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The Bren light machine gun

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As much as the Lee-Enfield 303 was the work horse of the infantryman, the Bren light machine gun proved its worth during World War II and was in use in Darwin.

Following the end of World War I, British Empire countries had two machine guns in use. The Vickers was heavy and water-cooled, and this meant it was difficult to move quickly. The Lewis had a barrel which could not be changed without resorting to the armourer. When it overheated in constant field use it eventually stopped.

The British Army therefore embarked on a quest for a new machine gun, and tested several models. The winning design came from Czechoslovakia. The name Bren derives from the first two letters of the town where it was first made – Brno – and the first two letters of Enfield, the town where it was going to be manufactured by the British Royal Small Arms Factory.

The Bren is immediately distinctive due to its box magazine, which projected upwards from the gun's breech. It proved very reliable, and was much loved by its gunners. Generally a two-man crew constituted a Bren gun's team, with the number two spotting targets, supplying new magazines, and changing the barrel when it overheated. The Bren could also be fired from the hip when supported by a shoulder sling, and the Australian Army became known for this "marching fire" in New Guinea.

The machine gun used the same ammunition as the Lee Enfield 303, making it very useful. Most infantry troops received some training on the Bren, but specially trained Bren gunners received a proficiency badge, and were better able to control the weapon's cone of fire.

The Bren was able to be used with a bipod, or a tripod, and was also fitted to a number of vehicles, including the Universal Carrier, a light tracked vehicle, which became known therefore as the Bren Gun Carrier. The Bren gun continued in service in Commonwealth armed forces after WWII ended, and is one of the bigger success stories in the history of armed forces weapons. 

​Infantry and Universal Carriers of the 8th Royal Scots pause during the attack on Tilburg, 27 October 1944. The Bren in the foreground is fitted with a bipod support. (British Army)