US adopts Bren in the late 1930s

I'm sorry but I just don't see the Bren having the decisive effect your seeing. It wouldn't effect the way a squad fought, and I just don't see it replacing the M1919A4. If your coming around to thinking the MG-42 was a better SAW then the Bren, then how would replacing the GPMG's in the weapons platoon with Bren's redress the firepower shortfall? Replacing the 1919A4 with Bren's would've been a retrograde move. What the Americans did was add more BAR's, SMG's, and the select fire M-2 Carbine. The M-2 Carbine should've been developed earlier, it was lighter then the Thompson, and used a more powerful cartridge. They also kept trying to lighten the 1919, but the 1919A6 was still too heavy, and awkward. There were even front line kits to convert M-1's into fully automatic rifles, feed from BAR Magazines, essentially proto M-14.

I'm not saying the Bren wasn't a better weapon. At the least the army should have bought the FN modified BAR. As others have been pointing out in 1938 the U.S. Army still had limited budgets, and felt pressed for time, they wanted to stick with what they had, and thought they could quickly produce. Likewise the caliber changes others on the board are suggesting just seemed too revolutionary, for an army thinking in terms of a new war in the immediate future. I agree the 30.06 was too much for what was needed, the post war NATO Standard 7.62 would've been more then adequate., and have saved some ammo weight.

So what I'm really disputing with you is that having the Bren, or an improved BAR wouldn't have made American Infantry fight like their German counterparts. The Americans had a different doctrine, and I think it was the correct one, that better took advantage of their technological, and material advantages. The Americans more then compensated for the shortcomings of the BAR, and even if it had preformed as they hoped they never intended to fight like the Germans did. The Americans had drawn different lessons from WWI, then the Germans did.
The M1919a4/a6 was an awkward and bulky weapon. The BREN was a lot easier to use in combat it was lighter, handier and more flexible in combat, the assistant gunner could load a new mag so quickly there was barely a pause and as it had a quick change barrel it actually had better sustained fire than the Browning.
 
I'm sorry but I just don't see the Bren having the decisive effect your seeing.
What's your definition of 'decisive'?

It wouldn't effect the way a squad fought,
Troops don't adapt to circumstances? BAR doctrine changed over the course of the war, why wouldn't it have changed with the capabilities of the Bren added in?

and I just don't see it replacing the M1919A4.
Why not?

If your coming around to thinking the MG-42 was a better SAW then the Bren, then how would replacing the GPMG's in the weapons platoon with Bren's redress the firepower shortfall?
First of all I didn't say I came around to thinking it was better than the Bren, rather that I appreciated value of the concept behind the absurd ROF. There are however more factors in the effectiveness of an LMG (or really any weapon system) than one characteristic even if volume of fire is one of the more important aspects of an automatic weapon. On the balance the Bren still has a slight edge in my mind due to it's all around features, though the MG45 would have been a better weapon than the Bren.

The M1919 wasn't really a GPMG for starters and I already mentioned the value of the Bren over the M1919 at the platoon level. Namely it would be quite a bit cheaper and easier to make, it would be lighter, it would be more maneuverable and if needed able to be pushed down to the platoon rather than concentrated in a weapons platoon within a company, it had a QC barrel which the 1919 did not, and it could do anything the 1919 could. Then there would be the economies of scale that would come from having Brens in the squad or platoon and in the company weapons platoon.


Replacing the 1919A4 with Bren's would've been a retrograde move.
How so?

What the Americans did was add more BAR's, SMG's, and the select fire M-2 Carbine.
The M2 Carbine only was added very late in the war, way too late to matter.
And yes I am aware. Really foolish stuff given how expensive the Thompson and BAR were relative to the Bren. They could have largely got it down to the Bren and Garands with the odd Carbine or Grease Gun and saved money and resources compared to the OTL jumble of weapons and ammo.
I'm arguing that the Bren would be a better option than OTL compensations.

The M-2 Carbine should've been developed earlier, it was lighter then the Thompson, and used a more powerful cartridge.
Sure, but it wasn't and that is a separate POD, though the M2 in automatic was not really controllable.

