Specialist Units of the NZEF

Page 5 – Machine Gunners

Machine Gunners in action at at Colincamps, France, 1918

Machine guns were important weapons during the First World War, capable of rapidly discharging large numbers of rounds at advancing enemy forces.

In 1914 and 1915, each infantry battalion and mounted rifles regiment included a two-gun ‘Machine Gun Section’. The January 1916 reorganisation created a stand-alone New Zealand Machine Gun Corps, a well-equipped body which had a company attached to each infantry brigade and the mounted rifles brigade. Henceforth ‘machine gunners’ have a distinct and separate identity in the records.

A section of the Machine Gun Corps moved to France in April 1916, with a company attached to each of the three (later four) New Zealand infantry brigades. The three Western Front companies were formed into a New Zealand Machine-Gun Battalion in June 1918. New Zealand machine-gun squadrons were also attached to the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade and the Australian Light Horse Brigade in Sinai and Palestine.

NameUnit attached to (dates)CampaignsFurther information
Machine Gun SectionAttached to each infantry battalion and mounted rifles regiment (Aug 1914 - Mar 1916)Gallipoli, 1915Unit diaries at Australian War Memorial, Mounted Rifles section
1st New Zealand Machine Gun Company (known as Auckland Company from June 1918)1st New Zealand Infantry Brigade (Mar 1916 - Mar 1919)Western Front:
Somme 1916 
Messines 1917;
Passchendaele 1917;  
Spring Offensive and Advance to Victory 1918.
Unit diaries at Archives New Zealand, 1916–18, 1918–19
2nd New Zealand Machine Gun Company (known as Canterbury Company from June 1918)2nd New Zealand Infantry Brigade (Mar 1916 - Mar 1919)Western Front:
Somme 1916 
Messines 1917;
Passchendaele 1917;  
Spring Offensive and Advance to Victory 1918.
Unit diaries at Archives New Zealand, 1916–18, 1918–19
3rd New Zealand Machine Gun Company (known as Otago Company from June 1918)

New Zealand Rifle Brigade (Mar 1916 - Mar 1919)

Western Front:
Somme 1916 
Messines 1917;
Passchendaele 1917;  
Spring Offensive and Advance to Victory 1918.
Unit diaries at Archives New Zealand, 1916–18, 1918–19
4th New Zealand Machine Gun Company (known as Wellington Company from June 1918)4th New Zealand Infantry Brigade (Mar 1917 - Feb 1918)Western Front:
Messines 1917;
Passchendaele 1917.
Unit diaries at Archives New Zealand
1st New Zealand Machine Gun Squadron

New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade (Jun 1916 - June 1919)

Sinai, 1916
Palestine, 1917–18.
Unit diaries at Archives New Zealand;
Unit diaries at Australian War Memorial
2nd New Zealand Machine Gun Squadron5th Australian Light Horse Brigade (Aug 1918-)Palestine, 1917–18Unit diaries at Archives New Zealand;
Unit diaries at Australian War Memorial
New Zealand Machine Gun Corps Reserve DepotHQ NZEF England (1916-19)Grantham, Lincolnshire, England 

Cloth patches, badges and shoulder titles

Machine Gun Corps cloth patches

Cloth patches worn by the New Zealand Machine Gun Corps – (l to r) 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Company. Cloth patches sewn on the backs of uniform jackets from October 1916 identified which unit – or part of a unit – an individual belonged to.

NZ Machine Gunners badges

Cap and collar badges: two crossed Maxim machine guns, surmounted by a crown, over the initials ‘NZ’. 

Shoulder titles worn by the New Zealand Machine Gun Section (NZMGS) and New Zealand Machine Gun Corps (NZMGC) on the Western Front. The machine-gun squadrons serving in the Middle East wore the mounted rifles’ shoulder title (NZMR).  

Further reading

Luxford, J.H., With the Machine Gunners in France and Palestine: the official history of the Machine Corps in the Great War 1914–1918 (Auckland: Whitcombe & Tombs, 1923)

How to cite this page

'Machine Gunners', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/war/specialist-units/machine-gunners, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 22-Mar-2017

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