by: Randy L Harvey [ ]
World War I's defining weapon for many, Germany's MG 08 machine gun won a formidable reputation on battlefields from Tannenberg to the Somme. Although it was a lethally effective weapon when used from static positions, the MG 08 was far too heavy to perform a mobile role on the battlefield. As the British and French began to deploy lighter machine guns alongside their heavier weapons, the Germans fielded the Danish Madsen and British Lewis as stopgaps, but chose to adapt the MG 08 into a compromise weapon - the MG 08/15 - which would play a central role in the revolutionary developments in infantry tactics that characterized the last months of the conflict. In the 1940s, the two weapons were still in service with German forces fighting in a new world war.
Drawing upon eyewitness battlefield reports, this absorbing study assesses the technical performance and combat record of these redoubtable and influential German machine guns, and their strengths and limitations in a variety of battlefield roles.
Quoted from the back cover of the book.
Osprey Publications Ltd has released German Machine Guns of World War I – MG 08 and MG 08/15 as Number 47 in their Weapon series. It is a softcover book with 80 pages. Included with the text are black and white photographs, color photographs, color illustrations, a cut-away view illustration, and detailed captions. It has a 2016 copyright and the ISBN is 978-1-4728-1516-3. The book details the development, use and impact of the MG 08 and MG 08/15 machineguns during WWI as well as the postwar years.
The ‘Devil’s Paintbrush’
German Maxims at war
The ‘beaten zone’
The text in the book is nicely written and well detailed. Author Stephen Bull covers the MG 08 and MG 08/15 machineguns from their development and introduction, to their use on the battlefield. As one can guess by the title of the book the main focus is on the German MG 08 and MG 08/15 machineguns. Author Stephen Bull does an excellent job of detailing all aspects of the MG 08 and MG 08/15 providing information on inventor Hiram Stevens Maxim and his maxim Gun and the German adoption and manufacture of the Maxim Gun, details in regards to the Germans question in regards to the benefits and disadvantages between heavy and light machineguns, and the MG 08/15 and its competing designs.
I found the section of the book titled “Use” to be particularly interesting to me. It goes into great depth of detail in regards to operation of the MG 08 and MG 08/15 machine guns. Subjects detailed in this section include the operating of the MG 08 and MG 08/15, preparing to fire, aiming firing, maintaining fire, firing, reloading, and post-firing actions and included as well are copies of original German military manual images detailing and discussing common firing stoppages (see attached image). I personally feel that this type of information provides the reader with a “hands on” type of information which will be very interesting and helpful to the firearms enthusiast and historian.
In addition to the history and all of the technical information provided on the MG 08 and MG 08/15 the author has also included personal accounts provided by individuals that used the weapon throughout the wars. Personally I appreciate the individual accounts as they provide information that isn’t exactly textbook definitions of its use and provide realistic details of its successes and faults. As I read through the text I didn’t notice any spelling or grammatical errors. Grammar and spelling might not be an important factor to everyone however it is something that I take notice of and pass on my findings. I feel that if the text is well written then it shows that the author has taken the time to be a professional with their writing. Anyone wanting to add an excellent reference and history book on the MG 08 and MG 08/15 machineguns to their personal library will be pleased with this very informative and detailed book.
There are a total of 49 black and white photographs and 8 color photographs. The majority of the photographs featured are close-up posed for the photographer images. To me this is a definite bonus as they provided excellent close-up details of not only the MG 08 and MG 08/15 machineguns but also the uniforms and equipment of the soldiers. I would say that the photographs that were chosen for this book were for the most part lesser known photographs as opposed to photographs that are featured in many other titles that deal with the same subject matter. Some of the images are from German military manuals of the period.
The majority of the photographs are clear and easily viewable, however there are a few that have an out of focus look to them and some appear to be too dark, and some appear too light, which is typical for photographs of that period of time. However, this is typical for this period of history and consideration needs to be given to the fact that the majority of the photographs are 100 years old and the quality of the photographs is of no fault of the author and do not take anything away from the book and provide a visual guide for the actions described in the book. I appreciate the fact that there are several photographs of just the weapons themselves as opposed to photographs that feature the weapons in a broad generalized military photograph. In my opinion it makes it much easier to study the various weapons and their details. Author Stephen Bull stuck to the title of the book and chose subject specific photographs and did not include photographs that strayed from the main subject of the book. The majority, if not all, of the photographs will prove to be a wealth of information to the firearm enthusiast due to the details they contain.
In addition to the MG 08 and MG 08/15, some of the other machineguns shown and discussed are:
Maxim Model 1894 (MG 94)
Bergmann MG 15nA
French Chauchat light machine gun
French Mle 1914 Hotchkiss machine gun
German Light Machinengun MG 13 'Dreyse'
There are 4 color illustrations by illustrators Johnny Shumate and Alan Gilliland. The illustrations are of:
Capture of a Lewis-gunner, late 1916
A German machinegun crew manning a Danish Madsen machinegun are taking a British Lewis-gunner prisoner while a German MG 08 machinegun crew prepare their machinegun for stowage.
The MG 08/15 Exposed. A cut-away view showing the internal workings of a MG 08/15 machinegun.
MG 08/15 firing positions. Shown are four different firing positions employed by the German military for the MG 08/15 machinegun. (Please see the attached scan of this illustration)
The MG 08 in the First Battle of the Aisne, 1914
An overhead view of the battlefield showing two freshly dug German trench positions that are not yet connected and two different machine gun positions. In this illustration there are two close-up illustrations showing the two different types of machinegun positions. On is a dug in position and the other is a sandbag position.
The captions are well written and explain the accompanying photographs and illustrations in great detail eliminating any doubt as to what is shown. The captions go into very specific detail as to weapons and their variations and modifications, dates, important individuals and other such pertinent information. I was very impressed by Stephen Bull’s captions as they are very helpful to the reader due to their detailed content as opposed to other captions I have seen that are very brief and lack detail.
This book was provided to me by Osprey Publishing Ltd. Please be sure to mention that you saw the book reviewed here when you make your purchase.
As with the other Osprey Publishing weapons series titles I was impressed with this volume. This is a very nice reference book that contains many close-up, detailed, subject specific photographs and illustrations and well detailed captions. It details the MG 08 and MG 08/15 their accessories, their development and introduction, to their use on the battlefield. I would have no hesitation to add other Osprey Publishing titles to my personal library nor would I hesitate to recommend this book to others as it will be a welcome addition to one’s personal military reference library.
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