Collection of Auckland Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira, 1951.211.40, W1505.1
Maxim machine gun, 1915-16, New Zealand Railways Workshops, Petone, New Zealand.
Serial number: Pet 1. The only one gun manufactured and cost approximately £1000 less tripod and barrel, several attempts were made to manufacture a barrel but on all occasions the drill ran out the side of the barrel.
"New Zealand's Own Machine Gun"
"In August 1915 the machine gun was King. The great armies in France had settled down to organised slaughter and it would be hard to imagine a battleground more suited to machine gun warfare - or perhaps the battleground had been created by the machine gun. Whatever the cause machine guns were in great demand.
On 29th August 1915, Mr E H Hiley, the General Manager of New Zealand Railways set in motion what must have been a pet project for him. He borrowed a Maxim machine gun from the Army to see if the Railway Workshops at Petone could make one and perhaps many more, so that New Zealand forces would be independent of arms supplies in England. He also asked for plans and specifications for the parts and in particular, specifications for the types of steel needed. Cables were sent to England asking for this information but apparently no reply was ever received.
By the 20th October a gun had been made, except for the barrel and fusee spring. These parts were borrowed from the Army and a test firing carried out. 700 rounds were fired and the armourers reported on a number of defects, mainly dealing with the hardening and tempering of some of the parts and the fit of others. The Locomotive Engineer reported on 22nd October that the parts were being rehardened and complained that no information had been obtained from the English manufacturers. He also said that he had made a barrel to the "rough turned" stage, out of tyre steel but, on verbal advice from a person employed in an arms works that tyre steel was quite unsuitable, he had abandoned that part of the project. The defects were attended to and another test was carried out in which there was a stoppage which was attributed to the packing of the barrel being rather too tight. Probably at least one other trial was carried out.
As a result of enquiries by various departments the following information was given by the Railways Chief Mechanical Engineer:
"The cost of the gun (without barrel) £247.17.04
Special tools made or bought £241.11.05
Estimated cost of manufacturing 12 guns ea. £165.00.00
Shortage of staff and pressure of railways work makes such manufacture impracticable.
If staff were available guns could be produced at the rate of three every four weeks."
The gun was sent to Trentham camp for testing on 13th November and the test was carried out on 15th January 1916. In the test the Petone-made machine gun was matched against a 1901 Vickers Maxim. Both guns fired a series of six tests. The Petone gun measured up quite well although it had a number of troubles mainly associated with friction in the working parts.
Following the tests the commander of NZ Military forces, Brigadier General A M Robin, sent a memorandum to the Minister of Defence in which he pointed out that the barrel and fusee spring were still the imported ones and that these were the most difficult parts to make, that Vickers were now making a gun which was one third lighter, and that the Imperial Government had said that they could now supply sufficient guns for our forces at the Front.
On the 15th following a cabinet meeting the Minister of Munitions and supply notified Mr Hiley that no further action would be taken in the manufacture of these guns. There followed a number of letters expressing admiration for the work of Railways staff and regret that circumstances made it impracticable to proceed with the manufacture of the guns.
In April 1921 the one gun made at Petone was transferred to the Trentham Camp School Museum, and in January 1951 the gun was given to Auckland Museum.
Article by John Wadham, “Museum News”, No 22, 1985 (Auckland Museum publication).
28 July 1914 – 11 November 1918
- 0 - Whole length : 1110mm
(estimated length - measured in display case)
- 0 - Whole height : 1070mm
(estimated height measured in display case, angled upwards)
- 0 - Whole width : 730mm
(estimated width, measured in display case)
9 January 2006
The development of the Auckland War Memorial Museum online collection is an ongoing process; updates, new images and records are added weekly. In some cases, records have yet to be confirmed by Museum staff, and there could be mistakes or omissions in the information provided.