Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Two Legends

A little while ago during one of the Quiz questions I occasionally write I asked about a shooting record for the SMLE. In the answer I mentioned a Sergeant Major Wallingford who put 37 rounds into the bull's eye of a 12" target at 300 yards, in one minute. To put that in perspective he'd have had to reload the bolt action rifle four times. With that kind of skill it's no surprise that Wallingford had a fearsome reputation during the First World War.

Jesse Wallingford was born in London in 1872. Britain before World War One had a small army, but its soldiers were very well drilled, to the extent that the Germans got a very bloody nose at the battle of Mons. Before the war Wallingford put his considerable talents as a shooter to good effect commenting in various competitions, including the 1908 Olympics. crucially he competed with both pistol and rifle.

Wallingford joined the New Zealand army before the start of the First World War, and taught their infantry to shoot. When the New Zealanders were deployed he went with them, landing at Gallipoli as a machine gun officer. He was responsible for the sighting of his weapons at the Apex on 10th of August 1915, where the Turks launched what can only be described as a human wave attack. Wallingfords machine guns were arrayed to fire across the Turks line of advance. It's estimated that in that 30 minutes of continuous firing the Turks lost around 5000 men. Which brings me onto the next legend the Vickers heavy machine gun.
There are many machine guns in the world, but despite what their manufacturers say most are not sustained fire weapons. I recall speaking to a veteran who once put 3000 rounds through a GPMG non-stop. He said the barrel had a distinct curve to it after that. A Vickers HMG was a true sustained fire weapon due to its water cooling. Here is an account of a sustained fire demonstration with a Vickers gun.
"First day, gauging limits and setting the gun up. (We spent two days hand filing feathers [the square projection] on cross pins to close tolerances so guns and tripods could be assembled without play!) at the end of the day, the instructor told us to draw out one of the guns that we had been working on, [and] one of the lads pulled a gun out of the rack. We were told that this gun was to be fired for the remainder of the course, day and night.

The gun, stores spares, etc, were put onto an Austin Champ and driven onto the range. We mounted the gun onto a tripod in a gun pit. A 4-ton Bedford had been unloaded of a load of ammo. There were stacks of ammo, after cans and barrels. (We had to pack all the rear grooves with asbestos oiled string!) The 2 man crew was relieved every thirty minutes. A third body shovelled empty cases from under the gun with a malt shovel and threw the empty belts clear of the pit. We never heard the gun not firing in anything but the shortest time while the barrel was replaced (every hour). The gun fired 250-round belts without stopping: not in 20, 50 or whatever bursts, but straight through: we could hear it rattling away from the lecture room/workshop, and went to see it between work.
 At the end the gunpit was surrounded by mountains of boxes, belts, cases, debris; a large cleft had appeared in the stop butts where the bullets had destroyed the butts. We took the gun off its tripod and back to the workshop. We inspected and gauged. No measurable difference anywhere. It had eaten barrels, they were changed every hour to 1½ hours, but mechanically [the gun] was unchanged. It had consumed just under five million rounds of .303", non-stop (my notes were for Mk VII, not Mk VIIIz, so I presume zones etc were for Mk VII).

That episode was to show nine armourers the ability of the hallowed Vickers. Only after an excellent course result did my Staff Sergeant boss let me work on our battalion guns, which had smooth water jackets."

Wallingford himself also operated a Vickers gun, during an earlier occasion at Gallipoli on April the 27th the ANZAC's were pinned down, outnumbered and in danger of being over run. Wallingford determined that the ANZAC's only chance was to launch a spoiling attack. So he lept out of the trench and charged forward. As he advanced through the Turkish fire he found a disabled machine gun with a single wounded crewman in a small patch of dead ground. He quickly brought the Vickers into action, between himself with his rifle and the wounded man on the machine gun they kept the Turks at bay for several hours until a relief force moved up. For these actions Wallingford was awarded the Military Cross.
Wallingford also distinguished himself with small arms, dealing with Turkish snipers. If a sniper was causing casualties he would be requested. Upon arriving he would expose himself briefly, and using his fearsome knowledge about musketry would be able to pinpoint the snipers hiding location. Once he'd spotted the snipers hiding place he would engage them. The rapid accurate rate of fire mentioned earlier would soon result in Wallingfords victory. On one occasion Wallingford's sixth sense told him that a nearby bush was acting suspiciously. It was about 60 yards from the ANZAC trenches. When the soldiers with him saw it move slightly they confirmed Wallingfords suspicions. Wallingford hefted his service revolver and said "I think we'll give him a chance!" and fired once killing the Turkish infiltrator.

Wallingford died on 6th of June 1944, having reached the rank of at least captain.

Image credits:
www.clanmacfarlanegenealogy.info, bbci.co.uk, www.mercurynie.com.au and www.forgottenweapons.com