Book Review
Hotchkiss Machine Guns
Hotchkiss Machine Guns From Verdun to Iwo Jima
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by: Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]

This is a review by Randy L Harvey of Hotchkiss Machine Guns From Verdun to Iwo Jima by author John Walter and illustrators Adam Hook and Alan Gilliland with series editor Martin Pegler.


John Walter is among the world's most prolific writers on small arms - author of 70 books, translated into more than a dozen languages, and authoritative articles in Guns Digest, Shooter's Bible and The Armourer. He lives in East Sussex, UK.


Adam Hook studied graphic design, and began his work as an illustrator in 1983. He specializes in detailed historical reconstructions, and has illustrated Osprey titles on subjects as diverse as the Aztecs, the Ancient Greeks, Roman battle tactics, several 19th-century American subjects, the modern Chinese Army, and a number of books in the Fortress series. His work features in exhibitions and publications throughout the world. Adam completed the battlescene illustrations in this book.

Alan Gilliland, born in Malaya in 1949, studied photography/film and architecture, and has worked as a photojournalist and cartoonist. He also spent 18 years as the graphics editor of The Daily Telegraph, winning 19 awards in that time, including numerous UK Press Awards. He now writes, illustrates and publishes fiction (www.ravensquill.com), as well as illustrating for a variety of publishers (including Osprey, the Penguin Group, Brown Reference Group, Ivy Group and Aurum), architects and developers, such as John McAslan (Olympic Energy Centre) and Kit Martin (Prince Charles’ Phoenix Trust advisor on historic buildings). www.alangilliland.com


** Created by a long-forgotten Austrian nobleman, Adolf Odkolek von Augezd, the air-cooled Hotchkiss machine gun was the first to function effectively by tapping propellant gas from the bore as the gun fired. Although the Hotchkiss would be overshadowed by the water-cooled Maxim and Vickers guns, it proved its effectiveness during the Russo-Japanese War. The gun was successful enough to persuade Laurence Benét and Henri Mercié to develop the Modèle Portative: a man-portable version which could move with infantrymen as they advanced. Later mounted on tanks and aircraft, the Hotchkiss became the first automatic weapon to obtain a ‘kill’ in aerial combat.

Though it served the French and US armies during World War I (and also the British in the Middle East and on the Western Front in the areas where French and British units fought alongside each other), the Odkolek-Hotchkiss system was to have its longest-term effect in Japan. Here, a succession of derivatives found favour in theatres of operations in which water-cooling could be more of a liability than as asset. When US forces landed on Saipan, Guam and Iwo Jima, battling their way from island to island across the Pacific, it was the ‘Woodpecker’ – the Type 92 Hotchkiss, with its characteristically slow rate of fire – which cut swathes through their ranks. Supported by contemporary photographs and full-colour illustrations, this title explores the eventful history of the first successful gas-operated machine gun. **

** Quoted from the back cover of the book.

Osprey Publications has released Hotchkiss Machine Guns From Verdun to Iwo Jima as Number 71 in their Weapon series. It is a soft cover book with 80 pages. Included with the text are black and white photographs and color photographs, color illustrations, detailed captions, quotes and personal accounts and more. It has a 2019 copyright with a publication date of 28 Nov 2019 and the ISBN is 978-1-4728-3616-8. The book details the development, use and impact of the Hotchkiss machine gun and its variations throughout its use by various militaries of the world.

    - Introduction
    - Development
    - From revolver cannon to machine gun
    - Use
    - The Hotchkiss at war
    - Impact
    - A ground-breaking weapon
    - Conclusion
    - Bibliography
    - Index