They also kept trying to lighten the 1919, but the 1919A6 was still too heavy, and awkward. There were even front line kits to convert M-1's into fully automatic rifles, feed from BAR Magazines, essentially proto M-14.
Exactly, hence the Bren was the superior option. Why dance around with compensations when the #1 thing the infantry asked for at the end of the war at the Ft. Benning infantry conference was a true LMG for the squad? The entire reason I started this thread was because I came across documents from the period wherein veterans of WW2 in 1946 were assembled to lay out their experiences in the war and what worked and was needed for future conflicts. Getting rid of the BAR and getting a real LMG was considered the #1 priority. So why not have that before WW2?

I'm not saying the Bren wasn't a better weapon. At the least the army should have bought the FN modified BAR. As others have been pointing out in 1938 the U.S. Army still had limited budgets, and felt pressed for time, they wanted to stick with what they had, and thought they could quickly produce. Likewise the caliber changes others on the board are suggesting just seemed too revolutionary, for an army thinking in terms of a new war in the immediate future. I agree the 30.06 was too much for what was needed, the post war NATO Standard 7.62 would've been more then adequate., and have saved some ammo weight.
The FN BAR still sucked compared to the Bren even if it fixed part of the issues with the BAR. It was heavier and more expensive than the American BAR, which is already going in the wrong direction compared to just buying the Bren.
I get what you're saying about the limited budgets, but in the OP I laid out why it was actually cheaper to go with the Bren instead of making the BAR: the Bren was at least 30% cheaper per unit and the BAR production equipment needed to be replaced anyway, so there was more than enough money there to just adopt the Bren anyway, my POD is that they actually do an audit of the machinery on hand before committing to the BAR, so realize that they needed to tool up anyway, so might as well buy something that was better and already developed.

Yeah I get the caliber change thing, that was a separate tangent, not necessarily something that we're considering with this POD. To get the OTL final version of the .276 cartridge they'd have had to adopt that in 1931 for the Garand and then you could see the argument that at that point, especially if the British get on board and already have a .276 Bren developed, that buying the Bren would then be a no-brainer rather than keeping the different caliber legacy BAR.

So what I'm really disputing with you is that having the Bren, or an improved BAR wouldn't have made American Infantry fight like their German counterparts. The Americans had a different doctrine, and I think it was the correct one, that better took advantage of their technological, and material advantages. The Americans more then compensated for the shortcomings of the BAR, and even if it had preformed as they hoped they never intended to fight like the Germans did. The Americans had drawn different lessons from WWI, then the Germans did.
Why wouldn't the Americans adapt? Like IOTL they tried to find ways to fight better and developed all sorts of new tactics and methods of fighting. Having a true LMG then would change the capabilities of the squad, so it would make sense that given OTL tactical evolution during the war that they'd adapt fighting methods to their equipment capabilities. The difference in small unit infantry doctrine wasn't all that different between the Americans, British, and Germans, or even French, what was different was the OTL equipment, which forced certain differences in methods.

Funny that you think it was the better doctrine IOTL, because post-war US infantry demanded the changes I'm proposing here (not adopting the Bren specifically, but at least something very much like it) and developing a squad system very much like the Germans. They certainly thought that they underperformed in terms of infantry in WW2, which is why the Wehrmacht tactics and equipment ended up so fetishized by the US military post-war.

In what ways do you think the US drew different lessons from WW1? If anything the bigger issue was that the US Army didn't have the funding post-war to fully adopt the lessons just about everyone figured out during WW1, same with after WW2 until the Cold War got a bit hotter. It wasn't like the US didn't think they needed a LMG for the squad after WW1, they just didn't have the money to adopt one until they felt it was too late to develop one and soldiered on with the BAR due to lack of anything else and some really silly assumptions about the ability to keep making BARs. Ultimately they were right about the semi-auto rifle, but that was known pre-WW1 and only the French managed to get one in limited service during WW1 (which may have influenced the US to develop the Garand since the French helped train and equip the US), they just didn't go the full distance and get a BAR replacement.

