“Rosalie”: Trench Art SMLE with a Most Improbable Story

Henri Lecorre was a French immigrant to Canada who enlisted in the 22nd Regiment of the Canadian Army in April, 1915. He had a knack for carving things in his rifles, which he started right in basic training, with a Ross rifle he named “Josephine”. That got him sternly rebuked by his Colonel, but he would take up the habit again in 1916 when he arrived in France and began to see combat. At this point the Canadians were issuing SMLE rifles, and Lecorre named his “Rosalie”, after the French bayonet’s nickname.

Lecorre served through 14 major campaigns, and carved each name into his rifle as the years of the war dragged on. He was twice caught and punished for destruction of government property and fined for the cost of the rifle, although he managed to avoid more serious punishment both times. He only embellished the left side of Rosalie, so that his work would be hidden against his leg when standing at attention. By the summer of 1918, Rosalie’s service record included Vimy, Kemmel, St. Eloi, Hoodge, Zellebeck, Courcelette, Bully Grenay, Neuvilles Vaade, Mericour, Lievin, Lens, Cote 70, Passchendaele and Arras.

Fate eventually caught up to Private Lecorre, and in mid-1918 he was seriously wounded in an attack, and woke up in a military hospital in Dieppe. Rosalie was long gone, and Lecorre not return to combat again.

The story is far from over, however. Rosalie was recovered from the battlefield, and sent back to Enfield with a batch of damaged rifles for refurbishment and reissue. Someone in the factory noticed the carving on it, and it was set aside. The arsenal commander took a liking to it, and it was hung in his office – where it remained for some 30 years. A Canadian officer from the 22nd Regiment noticed it at Enfield – thanks to Lecorre carving his unit’s name into it – during the Second World War, and thought it would be appropriate to return it to the unit’s home town, where the Citadelle Museum was established in 1950, with Rosalie as one of its original exhibits.

In 1956, Lecorre himself happened to visit an exhibition near Quebec City where the museum had set up, and was shocked to see his own Rosalie on display. After some understandable difficulty convincing the officer on duty that it was actually *his* rifle (which Lecorre did by reciting back its serial number unseen), a remarkable reunion took place. The rifle remained with the museum, but now with its full story known. It remains there to this day, on permanent display.

The Citadelle Museum commissioned a reproduction of Rosalie to be used for demonstrations, and it is this rifle which was graciously made available to me for filming, as the original is inaccessible on short notice because of its display case. Many thanks to the Citadelle for the opportunity to present it to you! If you are in Quebec City, make sure to take time to visit them!


  1. I have a Yugo SKS whose owner named it “Amigo”. It was like that when imported, when I got it in cosmoline from Century. Thanks to the interwebs I was able to track down the former owner of an Italian surplus Beretta 92 holster. He’d been promoted, but was still serving. I love these stories.

  2. Many surplus Swiss service rifles have the former owner’s name written on a piece of paper under the butt plate. I have a K31 and have never checked, I like not knowing.

  3. Years ago I picked up a pair of Chinese type 53’s. One of them had folded up Chinese paper money under the butt plate. That has caused me to check every milsurp or other used gun I have purchased since.

    • In some of the religious traditions in China, it is usual to burn fake money at the temple

      For it to go to the deceased, so that they can bribe the mandarins in heaven, to get an upgrade.

      That’s one possibility for the folded money

      Another is bribing or paying off some official of either side, before he got anywhere close to heaven.

  4. I can understand the command getting a little upset when he carved up the Ross, since the stock is the serialized item and is used as a hand receipt of sorts, being stamped by successive units. As far as the SMLE, sounds like his SMG was wound a little too tight … or is that redundant?

  5. Now there is a most touching reunion. Seldom will man and issued gear meet again after war. I think there is a monument T-34 tank that was once commanded by none other than Mikhail T Kalashnikov… I could be wrong.

  6. Kalashnikov has never been in command of a tank.
    He was a mechanic driver.
    I managed to get the necessary acquaintances on the party line, and the rest is “a matter of technology.”

      • He didn’t “invent.” He “rearranged” features with help from a team. So, no, the team did not reinvent the gun. They just made it better for general usage.

        • “They” made “it” fit for any use at all.
          Because what Kalashnikov “invented” did not work at all.
          And this applies to all projects that he was engaged in independently.
          Everything that worked was done by the “team”.
          Sometimes (as in the case of the AK47-AKM) it took 13 years.
          Sometimes (PK machine gun) only two years.
          But most of the “inventions” turned out to be so stupid that they could not be improved to a normal state.

  7. French Legionaires have always had a reputation for being bloody minded difficult and non conformist “up yours” to authority and everyone else for that matter. The classic square peg in a round hole. Douglas Porch in his book “The French Foreign Legion” goes in to their psychology in depth

  8. Squids and Marines go to the brig. Soldiers go to the stockade. Don’t ask me how I know.

  9. First off, I have been collecting British Enfields, 1900-1945 seriously since 1989.
    I saw this gun at the Citadel in Quebec when my wife & I were vacationing. I noticed that this amazing item did not have a correct magazine for a SMLE. It had No. 4 Rifle mag in it. I pointed this out via email following while offering to swap them a correct one. I notice the copy has the incorrect magazine to match the item. I’m guessing the original magazine got tossed aside, into a barrel, after it arrived (post-WWI) for rebuilding back in England before it got set aside.
    In another story, when at the Imperial War Museum in London, they were holding a special exhibit on TE Lawrence. There I found a 1916 BSA with volley sights and Arabic inscription. This gun was captured by the Turks at Galipoli. It was gifted to Emir Faisal by the Turkish Pasha, presumably before the Bedouins sided with the Brits. Faisal in turn gave it to Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia. Lawrence gave it to King George after returning home from Palestine. It resides in the Buckingham Palace Collection.
    When I returned home from the UK I was watching my video closely and noted that somebody had installed the rear sight slide upside-down! I sent the IWM a memo. I got a nice reply stating that I was the first person to have noted this. A further not would be made of it so that it could be rectified in the future.
    You can find this gun’s color image among the Buckingham Palace Collection web site. Guess what? No, they had indeed turned the rear sight slide right-side up, but it is oriented incorrectly. The slide’s push button is on the right, not left where it belongs! I noticed this a few days ago, tried to email the site, but its down for Covid!
    I re-watched that 1962 David Lean classic again just the other night on TCM. I was twelve when I saw it at the theatre. Back to the IWM, after viewing the Lawrence Exhibit I stepped from the hall to a niche where they were showing the film’s original trailer…At the exact moment when Jack Hawkins is saying to Peter O’Toole, “…you are a national figure, when this is over you can have anything you want while you will have to go to a war museum to hear of General Allenby!” Incredible! As I point our in my book, I had just come up from the basement after looking at General Allenby’s exhibit.
    I am the founder of the WWII Historical Re-enactment Society, Inc.

  10. The Rosalie copy could be improved by replacing the Australian rear handguard and safety spring. I wonder if the museum has ever installed a proper SMLE magazine. A SMLE mag does not work well in a No. 4 rifle but I wonder if a No. 4 mag will work okay in a SMLE?

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