Mk IV Lee Enfield Oil Bottle

On the butt of the Lee Enfield rifle is a small sprung circular trap door. This is used to hold a small oil bottle used to help clean and oil the weapon, on the SMLE this oil bottle was invariably a small brass tube, with a screw lid:imageThis oil bottle is the Mk IV version, identifiable from the earlier Mk III by having a flat rather than a convex base; it was adopted on 22nd March 1906 and was to remain in use well into the 1950s. Unscrewing the lid reveals a small brass spoon that can be used to place oil precisely onto the relevant parts of the rifle:imageThe cap is knurled for grip and has a rubber washer to help keep the contents watertight to prevent moisture entering and oil leaking out:imageThis example is marked ‘EFD’ on the base, meaning it was manufactured by the Royal Enfield factory:imageThe cleaning of the rifle was explained in these extracts from a 1942 army pamphlet on the Lee Enfield rifle, note the use of gun oil and instructions relating to the bottle:

Open butt trap and remove oil bottle and pull-through. Unroll and straighten out pull through. Remove sling…Examine bore by holding muzzle close to the eye, draw head back and look into grooves for dirt. Repeat from breech end. If barrel is clean, oil it with flannelette 4 inches by 1 ½ inches…after cleaning barrel and chamber, wipe the dirt from all metal portions, using an oily rag…Bolt:- Dirt and grit must be removed from all parts. Oil it, except in dusty climates…

Cleaning a rifle could be strangely therapeutic, as told in this account:

Everybody seemed excited with the rifles, nothing else mattered, and cleaning them like mad was not a chore. These were the real things. For him once he had removed the protecting grease and things he got busy with the cleaning rags. There was excitement in every movement as the young hands ran over the polished woodwork and just sat there cooing at the thing and giving it that extra rub with clean clothes until it shone even more. Nothing seemed too much to offer this instrument of death. Repeated action of cleaning the barrel of the rifle, time and time again he dropped the weighted pull-through with its four by two through the breach and down the barrel. Each inspection after the pull-through made to get that perfect polished barrel. Satisfaction was hard to obtain, and only came when the four by two cloth came out of the barrel without a mark on it. This was the day big responsibility, a man’s world as he sat with that rifle and a clip of five live rounds of ammunition toying with them as things of beauty. It wasn’t long before they were put in the right priority place of things. Getting to use them took time. Inspections of these firearms were as regular as breakfast and carried out to make sure that they remained the priority of your existence and complete.

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