Lee Enfield No.4 spike bayonet - how often was it used?

Discussion in 'Weapons, Technology & Equipment' started by tmac, Sep 21, 2020.

  1. tmac

    tmac Senior Member

    We've often seen images of First World War soldiers going into action with their SMLE long sword bayonets fixed - and presumably these were used in trench fighting. But were the shorter spike bayonets on the No4 rifle ever used extensively during close combat in the Second World War?
    Dave55 likes this.
  2. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    I was told by one who was there so to speak that they were very good for punching holes in tins
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  3. JDKR

    JDKR Member

    They were certainly put to use by 6 Commando during its assault through the Essel forest on 11 April 1945, putting to flight the German marines who were defending the road bridge over the Aller.
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  4. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    I've found one mention in a war diary. This is from the February 1945 diary of 1st Bn Royal Scots Fusiliers (29 Infantry Brigade, 36 Infantry Division:

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  5. 8RB

    8RB Well-Known Member

    Rfn. Roland Jefferson, of the 8th Rifle Brigade, E Coy, on his use of the spike bayonet (or "sword" in the Rifle Brigade) during operation Goodwood:

  6. jonheyworth

    jonheyworth Senior Member

    “ bloody hell, did you know this can opener fits on the end of a rifle ? “
  7. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Checking notes to my own book I find that bayonet charges with the No. 4 spike could be effective in Normandy under the right tactical circumstances, doubtless because the country was close and distances between the lines were so short. (1st Dorsets, 50th Div.) The bayonet was probably most useful in the Far East, where the Japs were good at infiltration and always sought to get to hand strokes if they could. George Macdonald Fraser (Quartered Safe Out Here) cites instances where both the sword-type Pattern 1907 of the No.1 and the later spike type of the No. 4 were put to good use against the Japanese.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2020
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  8. Temujin

    Temujin Member

    I know of one instant the Canadian Troops attacked with bayonet in the defence of Hong Kong

    On Christmas Day, with ammunition in short supply and the defending soldiers in desperate shape, “D” company of the Royal Rifles was ordered to make what appeared to be a suicidal attack to retake lost ground at the south end of the island. According to an account from Sergeant George MacDonnell, the men received the orders in stunned silence. “Not one of them could believe such a preposterous order.” Attacking with bayonets, the Royal Rifles succeeded in taking the position — at a cost of 26 men killed and 75 wounded. Hours later, the exhausted survivors learned that the colony had surrendered. The Battle of Hong Kong was over.

    Canada and the Battle of Hong Kong | The Canadian Encyclopedia
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  9. Temujin

    Temujin Member

    Actually, I have two times, the second was “again” in Hong Kong

    In a desperate counterattack on Mount Butler, CSM J. R. Osborn led a group of Winnipeg Grenadiers in a bayonet charge to the top. They held the position for four hours. Only six men survived. Osborn, killed, was awarded the Victoria Cross.

    FOR KING AND CANADA | Maclean's | JULY 1968

    CSM Osborn’s Citation for his award of the VC


    The citation in the London Gazette of 1st April, 1946 :

    At Hong Kong, on 19th December, 1941, a company of the Winnipeg Grenadiers became divided in an attack on Mount Butler. A part of the company led by C.S.M. Osborn captured the hill at bayonet point, but after three hours owing to the superior numbers of the enemy the position became untenable. C.S.M. Osborn and a small group covered the withdrawal and when their turn came to fall back he single-handed engaged the enemy, exposing himself to heavy enemy fire to cover their retirement. Later the Company was cut off and completely surrounded. Several enemy grenades were thrown which C.S.M. Osborn picked up and threw back. When one landed in a position where it was impossible to pick it up, he threw himself upon it and was instantly killed. His self-sacrifice undoubtedly saved the lives of many of his comrades. C.S.M. Osborn was an inspiring example to all throughout the defence, and in his death he displayed the highest qualities of heroism and self-sacrifice.
  10. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Temujin , they would have been using SMLE Mk III with the sword bayonet (as in WW1) in Hong Kong wouldn't they?
    tmac was asking about the No 4 spike bayonet.
  11. Temujin

    Temujin Member

    Another instance in HK that Canadian’s used the bayonet

    Royal Rifles of Canada

    Major Parker Recounts:

    "With me, "D" Company officers studied a map of the area and we formulated our plans. Major Browing, a white Indian officer, assisted us with much information we could not have had otherwise. Satisfied, we went out to do the job. Prior to the opening attack, owing to officer casualties, Sgt. George S. MacDonnell had been placed in charge of Nº 18 platoon. His platoon was to attack an objective in St. Stephen's.

    Sergeant MacDonnell reports: "Our orders were to attack the left flank of the village and occupy a group of houses which were on the high ground and commanded an excellent field of fire across the whole left flank of the village. Two of my three section leaders had been killed in action , prior to this, and I appointed temporary replacements to lead Nos. 7 and 8 sections.

    "The attack commenced at about noon. We filed down the west side of the fortress, crouched low and in single file. The sun was hot and it was a bright clear day. The enemy opened up with machine-guns and small caliber artillery. By running and by crawling from rock to rock, we managed to reach an assembly area in the fold of dead-ground, just below and slightly to the southwest of our first objective.

