The Machine Gun and Skye's Band of Brothers

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The Machine Gun and Skye's Band of Brothers


This First World War documentary was shown on BBC Scotland back in March, but for those wanting a foxhole to shelter from the football coverage, it’s well worth a look.

The story it tells is a heartbreaking one. On the one hand there’s the company of men from the Skye harbour town of Portree, who had served together as friends and neighbours in the Territorial Army and arrived on the Western Front in February 1915.

On the other hand there’s the story of the Maxim gun, a marvel of its time (it could fire ten rounds a second) invented by an American living in London and deployed by General Kitchener to devastating effect in Sudan.

But Kitchener didn’t approve of its use in Europe. Consequently the Germans had far more Maxim guns, and deployed them with mathematical efficiency. Neil Oliver follows the development of a devastating weapon, and the legacy it left on one Hebridean community.


Neil Oliver examines the development of the Maxim machine gun - which was capable of firing 666 rounds a minute - and explores the devastating impact of its use on the battlefields of France by the German army in the First World War. He follows the stories of soldiers from Skye who went to the front together as part of the Cameron Highlanders, drawing on letters sent home and the details of the battles they fought to portray how the machine gun attacks left a gaping hole in a tightly knit community.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Neil Oliver
Director Andy Twaddle
Producer Andy Twaddle