NotesInterestingly, the use of the McCrudden Mk1 was varied, and ranged from field trials to newspaper article. The contexts of use are important considerations for determining the significance of Mk1. Field trials were formal experiments, which were undertaken by experts trained in the logistics of military hardware. On the other hand, a newspaper article used the invention to endear a 'digger's invention' to a credulous Australian public. The former test used the method of experiment and the latter used rhetoric in an attempt to seal the commercial destiny of Mk1.
Field trials were conducted in Australia and England. The latter tests were more demanding in regards to the critical appraisal of the weapon and it is in the context of this type of test that McCrudden and his Mk1 were relegated to a minor role in the annals of Australian innovation in military hardware.
Richardson (2000, 54) records McCrudden's first self-test trial at Sydney's Long-Bay Rifle Range. There is, at this stage, scant information about these Sydney trials, however, Richardson records that McCrudden, as a result of these trials "became acquainted with the importance of metallurgy as the bolt became distorted after firings at Sydney's Long Bay rifle range"(Richardson, 2000, 54). It was about this time that McCrudden's first Australian patent was issued (14 July, 1919), and the virtues of the gun were set out according to the requirements of Australian patent law. On the evidence available at this stage, McCrudden seems not to have improved the bolt action, and matters were subdued until 6 August, 1921 when suddenly McCrudden's invention moved from the privacy and formality of patent registration and field trials respectively, to the publicity and rhetoric associated with a newspaper report. The period 1919 to 1921 focused attention on McCrudden's self test, the Australian Army's appraisal, and the Daily Telegraph's supportive public campaign for 'a digger's invention'. Testing, appraising, and campaigning for Mk1 show different uses to which the artefact could be put.
Field tests in Australia (1919), prior to McCrudden's move to England in the early 1920s, were a benign affair. Richardson (2000, 55) records that McCrudden travelled to Jervis Bay on the South Coast of New South Wales, where he met with naval authorities who, at that time, were looking for a weapon to replace the Lewis (a small automatic machine gun, which was invented by Colonel Isaac N. Lewis [1858-1931], an American inventor). The outcome was simply an acknowledgement that Mk1 should be assessed by the English authorities.
Returning to Sydney, McCrudden made his way to Randwick Barracks where he met a Captain R.C.G. Prisk, Chief Instructor of the School of Musketry. Prisk passed his report, which was based on a field trial, to a Major Williams, who was stationed at Victoria Barracks (Sydney). It appears that Williams did nothing to encourage McCrudden in his work, however, Richardson has noted that the Randwick Barracks field trial was the only time that the Australian Army took interest in McCrudden's machine gun with Prisk's report concluding; "if the gun fulfils expectations when it is manufactured, and if the weight can be kept as low as the inventor claims, I should think that there should be a great demand for it" (Richardson, 2000, 55). However, Prisk's cautious optimism for McCrudden's weapon was quickly dashed once it was in the hands of the British military authorities.
McCrudden took his invention to England in 1922, where he confronted an English military establishment whose testing methods and critical reporting were more demanding, when compared to his Australian experience. It was in this 'culture' that McCrudden's invention failed the tests, and this destroyed any hope of McCrudden becoming a recognised innovator of the machine gun.
What did the English authorities say about McCrudden's machine gun, which led to its rejection by them? There was a series of reports published by the Small Arms Committee (SAC) and the Chief Inspector of Small Arms (CISA), England's leading authorities for the critical evaluation of new military innovations/inventions. The reports cover the period 1922 to 1930. Mk1 was probably first appraised by CISA on 8 November, 1922. The test was conducted at Enfield and a report ('Improved Type of Machine Gun [McCrudden]') was issued on 24 January, 1922 as Minute 507. The report begins cagily with; "the gun is of interest" followed by a detailed technical description of the weapon. The report then concludes with a series of remarks, again beginning with a favourable comment that the gun's design is "fairly simple" and "compact". Nevertheless, these positive characteristics count for little against the substantive conclusion that Mk1 possessed "several features of doubtful efficiency", these being (1) the bolt return spring was defective, (2) the operation of the breech lock was not sufficiently secure (this point was underscored by CISA as exemplifying a gap between theory and practice in McCrudden's work), (3) the adjustable ramp was not "fool proof" and would lock against the breech on all ocassions, (4) the drawings submitted indicate that the extractor (a device in a firearm which withdraws a spent round of ammunition from the chamber prior to ejection) was marked "on the weak side of the drawing".
