BEFORE the war the value and use of machine-gun fire had been keenly debated in England and Germany, who were at one in adopting the proportion of only two machine-guns per thousand men. Active service at once revealed the true worth of the arm, and the Germans immediately--and by virtue of their immense war factories quite easily--increased the number of guns per battalion. But what Germany could do England could not.
The weapon adopted before the war was patented here by Messrs. Vickers, who alone were competent to make it. Without waiting for any mandate from Sir John, 1792 machine-guns were ordered--a number far in excess of any requirements then thought possible, and regarded by the believers in a short sharp war as a gamble in futures. In January 1915 Vickers were given carte blanche to supply every piece they could turn out. The Lewis gun, of which one firm enjoyed the monopoly of manufacture, had only been tried and approved early in 1914, but before the end of the year everything they could turn out was requisitioned. The number of machine-guns of all patterns ordered by Kitchener before May 1915 for delivery up to the end of 1916, including some from America, exceeded 27,000.