Jump to content


Remembered Today:

Photo

1903 bayonets

what to look for?

61 replies to this topic

#1 jscott

jscott

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 525 posts

Posted 25 July 2012 - 07:35 PM

Hi all

As I mentioned a few years back I am working on a collection of bayonets from the Commonwealth, France and Germany of the type used during WW1. As a few of you warned this has got completely out of hand and my developing interest in such things as regimental markings, makers and variants has meant that the collection is now a little larger than I had originally intended.

Anyway, I am currently looking for an example of the british 1903 bayonet, but have had no luck despite a few months looking. Are there any particular features I should be looking for in a 1903 bayonet which would mean that it had a better than average chance of being used during the war (as opposed to sitting in storage or being shipped off to India?)

Any thoughts would be much appreciated - these bayonets seem to be even rarer than their pricing would suggest!

Thanks

#2 shippingsteel

shippingsteel

    Brigadier-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 2,287 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Australia

Posted 26 July 2012 - 07:34 AM

Hi Jonathan, the P1903 bayonet can sometimes be elusive but they are not what I would call "rare" - perhaps just a little scarcer than most.
They seem to surface quite regularly in my experience. I have acquired 3 examples in the last 18 months or so and passed on many more.

Many of those seen these days are surplus out of India, that have seen various amounts of refurb, usually blued blades with very dark finish.
As India was the last to utilise the SMLE, and had quite a liking for the shorter length blades, its not suprising at all that this is now the case.

Finding a nice one for a reasonable price can be a problem, and you do need a certain level of luck and I think definitely some persistence.!
Due to the period in which they were produced they did see some hard use and reuse, and usually their condition shows some of that history.

As an example, here is an Enfield made in '01 as a P'88, later converted to P'03, with reissues in '06 and '07, marked to Coldstream Guards.
Shows signs of some hard use but still in period finish, with polished blade and remains of the original blueing on pommel, tang and ricasso.

Has an interesting letter S stamped into both sides of the grips, which may indicate being for the "Short Rifle" as opposed to the "Long Lee".?

Cheers, S>S

Attached File  400.JPG   108.68KB   7 downloads

#3 patje70

patje70

    Second Lieutenant

  • Old Sweats
  • 138 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:In front of my laptop
  • Interests:pharapernalia and BMW

Posted 26 July 2012 - 03:56 PM

I did see a few off them on The War and Peace show :blush:

#4 Sommewalker

Sommewalker

    Major

  • Old Sweats
  • 457 posts

Posted 26 July 2012 - 03:56 PM

Pattern 1903. Standard Land Patt.1888 scabbard. Pommel marked to 4th Bedfords. SW

Attached Files



#5 Lancashire Fusilier

Lancashire Fusilier

    Lieut-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 5,178 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:UK

Posted 27 July 2012 - 03:57 PM

Hi all

As I mentioned a few years back I am working on a collection of bayonets from the Commonwealth, France and Germany of the type used during WW1. As a few of you warned this has got completely out of hand and my developing interest in such things as regimental markings, makers and variants has meant that the collection is now a little larger than I had originally intended.

Anyway, I am currently looking for an example of the british 1903 bayonet, but have had no luck despite a few months looking. Are there any particular features I should be looking for in a 1903 bayonet which would mean that it had a better than average chance of being used during the war (as opposed to sitting in storage or being shipped off to India?)

Any thoughts would be much appreciated - these bayonets seem to be even rarer than their pricing would suggest!

Thanks


jscott,

Attached are photographs of my Enfield Pattern 1903 Sword Bayonet, being a particularly fine example which still retains its original blued finish, and was issued to the Yorkshire Light Infantry, as marked on the Pommel.


The ricasso is clearly stamped with the King's Crown and Royal ' ER ' Cypher for KEVII, along with the 1903 Pattern date and ' 4 06 ' for the production date of April 1906.
The 1903 Sword Bayonet was approved on 19th December 1902. The overall length of the 1903 bayonet is 17 inches, the blade is 12 inches long, and the scabbard is 12.9 inches.

