Bayonet comments for paper?

#1
Hi, all! I'm a graduate student in Military History in the USA, and I'm writing a paper on the more recent use/disuse/lore of the bayonet in the 20th-21st century in the British Army. I'm going to combine this paper with a bunch of others for my dissertation on bayonets. I'm pretty solid on bayonet history before the 20th century, but I'd really like to hear comments from more recent experiences -- would anyone be willing to answer a few questions for me? You can post in response or send me a private message.

If you're still reading, here are the questions:

1) What do you think the current role of the bayonet is, and what's your experience of carrying (or not carrying one)?

2) Have you ever used (or seen someone else use) a bayonet in combat?

3) What did you think about the bayonet charge by the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in Iraq last year?

4) Any general thoughts you want to share about bayonet history or current use?

5) Do I have your permission to:
a) Paraphrase you
b) Directly quote you (can be anonymous)
c) Use your full name (how would you like it to appear?)
(Even if you say no to all three, I'd be interested in your thoughts just for a general sense of your experience.)

Thanks much!
 
#2
The bayonet is as important now as it ever was; providing a decisive method of fighting at close quarters.

The present method for storming any enemy position is by use of suppresive fire to allow the gap to be closed, the use of a grenade or heavy weapons to neutralise the position, finally the position would be cleared of any remaining enemy by use of small arms and/or troops with bayonets attached.

The bayonet has seen use during the Falklands conflict and both Gulf wars, although the impression that it has gone out of vogue can be linked to the recent peacekeeping/peace enforcement operations (Bosnia/Kosovo/Angola) in which the enemy fights along guerilla warfare lines. Such combat is not condusive to the use of the bayonet, although as demonstrated by the A + SH, should there be an opportunity for its use; it provokes terror in an opposing force if it is used effectively.

I have been involved in peace keeping duties and whilst I have not had cause to formally fix bayonet, its present is comforting in close quarter situations.

The current British Army issue bayonet is not the best variant we have ever had on issue (it gets hot when connected to the rifle and elements of its design are not the best in the world..) but it does what is designed to do (stab, with a blood channel for ease of retrievel out of an enemy bosy) and also performs other useful functions (can be used as a wirecutter in conjunction with its scabbard).

If you are familiar with bayonet use before the 20th century, you may have heard the phrase "the point always beats the blade", which is meant to explain that it is easier to kill with a stabbing thrust, than it is by chopping or cutting at an enemy. As the whole point of warfare is to kill, this still stands true.

I suggest you read the Sharpe books by Bernard Cornwell, which provide a good reference to 19th century warfare and the central figure uses the phrase listed above on more than one occasion.

Please feel free to use any of this material although directly attributing a quote from me would be fairly pointless as unless you get someone who has actually used a bayonet in anger, the information would be largely common sense.

I am intrigued by the fact that you study American history, I imagine you are aware of the differences in doctrine that exist between American and certainly British forces?

I would be happy to discuss this if you need an explanation, as this has a direct bearing on your bayonet query.
 
#3
It was PWRR who did the bayoneting not arglly & southern highlanders I know the cpl who led the attack .The headline in the local paper about his description of the attack "it was them or me i was hitting and slashing all over the place " could easily describe the end of any night out with him :lol:
 
#4
now would that be the same Cpl who described his assault on enemy positions and because no officers were involved or indeed mentioned because they were not involved in such heroics ended up getting into a spot of bother? :wink:
 
#6
:lol:

whoever it was and whether they were equipped with a "social" hand grenade or not

The bayonet is a mega leveller.......
 
#7
hellfyyr said:
I suggest you read the Sharpe books by Bernard Cornwell, which provide a good reference to 19th century warfare and the central figure uses the phrase listed above on more than one occasion.
I'm a great fan of those books, actually! I used to claim my interest was in 1600-1750 warfare, and after reading those, it extended to 1815. :)

I have no actual military experience -- the closest I get is having a father in the army and studying military history, so please excuse my total ignorance in some areas. I've done a lot of reading on musket and bayonet warfare, and my understanding is that bayonets were adapted to combat to replace pikemen in the late 1600's, peaked in usefulness in the 1700-1860 period, and then as machine guns and artillery became more formidable, close formation combat became less practical, and bayonets became useful more for urban combat than for battlefield operations.

In the US, the general feeling for the last 20 years or so (according to those I've interviewed) is that bayonets are issued more for tradition's sake, and the army has proposed several times that they be dropped. My impression, though, is that this is not so much true outside the US, so it's good to get another viewpoint!

hellfyyr said:
I am intrigued by the fact that you study American history, I imagine you are aware of the differences in doctrine that exist between American and certainly British forces?

I would be happy to discuss this if you need an explanation, as this has a direct bearing on your bayonet query.
I'm not aware, and I'd be really interested -- could you tell me more?

Thank you for all the feedback and information, and for taking the time to answer!
 
#8
woody said:
It was PWRR who did the bayoneting not arglly & southern highlanders I know the cpl who led the attack .The headline in the local paper about his description of the attack "it was them or me i was hitting and slashing all over the place " could easily describe the end of any night out with him :lol:
Heh. The articles I was able to get ahold of all had pretty sketchy information -- it's hard to do searches with phrases like "bayonet charge" and "highlanders". Do you (or anyone) have any pointers to places I could get more reliable information on what happened? This may be another hopelessly ignorant question, but any advice would be appreciated. And if this Cpl has any interest in talking or writing yet again about his experience, I'd be interested in getting his point of view....
 
