Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Notable Weapon of the Great War
The Lewis Gun

An American design, originally turned down by the American Army, the Lewis gun was one of the most successful light machine guns of the war. Gas-operated and fed by a pan-shaped magazine holding 47 or 97 rounds, the weapon could fire .303-inch rounds at a rate of 450-500 per minute. Its sole handicaps were its complicated firing mechanism and 25-pound weight. As suggested in the graphic below, it was also used extensively in the air war. Over 50,000 Lewis guns were manufactured for use in World War I.  The weapon was also used extensively by British Commonwealth forces in the Second World War.

The illustration below—from Tony Langley's collection—also includes a drawing of the French Hotchkiss machine gun used by American forces when they entered the war.

Click on Image to Expand


  1. This was replaced by the Czech "Brende" machine gun.
    It was lighter, weighing 21lb. It was gas operated & air-cooled. It had an effective mechanical trigger mechanism

    1. The Lewis was invented by an American Army officer, but never adopted by the US Army though it was used by the US Marines (not in France) and Navy. The Czech-designed Bren Gun replaced the Lewis in British service before WWII.

      There is a new book by Neil Grant "The Lewis Gun," Osprey, 2013, 80 pages,ISBN 978 1 7820 0791 3, $18.95 paperback.