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Assaulting/Advancing with the Bren LMG


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Queried this omission in CMAK a while ago with out much consensus, in fact it seemed that you just had to fire the Bren conventionally or not at all, according to some opinions, sources not quoted IIRC.

Anyway, as was inevitable, there is some sound information available concerning the use of the Bren including actual tactical training and practice. Surprise, surprise, it was officially recognised that the Bren could and should be used as an assault weapon. Which involved firing with the weapon slung on the move.

For the sake of completeness here are a couple of quotes.

"........we trained them all to be very accurate shots from the hip or on the move. The Bren gun had to be, was never fired from the ground, always fired from the hip. Hang onto the strap on the shoulder and always fire, never fire bursts, just one or two shots......"

"In action the Bren gun was carried at hip level, slung low from the shoulder using two rifle slings joined together........."

Source - On Shaggy Ridge, Phillip Bradley, Oxford, 2004, pp 15 and 23.

Perhaps this will motivate some patched realism at long last in possible use of the Bren LMG?

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As what, a glorified rifle? They say 1-2 shots. Also, Brit squads have Brens as their squad SAW, they run assault and advance, and all weapons contribute firepower as they do so. Want to run with LMGs and fire them on the move? It is called squad infantry, people.

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Ok, a bit OT here but if you've ever seen "Lock, stock, and two smoking barrels" a dude there has a Bren gun he lets rip with during the movie. He has a hard enough time trying to stand up and keep all the shells hitting within an area the size of your average loungeroom - forget running and gunning with one of these.

And if you haven't seen L,S,&2SB... see it. (No, it's not WWII)

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Sanddigger,

I question the source and context of your quotes. Is this from a manual? Is this from one particular unit? "Was never fired from the ground"? Not even in the defense? I don't know.

Combat training manuals from the forties are available.

David

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Originally posted by JasonC:

As what, a glorified rifle? They say 1-2 shots. Also, Brit squads have Brens as their squad SAW, they run assault and advance, and all weapons contribute firepower as they do so. Want to run with LMGs and fire them on the move? It is called squad infantry, people.

True

If the BREN is used as its described above, does the platoon/company use the Water Cooled weapon to cover them? If not, some BRENs must cover while others move I hope?

Also, its hard to adopt the running crouch that everyone knows will save you. Being in any upright posture will greatly increase the odds of catching bullets/fragments. Many vets bemoan that this simple lifesaver was not taught in Basic or in a 'field' school before raw soldiers manned the lines.

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Originally posted by sand digger:

"........we trained them all to be very accurate shots from the hip or on the move. The Bren gun had to be, was never fired from the ground, always fired from the hip. Hang onto the strap on the shoulder and always fire, never fire bursts, just one or two shots......"

From what I recall from the one time I actually got to fire a Bren while in army cadets, the thing used to pull forward after recoil and drift slightly to the left, even from a prone position.

So I think it'd be a bit of bugger to hip fire.

Originally posted by Wartgamer:

If the BREN is used as its described above, does the platoon/company use the Water Cooled weapon to cover them? If not, some BRENs must cover while others move I hope?

Not sure if you mean another weapon because the Bren wasn't water cooled.

Mace

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No, he means the Vickers, AIUI. If the Bren's being used as an assault weapon, what's being used to provide cover fire?

A bit of confusion, as the Vickers wasn't even issued to infantry Battalions. Belt fed weapons were reserved for dedicated MG battlions units, although these were often farmed out piecemeal to infantry units. No guarantees though. Certainly not at platton or company level.

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Originally posted by Wartgamer:

Yes the old WWI weapon, the Vickers. They were not given to the infantry company, either as part of teh TOE or a 'attached' support weapon?

Did most CW infantry companies just have BREN, STEN, Bolt action rifles and 2 inch mortars and PIATs?

Do a search on "machine gun battalions" on google, or divisional orders of battle. Vickers MGs were contained in Divisional Support Battalions, one per division, with three companies of MGs and one company of 4.2 inch mortars, from at least 1943 onward, in the British and Canadian armies.

