By Rob Morgan
My favourite machine gun! It had the longest production run of any of the numerous Maxim versions made, and was made in vast numbers. I’ve not encountered an estimate for the numbers manufactured but someone else may know. It will be huge. Not surprisingly, it achieved popularity as it served well under the most vile of conditions and extremes of climate, and proved ideal for the Russians and later, Soviets, in a number of conflicts. It was a heavy beast, and usually mounted on a small wheeled carriage — almost like a field gun! This was the easily identifiable Sokolov mount, with a turntable for traversing and a wheel operated screw to elevate; and in addition it usually sported a removable gun shield as shown in the photographs.
The weight of the whole weapon, incidentally was a little under 75 kg, and it was dragged by its gunners using a U-shaped handle. In the worst of conditions it could be found mounted on sleds. Weight aside, this was a tremendously efficient machine gun, and could be fired almost endlessly, and it required very little maintenance.
Distinctive because of the Sokolov mount, and the corrugated jacket, the 1910 was encountered in WWI, the Russian Civil War and many other post-1918 conflicts. It cropped up in large numbers in China, proved a popular weapon on armoured trains, and fast Tchanka carts. It proved equally reliable in the Spanish Civil War, and in “The Great Patriotic War.” In Korea too, and in Vietnam. There are many photographs extant of the 1910 being used by German and other Axis troops, on the Ostfront, as they recognised it had obvious, and immense, combat value in those conditions, where complex German weapons often failed. It’s cyclic rate of fire being over 500 rpm of 7.62 mm rounds, fed by a fabric belt system.
I’ve long believed that where weapons of any sort are concerned, re-enactors can teach us wargamers and historians a great deal. The PM 1910 shown here is a WWII specimen, the “tractor cap” entry point for cooling water gives it away, and the first crew shown here are Russians in Imperial service from the 1914-21 Society’s Eastern Front group (I’m grateful to Martyn Clarke of the Society for the use of the photograph). The second PM1910, a much earlier piece (no tractor cap) is manned by members of the La Columna Spanish Civil War group (photo by Richard Thorpe, taken at an event in Spain).Though this is a heavy gun, and looks it, I’m given to understand that the crew can move it easily and rapidly on the Sokolov mount, using the handles, and additional ropes on the axle, four men being most effective.
I first encountered this machine gun in wargame terms as a component of the Airfix Russian Infantry set, back in the 1960s, and it was quite a while before I realised that the set’s Maxim was more or less in 15mm scale, and far too small for the 20mm troops manning it! Peter Laing made a wintry, fur-hatted Russian Civil War Maxim and crew in 15mm a few years later, and they fitted the bill neatly, still got them. Of course,now there are plenty of examples around in all sorts of scales.
Does anyone know of examples of the gun in Regimental or other military museums in the UK?