Bayonet Development for the Lee Enfield No4 Rifle

Having wrapped up our series on the major development of the Lee Enfield rifle in British service, I figured it would be a nice addendum to talk about the bayonets developed for the No4 rifle. These went through a substantial evolution, and are an interesting field for collectors all by themselves.

During World War One, the British used the Pattern 1907 bayonet, a long blade type essentially copied form the Japanese Type 30. By the 1920s, this was being reconsidered – the long blades were expensive, fragile, and perhaps not really necessary. When the No1 Mk VI rifle was put into trials, it was given a new bayonet style. This was inspired by the Swiss cyclists’ bayonet, with a cruciform spike instead of a true blade. It was only 8 inches long; this was determined to be long enough for virtually all use cases and being short minimized weight and bulk.

As World War Two progressed, the spike bayonet was simplified several times. Before the initial production of the first standard model (No4 MkI) was completed, the cruciform pattens had already been abandoned for a much simpler (and faster and cheaper) round body spike with a screwdriver-like point at the end. This was in turn simplified by separating the socket and spike into two parts for easier production, and then further simplified by casting the stocked instead of forging it. After the war, the spike as replaced by a short blade-type socket bayonet (the No9), although this was rather short-lived because of the adopted of the SLR (FN FAL).


  1. The brass obviously never asked the squaddies about what they really wanted. Since a bayonet was used primarily for military housekeeping, a short and stout
    knife made much more sense than a chunk of rebar. Having to carry both that excuse for a bayonet, as well as a utility knife, was ridiculous.

    • The brass rarely asks anyone anything, ‘cos they’re all military geniuses and know it all already. They also don’t bother to validate their choices, which explains the utter uselessness of the current US Army-issue M9 as a bayonet.

      It does look sexy, though, and someone obviously got a stellar bullet on their Officer Evaluation Report for shepherding that POS through the mill, and probably a really nice job or a referral to work for the guys that sold the friggin’ things to the Army in the first place.

      My own taste in the matter is, gimme a knife for knife things, and a sticky-thing for a bayonet that I can use as a mine probe as well. Also, think about it in titanium so that it’s non-magnetic (for those lovely magnetic-fused mines), and make it something that slips into the handguard so that it’s always with the weapon.

      I think the French had the right idea with the bayonet for the MAS-36, and that there should have been rather more copying of said concept for issue than just the FG42.

    • I question the belief (by the brass) that poking someone with what amounts to a long nail would somehow deliver an immediately disabling wound. The lethality of the spike bayonet is a matter of wishful thinking.

      • Nah; be right that. BAYONET assault course…

        You don’t just “jab” them and say sorry, you massacre them, 100 stabs, smack over the head with every bit of the gun, spit, kick, use your helmet, knee, head, a rock.

        And that is why we need bayonets. Because war is shit; the name of the game is to kill the other chap/woman/trans etc.

        • It’s right, bayonets are needed for training. As I am afraid the truth is that is what we are asking our young to potentinally do; by definition an enemy does not like them.

          Now they might end up cuddling some orphans a loony religious nutcase created. Yes.

          And; they deal with it. Shall we give them (Woke) training, instead. No. Why, well how will they knife someone 200 times.

        • Well thats my understanding of the British Army from 20 years ago, maybe it’s changed “It has changed, he he; as it had from 20 years prior etc.” But the day we lay down the bayonet, and all that means… Will be the end of the British as a fighting force.

      • When it comes to cold steel, immediately disabling stabbing wound is probably at least as elusive thing as the immediately disabling pistol bullet wound people like to discuss so much. Heart, head or neck will usually do it, other places not so easily. A wider cutting blade is probably better as you infer, but knife blades have their own shortcomings, most significantly they like to stick to things like the ribcage quite firmly sometimes.