Converted, originally Pattern 1888 bayonets are also encountered. The conversion involved the fitting of a new Pommel, Crosspiece and Grips secured by screws.
Converted bayonets, as opposed to those manufactured on or after 1903, are easily identified as their ricasso will show the original manufacture date stampings which will typically date back to the late 1880's and 1890's along with the re-stamping of 1903.

Attached are photographs of both the Pattern 1903 Sword Bayonet ( upper photograph ) note, no frog stud on the scabbard, and the Pattern 1888 Mark I ( second type ) Bayonet ( lower photograph ) for comparison.

Good quality, original issue 1903 Pattern Sword Bayonets, rather than Empire/Colonial issues, are becoming increasingly difficult to find, and this scarcity is reflected in their current high market price.

LF

Attached Files



#6 Lancashire Fusilier

Lancashire Fusilier

    Lieut-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 5,178 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:UK

Posted 27 July 2012 - 04:17 PM

2

Attached Files



#7 jscott

jscott

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 525 posts

Posted 27 July 2012 - 11:02 PM

Thank you all for your posts - no wonder the 1903s are so scarce, you guys have snapped them all up (and they are a very impressive selection indeed). The posts are also very helpful in showing what to look for in an original issue 1903, especially in relation to the scabbards. I will let you know when I finally find one. Thanks again, J

#8 shippingsteel

shippingsteel

    Brigadier-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 2,287 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Australia

Posted 27 July 2012 - 11:17 PM

LF, I am interested in the leather scabbard your P1903 has been placed in, and would like to ask if it has any markings stamped on the back of it.
As you are most probably aware this style scabbard is not a 'regular' pattern for that bayonet, whose scabbard always featured the internal chape.

These 'non-standard' scabbards are commonly seen on the market these days, and it is believed that they are of a much later Indian manufacture.
I have one similar with Indian style markings and it does appear they are of said "Colonial issue", either way they are not to be found in Skennerton.

Cheers, S>S

#9 Lancashire Fusilier

Lancashire Fusilier

    Lieut-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 5,178 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:UK

Posted 28 July 2012 - 12:05 AM

LF, I am interested in the leather scabbard your P1903 has been placed in,
Cheers, S>S

S>S,
Many thanks for the question, and whilst that particular scabbard is not photographed in Skennerton and Richardson's British and Commonwealth Bayonets, it is referred to on page 182 :-
" After October, 1909, some of the ( Pattern 1903 ) scabbards, namely the ...... and the 1903 Mk.I ( Land ) were fitted with the external chape ".
You are perfectly correct, in that the early production years for the 1903 Bayonet would have had the internal chape scabbard, however with some of the subsequent years production the scabbard with the external chape could/would have been used, as referred to above.
This particular scabbard has no ' Indian ' markings.
Regards,
LF.

#10 shippingsteel

shippingsteel

    Brigadier-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 2,287 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Australia

Posted 28 July 2012 - 12:57 AM

You are perfectly correct, in that the early production years for the 1903 Bayonet would have had the internal chape scabbard, however with some of the subsequent years production the scabbard with the external chape could/would have been used, as referred to above.


Yes I am aware of that reference to the use of the external chape from 1909. (Which is quite useful for dealers looking for a substitute for a scarce scabbard.)
However if you go to the source document which is LOC #14866 you will see that the external chape was only utilised for repairs on any damaged scabbards.

Of course by that date you would not expect to see any new production of P1903 scabbards, which by then had been superseded by the new P1907 bayonet.
Indian production is not covered by the British LOC's and much of what went on there has been lost. It would not surprise me that these were all made in India.
They liked the shorter bayonets, and when you look at the scabbard lengths they fit into the ~300mm required for all of their later shorter blade P1907 variants.

