A brief history of Charles Candler and the Lewis Gun

By Willie Bodenstein


The Lewis gun has the distinction of being the first machine gun fired from an aeroplane when on 7 June 1912, Captain Charles Chandler of the US Army fired a prototype Lewis gun from the foot-bar of a Wright Model B Flyer.

Born on 24 December 1878 Charles in Cleveland, Ohio was the first head of the Aeronautical Division, U.S. Signal Corps that later became the United States Air Force. He was commissioned as a 1st lieutenant in the Signal Corps during the Spanish-American War and was one of earliest aviators to show that a machine gun could be fired from an airplane.

Designed privately in the United States though not adopted there, the design was finalised and mass-produced in the United Kingdom and widely used by troops of the British Empire during the war.

Lewis guns were used extensively on British and French aircraft during the First World War, as either an observer's or gunner's weapon or an additional weapon to the more common Vickers.

the Lewis was first mounted on the Vickers F.B.5 "Gunbus", which was probably the world's first purpose-built combat aircraft when it entered service in August 1914, replacing the Vickers machine gun.

The Lewis's popularity as an aircraft machine gun was partly due to its low weight, the fact that it was air-cooled and that it used self-contained 97-round drum magazines. Because of this, used on earlier experimental versions. It was also fitted on two early production examples of the Bristol Scout C aircraft by Lanoe Hawker in the summer of 1915, mounted on the port side and firing forwards and outwards at a 30į angle to avoid the propeller arc.

Chandler, a
lieutenant colonel at the time of his retirement in April 1920 died on 18 May 1939.

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