I have long had a fascination with the Vickers Machine Gun, dating back to watching ‘The Way Ahead’ aged about five years old. Until recently there has been a shortage of good, affordable reference books on this British institution. ‘The Grand Old Lady of no-Man’s Land’ is the most comprehensive book on the Vickers out there, but it has been out of print for several years and commands prices in excess of £250 for a copy, if you can find it. There is also a smaller osprey book on the gun in their Weapon series and whilst good, this is fairly shallow in depth of coverage as it only has a limited number of pages available due to the book series’ format. It was therefore very pleasing when Haynes brought out their manual on the Vickers Machine Gun that is affordable, well produced and written by a respected firearms historian.
The Haynes Enthusiasts’ Manual on Vickers Maxim Machine Guns is penned by Martin Pegler and covers the developmental history of the gun, how to use and maintain the gun and its operational history. The book is sumptuously illustrated throughout with period photographs and high resolution images of surviving guns and accessories, many drawn from Richard Fisher’s excellent collection and research collection (VMCARG). This is accompanied by a detailed, but highly readable text that puts the Vickers into its wider historical context. One nice feature is that exploded diagrams drawn from the original repair manuals for the Vickers are used, with nice clear line drawings of all the components and how they fit together.
One interesting inclusion is some of the myriad of spare parts that could be used with the Vickers. There are so many of these that it is understandable that the author chose to include a representative sample rather than every different piece and variation, although more detailed layouts can be found at the aforementioned VMCARG website. The accessories included do though give some idea of the complexity of the Vickers and the effort involved to keep them functioning in the field. It is this human story that is one of the nicest parts of the book, as the personal stories and the difficulties experienced with gunners add far more than a purely technical history would have done. The men clearly acknowledge how heavy and difficult to move the Vickers was, but each speaks with great affection towards the machine gun which just ran and ran.
Haynes Enthusiasts’ Manual on Vickers Maxim Machine Guns is available from book sellers now.