        In general the bayonet relies a lot on the shock effect; shock prevents the poor guy being stabbed from reacting. If the guy for some reason does not go into shock, there is a high chance he will try to retaliate somehow. Then you better just hope he doesn’t have a knife (or a handgun!) and you’re too close for him to use his own (attached) bayonet.

      • I would agree with Kirk. A cruciform spike with sharpened edges will do the job nicely. The round nail? Not so much. Just look at how Theodore Roosevelt disapproved of the M1903’s original rod bayonet. Purportedly the president yanked out the rod and bent it in half with his bare hands.

      • It ain’t that the wounds produced are immediately lethal; the problem is, once you stick one of those stupid-ass knife bayonets into someone, especially the “modern” ones that are compromised with all the little “Good Idea Fairy” add-ons…? Well, you probably aren’t getting it out of them, either.

        Cruciform spike? You can zip one of those in and out of someone’s torso a half-dozen times in the same period you’re struggling to unstick the sawteeth from between their ribs. I can’t speak to what a wound from a cruciform spike bayonet feels like, as opposed to a knife bayonet, but I’m pretty sure that someone sticking one into my chest a couple of times is going to drastically reduce my enthusiasm and energy levels. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure I’m gonna go sit down in the shade somewhere, immediate-like, and contemplate the mortality of man and his works.

        I would seriously encourage anyone debating the efficacy of these things to actual go out and do a comparative test. We had aged-out sides of beef when we did the one I did, and we turned those into impromptu targets with some gelatin, old uniforms, old web gear, and a bunch of what the Army calls “100 mile-an-hour tape”. Hung said assemblages up, tried stabbing them. Knife bayonets did not want to come out or broke; the cruciform spike on the SKS was like an ice pick, zipping in and out.

        I have strong misgivings about things like the M9, and an abiding respect for the cruciform spike. I’m pretty sure that the French soldiers carrying Rosalie into battle were probably better served with her than any of their peers stuck with the big ol’ knife bayonets.

        • However, trying to substitute an oversized round-cross-section nail for a cruciform spike is a bad idea, no?

          • Apparently, the whole “point” of the Springfield M1902 rod bayonet was;

            1. Can be housed in a groove under the barrel like the old muzzle-loader ramrod.

            2. Can be pulled out and locked to act as an epee’ type bayonet.

            3. Can also be used as a cleaning rod.

            As it turns out, it was really no good for either of its intended functions.

            Incidentally, retracting bayonets are nothing new. Back in the late 1700s, some sporting rifles had them, specifically short-barreled “boar guns”. the “De Peyster” Ferguson rifle in the Smithsonian collection has such a bayonet;


            Even in its heyday during the Napoleonic period, the actual usefulness of the bayonet in combat was questioned.

            General Sir David Dundas, one of the British Army’s foremost tacticians of the time, observed that few engagements ever resulted in bayonet casualties because the massed fire of muskets ended things before anyone got that close to the enemy. He questioned whether the bayonet was needed at all.

            Things got worse with the introduction of the rifle-musket. Extending effective range of volley fire from 100 yards to 200 or even 300 resulted in attempted bayonet charges quickly being aborted as the assaulters were forced to go to ground and begin a firefight.

            Verifiable reports of bayonet “kills” during the American Civil War were rare enough that they tended to be “mentioned in despatches” in AARs.

            “Out of 7,302 wounded during Grant’s Wilderness campaign, only six were listed as being injured by sword or bayonet.

            “Reporting on accounts of Union troops being caught and spitted in their tents at Shiloh, Tribune correspondent Richardson wrote;

            “‘No man was bayoneted in his tent or anywhere else to the best evidence I could obtain.‘”

            – Jack Coggins, Arms and Equipment of the Civil War, 1962, p. 29.

            I tend to agree with Kirk that if you need a bayonet at all, one like the MAS 36 or FG 42 type is probably the best. The Johnson M1941 rifle also had a quite light and short “spike” type bayonet that was roughly similar to those two;


            Attaching it firmly and permanently to the rifle (either sliding or folding) leaves room on the infantryman’s LBE for the sheath of the five or six inch bladed fixed-blade knife he really needs in camp.



