Sometimes I run across items that are only tangentially related to my writing. This article is one such. The main feature, in addition to the facts the story reveals, is that I had a wonderful visit to Swindon on my most recent research trip to England. It so happens that a major private collection of Vickers Machine Guns and related materials are owned and curated by Richard Fisher of Swindon. I spent a long afternoon with him and his collection last April. Before that we had communicated through e-mail. I had many questions about the operation of the gun, training of the soldiers who used it, the specific jobs of the six soldiers assigned to each gun. His information made what I wrote about the gun accurate and authentic.
There are many fascinating items in his collection. Among them is a simple device to measure whether an airplane was close enough to the gun to warrant shooting at it. It consisted of a strip of steel about three inches long and an inch wide with three holes bored in it, each of a different diameter, and a cord about 18 inches long. The soldier would hold the end of the string at his ear lobe, stretch it to its full length and look through the holes. Only when the plane filled the largest hole would it be close enough to be worth firing at.
In addition to a myriad of Vickers artifacts, Richard has collected three hundred Vickers training manuals. The most interesting one to me is a manual in Urdu translated into that language and transliterated, so a trainer who did not speak the language could read the material to soldiers he was training in their language without needing to know Urdu. This means that someone needed to be able to translate from English to Urdu and someone (maybe the same person) needed to be able to transliterate it into English.
This was one example of the lengths to which armies went to fight the war.
If you have not yet read The Angel of Mons: A World War I Legend you are missing out on a fascinating story.
I am also at work on the sequel to the novel, this one about a battle in which Americans, and South Carolinians, North Carolinians, and Tennesseans played a central role.