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Artefact of the Month

How To Shoot Someone Down With No Bullets

In 1916, the Royal Flying Corps Machine Gun School at Hythe, Kent was renamed the School of Aerial Gunnery and 2nd Lieutenant Henry Chaney was appointed as Chief Instructor with the rank of temporary major.

Up to this point in the Great War, the school’s pupils had been taught only to shoot at stationary targets. Chaney developed training programmes to improve air-to-ground and air-to-air gunnery. He then turned to improving the proficiency of the school’s pupils in hitting moving aerial targets – but how to do this safely and without using a great deal of ammunition?

Chaney, in addition to his excellent knowledge of machine guns, had a good knowledge of cameras and photographic equipment. He began to experiment by combining the two and made a gun camera. His first successful gun camera consisted of a standard Lewis machine gun with a box camera bolted alongside the barrel and the shutter activated by a rod linked to the gun’s trigger. The gun camera proved successful, it handled like a normal gun but used no ammunition and the film, once developed, could be critically analysed.

Further development work produced the ‘Hythe Gun Camera Mk III’ in which the camera body was incorporated into the barrel. More than 5,000 of these gun cameras were manufactured in the last two years of the war and made a significant contribution to the Allied air victory.

A HYTHE Mk III GUN CAMERA IS DISPLAYED IN THE WORLD WAR 1 EXHIBITION LOCATED IN THE MUSEUM’S TANGMERE HALL

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