          • Not having ever experienced both a cruciform bayonet or a nail perforating my abdominal cavity, I can’t speak to the difference in efficacy between the two. I do tend to suspect that the reality of things is that the cruciform is more cosmetic than anything else–You drive a metal spike into someone, I don’t think they’re going to either notice or care that there’s fluting on it. And, since the fluting really doesn’t seem to have any impact on either going in or coming out…? I’d be happy with just a simple spike.

            I will admit that the cruciform is just more martial and sexy-looking, but I’m also well aware that mere cosmetics have very little to do with lethality. And, the purely psychological effects? Nobody is gonna be paying attention to the question of “Yeah, they’re coming at us with cruciforms…” vs. “They’re coming at us with bloody big nails affixed to their weapons…”.

            So… Color me in as ambivalent. I see no particular advantage to the cruciform, and I don’t see any particular disadvantage to the pure spike, either. If I was designing my own, though? Yeah; I’d be up for a titanium cruciform-section bayonet about 30cm long that I could affix a handle to in order to have a decent mine probe on me at all times.

            I’d also be thinking that most of the use I’d be getting out of that bugger would be as a mine probe or, perhaps, a convenient spit with which to roast the occasional indigenous ration…

  2. I think “ye olde ones” lengths… Was, he he… To do with cavalry.

    Pike replacement like; Obviously not much good without the “bang” in comparison to a pike… But like “bang” one horseman dead, prod, prod, slash, slash, stab horse or something… Pike. So like long guns, with long knifes… Type thing.

    WW2 Horses less involved type thing… Like… He he.

  3. When still a kid, I came upon a No. 4 spike bayonet and scabbard in a junk shop. I didn’t even look at the price (it would have been in the $2US range), and put it back in the heap. I thought then, and think now, that it was a miserable piece of equipment, of little use as a weapon and no use at all as a tool. (I didn’t know much about probing for mines back then. Didn’t like to think about it, probably; still don’t.) But holding the actual crude steel of that desperate expedient brought home to me how badly pressed the British were in WW2, so that was a net gain.

    You can have my old Pattern 1907 bayonet when you pry it out of my cold dead fingers.

  4. Keighley is pronounced Keith-lee, and is now part of Bradford. The factory was across the road from the station, near Timothy Talyor’s Brewery; where Landlord Bitter is brewed; Madonna’s favourite British beer.

    • Timothy Taylor’s “Landlord” is a pale ale, although they do brew a bitter and other beers. You tend to see more of “Landlord” in my experience.

  5. The US M9 bayonet was designed very much as a tool including acting as a effective wire cutterwith its very heavy-duty special scabbard, seen here: — I have one and it really works, certainly on regular barbed wire, but would not really work on razor wire I think.

    It’s a heavy knife, with a saw back, takes a real beating and keeps on chopping etc. Splitting wood by beating on it with another piece of wood or a rock, etc. all fine.

    • No, it does not “work as an effective wire cutter”. I spent many hours using that thing for its supposed purpose, both when discovering the need to cut wire obstacles, and when I had a driver that thought it was a good idea to drive at full speed into a tumbling tumbleweed of wire that had been dragged out of a breach lane. At around 35mph.

      There are two problems with that thing as a wirecutter-One, the idiot designing it thought that it was brilliant design to have the sharp side of the blade be the one levered against the sheath, thus enabling really easy slicing and dicing of fingers, and two, that the key point of failure that was that stud would be something you could not fix when it inevitably loosened up in the field. Had they possessed the wit and wisdom to actually, y’know, try cutting several hundred strands of wire whilst laying on their back underneath a HMMWV between the hours of 23:00 and about 03:00 the following morning, they might have figured that out, and come up with a way to keep that stud from loosening.