As I mentioned above I think probably the easiest route would be for the US to adopt the .276 Pedersen Garand in 1931 instead of dithering into 1932 so the budget crunch doesn't get in the way; that gives the Brits time to adopt the .276 Pedersen and the Vickers-Pedersen rifle, so they then also adopt the Bren gun in .276. That means come 1938 the US can buy the Bren totally off the shelf as they don't have to convert a single thing about the design themselves, since it would not only be in the cartridge the US is using, but also the design is already converted to Imperial measurements, so they don't have to worry about adapting everything from metric themselves.

I understand you point but your using too much hindsight. It makes sense to have alliance standards, like NATO does, but there was no alliance. The British didn't even have a real alliance with the French, let alone the U.S.. Each army was feeling it's own way forward, trying to form it's own doctrine, and equipping their troops with what they thought was best, and could afford.
Hindsight? The US supplied the Entente in WW1 with munitions. In the 1930s I could see the issue in terms of the 'Neutrality Laws' (which were changed by early 1939 to Cash and Carry), which still allowed Britain to buy 'non-military goods' like production tools for making the ammo, so it wasn't as if it was that much of an issue. Even more importantly the US used Imperial measurements for their equipment too, so unlike any other potential source of supplies and weapons the US is more compatible with the UK. If anything the problem was the British government was WAY too tight fisted about the budget and ensured all these problems were going to happen when the shooting started. At least they weren't as bad as the French or Europe would be speaking German.
 
Last edited:
Sure, but it wasn't and that is a separate POD, though the M2 in automatic was not really controllable.
I've posted clips before of full auto carbines. I've fired them too, way better than the Thomoson and even better than the Grease Gun, from having a real stock.
Until the M16, nothing else was as controllable.
 
I meant more in the late 1930s with purchasing the Browning machine gun instead of the BESA for the tank corps so they could then source the .30-06 from the US. Eventually they could adopt the Garand, as it was offered IOTL but rejected by the Brits for dubious reasons. Plus in the end the Brits did end up using the M1919 in their US LL tanks. And it was quite a bit lighter and I can only assume cheaper to make then.
I was not aware that the Garand was 'offered' or that they were rejected for dubious reasons?

I know that 38,001 M1s were shipped to the UK as part of lend lease (a % of all small arms then in production was being sent to the UK at the the time) by end 1942 but the main show stopper was the decision made by USGov in March 1942 to allocate 'all' .30 weapon production to the US Army.

This kind of makes sense as US M1 Garand Production was still not sufficient for all US Combat unit needs into 1943 and by then there was no longer any invasion fears or shortages of British built weapons.

Indeed we see some Engineer and 'Chemical Mortar' (4.2") units of the US Army coming ashore in Torch packing M1903s.

The US and Phillipino troops were obliged to use M1903 Springfields and M1917 Enfields respectively during that campaign and the Marines in Guadalcanal did not see any M1s until the Army turned up (23rd 'Americal' Division Oct 42) and did not get issued until after that campaign was over and they were withdrawn in 1943.
 
I was not aware that the Garand was 'offered' or that they were rejected for dubious reasons?
The Brits tested it out in 1943 and rejected it for failing a mud test. Never mind that the US used it throughout WW2 and Korea without significant issues or that the British commandos in Korea nearly mutinied when the British army tried to take away their Garands to replace them with Lee-Enfields again.

I know that 38,001 M1s were shipped to the UK as part of lend lease (a % of all small arms then in production was being sent to the UK at the the time) by end 1942 but the main show stopper was the decision made by USGov in March 1942 to allocate 'all' .30 weapon production to the US Army.

This kind of makes sense as US M1 Garand Production was still not sufficient for all US Combat unit needs into 1943 and by then there was no longer any invasion fears or shortages of British built weapons.

Indeed we see some Engineer and 'Chemical Mortar' (4.2") units of the US Army coming ashore in Torch packing M1903s.

The US and Phillipino troops were obliged to use M1903 Springfields and M1917 Enfields respectively during that campaign and the Marines in Guadalcanal did not see any M1s until the Army turned up (23rd 'Americal' Division Oct 42) and did not get issued until after that campaign was over and they were withdrawn in 1943.
Yeah it wasn't until 1943 that the British apparently made the decision not to ask for more based on testing, so I guess there was the chance at that point to potentially request them.

