Light automatic Mk1 machine gun

Made by Kingsway Manufacturing Co Ltd in London, England, 1921-1927.

The McCrudden Mk1 light automatic machine gun is significant as it exemplifies how claimed innovations that succeed in gaining patents can fail to satisfy expert examiners in real tests. Interestingly, Mk1’s significance is enhanced when a primary criterion of significance (technical significance) was called into doubt by an international panel of military examiners.

The artefact’s degree of significance can be gleaned in terms of the comparative criteria of rarity and provenance. The MAAS’s Mk...

Summary

Object No.

2002/41/1

Physical Description

A recoil-operated and magazine-fed machine gun. The magazine is of a radial formation and is located on the underside in a readily detachable frame, to which is pivoted an arm under spring tension, for assisting the platform spring to force the cartridges around and up into the throat.

The barrel is fitted with an aluminium radiator and casing, and with a specially designed muzzle disc and internal conical mouthpiece, by means of which the air is sucked through the 'radiator'.

The breech block and its locking member are carried in side plates, formed on a body screwed to the barrel. The breech block travels in alignment with the barrel, whilst its locking member, pivoted at the rear on an axis, is located in the side plates, spans the sides of the breech block, and is connected thereto by a master pin.

The sides of the locking member are slotted horizontally to allow the master pin, together with the breech block, to travel backward; the slot is carried upward at the forward end in order to form a lock for the breech block when the latter is forward, and the front end of the locking member is depressed by a plunger and spring situated above the centre line in an end cap. An external means for adjusting the tension of the spring is provided.

The front end of the locking member is raised to unlock the breech on recoil, by contact with an under ramp in the breech casing, which is provided with means of adjustment for regulating the time of opening, which takes place when the barrel and body group has travelled back a short distance (about 2cm).

A breech-block return spring, of spiral extension type, is attached to the top of the rear end of the breech block and to a hook with screw and nut adjustment in the upper front end of the breech casing.

The firing pin and its spring are located in an inclined boring in the breech block. The rear end of the pin is formed as a rack, which is engaged by a tumbler pivoted below it in the breech block. The tumbler sear is also pivoted in the breech block.

The trigger mechanism is contained in a detachable guard with pistol grip. The trigger operates through an intermediate member on the tumbler sear. A safety device, which is pressed forward when the pistol grip is handled, presses the trigger forward, so that it will not make contact with the intermediate member.

A detachable, two-legged mount can be hooked over the front end of the barrel.

Marks

"Manufactured By The Kingsway Manufacturing Co. Ltd, Newton Works, London, W.C. 2. McCrudden Light Automatic Machine Rifle, Patented British Patent Office Patent Nos 170249, 173547, 249169. Patent Nos pending 18603, 18604, and 18606/26. Reg. USA Patent Office and Foreign Countries. Receiver left Mk1. Receiver right 001257.

Production

Notes

John Charles Reginald McCrudden (1894 - 1937), a sergeant in the 1st Australian Imperial Force (AIF) from 1 May, 1915 to 16 May, 1917, served with the 3rd and 53rd Infantry Battalians in the Middle East and France. He was discharged from the Australian army in July 1916 as a result of injuries sustained in the First Battle of the Somme (July, 1916).

Prior to enlisting in the army, his occupation was, according to official army records, 'labourer'. It would appear that McCrudden had not received formal training in the design of military weapons. Richardson ('The McCrudden Gun', Guns Australia, January/March, 2000, 54), suggests McCrudden's interest in machine gun design arose simply on the basis of his (McCrudden's) belief 'that the weapons of the Great War could be improved upon'. In any case, McCrudden's first Australian patent design drawings are dated 14 July 1919, and these reveal a competent hand at design (Australian Patent No. 11,794/19, Class 89.3, 'Complete Specification: Improvements in Machine Guns'). It can be noted here that patent design drawings generally required a high level of draughting skill to illustrate the technical language of inventor (and patent attorney).

To protect his designs, McCrudden took out a total of seven patents over four years, beginning in 1919, in three countries: Australia, America, and the United Kingdom. McCrudden designed the following: a wooden protype; a metal prototype; Mk1; and Mk11. A design for and manufacture of Mk111 remained 'still born'.

Mk1 was made by the Kingsway Manufacturing Co. Ltd., Newton Works, London. Mk1 was based on an earlier wooden prototype and the manufacture of it moved offshore to England in 1922. The firm was established about 1916, when its address was Windsor House, Kingsway, London. Kingsway remained at this address until 1922, and styled itself as 'electric lamp makers'. The firm's history is not well documented between 1922 and 1926 (suggesting, perhaps, financial difficulties). However, its address appears again in 1926, being listed in the Trade Literature Collection of The Science Museum, London, as Newton Works, London. At Newton Works, Kingsway referred to itself as 'Contractors to HM Government'. The firm did not continue with this appellation for long, but when precisely it was removed is uncertain. Kingsway remained at Newton Works until 1964, where it made scientific instruments. Newton Works was a small premises on Macklin Street, between Stukely Street and Newton Street. Macklin Street is a side turning off Drury Lane in London's West End, and not a part of London where you would expect to have found a significant manufacturing plant during the twentieth century.

It has been suggested by Michael Wright (The Science Museum, London, e-mail correspondence with D. Barrett, 22 March 2001) that Kingsway Manufacturing might have largely or wholly been a 'brass-plate company', that is, a trading company that purchased items from manufacturers and put its own brass plate on for retail. There was a great deal of brass-plate activity in London, especially in regard to products that were destined for export.

The Chief Inspector of Small Arms (CISA), Enfield, U.K., reported (16 September, 1922), among other things, that Mk1, as presented to him, "was very roughly manufactured", pointing especially to the manufacture of the circular magazine, the feed, the extractor and the lock mechanism, with recommendations to the Small-Arms Committee (SAC) for further consideration.

At this stage, it appears that Kingsway Manufacturing restricted its production of Mk1 to only a small number (perhaps only one), for as late as 20 May, 1927, a report by the CISA, on demonstrations at Enfield on that day refer to "a model of this [Mk1] gun" only, thus strongly suggesting that Kingsway had not proceeded with full production at this stage. Indeed, full production was never achieved, as various field trials continually classed McCrudden's 'model' as unsatisfactory.

It appears that McCrudden made an attempt to establish his own firm in Australia about 1920, however, this venture did not get beyond issuing a 'Prospectus of the McCrudden Machine Gun Company Ltd'. (see P3536).

Made

Kingsway Manufacturing Co Ltd 1921-1927

Designed

McCrudden, John Charles Reginald 1919-1921

History

Notes

Interestingly, 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.

Owned

NSW Police Service 1921-1962

Source

Credit Line

Gift of the Commissioner, NSW Police Service, 2002

Acquisition Date

19 April 2002

Cite this Object

Harvard

Light automatic Mk1 machine gun 2017, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 15 October 2018, <https://ma.as/11405>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/11405 |title=Light automatic Mk1 machine gun |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=15 October 2018 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

Incomplete

This object record is currently incomplete. Other information may exist in a non-digital form. The Museum continues to update and add new research to collection records.

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