It has been a while since a bayonet appeared on the blog, so tonight we are looking at an early example of an SMLE bayonet. Regular readers may recall we looked at a second world war production example here. This particular example dates back to 1915 and there are a couple of interesting points on this bayonet. The first and most obvious thing to notice is that the blade has been chromed:This was done for use on parade and makes the bayonet look particularly impressive in the sunshine, as the light catches and glints off the chroming. The ricasso of the bayonet has the date and manufacturer’s details, in this case the blade was made by Sanderson in March 1915:The opposite side has the War Department /|\ and various inspectors marks stamped into the steel:It is on the tip of the pommel that this bayonet really becomes interesting though. Here what I believe are the letters ‘6KRR’ are stamped into the metal:This indicates that the bayonet was originally issued to the 6th Kings Royal Rifle Corps. It is always nice to find a piece of equipment marked to a particular unit! The other feature of the pommel is what it is missing. In 1916 a small hole was added to the pommel to allow cleaning of the catch and springs used to attach the bayonet to the rifle. It was found that the mud of the trenches was working its way into this area and fouling up the mechanism and so a small hole was provided so a piece of wire could be inserted to unclog the catch. This bayonet, dating from before this change does not have this feature. By way of illustrating the point, here is the handle of the Second World War example, with the cleaning hole clearly visible:These little holes seem to be often referred to as ‘oiling holes’ but bayonet catches do not really need oiling, they do need to be kept clear of debris. The following is the official list of changes entry for the adding of these little holes, published on the 23rd February 1916:
17692 – Sword Bayonet, Pattern 1907, Mark I. 5 Jan 1916
23 Feb 1916
Drilling of clearance hole through pommel
In future manufacture, sword-bayonets of the above mentioned pattern ( LoC 14170 ) will have a hole drilled through the pommel to facilitate the removal of mud, dirt, &c., that may accumulate in the bottom of the mortice for the sword bar of the rifle nose-cap, and so prevent the bolt of the sword-bayonet shooting and locking the sword-bayonet on the rifle.
In workshops where the necessary machinery and tools are available the hole may be drilled, as occasion offers, through the pommel to the size and in the position shown in the accompanying drawing, the position first being marked off. “
And the official diagram that went with the change:
At the start of the First World War the Canadian Expeditionary Force was armed with an indigenously produced rifle, the Ross. This rifle was to be problematic and was eventually dropped in favour of the SMLE, however it remained in use for snipers and saw further service in WW2 with the British Home Guard. As with nearly all military rifles in service at the time it was supplied with a bayonet and tonight we are looking at the second model of bayonet issued for the rifle:This bayonet is particularly attractive, with a definite weight to it, it has a much shorter blade than that used on the SMLE, but the blade is thicker in cross section and feels sturdier:This shorter length made it a popular choice for a trench knife due to its handiness in the trenches of the First World War during raids and examples were modified by removing the muzzle ring and shortening them even more to tailor them for this use. The pommel on the bayonet is marked ‘Ross Rifle Company, Quebec’ on one side:And has a number of marks on the opposite side including a /|\ within a ‘C’ Canadian acceptance mark, the date 08/16 (August 1916) and a ‘11’ indicating this is a MkII pattern bayonet first introduced in 1911:The Mk II differed from the earlier pattern which had an extended muzzle ring and a larger quinion , this was changed in the second pattern which provided the right sized muzzle ring and slimmed down the quinion:The bayonet was fitted to a ‘T’ shaped lug on the underside of the rifle’s barrel, with a channel provided for this to slide into. Sadly this bayonet is missing the sprung catch that would have allowed the bayonet to be secured, and removed from the rifle:Here we have a fine study of a young Canadian soldier in Canada holding his Ross rifle, complete with the bayonet attached:A generation later and we see the bayonet in use by the Home Guard in Britain, training with their Ross rifles:I have a number of bayonets in my collection now, and this one is competing with my No7 for the title of my favourite. It is a really nice piece to hold in your hand and beautifully made…now I just need a Ross to go with it!
When the Self Loading Rifle (SLR) was introduced the British Army naturally introduced a bayonet to go with their new rifle. They seem to have been very happy with the clipped bowie shaped blade they had used with the No5 Bayonet, No 7 Bayonet (see here) and the No 9 Bayonet (see here) and mated this to a new crosspiece and pommel to fit the SLR:The bayonet is 305mm long, with a 203mm long blade and due to the blade shape continued to use the same scabbard introduced for the earlier bayonets. This example is an L1A3, introduced in the late-1950s, which made the protruding press stud used to release the bayonet flush with the rest of the pommel:A long deep fuller runs down each side of the blade, this allows a vacuum to be released when the blade has been stabbed into the torso of a man and thus allows the bayonet to be withdrawn more easily:This particular bayonet also has the modifications introduced into production from the mid-1960s onwards when the length of the fuller was reduced and the ricasso lengthened due to a perceived weakness in the design at this point:Originally the fuller ran almost the entire length of the blade, this feature was deleted on the L1A4 bayonet introduced in the 1970s which reverted to a full length fuller. The cross piece has a large ring, 14.9mm in diameter, to fit over the muzzle of the rifle:The grips of the bayonet are made of a hard black plastic, secured with two rivets:The combined ‘ED’ trademark of the Royal Small Arms Factory Enfield can just be made out stamped on the plastic grips. Like all British bayonets of the post war period, this blade is of very high quality and finish. The bayonet was to see extensive use in The Falklands War, as witnessed by this visceral account by Guards Lieutenant Robert Lawrence MC:
I stuck my bayonet into the back of his arm, dug it right in because I had run out of ammunition. He spun wildly on the ground and my bayonet snapped. And as he spun, he was trying to get a Colt 45 out of an Army holster on his waist. So I had to stab him to death. I stabbed him and I stabbed him, again and again, in the mouth, in the face, in the guts, with a snapped bayonet. It was absolutely horrific [retrospectively — at the time he recalls crying out ‘Isn’t this fun?’ not long after this incident]. Stabbing a man to death is not a clean way to kill somebody, and what made it doubly horrific was that at one point he started screaming ‘Please. . .‘ in English to me. But if I had left him he could have ended up shooting me in the back. I took his rifle, moved on, shot a sniper, picked up his and moved on again.