Thornton Pickard Hythe Mk III H camera gun and storage box

Accession Number RELAWM11786
Collection type Technology
Object type Optical equipment
Physical description Brass, Bronze, Glass, Steel, Wood
Maker Thornton Pickard
Place made United Kingdom
Date made c1917
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

A Thornton Pickard Hythe Mk III H camera gun with storage box.

The camera gun is built on the chassis of a Lewis gun. It is of welded construction, painted black, with brass and bronze attachments screwed to it, giving it about the same weight as a standard Lewis machine gun. The trigger, spade grip and charging handle are exactly the same; the spade and trigger grips are of wood.

The round dummy magazine (missing from this example) mounts normally on the Lewis gun. Situated in front of the magazine location is an adjustable two-piece cast bronze clamp with a pintle for locating the gun on a flexible or fixed mount – this appears to be mounted upside down.

In front of this is the brass film box, hinged on the side to allow the replacement of film. The locking device is a vertical sliding bar. The interior is fitted with a metal carrier (impressed '544') to carry a 14 exposure roll of 120 (2 1/4inch x 1 3/8 inch) film; the carrier is held in place by a pair of steel retainers, located at top and bottom. At the front of the carrier is a removable brass holder containing a circular glass target reticule. This gradated target appears on the negative whenever an image is taken so that a trainee can see where he aimed his gun. The glass has inked on it '11'.

When the dummy magazine was changed, a plunger operated a punch which marked the film via a pinhole drilled through the steel film carrier; this indicated to the instructor when the pupil changed his magazine. The charging handle on the proper left side advanced the film via a rod attached to a cam which rotated when pulled. A counter mechanism behind the magazine location keeps count of the shots used.

The lens for the camera is mounted about 12 cm from the muzzle. It appears the lens and the external brass closing plate from this particular example are missing. The shutter mechanism is a three-blade leaf type and was operated via a rod attached to the trigger.

The right hand side of the camera gun is marked with the camera ('THORTON-PICKARD / ALTRINGHAM') and gun details ('Mk III H'). The serial number (544) is stencil-painted adjacent in white paint; this matches the serial number for the film carrier (544).

A fitted wooden storage box made by Thorton Pickards (their sticker is located on the inside of the lid) is provided. This has a handle and hinges, as well as corner protectors, all of painted steel. The box's interior fittings are lined in green felt. The exterior of the lid is painted in white '3H.65'; the front is painted (L.S.-A.C.S.). The box was originally supplied with a choice of sights, an alignment mirror, spare shutter blades, spare gear wheels (for the film advance), a roll of 120 film and a rod for operating the shutter; only the rod remains now.

History / Summary

This camera gun was used to train aircraft observers and gunners. With the main item of aerial armament being the Lewis gun, it was thought practical to design a camera gun that resembled a Lewis gun. At a distance it is easy to get confused between the two, until one notices the steel box in the middle of the 'gun', which is where the camera mechanism is housed.

The camera mechanism carried a 14 exposure roll of 120 (2 1/4inch x 1 3/8 inch) film. The carrier was pierced so that the magazine, when changed, would operate a mechanism to pierce the film, indicating when the student had changed the magazine. Thecamera front of the carrier has a removeable brass holder containing a circular glass target reticule. This automatically printed a gradated target on the negative so that a trainee could see where he had aimed his camera gun.