And so collectors are left in a quandary - basically it is most unlikely to be an original scabbard, and certainly more likely to be a modern substitution from India.
I think the only way to be certain of the British providence of the scabbard would be to find the inspection/repair markings that indicate it underwent British repair.

Cheers, S>S

#11 Lancashire Fusilier

Lancashire Fusilier

    Lieut-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 5,178 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:UK

Posted 28 July 2012 - 02:32 AM

Yes I am aware of that reference to the use of the external chape from 1909.
Cheers, S>S


Clearly, external metal chapes were correctly fitted to some 1903 Mk.I Land Pattern scabbards, as confirmed by Skennerton and Richardson, so we have the majority with internal chapes and the minority with external chapes. Those with external chapes should not be automatically classified as " Colonial ", that is illogical, as it is obvious that there are in existance, authentic British 1903 Mk.I Land Pattern Bayonet scabbards with external chapes, that is a fact. Your own reference to LOC #14866, which I have not seen, confirms that fact.
In reality, and due to much lower numbers, those 1903 Mk.I Land Pattern scabbards with external chapes, are obviously much rarer than those with internal chapes.
Regards,
LF

#12 shippingsteel

shippingsteel

    Brigadier-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 2,287 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Australia

Posted 28 July 2012 - 05:57 AM

In reality, and due to much lower numbers, those 1903 Mk.I Land Pattern scabbards with external chapes, are obviously much rarer than those with internal chapes.


Well they would be if there were never any made as new, and the only way the external chape style came about was via repairs undertaken after 1909 (which is my point)
But this style is not rare, in fact they are very commonly seen these days. This is because they were being made in India over an extended period, for other style bayonets.

The only reason I am discussing this is to alert other collectors to this fact, and to avoid possible confusion over which is considered to be the correct style for the P1903.
I often see these passed off as correct when they are clearly of Indian origin. To see some examples there are several shown in this thread HERE (scroll down the page)

I agree that there should be some surviving examples of the British P1903 scabbard that have had the chape fitted during repairs, but these should be marked accordingly.

EDIT. Shown below is an example of the markings which I would expect to see on a correct British P1903 scabbard, without these inspection stamps it's most likely Indian.
From top to bottom alongside the seam, we have the Broad Arrow, the Enfield mark, an inspection marking, the date made '03 and at the bottom another inspection stamp.

Cheers, S>S

Attached File  P1903.jpg   66.04KB   1 downloads

#13 Lancashire Fusilier

Lancashire Fusilier

    Lieut-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 5,178 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:UK

Posted 28 July 2012 - 02:15 PM

To add another aspect to the perenial discussion on the 1888/1903 bayonets and their scabbards, and again quoting Skennerton and Richardson, which most of us accept as a well researched reference work, on page 182, they refer to production/conversion of the 1903 scabbard.

" 3000 Pattern 1888 scabbards were converted ( to 1903 Pattern ) in 1905 ...and between 1906 and 1908 some 22,771 Pattern 1903 scabbards were converted. Exactly what the conversions were is not certain. "

Whilst it is unknown what the conversions entailed, it is therefore possible that these 25,771 converted 1888 scabbards had, or were fitted with, external chapes as part of those conversions.

They further add, " The new Patt. 1903 bayonets and scabbards were supplied by Wilkinson, Sanderson, and Mole, as well as at Enfield, while the conversions appear to have been done by Wilkinson, Sanderson and Neubold, Chapman, Ishapore in India, and Enfield. "

From this, we clearly see that not all 1903 Pattern scabbards produced by Ishapore in India are modern productions. It is likely that several thousand were produced/converted at Ishapore during the actual lifetime of the 1903 Pattern Bayonet and are entirely authentic and period 1903 scabbards.