Only Germany planned for WW2 and just look where it got them
Nearly won them the war until Barbarossa derailed everything.
But the British and French did plan, just not until too late for France. The RAF did a surprisingly good job in planning throughout the 1930s, even if their strategic bombing concepts were heavily flawed. Sometimes you have to learn the hard way.
 
The Brits tested it out in 1943 and rejected it for failing a mud test. Never mind that the US used it throughout WW2 and Korea without significant issues or that the British commandos in Korea nearly mutinied when the British army tried to take away their Garands to replace them with Lee-Enfields again.


Yeah it wasn't until 1943 that the British apparently made the decision not to ask for more based on testing, so I guess there was the chance at that point to potentially request them.
Your preaching to the choir - but they didn't think to ask me about adopting the Garand either at the time.

I would happily sprinkle magic fairy dust over the No4 and Sten gun production and replace it all with Garand and 'select fire' Carbine production and rechamber the Bren into 30-06 in time to fully equip and train the British and Canadian forces used on DDAY (instead of No4 and Sten)
 
Your preaching to the choir - but they didn't think to ask me about adopting the Garand either at the time.
I'm beginning to think the Brits were talking to the wrong folks...

I would happily sprinkle magic fairy dust over the No4 and Sten gun production and replace it all with Garand and 'select fire' Carbine production and rechamber the Bren into 30-06 in time to fully equip and train the British and Canadian forces used on DDAY (instead of No4 and Sten)
I'd say have them and the US adopt the .276 Pedersen instead and the Garand, with both adopting a .276 Bren. Then develop a box magazine fed, select fire Garand with an 18 inch barrel and forget the SMGs. No reason you could also develop a folding stock, shorter barrel .276 Garand then for tankers and other behind the lines personnel to standardize everything.
 
It was an improvement, but was still considered too heavy. It could do the job, no weapon is perfect, but still it put out more sustained fire then a Bren.
It could certainly put out a very high ROF but as it was based on AN/M1919s taken from scrapped planes it had a light barrel as it was intended to be fired in an aircraft slip stream and then only for short periods of air engagements.

The lack of QC Barrel is an even bigger impediment for my thinking - had Corporal Tony Stein had a Bren instead of a Stinger then he would have been far less likely to have needed to win the CMOH as he would have been less likely to run out of ammo and overheat the gun.

Especially if every Squad had a BREN.
 
People are making it all too complicated and taking off in assorted directions. The Bren is an LMG that can also be used in the indirect and sustained fire roles. It is a more useful support weapon than the OTL US BAR. If the USA adopted the Bren in the late 1930's the US Army would have had a better LMG and doctrine to use it than IOTL. Small arms make only a small difference but it would have been a positive change. The only key thing about the cartridge chosen would be that it was the same as the rifle. 0,276" Pederson or 30-06.

If you want to go off on a journey then consider that one scheme mooted in WW1 was that the US Army needed many small arms and US industry was making many 0,303" weapons so there was an argument for keeping the existing 30-06 at home and equipping the Expeditionary Force with 0,303" Enfield P14s and Vickers and Lewis Guns. If that took off then inter war the 0,303" would continue as there would be huge stocks of them. Thus when the Bren is considered for US adoption it comes as the same as the British 0,303"...........
 
Especially if those .303 cartridges are rimless. Then adapt a shortened .303 to .276 in 1932 when building the Garand. Next adopt the .276 Springfield BREN/ZGB 33 in 1935 as a part of New Deal investment.
 
If you want to go off on a journey then consider that one scheme mooted in WW1 was that the US Army needed many small arms and US industry was making many 0,303" weapons so there was an argument for keeping the existing 30-06 at home and equipping the Expeditionary Force with 0,303" Enfield P14s and Vickers and Lewis Guns. If that took off then inter war the 0,303" would continue as there would be huge stocks of them. Thus when the Bren is considered for US adoption it comes as the same as the British 0,303"...........
I could only see the US doing that if the three factories making P14's had instead been making S.M.L.E's. The P14 was easily converted to the 30-06 round and strong enough to take it, whereas the S.M.L.E would be a more difficult conversion and the 30-06 was possibly too powerful for the action.
 
