The Development of the 1907 Pattern Bayonet for the Short, Magazine Lee Enfield Rifle

The evolution of the 1907 Pattern bayonet was not a single-step event and some wonderful rarities appeared in the process. In this blog post, Peter Smithurst, Curator Emeritus at the Royal Armouries traces the development of the 1907 Pattern bayonet.

Evolution of the 1907 Pattern bayonet

A need for reach

By the early years of the 20th century, experience had shown that the days of long rifles were effectively over and something shorter and “handier” than the “Long Lee” was needed.

The result was the Rifle, Short, Magazine, Lee Enfield – SMLE for short, affectionately known as the “smellie”.

While the length of the rifle was being reduced, it was felt that maintaining “reach” with a bayonet fitted was also important. That combined length had always featured in the development of British military longarms.

The Lee Metfords and Long Lees had used a relatively short bayonet, the Pattern 1888 bayonet.

1888
Pattern 1888 Mk III bayonet (PR.2572)

With the introduction of the SMLE in 1903, a new bayonet was provided which was basically the Pattern 1888 with a modified hilt:

Pattern 1903 bayonet
Pattern 1903 bayonet (PR.1959)

But, with a blade length of only 12 inches, the “reach” was felt to be too short. Consequently, the search for a design of longer bayonet began.

The search for a longer bayonet design

Long Lees had also been equipped with the Pattern 1895 socket bayonet with a traditional triangular blade and some of these had been adapted by fitting an 1888 type hilt to become the Lockyer experimental bayonet:

Experimental Lockyer pattern bayonet for Long Lee (PR.1960)
Experimental Lockyer pattern bayonet for Long Lee (PR.1960)

A modified version of this with a 1903 type hilt to fit the SMLE was tried but also never went beyond the experimental stage:

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Experimental Lockyer bayonet for the SMLE (PR.1961)

A bayonet which blended a 1903 type hilt with the standard US Model 1903 blade was also tried but, again, never went beyond the experimental stage:

springfiled
Experimental bayonet for the SMLE with US 1903 Springfield type blade (PR.1962)

Eastern Influence

However, in the early years of the 20th century, the government had purchased a quantity of Japanese Arisaka type 30 rifles for issue to the Royal Navy and it was ultimately the Arisaka bayonet

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British Naval Issue Arisaka bayonet (PR.2578)

which provided the inspiration for the design of the first 1907 Pattern:

1963
1907 Pattern Bayonet (PR.1963)

The evolution of the 1907 Pattern bayonet was therefore not a single-step event and some wonderful rarities appeared in the process. Finding any of these transitional or experimental bayonets, and a British ordnance marked Arisaka, is a bayonet collectors dream.

Evolution of the 1907 Pattern bayonet (by permission of Trustees of Royal Armouries © 2013)
Evolution of the 1907 Pattern bayonet