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Desmond7

Bayonet experience

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P.B.

With reference to the Falklands War, there are several documented cases of the bayonet being used. Major John Kiszely of 2/Scots Guards bayoneted two Argentines during the assault on Tumbledown (after one of their bullets went through his ammo pouch and lodged in his compass!) and during the attack on Mount Longdon Privates Gough and Gray of 3/Para cleared enemy sangars by throwing in L2 grenades and then bayonetting the survivors. One veteran of this battle commented that using the bayonet on some of the enemy proved difficult due to the thick winter clothing the Argentines were wearing, and that after repeated stabbing it was found that the quickest way to finish an enemy soldier off was thrust the bayonet through their eye.

The Scots Guards officer whose bayonet snapped off whilst killing an Argentine was Lt Robert Lawrence MC (Kiszely also received the MC, and is now a full general) later the subject of the TV drama "Tumbledown". Gough and Gray both received MiDs (I think Gray may originally have been recommended for a MM) and accounts of the use of the bayonet on Mount Longdon can be found in Jennings and Weale's excellent "Green-Eyed Boys".

With regard to WWI, and the psychological impact of a bayonet confrontation, here's L/Cpl Heardman of 2/Manchester Pals recalling the advance of July 1st 1916:

"I came face-to-face with a big German who had come up unexpectedly out of a shell hole. He had his rifle and bayonet "at the ready". So had I, but mine suddenly felt only the size of a small boy's play gun and my steel helmet shrank to the size of a small tin lid. Then, almost before I had time to realise what was happening, the German threw down his rifle, put up his arms and shouted "Kamerad". I could hardly believe my eyes."

Was the German perhaps demoralized by the pre-battle bombardment? Possibly. Was he 100% positive he didn't want to get involved in a bayonet fight? Definitely.

Hope this has been of some interest, all the best

Paul.

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andigger

The bayonet is an unusual weapon in that it can be successful without wounding an enemy at all. Just threatening to use it can be as effective as using it.

Tom, I am not sure this is a unique feature of the bayonet. Any enemy which a larger or more numerous weapon is intimidating. Whether its a bayonet or nuclear bomb there are many events on the battlefield or diplomatic table where action was not taken based on the potential damage/injury one side could inflict on the other.

Andy

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Tom Morgan
The bayonet is an unusual weapon in that it can be successful without wounding an enemy at all. Just threatening to use it can be as effective as using it. 

Tom, I am not sure this is a unique feature of the bayonet.  Any enemy which a larger or more numerous weapon is intimidating.  Whether its a bayonet or nuclear bomb there are many events on the battlefield or diplomatic table where action was not taken based on the potential damage/injury one side could inflict on the other. 

Andy

Andy you're absolutely right, and the Cold War was a worldwide example.

I only meant to suggest that that the bayonet (as one of its features) might have achieved the required results - the taking of ground given up by the enemy - without having produced any wounds to be recorded.

Tom

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chrislock

I agree with Tom on this one! The WW! bayonets were huge, the German sawback or butcher bayonet was truely fearful! The immediate injuries these weapons would of caused in the heat of battle, after an adrenalin powered thrust, twist and rip, nightmare! This sort of injury can surely only be almost fatal! Chris. :o

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Rob Ruggenberg

In any case, the bayonet isn't as important as it used to be. It's more usual now to go into the attack with hand-grenades and your entrenching tool. The sharpened spade is a lighter and more versatile weapon - not only can you get a man under the chin, but more to the point, you can strike a blow with a lot more force behind it. That's especially true if you can bring it down diagonally between the neck and the shoulder, because then you can split down as far as the chest. When you put a bayonet in, it can stick, and you have to give the other man a hefty kick in the guts to get it out.

(Erich Maria Remarque, in 'All Quiet on the Western Front')

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andigger
In any case, the bayonet isn't as important as it used to be. It's more usual now to go into the attack with hand-grenades and your entrenching tool. The sharpened spade is a lighter and more versatile weapon - not only can you get a man under the chin, but more to the point, you can strike a blow with a lot more force behind it. That's especially true if you can bring it down diagonally between the neck and the shoulder, because then you can split down as far as the chest. When you put a bayonet in, it can stick, and you have to give the other man a hefty kick in the guts to get it out.

(Erich Maria Remarque, in 'All Quiet on the Western Front')

Impressive post Rob... you led me along and wowed me with the reference.

Welcome to the Forum!

Andy

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Arnie

Quote:" Rarely was a man killed with a bayonet who did not already have his hands up"

The quote is supposed to have been General Ivor Maxse, but I think it was Field Marshal Wavel in an address to the cadets at Sandhurst.