LF


#14 shippingsteel

shippingsteel

    Brigadier-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 2,287 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Australia

Posted 28 July 2012 - 02:43 PM

That is interesting about the number of those conversions but probably irrelevent to the discussion on external chapes.
When you consider the LOC reference to them being used for repairs on British P1903 scabbards was dated October 1909.

Anyway, the message I would like to get through is to look to the markings to establish the origins of the piece, and be aware of the Indian made scabbards existence.
Another thing to point out is that while Skennerton's B&CB is a tremendously useful reference work it is not the be all and end all of research.
All reference works do get dated over time and there is always new information steadily becoming available amongst interested collectors.

With the advent of the internet more examples can be unearthed today in a matter of minutes than many collectors in the past would have seen in a lifetime of searching.
Things move on and the combined learning is steadily increased, always through a combination of experience and communication, which is essentially informed discussion.

Cheers, S>S

#15 Lancashire Fusilier

Lancashire Fusilier

    Lieut-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 5,178 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:UK

Posted 29 July 2012 - 03:25 PM

In addition to the numbers I quoted earlier, it is known that Enfield produced 119,755 1903 Bayonets, and a further 66,707 Pattern 1888's were converted to Pattern 1903's by Enfield. The numbers of Pattern 1888 Bayonets converted by all the other manufacturers is unknown, and with Enfield alone producing almost a million ( 971,975 ) Pattern 1888 Mk.I scabbards there was plenty of inventory for conversion.
Whilst the exact details of the scabbard conversions is unknown, it did not include altering the length of the scabbard as this is basically the same on both the Pattern 1888 and Pattern 1903 scabbards, this fact is noted on page 182 of Skennerton and Richardson.
It would also appear that the external chapes on the 1888 scabbards which were converted, were retained on the new 1903 scabbards, again due to there being no need to alter the length of the scabbard. The conversion also appears to have included in some cases the removal of the frog stud, and the fitting of an integral frog.
A small sampling of Collector's and Dealer's photographs ( attached ) of their 1903 bayonets, gives a very good indication that the external chape was a common feature on the 1903 scabbard, either as an original construction or as part of the Pattern 1888 scabbard conversion.
Most just describe their bayonet as a 1903 Bayonet and Scabbard, one as a 1903 Bayonet with an Indian Pattern Scabbard, and a very good Collector's information and resource website based in Australia displays 7 1903 Bayonets and their Scabbards, all with external chapes, 5 are listed as 1903 and 2 are listed as 1903's with Indian refurb or converted scabbards.
Members can make their own judgement of the photographs, to me they all look completely original and authentic Pattern 1903 Bayonets and Scabbards, and with such a large and plentiful inventory of original scabbards, I have seen no evidence whatsoever of a an influx of modern ' Indian ' scabbards or even a need for such scabbards.
Collectors have an excellent selection of 1903 scabbard types from which to choose, there are those with the internal chape, those with the external chape, and those with the integral frog, all these options being completely authentic and original Pattern 1903 scabbards.
LF

2

Attached Files



#16 shippingsteel

shippingsteel

    Brigadier-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 2,287 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Australia

Posted 30 July 2012 - 12:29 AM

Members can make their own judgement of the photographs, to me they all look completely original and authentic Pattern 1903 Bayonets and Scabbards, and with such a large and plentiful inventory of original scabbards, I have seen no evidence whatsoever of a an influx of modern ' Indian ' scabbards or even a need for such scabbards.


Thanks for going to the trouble of posting all those photos LF, but they simply reinforce the point that I have been trying to make - none of these are original British P1903 scabbards.
I see several P1888 Mk.I Land scabbards, a lot of 'Indian pattern' leather scabbards, and even one shortened P1907 which was commonly done to suit the short Indian P1907 bayonets.

At least those dealers are good enough to describe the scabbards for what they really are - 'Indian pattern' scabbards from an undetermined period (found without dates & markings etc)
These Indian scabbards are absent the official arsenal markings which are found on British made equipment, and the seams on the side of the slide-on frog are noticeably more prominent.