Author John Walter covers the history of various models of the Hotchkiss machine gun, the ammunition used in them and their accessories. The Hotchkiss machine gun and its introduction to the world and adoption and use by various countries militaries, and their specific modifications made to it, is well documented and discussed. In addition to the machine guns themselves the author goes into great detail with having specific sections dedicated to how the Hotchkiss works, tools and accessories and what their specific use was, mounts used, optical sights that were mounted on them, how the various machine guns were crewed and supplied as well as the ammunition types used. The author discusses the climate and weather conditions where the weapons were used and discusses how the various weapons functioned depending on the environmental influences upon them. A portion that I found interesting in the writing is where it is explained why the US Army during the Mexican campaign called the Hotchkiss the “Daylight Gun” due to the difficulty they had in loading the weapon in the dark. The time lapses while trying to reload the weapon in the dark lead to the belief that the weapons were jamming. Yet is was just due to the difficulty the troops encountered while trying to load the weapon. The issue with trying to load the weapon in the dark led the US Army to partake in daytime battle only if the machine guns were to be used. Issues encountered with the weapons by other countries is also discussed and what they did to improve on the weapons. In addition to the weapon and its use by infantry being discussed, John Walter also details the Hotchkiss being mounted on vehicles such as the US Harley Davidson motorcycle as well as Belgian Minerva and SAVA armored cars. Also discussed is the use of the Hotchkiss in the air when it was mounted on various aircraft such as the French Farman F.40 biplane and the French Morane-Saulnier monoplane. An interesting fact that is detailed is that the Hotchkiss machine gun in credited with the first authenticated aerial kill during aircraft on aircraft combat. In addition to the authors own words when describing the Hotchkiss, John Walter has provided first-hand accounts from various individuals that discuss their personal experiences with the weapons. The text in the book is nicely written and well detailed. As I read through the text, I did notice a few grammatical errors in the text such as duplicate words in a sentence and other sentences that were worded in a way that didn’t make sense. However, the errors were few and minor and didn’t take anything away from the book. 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 it shows that the author has taken the time to be professional with their writing. Anyone wanting to add an excellent reference and history book on various Hotchkiss machine guns to their personal library will be pleased with this very informative and interesting book.

A total of 29 black and white photographs and 37 color photographs are included in this volume. The photographs range from historical prints showing the various weapons in use by their respective militaries to modern documentary type photographs of just the weapons themselves. The photographs range from wide angle photographs to close-up detailed photographs. The majority of the photographs are clear and easily viewable; however, a few have an out of focus look to them and some appear to be too dark, and others appear too light. This is typical for the discussed periods of history and consideration needs to be given to the fact that some of the photographs are several years old and the quality of the photographs is of no fault of the author and do not take anything away from 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. Also included are photographs of illustrations from French, German and US military manuals as well as a photograph of the patent drawing for US Patent 486938 of November 29, 1892. There are also up-close photographs of various optics used, mono-pods, bi-pods and tripods, transport cases, ammunition, ammunition feed strips, various markings and stampings, vehicles and aircraft that were fitted with the weapons, and other such items. As well as showing the various machine guns and their accessories the photographs also provide excellent details such as the various countries military uniforms and accessories. Author John Walter 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 anyone interested in various types of Hotchkiss machine guns as well as their accessories and other items due to the details they contain.

Some of the Hotchkiss machine gun variants and other weapons shown and discussed are:
    - 1909-type Benét-Mercié Machine rifle fitted with a silencer
    - Hotchkiss single-barrel cannon
    - Hotchkiss five-barrel 37mm crank-operated revolver cannon
    - M1900 Hotchkiss
    - Meiji 38th Year Type Hotchkiss mounted on a Type 92 tripod
    - M1907 Saint-Etienne with a spatulate flash hider mounted on a M1915 Type Omnibus tripod
    - Brazilian 7x57mm M1908 Portative
    - British .303in Hotchkiss Mk I* No. 2
    - M1914 Hotchkiss mounted on a M1915 Type Omnibus tripod
    - Taisho 11th Year Type machine gun
    - Hitachi Heiki made Type 92 heavy machine gun with a 4x Type 96 optical sight
    - Kokura-made Type 92 with transport poles in place
    - Type 96 light machine gun with 2.5x optical sight
    - Hitachi Hieki-made Type 99 light machine gun
    - Brazilian 7x57mm Type II Hotchkiss Fusil Mitailler with bipod
    - Hotchkiss M1922 aircraft gun
    - 7.5mm Fusil Mitrailleur M1924/29
    - Japanese 13.2mm Type 93 heavy machine guns on a duplex mount

There are 5 color illustrations by illustrators Adam Hook and Alan Gilliland. The illustrations are very well done, nicely detailed and are of:

Plate A

The M1900 Exposed

- A cut-away view showing the internal workings of the 8x51mmR Modèle 1900 Hotchkiss machine gun.

