Lewis Mk 1 Machine Gun : 27 Battalion AIF

Accession Number REL/02766
Collection type Technology
Object type Firearm
Physical description Paint, Steel, Wood
Location Main Bld: First World War Gallery: Sinai Palestine 1918: Final Battles
Maker Birmingham Small Arms Co Ltd
Place made United Kingdom: England
Date made c 1914
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Standard First World War issued Lewis Mk 1 Machine Gun. The barrel jacket has a large hole caused by an artillery fragmentation splinter and has a worn hand painted inscription detailing the history of the gun. The bipod bracket is marked MOUNT FIELD .303 LEWIS GUN MARK III B.S& Co Ltd MAKERS NOTTINGHAM. The top plate is marked Lewis Automatic Machine Gun Model 1914 - Patented and Manufactured by The Birmingham Small Arms Co Ltd ENGLAND for Armes Automatiques Lewis BELGIUM. The machine gun is missing the bipod spade fitting and the gas plug removing arm. The rear sight is bent and the sight base has the number C720.

History / Summary

This particular weapon is a highly significant relic of the Australian Imperial Force. In the hands of a known number of Australian soldiers it played a role in the complete service history of a highly decorated South Australian unit, the 27th Battalion, on the Western Front from 1916-1918.

Hand painted on the barrel jacket is: 'This gun was issued to the 27 Battalion AIF in March 1916 and remained in action until knocked out by a shell at Grandcourt on 3 October 1918. It was the only original issue item to take part in every unit engagement. It fired upwards of 150,000 rounds. Of the 60 men who passed through its team four achieved commissioned rank, 10 became NCOs, 21 were killed and 32 wounded'.

Weighing in around 13 kilograms fully loaded with a distinctive round shaped magazine containing 47 rounds of ammunition, the Lewis Gun was one of the main weapons used by the Australian Imperial Force during the First World War.

Sometimes known as the 'Belgian rattlesnake' the Lewis light machine gun was designed by Isaac N. Lewis, a Colonel in the United States Army. The first commercial Lewis guns were manufactured by the British small arms manufacturer Birmingham Small Arms (BSA) Company and were initially supplied by Armes Automatiques Lewis SA which was a Belgium marketing company. At the outbreak of the First World War, BSA received orders for the mass production of Lewis guns in .303 calibre and produced over 15,000 by 1918. The United States also produced Lewis guns in .30-06 calibre mainly for the United States Army Air Corps and for the United States Marine Corps.

The Lewis gun saw extensive service with British and Australian forces during the First World War as a ground and aerial machine gun. During the Second World War it was also used by on a much lesser scale by all three services (Navy, Army and Air Force) of the Australian Defence Force.