Arnie

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Tom Morgan
In any case, the bayonet isn't as important as it used to be. It's more usual now to go into the attack with hand-grenades and your entrenching tool. The sharpened spade is a lighter and more versatile weapon - not only can you get a man under the chin, but more to the point, you can strike a blow with a lot more force behind it. That's especially true if you can bring it down diagonally between the neck and the shoulder, because then you can split down as far as the chest. When you put a bayonet in, it can stick, and you have to give the other man a hefty kick in the guts to get it out.

(Erich Maria Remarque, in 'All Quiet on the Western Front')

Ah, Rob, but as I'm sure you'll agree, these words were "spoken" by a fictional character in a novel.

Incidentally, has anyone seen any other reference to German soldiers using sharpened shovels apart from this passage in "All Quiet...."? Did it really happen, or did E. M. Remarque make it up for dramatic effect?

Tom

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Piscator

Many years ago an old soldier told me," If the enemy is close enough to stick a bayonet in, he's close enough to shoot". Thats presuming that you had one up the spout at the time, and were, perhaps a bit squimish about putting the blade in.

Len

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Auzzzie

"We had only the bayonet for a weapon and believe me, we used it to perfection. our Turkish counterparts didn't like this and soon made themselves scarce."

"It is a terrible thing, a bayonet charge. I was in several in the first few days, and about eleven all together. You would have to be in a charge to know how bad it is. You are expecting all the time to get hit and then there is the hand-to-hand fighting. The awful look on a man's face after he has been bayoneted will, I am sure, haunt me for the rest of my life; I will never forget that dreadful look. I killed men too with rifle-fire - I was on a machine-gun at one time and must have killed hundreds - but that was nothing like the bayonet."

A.B. Facey in his autobiography, A Fortunate Life

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Desmond7

The Samurai sword post is great - horrifying - but great!

Also like to hear more about the AQWF entrenching tool scenario ... Tom posted the question (and I precis) : "Any other references to confirm this as a widespread practice?"

I'd be beaten to find any other such descriptions.

I've had a German entrenching tool in my hand (don't even go there!!) and it did not strike me as a particularly well-balanced weapon for close quarter fighting. Any other thoughts.

Great posts folks.

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Guest sapper6

I would suppose that in a kill or be killed situation the balance of an entrenching tool would be the last consideration as long as it killed.

One would probably try and make a raisin a weapon as long as it kept you alive.

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Ozzie

www.logicsouth.com/~lcoble/dir9/warsurg.txt

I found this interesting in relations to war wounds.

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healdav

On the subject of the guy with a bayonet in his back, I remember a doctor telling me once that when a trainee he had gone out with an old doctor for some hand on experience, and one of the jobs was certifying death and cause of death.

To his surprise the doctor grabbed hold of the corpse, turned it over and looked carefully at his back before making out the certificate.

This doctor asked him why he had done this and the old doctor told him that when newly qualified he had been called to a death, had examined the corpse and then written out the certificate as 'heart failure'. It was olny when the undertaker's men liften the corpse that they saw the knife in his back!

Anything is possible. If this guy was lying on his back, probably no one thought of turning him over. After all, the doctors who treated Kennedy took it for granted that the bullet wound in his forehead was the exit and for a time completely missed the wound in the back of his head.

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AndyHollinger

Little did they know it was actually Douglas Haig on the grassy knoll!!!

Sorry

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BeppoSapone

I hear that Dallas are paving over the grassy knoll.

They say they need it like they need a hole in the head :lol:

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P.B.

With regard to the German use of entrenching tools as close-quarter weapons, I would say this:

The German assault units of the late-war period seem to have relied almost entirely on grenades and their K98a carbines to deal with the enemy. They tended not to carry the standard short entrenching tool anyway, the ones equipped with entrenching tools generally carried the M1822 long-handled pioneer spade which is useless as a weapon, but is ideal for consolidating newly-taken enemy positions -which is exactly why they carried it.

However, in WWII German infantrymen certainly used their entrenching tools as close-quarter weapons (numerous photos show them stuffed down the front of waistbelts, where, as well as being easily reachable they also provided a small degree of protection) so I think it's safe to assume that they were also used in this way in WWI.

Stefan Westmann, later a medical officer but at this time serving with the German 29th Infantry Division, recalled the aftermath of fighting hand-to-hand against the French in 1915, an encounter in which he bayonetted a French soldier:

"My comrades were absolutely undisturbed by what had happened. One of them boasted that he had killed a poilu with the butt of his rifle. Another one had strangled a French captain. A third had hit someone over the head with his spade."

Similarly, an unidentified British veteran quoted in Denis Winter's "Death's Men" recalled:

"...I saw men fighting with spades. The way the Germans yelled was awful. Some made a good fight. Some would crawl on their knees holding a picture of a woman or child in their hands above their heads but everyone was killed. The excitement was gone. We killed in cold blood because it was our duty to kill as much as we could."

