How this pre-World War One weapon changed the world

October 15, 2015
Participants: Jason Fields, Matthew Gault, Ian McCollum

“Whatever happens, we have got/ The Maxim gun, and they have not.”

None of the world’s great powers were ready for the carnage World War I. The armies of 1914 looked a lot like the armies of 1814 … but they didn’t go to war with 19th century weapons. The modern world was born in blood on the battlefields of Europe during the Great War … and the machine gun cut the umbilical cord.

Today, modern troops carry machine guns as part of a standard kit. But at the outbreak of the Great War commanders relegated the new and deadly contraptions to the artillery line. Some felt the guns were ungentlemanly.

The British Empire had no problem deploying the weapons during its colonial conflicts, but some shirked away from unleashing them on the continent. That opinion changed as World War I morphed from just another European conflict to one of the bloodiest wars in human history.

This week on War College, we sit down with Ian McCollum of Forgotten Weapons as he walks us through the Maxim Gun — one of the earliest machine guns — and how it changed the pace of war forever.

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Maxim’s machine gun slaughtered hundreds of thousands of people

Even animals needed gas masks in World War I

McCollum’s “Heavy Machine Guns of the Great War”


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Do we really want to read articles like this here? Most of us are business people, not War College Students, right?

Posted by Mark_Phil | Report as abusive

This is a PR article of War College rather being a news article of substance to readers.

Posted by Mottjr | Report as abusive

History teaches us. Read the article and you should be able to see how closely this old event bears resemblance to many different ones today. The less inventive minds stuck in old ways put machine guns into the artillery, mounted on heavy horse-drawn carriages just like cannons. The more inventive and forward thinking minds saw that they would get lighter with more development and the air-cooled machine guns were already light enough to be carried into battle by two-man teams.

In the Russo-Japanese war, the Japanese went with the light and mobile guns. The Russians went with the heavy artillery style. It made a huge difference in the outcome of the war and the continued advance of the Japanese Empire. Observers from the European powers were there and should have learned this lesson in time to equip their troops before WWI but were too stuck in the old ways. The old generals probably worried they would have to create all-new tactics.

Seem like some office management situations you have run into?

Posted by RTPrider | Report as abusive

So either you two don’t think there is money to be made in arms or you have nothing to learn from history.

Glad you are not handling MY money.

Posted by Miserati | Report as abusive

Really interesting article. Well researched and well presented. More like that please.

Posted by Robbie33 | Report as abusive

Those who neglect to learn from the past, are doomed to be front and center of tomorrow’s papers’ headlines

Posted by OxymorontoMoron | Report as abusive