#9
The question is best answered by the infanteers here i think.

When the situation arises it's been proved to work, it's a psychological rather than a practical weapon, that goes for the man facing it as well as the man weilding it.
 
#10
cdo_gunner said:
The question is best answered by the infanteers here i think.

When the situation arises it's been proved to work, it's a psychological rather than a practical weapon, that goes for the man facing it as well as the man weilding it.
I would agree with cdo_gunner on this one, which is why the spike bayonet fitted to the Lee Enfield No4 rifle (WW II) was so derided by those it was issued to and yet was very efficent in killing your man.
It just didn't look the part!

The psychological effect was watered down with those using it on a rifle, but if you were being guarded by a sentry who had one the psychological effect it/he had over you was considerable.
 
#11
well the chap in question wont be talking seemed him talking to the press upset the powers that be .The article was in the portsmouth news
unfortunatly there archives are not on line .
all my infantry training from 1987 on wards have stressed the final phase of clearing enemy postions will be done at bayonet point .I think you would be hardpressed to find a british infantry soldier who didnt think
the bayonet was still of use . In fact met a terrtorial army member of the sas who had privatly purchased a bayonet for his c7 because one wasent issused for it (its a version of the m16)
the british army used bayonets during the falkands war 1982 heard some stories about its use during gulf war one but cant swear to their truth or not . Read a story about canadian forces in somalia clearing a whare house of looters at bayonet point .
 

Cutaway

LE
Kit Reviewer
#12
woody said:
......

Read a story about canadian forces in somalia clearing a whare house of looters at bayonet point .
I think they were clearing a whore house of loiterers - if the rubbish the press were printing was anything to go by.

:wink:
 
#13
Henry_Tombs said:
The psychological effect was watered down with those using it on a rifle, but if you were being guarded by a sentry who had one the psychological effect it/he had over you was considerable.
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I know it has traditionally been used for intimidation and psychological impact -- it's hard to argue with a bayonet. (I was just reading about the research by Surgeon General Larrey showing that relatively few hand-to-hand injuries seemed to be caused by bayonets during the Napoleonic Wars -- a bayonet charge tended to make the opposition run for it.)
 
#14
Just saw a program called "Early British Terror wars " or something. First was about the 1st Battalion Argyll and Southern Hihlanders retaking the Crater in Aden.

Good documentry with a mention of "YES we used the bayonet to "move along the Fuzzy Wuzzies" a poke in the arrse was enough, but after a few weeks we had to take them off- too many cases of an Arab "running around" a corner and ending up on a A&SH bayonet. Wee jock smiling as the tale was told.
 
#16
The differences between British and American fighting doctrine centre around the use of firepower; American troops tend to use stand-off tactics where possible, using heavy weapons (automatic grenade launcher anyone?), airstrikes, heavy artillery and armour far more than the British tend to. American forces are generally (no criticism implied, each to their own after all) releuctant to send troops into an area until it has been attacked very heavily from distance.

Whilst the use of firepower is a standard part of warfare, the British tend to be a bit more conservative than the americans. Machine gun fire and mortars are used to suppress enemy fire, with aimed shots and grenades used to kill when closer in (posting the grenade rather than throwing, although grenade launchers are becoming a little more common), whilst no chances are taken, conserving rounds is a sensible precaution as ir reduces the re-supply needed. As previously stated, bayonets may be used to mop up at the end of an assault.

It should be noted that soviet doctrine for example is loosely based around firing bursts with a kalashnikov, what is the point of a bayonet if you are firing automatic all the time, controlling a weapon on automatic is difficult enough, without a bayonet in place!

I have read a few of the threads, but if you are too close to shoot a rifle; you need a bayonet or a pistol to clear an area. As such, the bayonet will last forever.....
 
#17
hellfyyr said:
It should be noted that soviet doctrine for example is loosely based around firing bursts with a kalashnikov, what is the point of a bayonet if you are firing automatic all the time, controlling a weapon on automatic is difficult enough, without a bayonet in place!
Ah! That makes a lot of sense -- I hadn't realized the differences in approach. I've definitely seen a lot of evidence of the American approach, and hadn't heard many alternative viewpoints -- thank you!
 
#18
lenin didnt like the bayonet a weapon with a worker on each end :lol:
never met the shikers i serve with then :)
 
#19
During WW1 it was the American forces who collated the best records concerning battle injuries, with everything being closely monitored from the front line back. Their records show that injuries received from the bayonet accounted for only 0.1 of all battle wounds, so in fact the thing had a minimal actual effect. Psychologically of course, it was a lot more terrifying, not only seriously unnerving the enemy but also inspiring confidence and aggression in the attacker.

Having said all that, a General Harper famously said that if anyone was killed by a bayonet it was only because he had his hands in the air.....
 
#20
Back when i was a kid the old boy next door had quite a long ugly scar which went from between his thumb and forefinger and up his wrist which he said was from being bayoneted by a jap in Burma. I regret not talking to him more, but you always think that after it's too late.
 

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