An additional report by CISA was issued on 16 September, 1922. This report dealt with "suggested improvements" on the McCrudden machine gun indicating a prior attempt by McCrudden to have his weapon favourably appraised by CISA. This report claimed that "the gun was very roughly manufactured" and further remarked unfavourably on the feed mechanism that jammed, and the weak hammer and mainspring. At that stage, CISA commented that these faults "could be modified before actual construction".
The next substantial field trial and report occurred on 20 May, 1927 and 11 July, 1927, respectively. Mention of both were made in Minute 846 'The McCrudden Machine Gun', which noted that Mk1 was demonstrated before representatives of the "Admiralty, War Office and Air Ministry". The CISA reported on the 20 May field trial, and again found Mk1 to be unsatisfactory. The examiners found that Mk1 would only fire a "few continuous rounds at a time" before the weapon would 'stop'. The CISA admonished McCrudden for not reworking his ideas, and for failing to develop a more satisfactory weapon. Defects were recorded in the ejection mechanism, the gun was considered to be too heavy, the feed mechanism jammed, the breech mechanism did not close easily, the firer had to expend too much effort in cocking the mechanism, the safety device in the pistol grip was unsatisfactory, being partially exposed, the barrel extension was considered to be too small, stripping and assembly of the gun was too cumbersome, and there are an unnecessary number of parts in the weapon's construction (about 143). Another report (5/7/1927), based on these field trials, was submitted to the CISA with the comment that "the gun as submitted is unsuitable for production on mass production lines". The cost per gun was estimated to be 27 (pounds) and it was noted in the report that Browning and Vickers Berthier weapons were cheaper to manufacture.
Finally, Minute 1035 (11 December, 1929), reported the CISA's continuing disatisfaction with the "new model" McCrudden machine gun. "The inventor failed to make the gun operate satisfactorily and after many unsuccessful attempts decided to take the gun and endeavor to overcome the defects in the feed mechanism" it began, and warned that "the gun should not be resubmitted until this fault has been rectified". The skeptical CISA went further and reported, "even if the inventor is successful in making the gun function correctly, it is unlikely that it will ever be better than many other machine guns". McCrudden and his invention were now finished.
Shortly after the British military examiners passed unfavourable judgement on Mk1, McCrudden returned to Australia in the early 1930s, bringing with him Mk1 and Mk11. Disenchanted by his treatment in England from the military authorities, it was, then, perhaps surprising that McCrudden joined New Guard, a Sydney based organisation that was established in 1931, whose objects of association were (1) unswerving loyalty to the British Empire, (2) suppression of any disloyal and immoral elements in government, industrial and social activity, (3) the destruction of communism, (4) full liberty to the individual, and (5) the overthrow of the State Labour Government, which was then led by J.T. Lang. On the other hand, McCrudden might have been attracted to New Guard on the basis that Eric Campbell, its founder and leader, was a former military officer, that its membership "was composed largely of ex-servicemen" (Richardson, 2000, 56-57), and that the organisation was structured along military lines, with the Sydney region divided into zones, divisions, and localities. Perhaps the most famous act of New Guard in Australian history was the provocative act in cutting the official ribbon at the opening ceremony of the Sydney Harbour Bridge (19 March, 1932) by New Guard officer F.E. de Groot.
McCrudden did not 'push' his machine gun innovation while a member of New Guard. Indeed, he was only a member of the organisation for a short time, when an incident, involving the test firing of his machine guns (Mk1 and Mk11) at his Hurstville home in 1932, left McCrudden without his beloved innovation, as Mk1 was removed from him by the New South Wales Police and placed in secure and protected police custody. According to Richardson (2000, 58), Mk11 escaped police seizure and was returned to England, where it currently resides in the Ministry of Defence Pattern Room's collection (Nottingham). Mk1 remained with the police for the next thirty years and on 19 February, 1962, the weapon was presented to the Museum as a permanent loan. The New South Wales Police never recalled the item and Mk1 has remained at the Museum (on loan) until the present time.