      The M9-as-a-wirecutter only really works as a toy; when you validate it by having someone bring you a strand of barbed wire into your office, and try it out? Sure; it works. At 01:00 in the morning, after you’ve worn your bayonet out and are moving on to your driver’s as an emergency stopgap after discovering that someone’s broken the damn bolt-cutters in your toolbox without bothering to inform you before the exercise, well… It ain’t looking like such a good idea.

      Considering the expense, and everything else entailed with the M9? I think it was a waste of money. They’d have been a lot better off if they’d have spent that cash on some real wirecutters that they could have issued out to the squads and which would have actually worked, when and if wire-cutting needed doing. Hell, they should have put them into every vehicle, TBH.

      And, it will cut the hardened wire in concertina. Just not for long, or for very well–You’ll find yourself having to wedge that stud, after a bit.

      I’m not a fan of the whole thing, TBH. Gimme things that work, not half-ass expedients that won’t. I went out and bought myself a pair of those little Knipex compound-leverage dykes for about 80.00, and kept them in my ruck for emergencies after that night in the desert. Whenever I had to cut wire, those little buggers did the job, no complaints, and I still had the same set at retirement some seven years later.

      • Word. Every vehicle gets a sledge, a bolt cutter, a machete, and a good sized roll of pulling cord. I use them all regularly.

  6. First, a great deal of what the bayonet is about is psychological. The command “Fix Bayonets !” just before an attack sends the message to friend and foe alike “We’re coming and you can’t stop us”. Back in the day when I was an eltee, fixing bayonets was part of riot control drill – one stage of a series of threats to the rioters sending the message, “We’re serious here, don’t make us use these”. One of my battalion commanders was telling War Stories (c) late one night in the Tactical Operations Center when I was duty officer. Turned out he was a platoon leader back in the Fifties when Ike sent in the active army in to enforce school integration. He said a bunch of yahoos decided to show up that morning with their hunting rifles and his company commader’s orders were “Company! Form Wedge! Fix Bayonets!” The hunting rifle crowd decided they has urgent business elsewhere. I can remember BS’ing one day with my platoon and stating I’d rather face a nuke than be bayoneted. My platoon sergeant looked at me and said, seriously, “You, too” implying it was his greatest fear of how to die.

    As far as battlefield use goes, I remember reading in the memoirs of a Napoleonic Infantry Officer that as far as he knew, the bayonet was almost never used in infantry against infantry combat. Almost always, one side or the other broke and ran rather than engage in bayonet fighting. He even stated that in one engagement both sides ran out of ammunition and rather than close with the bayonet, both battalions threw rocks at each other!

    The person who mentioned that a bayonet and rifle replaced the pike against cavalry is quite correct. The command was “Battalion! Fix Bayonets! Prepare To Receive Cavalry!” At which point, the battalion would form square, two of the eight line companies to a side, staff, colors and Grenadier and Light Companies in center (if they had not been detached to form ad hoc Grenadier and Light Infantry Battalions), front rank kneeling and rear rank standing and firing

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    For a unique method of bayonet fighting, I remember the story of a Marine who was dozing in his foxhole with his rifle and bayonet between his knees when it was torn from his grip accompanied by an awful scream and torrent of blood. As reconstructed afterwards, his victim had been one of a group of Japanese infiltrators who got up and charged the US position. He apparently tripped over something, fell and impaled himself on the Gyrene’s pig sticker.

    On the other hand, there have been some surprisingly recent and successful bayonet charges,while%20under%20fire%20and%20finished%20taking%20the%20hill.

    “What’s the Spirit of the Bayonet?”


