The Machine-Gun Corps Old Comrades' Association

The Machine gun was 'Queen of the Battlefields' in WW1 and the Corps was formed to utilise this weapon to best advantage.
The Machine Gun Corps Old Comrades' Association does still exist. Few people seem to realize this since of course the Machine Gun Corps itself existed from 1915 to 1922, so few imagine that there will still be a regimental association.

In fact, the OCA thrives. In January '97 we had 75 members, now we have about 250. I'm pleased to say that we also now have many overseas members from the USA, Ireland, Canada, Australia and Denmark. Many of the US members actually own and shoot Vickers machine guns.

Sadly our last Veteran, Albert 'Smiler' Marshall died two years ago, but the Veterans were delighted that the OCA was still active and we hope it will continue so far into the future.

Most members are family of MGC men, but more and more are simply interested in WW1 and the Corps. Several have a particular interest in Vickers guns, several in uniforms and many members are avid medal collectors. We welcome all. This is not a snobbish or elitist Association, we pride ourselves on being very friendly. The OCA is inclusive not exclusive.

Membership runs from January to December each year and costs £10 UK, £13 EU and £17 International. £2 Junior UK, £5 Junior Overseas (anyone in full-time education to A level). The OCA survives totally on the generosity of members and most members add a donation to their subscription, this allows us to continue to hold services of Remembrance, give gifts to the Veterans as well as towards providing events.

We have a magazine called 'Emma Gee' usually published twice per year. Members are encouraged to contribute articles and items of interest. It seems to be forever growing in size, anything from 9, 'my' first edition in March 97 to 90! Anyone wishing to contribute an article should contact me and I will certainly do my best to include it. In particular, I require Page One articles, these tend to be contributed by 'serious' writers, (staff at the IWM have been most kind). Emma Gee is also available on CD-ROM. Most back issues to '97 are available on CD-ROM for £20 (plus £2 postage for overseas). Ties, silver pins, blazer badges, cufflinks, polo shirts, tie pins and sweetheart brooches are also available for sale.

There is an Annual Observance and Luncheon usually held in May each year. The Observance takes place at the Boy David Memorial, Hyde Park Corner and is presided over by our Honorary Chaplain, Colonel the Reverend John Barrie (Rtd) formerly Chaplain to the Household Division. There is a band to accompany the hymns and it is a very fitting and sincere tribute to the men of the MGC.

We then move on to have Luncheon where there is always a display set up. Members bring along items of interest which may include original documents, letters, photographs, medals, books, uniforms and if we are lucky a (decommissioned) Vickers. The OCA is proud to own several items of MGC regimental silver, which I found quite by accident a few years ago!

There are round tables and a committee member sits at each one so that members can get to know them and they can get to know members. It is all very friendly and a really lovely afternoon is had by all.

In November we have a plot at the Field of Remembrance, Westminster Abbey and hold a small Wreath Laying Service on Remembrance Sunday at the Boy David Memorial.

I try to arrange extra events in the Spring and Autumn. This year in March a member living in Worcester arranged a Private Tour of the Royal Worcester's Museum which was very interesting and I can thoroughly recommend a visit.

In October I arrange a Lecture and Lunch at Grantham (the place where most MGC men trained).

On Saturday 13th October, we will again be at the Angel & Royal Hotel, Grantham, please see our website for details of speakers. Preceded by a small wreath laying service at the Lions Lodge Gate, Belton Park and St Wulfram's Church will be open to visitors wishing to see the MGC Book of Remembrance and the MGC Colours which are housed here.

Most events are also open to non-members, do ask if you are interested.

8th November Field of Remembrance Westminster Abbey. We have a plot.

11th November Wreath Laying Service Boy David Memorial Hyde Park Corner.

We fundraised to provide a headstone for the grave of Cpl Arthur Cross VC MM who lay in an unmarked grave until a few years ago. I'm delighted to say that we achieved our aim, with the help of 'This England' magazine who mentioned the fund and generously agreed to 'top-up' the outstanding amount. A service of commemoration took place nr Streatham, Thursday 27th September 2001 at South London Cemetery, Rowan Road, London SW16 5JG.

