Pals Machine Gunners

During a visit to the Duke of Lancaster’s Regimental Museum at Fulwood Barracks in Preston during December 2009, details of Chorley Pals who were in the Battalion’s machine gun section came to light.

James Allsup

In a diary belonging to an Accrington Pal, Corporal Ormerod, was a page headed “Section Roll”. It listed men who served in their respective machine gun sections, operating a Lewis Gun. Each Battalion of c1,000 men had 16 Lewis Gun teams – four per Company (including Y Co. – the ‘Chorley Pals’) with six men per team. The Chorley Pals included Lance Corporal 16057 John Blackstone, Private 15682 Thomas Wilson, Private 15646 Joseph Enderby, Private 15438 Thomas Gaskell, Private 15525 James Allsup, Private 15274 Thomas Leach and Private 15861 James Pendlebury. Also known to be a machine gunner was Private 18971 Joseph A. Thompson who worked on Chorley railway station before the war.

The diary also recorded that a machine gun section were on duty in the trenches on the Somme on Thursday, 6th April 1916 engaged on “aeroplane duties”. A further entry, dated Tuesday, 16th May 1916 recorded “Class for instruction in Lewis Gun”.

A Lewis Gun

A Lewis Gun

The Lewis Gun was designed by American Army Officer, Isaac Newton Lewis in 1911. It was adopted by the British Army in 1915 and had a 47 (later, a 97) .303 bullet circular magazine. Weighing in at 12kg, the air-cooled machine gun could fire some from 500 to 600 rounds per minute, although shorter bursts were more usual. With its adjustable sights and bipod support, it proved effective up to 600 metres.

Those who were trained and qualified to fire a Lewis Gun wore a ‘LG’ motif on their sleeve.

Accrington Pal, Private 18048 Stanley Bewsher won a Military Medal whilst firing a Lewis Gun in No Man’s Land at Serre on the 1st July 1916 whilst James Allsup, mentioned above, went on to be an Officer in the Machine Gun Corps.