What's your definition of 'decisive'?


Troops don't adapt to circumstances? BAR doctrine changed over the course of the war, why wouldn't it have changed with the capabilities of the Bren added in?


Why not?


First of all I didn't say I came around to thinking it was better than the Bren, rather that I appreciated value of the concept behind the absurd ROF. There are however more factors in the effectiveness of an LMG (or really any weapon system) than one characteristic even if volume of fire is one of the more important aspects of an automatic weapon. On the balance the Bren still has a slight edge in my mind due to it's all around features, though the MG45 would have been a better weapon than the Bren.

The M1919 wasn't really a GPMG for starters and I already mentioned the value of the Bren over the M1919 at the platoon level. Namely it would be quite a bit cheaper and easier to make, it would be lighter, it would be more maneuverable and if needed able to be pushed down to the platoon rather than concentrated in a weapons platoon within a company, it had a QC barrel which the 1919 did not, and it could do anything the 1919 could. Then there would be the economies of scale that would come from having Brens in the squad or platoon and in the company weapons platoon.



How so?


The M2 Carbine only was added very late in the war, way too late to matter.
And yes I am aware. Really foolish stuff given how expensive the Thompson and BAR were relative to the Bren. They could have largely got it down to the Bren and Garands with the odd Carbine or Grease Gun and saved money and resources compared to the OTL jumble of weapons and ammo.
I'm arguing that the Bren would be a better option than OTL compensations.


Sure, but it wasn't and that is a separate POD, though the M2 in automatic was not really controllable.


Exactly, hence the Bren was the superior option. Why dance around with compensations when the #1 thing the infantry asked for at the end of the war at the Ft. Benning infantry conference was a true LMG for the squad? The entire reason I started this thread was because I came across documents from the period wherein veterans of WW2 in 1946 were assembled to lay out their experiences in the war and what worked and was needed for future conflicts. Getting rid of the BAR and getting a real LMG was considered the #1 priority. So why not have that before WW2?


The FN BAR still sucked compared to the Bren even if it fixed part of the issues with the BAR. It was heavier and more expensive than the American BAR, which is already going in the wrong direction compared to just buying the Bren.
I get what you're saying about the limited budgets, but in the OP I laid out why it was actually cheaper to go with the Bren instead of making the BAR: the Bren was at least 30% cheaper per unit and the BAR production equipment needed to be replaced anyway, so there was more than enough money there to just adopt the Bren anyway, my POD is that they actually do an audit of the machinery on hand before committing to the BAR, so realize that they needed to tool up anyway, so might as well buy something that was better and already developed.

Yeah I get the caliber change thing, that was a separate tangent, not necessarily something that we're considering with this POD. To get the OTL final version of the .276 cartridge they'd have had to adopt that in 1931 for the Garand and then you could see the argument that at that point, especially if the British get on board and already have a .276 Bren developed, that buying the Bren would then be a no-brainer rather than keeping the different caliber legacy BAR.


Why wouldn't the Americans adapt? Like IOTL they tried to find ways to fight better and developed all sorts of new tactics and methods of fighting. Having a true LMG then would change the capabilities of the squad, so it would make sense that given OTL tactical evolution during the war that they'd adapt fighting methods to their equipment capabilities. The difference in small unit infantry doctrine wasn't all that different between the Americans, British, and Germans, or even French, what was different was the OTL equipment, which forced certain differences in methods.

Funny that you think it was the better doctrine IOTL, because post-war US infantry demanded the changes I'm proposing here (not adopting the Bren specifically, but at least something very much like it) and developing a squad system very much like the Germans. They certainly thought that they underperformed in terms of infantry in WW2, which is why the Wehrmacht tactics and equipment ended up so fetishized by the US military post-war.

