The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

Military History Journal
Vol 15 No 4 - December 2011

POM-POM (Cover photo)

37 mm Maxim-Nordenfelt Machine Gun
Germany 1903

These 37 mm machine guns were designed in 1885 by Hiram Maxim in an attempt to capture the market for antitorpedo boat weapons. They are commonly known as Pom-Poms, the name given to these guns during the AngloBoer War (1899-1902). This name comes from the sound made by the gun when fired.

The Pom-Pom was simply a large-calibre, belt-fed machine gun which fired explosive projectiles. Because of the relatively light calibre, these projectiles did not cause great damage. The sound of the gun being fired, together with the shell burst, which indicated more shells were in flight, tested the nerves of soldiers under fire. As the Pom-Pom used smokeless ammunition and created little or no dust during recoil, it was difficult to locate on the battlefield. The projectiles were of cast iron and filled with an explosive charge detonated by a percussion fuse. The rounds were fixed having brass cartridge cases. The cartridges were in canvas belts which held 25 rounds. First line ammunition of 12 belts was transported in containers on a limber.

At the beginning of the First World War (1914-1918), a number of these guns were issued to the German Colonial forces. This gun was surrendered to General Louis Botha at Khorab on 19 July 1915 during the German South West Africa Campaign of 1915.

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