Units in Italy used Thompsons instead of Stens due to resupply shipping space - plenty of .45 ACP in theatre from American stocks.

Don't forget the platoon commander's .38 revolver, replaced in 1944 in the Canadian Army with a 9mm automatic. ;)

Platoons of Vickers MGs may have been attached to infantry companies of the rifle battalions, but I don't seem to recall that being the norm. Usually one MG company was attached to one battalion, and I believe much of the MG work may have been indirect?

JonS will be along to point us to a good first hand account soon, whose name I forget.

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I find it hard to believe that the German platoons they were fighting would have 3+ belt fed weapons (and increasing better personel weapons like semiauto/assault rifles) and they had no organic belt fed weapon at a company level.

Why not just have a couple of US aircooled 30 cals at the company? Were there extra BRENs at the company HQ?

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Originally posted by Wartgamer:

I find it hard to believe that the German platoons they were fighting would have 3+ belt fed weapons (and increasing better personel weapons like semiauto/assault rifles) and they had no organic belt fed weapon at a company level.

Why not just have a couple of US aircooled 30 cals at the company? Were there extra BRENs at the company HQ?

a) they apparently didn't feel they needed them, and if they did, it would be one more type of ammo for the RQMS to have to hold

B) no

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kind of makes you wonder how the PBI ever went forward and beat their opponents. But they did and on a fairly consistent basis. I can only think that it'd down to the support of other arms (armour artillery or CAS)or some intangible "moral" factor(defenders more prepared to give up to western allies compared to Eastern Front?)

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Originally posted by Michael Dorosh:

Platoons of Vickers MGs may have been attached to infantry companies of the rifle battalions, but I don't seem to recall that being the norm. Usually one MG company was attached to one battalion, and I believe much of the MG work may have been indirect?

There was nominally one pn of MMGs per inf bn. However, the MG-ers resisted this kind of penny-packeting of their guns, not always successfully. The gun crews were highly trained, and well equipped, for indirect fire. ISTM that much of their work was indirect.

JonS will be along to point us to a good first hand account soon, whose name I forget.
Fendick, R. (2001) A CANLOAN Officer. Privately published. Fabulous book.
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Originally posted by Wartgamer:

Did most CW infantry companies just have BREN, STEN, Bolt action rifles and 2 inch mortars and PIATs?

They had all these, plus 3" mortars, and 6-pdr ATGs from 1943/4 (2-pdr before), and carriers to move all that stuff around - all at BN HQ, and a pretty much permanently attached Field Regiment FOO. I do not think they had a real equivalent to the 4./8./12. Kompanie in German regiments, which was the heavy weapons company.

Unlike the standard TOE German infantry regiments, Commonwealth brigades did not have a gun company (the Germans had their 14.Kompanie with 6xIG18 and 2xsIG33), and did not have an AT company (the Germans had their 13. Kompanie with either PAK35/36 and one platoon PAK38, later PAK40 or any variety of captured weapons, or Panzerschreck, or all of the above combined, because beggars can't be choosers).

The Commonwealth MG Battalion had Vickers and later in the war 4.2" mortars.

Commonwealth divisions also had an independent AT battalion (called Regiment) with 48 17-pdr ATGs after 1943/4.

Organic support weapons philosophies were quite different.

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Originally posted by Andreas:

I do not think they had a real equivalent to the 4./8./12. Kompanie in German regiments, which was the heavy weapons company.

What about the fifth company in each bn - "Support Company" (3-in mtrs, 6-pr. A-Tk gun, carriers, etc)?

Organic support weapons philosophies were quite different.

Yes, quite different. The CW used a very centralised/pooled doctrine for spt wpns and elems, whereas the Germans seem to have used the opposite. Which is better? Duuno. I know which I prefer, and which makes more sense to me, though ;)
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That always struck me more as a 'what are we going to do with the rest administratively', rather than a primarily combat oriented command structure. Don't ask me why I thought that.

I am very open to persuasion that I am wrong in so thinking though.

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