The Maxim MG08 was the standard machine gun for the German Empire when it entered World War 1 (1914-1918) in 1914. This belt-fed, water-cooled weapon system was the culmination of tests begun by the nation back in 1887. By 1895, the Maxim was being adopted in limited number by the German Army and the Navy followed the year after. Official service entry of this storied gun happened in 1901 - giving plenty of time for the weapon to see global circulation before The Great War years arrived.
However, as effective as the MG08 proved to be in-the-field, it was a cumbersome weapon particularly when mated to its "sledge" support mounting assembly - driving the weight of the gun close to 140lb with the water jacket and ammunition belt in place. This tactical inflexibility was not lost on German authorities who requested a lighter version of the same gun so engineers returned with such a weapon in which the sledge was removed altogether and, in its place, a bipod fitted. A pistol grip gave a more natural approach to the firing of the gun and a solid wooden shoulder stock added another area of support for the gunner. The receiver was also revised to have a "stepped-down" appearance at its aft-end. These changes drove the weight of the weapon down to a much handier 40lb - though it was far from a Light Machine Gun (LMG) form as we recognize such weapons today. Nevertheless, the weapon was now as portable as ever and ultimately adopted into service as the "MG08/15" during 1915.
Up to four personnel were trained as a complete gunnery crew in the proper function of a single MG08/15. Typically six guns were assigned to an infantry company and these guns positioned in such a way as to inflict maximum carnage at range with overlapping fields-of-fire. The water-cooling feature was retained for lack of anything better at the time so a steady water supply was required. Short bursts were the call of the day for accuracy at range left something to be desired of the new weapon. Within a short period, the MG08/15 permeated the battlefields of World War 1 and the weapon saw servince well into the war's final days of November 1918 - its reach was such that it became the most numerous of all the available German machine guns of the war, overtaking the original MG08 in number, and, in turn, the weapon was also responsible for more casualties on the battlefield than any other weapon fielded in the conflict.
About 130,000 examples of the MG08/15 were built during World War 1 by the arsenals of Spandau and Erfurt.
The MG08/18 was a late-war addition to the MG08 line which lost its water-cooling jacket and other weight-savings measures. Though tested in limited numbers, the end of the war signaled the end of the MG08/18 project.
Manufacturing Spandau Gewhrfabrik / Erfurt - German Empire
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