Peter Dennis Neil Grant

As a lightweight machine gun, the American designed Lewis Gun made a place for itself in World War I & World War II.Although machine guns were widely issued and used during the bloody opening months of World War I, these deadly weapons proved to be too heavy to be tactically mobile. Casting around for existing designs to supplement inadequate stocks of the excellent Vickers gun, the British adopted the US-designed Lewis gun, which had not found favour with the US Army. The British quickly came to realise that while the new weapon was unable to match its heavier cousin in terms of robustness and sustained firepower, its light weight and the fact that it could be fired both prone and on the move made it an ideal weapon both to support advances and defend captured trenches. Serving on the Western Front and across the world, the Lewis gun soon became the core of the British and Dominion infantry section, and was widely adopted by the Germans too; even so, the US Marine Corps found on landing in France that their Lewis guns were replaced by an inferior French weapon, the CSRG 'Chauchat'.Although offering significant advantages over its rivals, such as the Danish Madsen, American BAR and German MG 08/15, the Lewis was not without its faults. Although the distinctive cooling tube proved to be a very effective flash hider and the weapon's 'forced cooling' system and open-bolt design helped to limit overheating, like all fixed-barrel guns it couldn't offer true sustained fire. Its magazine feed system made it easier to carry than rival models employing non-disintegrating fabric belts, which trailed everywhere, picked up water and froze, but the Lewis's open-bottom pan magazine let dirt into the mechanism, and the pans were relatively flimsy. Even so, it won a lasting reputation and became an iconic weapon of World War I.Adopted by an array of countries from the Netherlands to Japan during and after World War I, the Lewis successfully served as the primary or secondary armament in armoured fighting vehicles and in both ground-based anti-aircraft and aircraft-mounted roles, being the first weapon to be used to shoot down an enemy aircraft from an aeroplane - indeed, it was the most important aircraft-mounted machine gun in virtually every air force well into the 1930s. Although it was superseded by the Bren in British service in 1937, the outbreak of World War II meant that thousands returned to active service to counter weapons shortages, and it played a key role as far afield as Libya, with the Long-Range Desert Group, and the Philippines, with the US Marine Corps. Fully illustrated and written by an authority on this iconic weapon, this is the fascinating story of the innovative and influential Lewis gun, from the trenches of World War I to the Libyan desert and Pacific islands of World War II and beyond.

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