Book Review
The Bren Gun
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by: Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]


Adopted in 1937 the qualities of the Bren light machine gun would be a key element of Allied success in World War II. With a Bren for every rifle section, the British Army’s wartime infantry tactics would be based firmly around automatic firepower. Indeed, during World War II the Army manuals stated baldly “The Bren L.M.G. is the principal weapon of the infantry.”

Unlike the Sten submachine gun, the Czech-designed Bren was accurate, reliable, and popular with the troops. Rechambered for 7.62mm postwar, it saw extensive frontline service with many Commonwealth armies, seeing action from Indonesia to the Falklands. Neil grant analyses the design, combat history and impact of one of the most iconic British military firearms.


Osprey Publications Ltd has released The Bren Gun as Number 28 in their Weapon series. It is a softcover book with 80 pages. Included with the text are black and white photographs and color photographs, color illustrations, informational charts and detailed captions. It has a 2013 copyright and the ISBN is 978-1-78200-082-2. The book details the British Bren gun from its development and introduction to its use by the British and other allied nations during World War II and on through military history up into the 1980s.


  • Introduction
  • Development
  • How a Czech gun became a British icon
  • Use
  • The backbone of the infantry section
  • Impact
  • Towards a GPMG
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Index


The text in the book is well written and extremely detailed. Neil Grant covers the British Bren gun from its development and introduction to its use in World War II and beyond by various allied and NATO countries in great detail. Of particular interest to me was the discussion of the Bren, and the Czech Zb 26, being used by the German military during World War II as captured weapons as well as the use of the Bren gun by various militaries in different conflicts after World War II. Some of the conflicts where the Bren gun was used and groups that used them mentioned are the Jewish Haganah in Palestine, the Irish troops in the Congo, the Indian and Pakistani armies in the India-Pakistan wars, the Nigerian Forces in the Nigerian Civil War and its use by British troops in Grenada in 1983. 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 British Bren gun from its development and introduction and its use by the British and other allied nations during World War II and on through military history up into the 1980s to their personal library will be pleased with this very informative and interesting book.

Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the text for yourself.


There are a total of 43 black and white photographs and 11 color photographs. The majority of the photographs are very nice and they range from wide angle photographs to close-up detailed photographs. The photographs are clear and easily viewable and 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 and variations. Author Neil Grant has stuck to the title of the book and chose photographs that are specific to the Bren gun 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 military firearm enthusiast and military modeler due to the details they contain.

Some of the variations of the Bren gun and other weapons shown are:
  • Vickers gun
  • Lewis gun
  • Czech Zb 30
  • Vickers-Berthier Model A
  • Mk I Bren
  • Mk II Bren
  • Mk III Bren
  • Besal gun – a simplifies ‘last ditch’ version of the Bren
  • .280in ‘bullpup’ EM-2 rifle
  • Taden gun
  • L4A1 Bren
  • L4A4 Bren
  • Bren-derived X11E2 belt-fed GPMG
  • L7A1 GPMG

Some of the photographs that I found to particularly interesting contain subjects such as:
  • An Australian Bren gunner on patrol in northern New Guinea
  • A Gurkha Bren gunner in Burma (see attached scan)
  • A cut-away version of Mk III Bren shown all the internal components
  • Propaganda photograph of Ronnie, the Bren Gun Girl
  • A Bren gun crew with a Bren gun on a tripod during a pre-war exercise
  • Two British Home Guard members armed with a Thompson submachine gun and a Bren gun
  • A Bren gunner in North Africa using a 100-round anti-aircraft drum instead of the 30 round box magazine
  • Bren guns attached to a Motley AA mount fitted in the back of a light truck (see attached scan)
  • A Bren gun mounted in the turret of a Humber Light Reconnaissance Car (see attached scan)
  • A Bren gun mounted on a Universal Carrier of The Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry
  • Two Waffen-SS troops firing a captured Czech Zb 30 LMG
  • British motorcycle combinations (motorcycle with sidecar) being used as a Bren gun mover
  • A color photograph of a British sailor wearing a helmet and web gear holding a Bren gun (see attached scan)

Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the photographs for yourself.


There are 3 color illustrations and 1 black and white illustration by illustrator Peter Dennis. The illustrations are very well done, nicely detailed and are of:
The color illustrations are of:
  • Anti-tank tactics
  • Canadian troops fighting off an attack by elements of 12 SS-Panzer-Division ‘Hitlerjugend’ shortly after D-Day
  • Umrao Singh’s VC
  • Umrao Singh’s Victoria Cross action, Kaladan, December 1944 (see attached scan)
  • The Falklands, 1982
  • The Royal marines in combat in the Falklands, 1982, using a L4A4 version of the Bren
  • An illustration from a 1939 British military manual showing the proper grip the Bren gunner is to use when firing the weapon. (see attached scan)

Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the illustrations for yourself.


There are 3 informational charts provided which provide information on:
  • The Bren and its rivals (see attached scan)
  • Bren guns by mark
  • British scale of issue, personal weapons, 1944


There are 4 notes included in this volume and they are:
  • Acknowledgments
  • Imperial War Museum Collections
  • Editor’s Note
  • Artist’s note


The captions are well written and are greatly detailed and explain the accompanying photographs and illustration in great detail eliminating any doubt as to what is shown and taking place in the accompanying photograph. The captions go into very specific detail as to weapons and their variations and modifications, vehicles and weapon mounts, locations and dates, military units shown and other such pertinent information. I was very impressed by Neil Grant’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.


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 British Bren gun from its development and introduction and its use by the British and other allied nations during World War II and on through military history up into the 1980s. 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.


The Military Book Club Encyclopedia of Infantry Weapons of WWII
Saturn Books Ltd.
Ian V. Hogg

The Infantry and Small Arms School Corps weapons collection web site Live links

Imperial War Museum web site Live links

Osprey web site Live links

Amazon web site Live links

Kindle Edition of the book Live links
Highs: Well written text and captions Subject specific photographs and illustrations
Lows: Nothing to mention
Verdict: Another excellent volume in Osprey Publishing’s Weapon series. Definitely beneficial to the military small arms enthusiast and military modeler.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 978-1-78200-082-2
  Suggested Retail: US $18.95 / UK £12.99
  PUBLISHED: Aug 26, 2013
  NATIONALITY: United Kingdom

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.


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