For further reference (and again to help avoid more confusion) I have attached the official British specifications of the original P1903 scabbards from the List of Changes para. #11811

Cheers, S>S

Attached File  150.jpg   34.41KB   1 downloads
Attached File  200.jpg   23.22KB   1 downloads

#17 TRAJAN

TRAJAN

    Brigadier-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 2,373 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Ankara, Turkey
  • Interests:Jobwise goes with interests in my case, so Roman archaeology, but in my rare spare time then it's bayonets, WWI in general, and English cheese and beer (which I can't get here!).

Posted 30 July 2012 - 11:55 AM

'Scuse my ignorance, as I am still very much a learner, but I am certain that I read somewhere that the distinguishing feature of an Indian P1903 scabbard was that it had two vertical loops added to the rear seam to attach a helve-carrier...

Trajan

#18 Sommewalker

Sommewalker

    Major

  • Old Sweats
  • 457 posts

Posted 30 July 2012 - 01:26 PM

Just a thought;- when I was collecting bayonets the P.'03 bayonets were generally found in P'88 scabbards and slightly less commonly in the P.'03 scabbard. Naval scabbards did turn up fitted to P.88s. Contemporary photos will establish that after a relatively short service life with British Line regiments the '03s could be seen with South African mounted units in German East Africa, and the Indian Army in Mesopotamia, with some turning up with Australian units at Gallipoli. The '03 scabbard fitted with an external '07 chape photos of which are being posted here seems to be a more recent arrival, probably reflecting the improved access to Indian and Afghanistani sources by dealers. This does not necessarily support S/S since any bayonet which has seen long service in such climates will probably undergo repairs. It is quite logical that any damage to the tip be easily repaired by fitting an '07 chape, either British or Indian made. It does not indicate that they are fakes. Indeed, I have to say there does seem a bit of an obsession over faked British bayonets amongst modern collectors whereas in my own view the manufacture of complete fakes which can pass muster amongst all but novices, is very difficult indeed. I have seen several unconvincing attempts offered for sale from Webley revolver bayonets through to hook quillion '07s with dealers. Few are well done. The point I am trying to make is that these scabbards have to be taken on their own merit. A few may be fakes but I think most are likely to be genuine scabbards with a history of long service and modification behind them. As for the original post which started this; my guess is that few '03 bayonets served with the Army on the Western Front. Territorial Units were likely to have the P.'88 with the LLE. Even Indian units seem to be using the P.'07 by 1917 with an '08 frog on leather equipment. SW

#19 4thGordons

4thGordons

    Lieut-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 5,368 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Interests:(longterm) 4th Gordon Highlanders.(more recently) 33rd "Prairie Division" AEF and American Field Service 1917-18

Posted 30 July 2012 - 01:50 PM

It seems some P1903s at least were issued to ASC motorized units (I assume their shorter length meant they were less awkward) here is an example of one in use, with P1903 belt and ammunition pouches - from a wartime picture.
Attached File  ASC-P1903.jpg   57.59KB   3 downloads

#20 Sommewalker

Sommewalker

    Major

  • Old Sweats
  • 457 posts

Posted 30 July 2012 - 02:12 PM

It seems some P1903s at least were issued to ASC motorized units (I assume their shorter length meant they were less awkward) here is an example of one in use, with P1903 belt and ammunition pouches - from a wartime picture.
Attached File  ASC-P1903.jpg   57.59KB   3 downloads


Yes, I had one which was marked to the R.G.A. cancelled, and then the A.S.C but I was thinking about line regiments on the Western Front - Nice photo. I see that he is carrying his bayonet in a Land Pattern '88. - SW

#21 TRAJAN

TRAJAN

    Brigadier-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 2,373 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Ankara, Turkey
  • Interests:Jobwise goes with interests in my case, so Roman archaeology, but in my rare spare time then it's bayonets, WWI in general, and English cheese and beer (which I can't get here!).