There is no full history of the MGC, most papers were lost in a devastating fire in 1935, and then soldier's papers were further depleted in the Blitz. The MGC has been jinxed as regards records. A group of OCA members are currently trying to right this wrong. They are researching and hope in due course write a History of the Corps. If you can offer help or own MGC related material, which is unlikely to be held elsewhere, the History Group will be pleased to hear from you, I will forward any emails or correspondence.

We have a Grave and Memorial Photographic Project that will be on going for years to come. As a way of ensuring that the men of the MGC are not forgotten, we are photographing each individual headstone and memorial. Our Project Officer would be very pleased to receive any photographs you may have of individual gravestones and will also provide listings of headstones we do not have photographed in particular cemeteries. Contact him via the main OCA email address. We have over 5,500 individual graves photographed so far. All those individual acts of Remembrance for our men, I am certainly proud of the work we have done with much of it down to a handful of enthusiastic members. Recently we were delighted to receive photographs of MGC men's graves in East Africa.

Most of the graves in the main cemeteries on the Somme and around Ypres have been photographed, if you are going on holiday to areas other than the Western Front, please contact us for a list of graves to be photographed.

I would be delighted to hear from anyone wishing to sponsor an OCA event or make a donation. If your relative served with the Corps, making a donation will help ensure he is not forgotten. Services of Remembrance are especially expensive but we always hold them. Please help us continue to do so.

My personal interest came about because my grandfather was killed in April 1918 while with 57 Bn. I became a member of the OCA quite by chance in '93, I had never joined any association in my life before. But I found the Honorary Secretary, Joe Cozens, extremely welcoming and the members I met so friendly, that I kept subscribing and when Joe decided he wanted to retire and no-one knowledgeable came forward to do the job, I decided to give the work a try. I'm still not that knowledgeable but try to be a reasonable administrator. (Although I am often behind with mail so don't think you are being ignored, it may take a couple of months to hear from me sometimes. I would ask you NOT to write to me if at all possible. For a quick response email or better still, telephone. I am in the phone book.

The OCA is too special to allow to wither and the men who fought with the Corps deserve to be actively remembered. Encouraging young people to be interested in the Corps and indeed WW1 is vital. If you know of any young people who might be interested, perhaps due to a family connection or because they are studying WW1 for their GCSE's, do tell them about us, or better still, treat them to a Junior membership.

MGC men generally enlisted into another regiment. Families often know that 'Grandad was in the Welsh' or Somerset LI or the Northumberland Fusiliers, but they don't know that he then transferred to the MGC, so we lose out on many possible members.

Those wishing to have help with research often contact us, please go to our website and read the appropriate page. Due to the enormous number of enquiries, we now make a small charge for help and advice. I was swamped with requests for advice but rarely were any donations made even for postage hence the decision to make the £5 charge. One of our members has a fantastic database of MGC men which he will check if you have made a donation to the MGC/OCA. You will have 1:4 chance of a 'hit'. He has over 50,000 men listed and all those who received honours and awards. We give our time for love and the donation goes entirely to the MGC/OCA. You may find other offers of help and advice which may be of quality but payment will be to individuals not the Association.

Donations of Memorabilia - medals, photos, documents, uniforms, ephemera. No individual member will own any gifts. We are always pleased to be given such items and rest assured that we treasure them. We have a security box at a bank. There are checks and balances to ensure such gifts are logged and a record kept. We have an Inventory Officer.

There is also a Data Officer who logs all information on individual soldiers as received by us and an Archive Officer who holds all archive material which we feel is of interest.

Now you know that the Machine Gun Corps Old Comrades' Association still exists and thrives, do join and tell others to do so too.

Yours In Friendship,

Judith Lappin.

You may be interested to know that the MGC/OCA has its own website, which can be found at:- www.machineguncorps.co.uk

For a direct link to the author of this article, email Judith Lappin


Copyright © Judith Lappin,  December, July, 2007.

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