In what ways do you think the US drew different lessons from WW1? If anything the bigger issue was that the US Army didn't have the funding post-war to fully adopt the lessons just about everyone figured out during WW1, same with after WW2 until the Cold War got a bit hotter. It wasn't like the US didn't think they needed a LMG for the squad after WW1, they just didn't have the money to adopt one until they felt it was too late to develop one and soldiered on with the BAR due to lack of anything else and some really silly assumptions about the ability to keep making BARs. Ultimately they were right about the semi-auto rifle, but that was known pre-WW1 and only the French managed to get one in limited service during WW1 (which may have influenced the US to develop the Garand since the French helped train and equip the US), they just didn't go the full distance and get a BAR replacement.

As I mentioned above I think probably the easiest route would be for the US to adopt the .276 Pedersen Garand in 1931 instead of dithering into 1932 so the budget crunch doesn't get in the way; that gives the Brits time to adopt the .276 Pedersen and the Vickers-Pedersen rifle, so they then also adopt the Bren gun in .276. That means come 1938 the US can buy the Bren totally off the shelf as they don't have to convert a single thing about the design themselves, since it would not only be in the cartridge the US is using, but also the design is already converted to Imperial measurements, so they don't have to worry about adapting everything from metric themselves.


Hindsight? The US supplied the Entente in WW1 with munitions. In the 1930s I could see the issue in terms of the 'Neutrality Laws' (which were changed by early 1939 to Cash and Carry), which still allowed Britain to buy 'non-military goods' like production tools for making the ammo, so it wasn't as if it was that much of an issue. Even more importantly the US used Imperial measurements for their equipment too, so unlike any other potential source of supplies and weapons the US is more compatible with the UK. If anything the problem was the British government was WAY too tight fisted about the budget and ensured all these problems were going to happen when the shooting started. At least they weren't as bad as the French or Europe would be speaking German.
Well since it seems so clear that the Bren was they way of the future why did most of the major armies of the world go in a different direction? The Americans went with belt feed MG's, and auto select rifles. The French went with belt feed MG's inspired by the MG-42. The Germans who faced the Bren stayed with MG-42 derived MG's. The Russians did their own thing, with belt feed MG's. The Italians the same. India had tons of Bren's, but they bought FN, Soviet, and Israeli belt feed MG's. Israel actually bought FN-BAR Model D's. The UK went over to the L7 Series MG's, to replace both their Vickers, and Bren's.

It seems the major armies of the world followed a German Model, and provided their men with belt feed SAW's. If WWII infantry combat showed so clearly that a top loading, magazine feed LMG at the Squad Level proved superior to GPMG's, why didn't they follow up with SAW's based on the Bren?

American Joe's didn't want more automatic weapons because of the poor performance of the BAR. In any firefight soldiers want to put out as much suppressive fire as possible. British Tommy's didn't say, "We don't need any Bloody SMG's, or Semi-Auto weapons, we got a Bren with us." German Landser's didn't say, "We don't need any MP-40's, or MP-44's, we have an MG-42 in the squad." The Red Army had whole companies, and battalions armed with PPsh-41 SMG's. The Germans used all the captured Russian SMG's they could get their hands on. The British took a lot of Thompsons, without complaint, and the SAS used Browning MG for their fames deep penetration raids in North Africa. The British mounted Browning's on many other vehicles including Sherman tanks. They couldn't have been that bad of a weapon if the British manufactured it, and used it so extensively.

I think you overselling the Bren, when you say it out preformed M1919A4, and matched the MG-42. It was a good weapon for it's day, but it wasn't the best MG of WWII. That most of the worlds future MG's followed the MG-42, rather then the Bren is proof of that. All the armies of the world aren't stupid, or unable to analyze combat data.
 
Belisarius II said:
It was an improvement, but was still considered too heavy. It could do the job, no weapon is perfect, but still it put out more sustained fire then a Bren. Or at least until the barrel overheated at which point the BREN would just keep going.

Fixed it for you.
Thanks, that was very kind of you. question. Since the whole section carried at most 360 rounds of ammo for the Bren, how would you know it could sustain fire better then the M1919A4? MG's also fire in short bursts, you don't just hold the trigger down. Where did they have this shoot out?
 
Top