I came across this photo a few weeks ago. It shows a French Army machine gun, Mle 1914 Hotchkiss 8mm, being used in an Anti-Aircraft (AA) role. It piqued my interest.
The Hotchkiss was the favoured mg at the start of WW1 but difficulties restricted the large scale issue until Jan 1917. The gun weighed 24kgs, the tripod mount weighed 25kgs. It fired the standard 8mm bullet and a tracer bullet for AA work, at 400rpm and was air cooled. It used a fixed stick of 24 bullets but belts were issued later. The vertical range was around 600 metres/2000 feet. I have been unable to research how many of these HMGs were issued by the end of hostilities, but it must have been thousands.
In 1919, the French Army was looking at lessons to be learnt from WW1. Each infantry battalion was to have a company of HMGs, comprising of 4 sections each of 4 guns. One of the sections was to be used in the AA role.
|A Foreign Legion HMG team, in action during the Rif War in Morocco (Bundesarchiv)|
The major development of this period was the decision to replace the 8mm bullet as it was unsuitable for automatic fire and a new 7.5mm round was designed. The 1921 Programme detailed that a new HMG firing the 7.5mm bullet was to be developed and the Hotchkiss was to be withdrawn. A light machine gun was designed and issued to infantry units, the Fusil-Mitrailleuse 24/29, around 85,000 being issued by June 1940 out of a requirement for 94,000.
|FM 24/29, by all accounts a very good gun.|
Unfortunately a new HMG was not developed. The 7.5mm bullet was not effective against aircraft. A 13.2mm and a 13.5mm AA HMGs were developed by two manufacturers but these were not taken up, probably because the guns fired a solid bullet, not an explosive model, so the Army was concerned about such a heavy bullet returning to earth and the piece was too heavy for infantry division field use. A 9mm round and gun were developed in the mid-1930's but this was not pursued, there were concerns about logistics of another bullet size.
|Hotchkiss 13.2mm Modelle 1930|
|Mle 1914 on M1928 Extension (Photo ECPAD)|
|Mle 1914 on Extension, mounted a requisitioned lorry for convoy protection (Photo ECPAD)|
(Much of this detail was from "Mai 1940" written by Stéphane Ferrard, published by ETAI in 2010.)