Page 20c Great Canadian Heritage Discoveries
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More important Canadian antique memorabilia the Museum has preserved.

Bayonets - Technology of War 3

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Lee-Metford Pattern 1888 Bayonets Mk I to III

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Lee-Metford Bayonet, MK I - 1889
Orig. bayonet - Size - 47 cm oa
Found - London, ON
The extremely rare Pattern 1888 Mark I Lee-Metford Bayonet with three brass rivets in the handle
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Lee-Metford Bayonet, Pvt. Walter Simmonds, RCR - 1900
Orig. bayonet - Size - 47 cm oa
Found - Halifax, NS
The next generation, the Mk 1, Type 2, bayonet with two brass rivets close together. This was the bayonet the First Canadian Contingent carried to South Africa. Walter Simmonds carried this one all during the Battle of Paardeberg and the March to Pretoria.
The Boer War Bayonet: To complement the newly introduced Lee-Metford rifle, the British Army adopted the Lee-Metford Pattern 1888 MK 1 bayonet right. It was retired just after the Boer War. It's essential features included a dagger type blade, sharpened on both sides, and big brass rivets holding the wooden grips to the blade.

The extremely rare MK 1, Type 1, had 3 (1 large, 2 small) rivets on the grip with the oil hole among them. Very few of these were ever produced.

It was soon replaced with the MK 1 Type 2, which had two large brass rivets positioned close together, set close towards the blade, and with the oil hole beside the top rivet.

The later, MK II right, moved the oil hole back to the metal pommel and spaced out the brass rivets more widely. The final version, the Mk III used steel rivets instead of brass.

The scabbard for all three was made of supple black or brown leather, to which metal guards were stapled to protect it from wear from the sharp parts of the blade.

Bayonets have their life history engraved on them.

On the "ricasso" (the part of the blade closest to the hilt) are stamped the crown of the reigning monarch, in this case the "flat-topped" crown of VR (Victoria Regina), and the date when the bayonet was made: Feb. 1897, and May 1894.

Wilkinson was one of many companies that manufactured bayonets for the British Army.

Below the ricasso of a bayonet produced under the "domed" Crown of ER (Edward Rex) in 1903. In that year the Pattern 1888 was replaced with the 1903 Pattern bayonet.

The "pommel" of the bayonet (the metal butt end of the handle) often carried numbers which matched those of the rifle to which the bayonet was mated.

Sometimes even the name of the regiment was stamped, like in the case right, marking a bayonet belonging to the 3rd Battalion, Yorkshire Light Infantry.

Various proof marks (above) noted when a bayonet was re-issued after being stored during a lengthy period of peace.

It is an oddity of the Boer War, in the later stages, that bayonets issued to the men were rarely sharpened! The Boers were so elusive on their ponies and scooted away so fast from trouble that one could hardly get close enough to them to take a shot, let alone come to grips with them at bayonetting distance.

The Bloody Bayonet of Otto Moody

Found among his effects, and showing signs of extremely heavy usage during the struggle against the Boers, is the bloodied and battered bayonet of Canadian Otto Moody (right and below).

He had the Mark I version of the standard 1888 Pattern Lee-Metford bayonet issued to all British soldiers fighting in the Boer War. Otto's bayonet was manufactured in "I '93", January, 1893.

Otto would be in hearty agreement with British Trooper and Poet PT Ross right, about this wonderful weapon of war, which he carried as he campaigned with the 2 CMR in the final bitter struggle in early 1902.

For, while many thought that the bayonet's days were over, Ross penned a poem which expressed the common soldier's feelings on the subject.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Bayonet, Otto Moody - 1902
Orig. bayonet - Size - 42 cm
Found - Wibaux, MT

Peacetime: Glad to see peace once more, and his bayonet - which he had never sharpened - and his other war memorabilia now safely locked into a trunk, Otto Moody (left) returned to Canadian shores, and relaxes at the beach with friends.

The Ballad of the Bayonet
From "A Yeoman's Letters," PT Ross, 1901

Did I ever use the bay'nit, sir?
In the far off Transvaal War,
Where I fought for Queen and country, sir,
Against the wily Boer.
Aye, many a time and oft, sir,
I've bared the trusty blade,
And blessed the dear old Homeland, sir,
Where it was carefully made.

  • Chorus
    Then here's to the British bay'nit
    Made of Sheffield steel,
    And here's to the men who bore it -
    Stalwart men and leal.
You notice the dents on the edge, sir
At Bronkhurst Spruit they were done;
I was getting a door for a fire,
For out of wood we had run.
I was smiting hard at the door, sir,
Or rafter, I'm not sure which,
When I struck on an iron screw, sir,
And the bay'nit got this niche.

'Tis my mighty Excalibur, sir,
I've use it in joy and grief,
For digging up many a tater,
Or opening bully beef.
I have used it for breaking wire,
Making tents 'gainst rain and sun;
I have used it as a hoof-pick,
In a hundred ways and one.

Oh, how did the point get blunted, sir?
I was driving it home
As a picketing peg for my horse,
So that he should not roam.
I drove it in a little, sir,
And then in my haste, alas,
I stubbed the point on a rock, sir,
Some inches below the grass.

You ask if it e'er took a life, sir?
Aye, I mind the time full well;
I had spotted him by a farm, sir,
And went for him with a yell.
He tried to escape me hard, sir,
But I plunged it in his side,
And there by his own backyard, sir,
A healthy porker died.

But did I draw it in action?
You ask me roughly now.
Yes, we were taking a kopje,
The foe were on the brow.
We drew and fixed our bay'nits,
The sun shone on the steel:
Death to the sniping beggars
We were about to deal.

Then, sweating and a-puffing,
We scaled the rocky heights,
But when we reaches the top, sir,
The foe was out of sight.

Has it e'er drawn human blood?
Yes once, I grieve to say;
It was not in a battle,
Or any bloody fray;
'Twas just outside Pretoria,
The deed was never meant,
I slipped and fell on the point, sir,
'Twas quite by accident.

  • Chorus
    Then here's to the British bay'nit
    Made of Sheffield steel,
    And here's to the men who bore it -
    Stalwart men and leal.
    And here's to the Millennium,
    The time of peaceful peace,
    When neighbours shall love each other,
    And wicked wars shall cease.

Go to Otto's Duffle Bag