    • I remain skeptical of any casualties ascribed to the bayonet, in that I have my doubts about a.) whether or not you’d actually survive being gutted or perforated by one, and since the guy wielding the damn thing is right there to withdraw it and drive it in again for a second shot at ending your life, b.) the odds that someone sufficiently motivated to come after you with a sharp poky thing on the end of their rifle is going to be in any mood to stop at “just one”, I really rather doubt that there were too many guys who were merely “wounded” by a bayonet encounter, and who actually managed to make back into the casualty treatment stream in order to be counted as “bayonet victim”.

      The other thing is that any ground covered by said bayonet charge is likely to remain in the possession of the enemy, and they’re not going to be too interested in bothering to take a quick count of what killed whom…? Yeah; my objection to even attempting to determine the utility of the bayonet based on casualty treatment statistics is that there’s really no damn way to know.

      The other problem is that of “What’s responsible for what…”, because we all know that the primary effect of the bayonet is psychological. You see someone coming at you with a sharp poky thing on the end of their rifle, unless you’re in a situation where you’ve got overwhelming firepower to bring to bear, odds are pretty good that you and your unit are going to break and run for it. Once out of your defenses or defensive formation, you’re prey to all sorts of nastiness like MG fire, artillery, cavalry… You name it. So, what gets credit for your death? Is it the bayonet whose mere threat drove you out of your position or formation, or was it the artillery, the machinegun, or the cavalry that gets the credit?

      The whole thing is up for argument, and I don’t think there’s really any way to go about trying to puzzle it out after the fact. You’d really need to be doing autopsies on all casualties, and a bunch of other work to figure it all out. Which I don’t see anyone actually doing, so until then…? Subject for discussion, and I wager we’ll still have fitments for bayonets when we’re issuing those 40 watt plasma rifles that Arnie was referring to in Terminator.

      • On the other hand, my objection to the rounded spike was that it was more prone to getting grabbed and used to yank the entire rifle away (not that one would be stupid enough to let THAT happen).

        • In a situation like, say… Crowd control? I think you might be correct in that there’s a chance that the plain spike might serve as a grab-point to try and wrest a rifle away from some inattentive troopie. Valid point, and perhaps the spike might not be the best blade-form in that specific role.

          However, comma… I put the odds of someone being able to use that spike’s lack of edge against the wielder in actual combat as “about as likely as stopping a katana by clapping the blade between your palms”. With the mass of the rifle and an enthused bayonet-mad nutter in the midst of the general madness of a bayonet charge? You gonna die, sparky… And, probably have that spike stuck in multiple times from multiple angles throughout your vital organs.

          Horses for courses. Bayonet charge? Gimme a spike. Crowd control? Gimme a Claymore. They’ll try my lines once, and the second time, they’re not going to be so enthused about mob actions. By the time they hit my third line of mines, I don’t think there’s gonna be a lot left of them.

  7. It’s interesting that the same professionals have been arguing over the basic shape of the same tool made with the same technology to do the same job(s) for what, 300 years now?

  8. A couple of last bits of bayonet lore

    Lewis Millet

    Col. Lewis Millett’s Story | RallyPoint

    The British Baker Rifle was shorter than Brown Bess Musket, so her Rifle Regiments (60th and 95th Foot – Later The King’s Royal Rifle Corps and the Rifle Brigade) were issued extra long sword bayonets during the Napoleonic Wars

    To this day, the command in their descendent units is “Fix Swords!”

  9. Regarding the No.7 bayonet. A 1951 book THE FACE OF WAR, a collection of stills from NBC 16mm newsreel film (negative size approx..5 inch) has 5 photos of a Argyle & Sutherland Corporal taken during a bayonet charge Oct. 17 1950 at Sarwin Korea with a No. 7 on his No.4.rifle. A 6th photo taken from left oblique rear shows another man with a No.7. In it the bayonet sheath is clearly visible but he does not display the Corporal stripes or map case seen in the other 5. Corporals were section leaders in the BA usually carrying a SMG. I’m thinking he traded his Sten for a rifle for the occasion. A Bing search for images of A&S in Korea yielded one of the stills of that charge but of course not showing the Corporal.

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