Updated: Jan 12
On 6th October 1915 Mombasa District HQ, British East Africa (Kenya), ordered 2nd Bn The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment at Bura to organize the Battalion Machine-Guns as a separate unit.
Lieutenant Colonel Jourdain, Commanding Officer of the Battalion, immediately argued that a separate War Establishment for this new unit was necessary; that meant that the Battalion should keep its own guns and the MG Company should be issued with new ones.
He noted in the Battalion War Diary:
"There is a perpetual tendency among superior authority to keep frittering away the Battalion by taking many of its best officers and men for various extra regimental employments at the expense of the Battalion."
The Staff produced a Machine-Gun Company War Establishment for an eight-gun Company which, over an eight-month period, was developed to read: 8 Machine Guns 5 Officers 140 British Other Ranks
120 First-Line Porters (carried first-line ammunition, water for guns, and spare parts and tended the mules)
500 Second-Line Porters (not with MG Company on the march, carried baggage, supplies, second-line ammunition, and rations for themselves and the first-line porters), 40 Mules (carried guns and ammunition for coming into action) (The Other Rank strength started at 80 but was inflated to 140 when the Battalion went to South Africa on rest and recuperation, leaving all fit men behind in the MG Company. The incidence of sickness in German East Africa showed that 140 was in fact a realistic figure if 8 guns were to be kept operational.)
Initially a typical machine-gun ammunition allocation for each gun on an operation was: 6,000 rounds carried on mules 3,500 rounds carried by first-line porters 9,800 rounds carried by second-line porters or in carts in the Ammunition Column. To combat disease in both men and mules ten grains of quinine were issued daily to the British troops, and ten grains of arsenic to the mules (when these medications were available). There is no record of preventive medication being issued to the African Porters.
Sections of the Machine-Gun Company were dispatched, two at a time, to Nakuru to receive specialized training with mules.
The Divisional Machine-Gun Officer had designed a double Maxim Gun shield, to protect the crew during firing, that weighed 72 pounds. Lieutenant Colonel Jourdain, always eager for a challenge like this, designed a single shield weighing 28 pounds. This shield, because it presented a tilted face during firing, could not be penetrated during trials using British rifles against it. There is no further mention of these shields. Probably they were not taken on mobile operations because of the weight penalty, but they would have been useful in defended locations, on lake steamers and on armoured trains.