Despite being dismissed as an anachronism many times over the last sixty years, bayonets are still issued and indeed the recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have seen them used in anger on many occasions. The British Army of the early twentieth century had no such concerns, and was quite clear in its opinion that the bayonet was still an essential weapon for its soldiers. The 1942 training pamphlet for the bayonet describes it as the weapon of attack for hand-to-hand and night fighting and stressed the importance of the offensive spirit. With the introduction of the Short Magazine Lee Enfield Rifle came a new sword bayonet and scabbard, this was modified at the time of the outbreak of WW1 by removing the curled quillon and the resulting design was in use into the middle years of WW2:The bayonet blade is based on the old 1888 pattern bayonet, with a new pommel designed to fit the nose stud of the SMLE:The ricasso of the blade has a range of stampings:These show that this is a 1907 pattern bayonet, that it was made by the Wilkinson Sword Company (WSC) and was manufactured in 1943. The reverse of the blade has a number of unknown markings, which suggest it was used by a foreign army after its service with Britain was over:The bayonet is housed in a leather scabbard:This has a metal throat with stud for attaching the scabbard to a bayonet frogAnd a metal tip: These reinforce vulnerable parts of the scabbard, and the leather is heavily stitched in a seam all along the reverse:The 1942 training manual shows the correct position to hold the rifle and bayonet, note the label indicating where the blade should be aimed!The long blade could be vulnerable though and it was not unknown for it to snap:
Once for instance, during their training squad’s first bayonet practice, the instructor demonstrated the proper bayonet charge technique by running and yelling at a suspended, filled sack. Driving home the bayonet, the twist, the withdrawal and the smack in the sack’s ‘face’ with the rifle-butt. When it was the recruits’ turn, the Scottish instructor picked Geordie. As Geordie readied his bayonet-tipped rifle, the instructor said quietly but passionately “Go on Clark, gie it laldy and show these English how it’s done”. Summoning all the wrathful anger of his Celtic ancestors, Geordie launched himself, his features distorted in some inherited ancient rage, while screaming a terrifying curse at the enemy sack. He drove his bayonet home with almost superhuman force, twisted, pulled back and began to run on to the next belligerent burlap. Just then, there was a loud “Click !”. Geordie’s rifle was now topped by a 1907 pattern SMLE sword bayonet, with a short metal stump where a seventeen-inch blade ought to be. Expecting to be soon up on the frame, replacing one of the filled sacks for the next round of bayonet practice, Geordie braced himself for the worst. Everyone was in shock. The Scots instructor, who probably was shocked, stepped in however and saved Geordie’s bacon – and Scotland’s pride. In front of the whole squad, he shouted “Well done Clark ! The rest of you – see !! – That’s the sort of commitment I want to see from you lot !!”.