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[Home] [Articles and Misc] [Armament - 103 Sqn and 576 Sqn]

Defensive Armament - 103 Squadron and 576 Squadron

103 Squadron Armourery

103 Squadron Armoury at Ronchin 1919



1 x forward firing .303 inch Vickers machine gun and 1 x .303 inch Lewis guns on Scarff ring in rear cockpit

Photographs (24)

Vickers 303 machine gun DH9 103 Squadron

Vickers .303 machine gun. The first use of the Vickers Gun on an aircraft was on Vickers’ own experimental E.F.B.1 biplane prototype, the first British aircraft ever to be designed for military purposes. The gun received a few modifications for aircraft use. The water cooling system was thought unnecessary due to the more than adequate flow of cool, fast-moving air over the barrel in flight. However the water jacket assembly had to be retained due to the barrel action mechanism, but several rows of air cooling slots were added. An enclosure was added to cover the belt feed to prevent wind from kinking the incoming ammunition belt. The belt links were a disintegrating type which meant each belt link was ejected along with each spent cartridge as the weapon fired.

The closed bolt design of the Vickers Gun lent itself to forward firing use in aircraft due to its ease of integration with a synchronizer system. In a closed bolt type of firing mechanism there is virtually no delay between the trigger being pulled and the firing of the weapon, unlike the open bolt design utilized by the Lewis Gun. The introduction of the synchronizer gear system allowed for forward firing through a propeller’s field of rotation.

103 Squadron DH9 Lewis Gun Lt Lisle

103 Squadron DH9 Lewis Gun Lt Lisle

Lewis .303 machine gun. The Lewis became the first ever aircraft machine gun, fitted in flexible mounts on two-seat spotter aircraft, but also mounted above the wing even on later fighters like the SE5a. The cooling radiator was often removed, as cold air rushing over the barrel made it unnecessary. A bigger 97 round magazine was used to limit the need for frequent and fiddly magazine changes in moving aircraft at freezing altitudes.


Hawker Hind

1 x .303 inch Vickers gun synchronised forward-firing and 1 x .303 inch Lewis gun on Scarff ring in rear cockpit

Hawker Hind

Forward firing Vivkers and rear Lewis gun Hawker Hind


Fairey Battle Mk I

103 Squadron Armourer Betheniville

103 Squadron Betheniville. Armourer cleans Browning machine gun with a Vickers K machine gun on the box. The black cylinders on the ground in the background are parachute flares

1 fixed, forward-firing .303 inch Browning machine gun in starboard wing

1 flexibly mounted .303 inch Vickers K machine gun in rear cockpit on Fairey high speed mounting.

Several Battles were fitted with 1 flexibly mounted  periscopically sighted .303 inch Vickers K machine gun fitted underneath pointing backwards and operated by the Observer. This installation was ineffective and I have only record of one incident in which it was used and that against German troops as the aircraft flew  low overhead

103 Squadron fairey Battle showing wing mounted 303 Browning ma

103 Squadron Fairey Battle showing wing mounted 303 Browning machine gun

Browning .303 inch. Rate of fire of 1,150 rounds per minute. Muzzle velocity of 2,660 ft/sec. Feed system - Disintegrating link

Adopted as the standard RAF defensive weapon in 1934 from it adoption in 1934 to the end of WW2, despite its comparatively short range and hitting power. The reason for this was in early WW2 more heavily armed turrets had been designed but were shelved when it became clear that Maximum aircraft production was essential if the RAF was to pose a credible threat to Germany.

VGO No.1 Mk.1 Rate of Fire - 950-1200 rounds per minute. Muzzle velocity 2500 ft/s. Feed system pan 60 or 100 rounds.

The Vickers class K/Vickers G.O. machine gun is a gas-operated weapon, firing from an open bolt (thus making it non-synchronizable for firing through a spinning propeller[citation needed]) in full automatic mode only. Its gas cylinder is located below the barrel, and a long-stroke gas piston operates a vertically tilting bolt. Feed is from top-mounted flat pan magazines with a nominal capacity of 100 rounds, although it was customary to load only 96 or 97 rounds to ensure reliable feeding. The gun is fitted with a single spade grip at the rear of receiver, with trigger to control fire.