    "Casualties up to this point were light as our approach route had been well chosen for us... At the assembly point, I spread my platoon out to the left, below and in front of the graveyard which lay south and slightly west of the houses that were to be our first objective. Heavy firing commenced to my right and I ordered my men to commence firing on the enemy who I could see running to take up positions with light weapons in the graveyard in front of us.

    "Either at a prearranged signal or upon orders delivered by runner, I ordered the attack. Since the enemy had a much superior position on the higher ground above us and since they had good cover among the gravestones, I decided we must close quickly or suffer heavy casualties and would quite probably be pinned down; thus exposing the left flank of the Company.

    "Accordingly, I ordered the men to fix bayonet and charge, which they did with fearful war whoops. Within seconds we were upon the enemy in the grave-yard, with bayonets, submachine guns and Brens fired from the hip.

    "This maneuver apparently took the enemy by surprise. Our entry into the graveyard led to a confused melee of hand-to-hand fighting which lasted no more than 3 or 4 minutes at the most. The Japanese were overrun and the graveyard was cleared.

    Major Parker Continues
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  12. Temujin

    Temujin Member

    Yes, I understand, but I thought the question was also about the “use” of the bayonet in WW2, and just giving examples that the bayonet was used in Hong Kong
  13. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    Short answer is Yes. However I suspect there is a misunderstanding about bayonets at work here.
    1/ A sword on a rifle is not a better stabbing weapon than a spike.
    2/ The 18" Bayonet 1907 replaced the 12" Bayonet 1888 when the 'Short' rifle was introduced over the longer Magazine Lee Enfield. The combined length gave a reach which would impale the chest cavity of a horseman. The spike bayonet on the Rifle No.4 was specifically designed to be as effective and not affect the rifle's shooting ability as much, defence against Cavalry was not considered a priority.
    3/ Issue of the various spikes over the sword meant wider issue of hatchets, machetes and can openers. Chopping firewood, clearing brush and opening stuff was where the p1907 excelled, despite the technical charge of misuse of a weapon.
    4/ Where the No.4 and it's bayonet failed was in bad PR. Mass produced will always feel sub-standard compared to specialist made.
    I trust that this clarifies some of the issues.
  14. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    Getting back to the question in the OP it is still unclear how much the " 6 inch nail" was actually used as a bayonet. The bayonet evolved originally to protect the infantryman against horsemen - not much of an issue in WW2 - and then became part of the infantry charge (often with as much effect on morale as physical impact) but the advent of rapid fire long range weapons blunted this as well. As early as the mid 19th century medical returns from various conflicts showed the majority (but not all) of bayonet wounds were from accidents arising out of being used for chopping wood, opening things etc. The spike could not even be used for this.
    One can see how the spike could be useful herding POWs etc but how frequently was its used in close combat?
  15. David Woods

    David Woods Active Member

    12th Battalion, The Devonshire Regiment
    Branville, Normandy

    Extract from Historical Diary of Events

    21st August, 1944
    By 2000 hrs both 'A' and 'D' companies were established in the area of the final bound, but some very close hedge fighting had taken place in 'A' Coy sector, where we had suffered a number of casualties.

    Both companies were too close to the enemy to be given mortar or artillery support.

    My father was a casualty on this day and I know his spike bayonet was fixed.

    This was Bocage country, tall hedgerows and deep ditches. Difficult to see the enemy.

    Why would you not attach the spike bayonet in a close quarter combat situation such as this?

    A large number of photo's show the spike bayonet fixed, but I would think the opportunity to bayonet the enemy was low.

    To the question: "were the shorter spike bayonets on the No.4 rifle ever used extensively during close combat in the Second World War"?

    If he question is were they ever used extensively to bayonet the enemy? Then I would answer No!

    If he question is were they ever used extensively by having them attached and ready to use? Then I would answer Yes!
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  16. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    Seems reasonable
  17. Trackfrower

    Trackfrower Member

    There were 2 types of "spike bayonet".
    The simple "nail" and the "cruciform" type.
  18. 14/264

    14/264 Member

    The cruciform type was the Mark 1, as originally introduced with the No. 4 rifle. The simple nail type, the Mk 2 and 2*, was introduced as it was easier and cheaper to make, likewise the plastic scabbard that was introduced later in the war.
  19. lionboxer

    lionboxer Member

    I still have my fathers “pig-sticker” as he called it that he had in the jungle. He didn’t rate it much as he was trained with sword type bayonet before the war. In those days the army encouraged bayonet fencing as a sport and father was an accomplished fighter.
    Harry Ree likes this.
  20. 14/264

    14/264 Member

    Major E G B Reynolds, in his book 'The Lee Enfield Rifle' goes into the subject of the No. 4 bayonet and quotes from official documents. Amongst other considerations the Army came to the conclusion that 'reach' was not a main factor in bayonet training, but 'handiness' was, and 'a man with a short handy weapon would beat an equally skilled man with a longer, cumbrous weapon practically every time.' As regards killing purposes, the Physical Training Staff came to the conclusion that 'a 6 inch blade was sufficiently long to deal with the most thickly clad of our enemies - potential or otherwise. The most thickly clad was being takes as being a Russian in winter clothing.'
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