Posted 30 July 2012 - 06:23 PM

... 'Scuse my ignorance, as I am still very much a learner, but I am certain that I read somewhere that the distinguishing feature of an Indian P1903 scabbard was that it had two vertical loops added to the rear seam to attach a helve-carrier...


Seeing how this post has not been commented on yet, I thought it best to repeat it! :) So, are helve carrier attachment loops on the back of the scabbard (lower one on the seam just above the chape and upper one on the pig-skin leather around the 'locket') a diagnostic feature (UK versus Indian) or not? Or does nobody know???

Trajan

#22 shippingsteel

shippingsteel

    Brigadier-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 2,287 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Australia

Posted 30 July 2012 - 10:32 PM

And so collectors are left in a quandary - basically it is most unlikely to be an original scabbard, and certainly more likely to be a modern substitution from India.
I think the only way to be certain of the British providence of the scabbard would be to find the inspection/repair markings that indicate it underwent British repair.


Just to clarify a point after reading Sommewalker's comments. I never said any 'India pattern' scabbards were fakes - I did say they were more modern ie. not 'period'.
And also in relation to dealers offering these as correct period British P1903 scabbards, I noted they were more likely to be a modern substitution ie. done by dealers.
Anyone who follows the current collectors market will have noticed that these are a relatively recent arrival as military surplus out of India and Afghanistan, in volume.

Cheers, S>S

#23 geluveld

geluveld

    Second Lieutenant

  • Members3
  • 75 posts

Posted 31 July 2012 - 07:01 AM

As for the original post which started this; my guess is that few '03 bayonets served with the Army on the Western Front. Territorial Units were likely to have the P.'88 with the LLE. Even Indian units seem to be using the P.'07 by 1917 with an '08 frog on leather equipment. SW


In reply to this: Quite a couple years ago, I unearthed an SMLE with the handle of the bayonet still on the nosepiece. This handle was most definately from a P1903 bayonet.
The rifle came from about 1 mile from Clapham Junction, direction Geluveld.
So they must have done front-line service as well, alongside P1888's and P1907's.

regards

ramses

#24 shippingsteel

shippingsteel

    Brigadier-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 2,287 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Australia

Posted 31 July 2012 - 07:40 AM

So they must have done front-line service as well, alongside P1888's and P1907's.


Yes I think so too - if not in first-line regiments, then certainly in second-line units and with support troops. See example shown below.
This is one that I picked up that is clearly marked to the 148RE (which I believe indicates the 148th Company of the Royal Engineers)
From a little research it appears the 148th RE was a wartime raised Army Troop Company, that saw service on the Somme during 1916.

BTW Chris, how can you tell that your ASC man has a P1903.? Couldn't it just as easily be a P1888 in its scabbard, and the rifle a prop.?
I have looked hard but am still unsure what it is. I just thought that it looks like a posed photograph, so perhaps the rifle could be a ring-in.?

Cheers, S>S

Attached File  p1903-3.jpg   35.03KB   0 downloads

#25 shippingsteel

shippingsteel

    Brigadier-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 2,287 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Australia

Posted 31 July 2012 - 07:52 AM

So, are helve carrier attachment loops on the back of the scabbard (lower one on the seam just above the chape and upper one on the pig-skin leather around the 'locket') a diagnostic feature (UK versus Indian) or not? Or does nobody know???


Yes Trajan, many of the 'Indian pattern' scabbards can be found with these leather loops attached to the back of the frog and towards the bottom near the chape.
Likewise some can be missing them but you can see where they have been once attached. I don't know when this was done as none that I have seen are dated.

EDIT. Added profile shot of above mentioned RE bayonet below. These are old photos, and it has since cleaned up quite well. It was made by Mole in 1904.

Cheers, S>S

Attached File  p1903-1.jpg   35.38KB   0 downloads