103 Squadron Vickers K gun on Fairey High Speend mount.

103 Squadron Vickers K gun on Fairey High Speed mount.


Vickers Wellington Mk IC

Nash and Thompson turrets at the front and rear each with two 0.303in Browning
machine guns. Two Vickers K 0.303in machine guns manually aimed from beam

Wellington front turret

Vickers Wellington front turret

Vickers Wellington rear turret

Vickers Wellington rear turret


Handley Page Halifax Mk II

Boulton Paul turrets situated at the front and dorsal positions each with two 0.303in
Browning machine guns. Boulton Paul turret at rear with four 0.303in machine gun.

Handley Page Halifax Mk II

Handley Page Halifax Mk II with all three turrets clearly visible


Avro Lancaster B Mk I and Mk III

Frazer Nash turrets situated at the front and dorsal positions each with two 0.303in Browning machine guns. Frazer Nash turret at rear with four 0.303in machine guns.

103 Squadron Lancaster rear turret

103 Squadron Avro Lancaster rear turret


103 Squadron Avro Lancaster mid upper turret

103 Squadron Front turret  PM-D2 Billie   50 Ops.

103 Squadron front turret  PM-D2 Billie 50 Ops.


English Electric Canberra B2

None fitted


Bristol Sycamore HR14

None normally fitted


Westland Whirlwind HAR10

None normally fitted. May have been fitted with one .303 Bren gun firing from side door on occasions


Westland Wessex HC2.

None normally fitted. FN Mag 7.62 GPMG mounted in side door when required

FN Mag General Purpose Machine Gun Rate of fire - 650–1,000 rounds/min. Muzzle velocity 2,756 ft/s  a Belgian 7.62 mm general-purpose machine gun, designed in the early 1950s at Fabrique Nationale (FN) by Ernest Vervier. It has been used by more than 80 countries and it has been made under licence in several countries, including Argentina, Canada (as the C6 GPMG), Egypt, India and the United Kingdom.

The weapon's name is an abbreviation for Mitrailleuse d'Appui Général, meaning "general support machine gun". The MAG is available in three primary versions: the standard, infantry Model 60-20 machine gun, the Model 60-40 coaxial machine gun for armoured fighting vehicles and the Model 60-30 aircraft variant.

Westland Wessex Machine gun mounted in door

Westland Wessex Machine gun mounted in door

Compiled by David Fell. Photos from my archive, WWP and TTE and Glen Andrews


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* 1st January 2024 - Pamplin Profile

1st January 2024 - Milan - 24/25 October 1942

* 1st December 2023 - Photos of F/L Jacob t'Hart DFC and bar

1st December 2023 - Bremen – 2/3rd July 1942

1st December 2023 - Skinner Profile

* 1st November 2023 - Memoirs of F/L Jacob t'Hart DFC and bar

1st November 2023 - Mine laying Biarritz / Biscay coast - 21 November 1942

1st November 2023 - Billie - Lancaster - W4364 - 103 Squadron

1st November 2023 - Curtin Twins Profile

*1st October 2023 - Dusseldorf - 1 August 1942

1st October 2023 - RAF Usworth Photo Album - 103 Squadron Era 1937/38

1st October 2023 - Mills Profile

*1st September 2023 - Tilley Profile

1st September 2023 - Ostend docks and barges - 22 December 1940

* 1st August 2023 - Defensive Armament - 103 Squadron and 576 Squadron

1st August 2023 - Chesterton Profile

1st August 2023 - Targets in Holland - 21/22 July 1940

1st August 2023 - Numerous additions and updates throughout the site

*1st July 2023 - Armed Reconnaissance/Leaflet Raid – Koblenz area – 20/21 March 1940

1st July 2023 - Air Dropped Weapons Article

1st July 2023 - Knott Profile

Also of local RAF Bomber Command interest are the

166 Squadron website

and the

550 Squadron and North Killingholme website.