Plate B

The Benét-Mercié Exposed

- A cut-away view showing the internal workings of the .30-06 Benét-Mercié Machine Rifle M1909.

Plate C

The Russo-Japanese War

- A two-page action illustration showing horse mounted Russian Primorskiy Dragoons on horseback using sabers to attack a Japanese entrenchment near Port Arthur in the early winter of 1904. The Japanese are armed with 6.5mm Meiji 30th Year Type Arisaka rifles with bayonets fixed and being supported by a Ho-Shiki Hotchkiss machine gun

Plate D

The Western Front, 1916

- A two-page action illustration showing a German machine-gun crew using a captured 8mm M1914 French Hotchkiss machinegun against a British Mark I Female tank and British infantry that are attacking the German lines at the end of the battle of Flers-Courcelette on 15 September 1916.

Plate E

War in the Pacific (see attached scan)

- A one-page action illustration set in 1944 showing US Marines emerging from an LCP “Higgins” boat to assault a Japanese-held island in the Kwajalein archipelago. The beach they are landing on is being defended by Japanese troops armed with a 7.7mm Type 92 machinegun and a 7.7mm Type 99 light machinegun.


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 the specific weapons shown, specific parts on the weapons, the country it is associated with, military unit identification, equipment carried and used, dates and locations and other such pertinent information. I was very impressed by John Walter’s captions as they are very helpful to the reader due to their detailed content as opposed to other captions that I have seen that are very brief and lacking in detail.


There are 2 individual profiles included in this volume and they provide information on:
    - Benjamin Hotchkiss
    - Adolf Odkolek


There are 3 notes included in this volume and they are:

- Dedication
- Acknowledgements
- Artist’s Note

As with the other Osprey Publishing titles I was impressed with this book. This is a very nice reference book that contains a well written informative text, many subject specific photographs and illustrations, well detailed captions and more, all detailing the history of the various types of Hotchkiss machine guns as well as their accessories, ammunition, failures and successes and other pertinent information. As with the other Osprey Publishing titles, I would have no hesitation to recommend this book to others as it will be a welcome addition to one’s personal reference library.

In addition to being available in print from, Osprey Publishing also offers Hotchkiss Machine Guns: From Verdun to Iwo Jima as:

eBook (ePub) – ISBN: 978-1-4728-3615-1


eBook (PDF) – ISBN: 978-1-4728-3614-4
Osprey Publishing’s Hotchkiss Machine Guns: From Verdun to Iwo Jima is also available electronically as a Kindle version through Amazon.

This book was provided to me by Osprey Publishing. Please be sure to mention that you saw the book reviewed here when you make your purchase.


UK £13.99 / US $22.00 / CAN $29.00
Highs: Well written text and captions. Subject specific photographs and illustrations.
Lows: A few grammatical errors.
Verdict: An excellent volume by Osprey Publishing. Definitely beneficial to the military small arms enthusiast and historian.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 978-1-4728-3616-8
  PUBLISHED: Mar 15, 2020

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
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About Randy L Harvey (HARV)

I have been in the modeling hobby off and on since my youth. I build mostly 1/35 scale. However I work in other scales for aircraft, ships and the occasional civilian car kit. I also kit bash and scratch-build when the mood strikes. I mainly model WWI and WWII figures, armor, vehic...

Copyright ©2021 text by Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]. All rights reserved.


Thank you for getting this posted Fred. Randy
MAR 16, 2020 - 02:23 AM
Looks like another good, basic reference source on a topic that few know anything about. In short: useful & interesting to those so inclined.
MAR 16, 2020 - 04:41 AM
Thank you Frank. It is an interesting book and while reading it I learned a lot about the weapon and its many variants. There is a lot of information provided within it's 80 pages that should interest many. Thank you, Randy
MAR 31, 2020 - 05:01 AM

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