Personally, I think that Remarque -although he certainly never took part in such fighting- is, here at least, accurately reflecting on the reality of hand-to-hand combat. For the German soldier his entrenching tool probably was the most readily available and adaptable trench club, in the same way that many early British trench clubs started life as entrenching tool handles.

I hope this is of some interest, all the best

Paul.

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trajan

Resurrecting this thread in a way - just wondered if anyone has a copy of the 1924 British Small Arms School Report, not certain which part, in which the author comments that the bayonet's shape (i.e., a P.1907) makes a bad wound but has poor penetration and is even worse for withdrawal, etc. I'd like to see the full quote if at all possible! 

 

Thanks in advance!

 

Julian

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Michael Thomson
On 14/03/2005 at 20:31, Desmond7 said:

does anyone have any accounts from those who received cold steel, how they felt and in what circumstances the incident took place?

Des

 

Slightly tongue in cheek as I don't actually have any accounts to contribute but to answer the question 'how they felt' , I'd imagine the answer would be "not that fantastic"...

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museumtom

From Death's Men, Soldiers of The Great War, by Denis Winter. Penguin Books. I have to admit I found this book one of the best on WW1.

 Cheers.

 Tom.

1.JPG

1.JPG

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phil andrade

Arnold Ridley, known and beloved to millions as Private Godfrey in Dad’s Army, would have testified to the experience of being on the receiving end of a bayonet thrust. 

 

Skewered in the groin, smashed over the head with a rifle butt, and, if memory serves me, shot in the hand for good measure.

 

Phil

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trajan

I understand that bayonet wounds so infrequently resulted in casualties reported at operational medical stations that they were classed as miscellaneous - so sayeth the LLT. Can anyone give me an official reference to this, i.e., standing orders or whatever?

 

Thanks in advance!

 

Julian

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phil andrade
Posted (edited)

From The Official History of the War, Medical Services, Casualty and Medical Statisitcs, page 40, there is a tabulation itemising a sample of wounds admitted to casualty clearing stations, classified according to cause by different weapons :

 

Bullet, rifle or machine gun ..  ..  .. 38.98%

 

Shells, trench mortars, etc. .. .. ..  58.51%

 

Bombs and grenades .. .. ..            2.19%

 

Bayonet ..   ..   ..                    0.32%

 

Nothing miscellaneous when it comes to the cold steel !

 

Phil

Edited by phil andrade

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trajan
11 hours ago, phil andrade said:

From The Official History of the War, Medical Services, Casualty and Medical Statisitcs, page 40, there is a tabulation itemising a sample of wounds admitted to casualty clearing stations, classified according to cause by different weapons :

 

Thanks Phil - well, 'miscellaneous' is what the LLT says!

 

Which volume of the Official History, Medical Services, is that though? I have access to III  and IV only...

 

Vol. IV, 31-32, says of Gallipoli that "“A comparatively large number of the wounds were bayonet wounds”, and that “Bayonet wounds were rarely seen in the medical units of in other theatres of war", owing to the nature of the terrain it seems, while Vol III, 170-171, in talking of the Somme on the 21st and the 27th September 1917, records an overall total of 10789 wounded on the first date, mainly by shellfire, with 3027 admitted with what I call for ease of analysis "close combat" wounds - 2933 by bullets, 17 by bayonets, and 77 by hand grenades. For the second date it gives 2932 casualties, again the majority from shell splinters and sherds, and 634 with "close combat" wounds, 600 from bullets, 8 from bayonets, and 16 from hand grenades. So bayonet wounds on those two days are 0.56% and 1.26%, respectively. Compare if you will the USA figures from Harry L. Gilchrist, A Comparative Study of Casualties from Gas and Other Weapons (1928), 19, Chart VII - bayonets wounds represented 0.1% of their hospitalised casualties. 

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phil andrade
Posted (edited)

Medical Services

 

Casualties and Medical Statistics of the Great War

 

By 

 

Major T.J. Mitchell

 

and Miss G.M. Smith

 

Originally released 1931.

 

It had been tempting for me to cite Gallipoli as a campaign which was characterised by sustained and  intense close quarters combat featuring a higher than normal proportion of bayonet wounds, so it’s gratifying to see my suspicions confirmed by your post, Julian.

 

I would add that the US figures might well be skewed by the very high ratio of gas casualties among the admissions : seventy thousand gas casualties is a heck of a large proportion of their roughly quarter of a million hospital cases from the battles of 1918.

 

If we had been able to ask President Charles de Gaulle this question, he could have answered with some authority, since he had taken a German bayonet thrust into the thigh at Verdun, in February 1916.  He might have taken some consolation from his illustrious role model Napoleon Buonaparte, who had taken a British pike thrust to the thigh at Toulon !

 

I suppose we must consider the fact that many who were bayoneted died on the spot, and so their wounds were not cited in hospital records.

 

Phil

 

 

Edited by phil andrade

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