Using the Bayonet
The Toronto World, 2 May 1915
Of all the weapons employed in modern warfare, the most useful is undoubtedly the bayonet. The rifle may be more effective at 100 yards; the heavy artillery more adaptable for knocking down a Dardenelle the Maxim gun for shooting small game for the pot. But, for general utility, give my kind regards to the bayonet, says Ashley Stern in London Opinion.
In order to fully appreciate its manifold beauties, the best plan is to procure one and gaze long and earnestly at it. This may be done in two ways: by enlisting, and thus obtaining the loan of one for the period of the war or three years; or by asking the sentry outside Buckingham Palace to lend you his rifle.
For argument's sake, I will assume that you have failed to pass the censor for the army, and have had perforce to adopt the second method. A close examination of the rifle will now reveal to you that at the end of the barrel there is affixed a long spike made of steel. In this spike there is a groove, and if you run your finger—any finger will do—along this groove in an upward direction you will come to the end of it. This end is called the point, and is very sharp. It will go through anything. I once saw one that had gone through the entire South African war. The point broadens downwards into edges, which are also very sharp, and will cut through a slab of unadulterated margarine as if it were so much fresh butter as per contract. This, then, is the bayonet.
Contrary to what you may expect it is not fired from the rifle. Neither is it hurled through the air like a javelin, nor yet detached and used as a dagger. When required for action it remains indelibly fixed to the end of the barrel, and is manipulated by grasping the rifle in both hands and jabbing the sharp point into whatever it may be into which you desire to jab it. I am told by those who have experienced a bayonet jab that it is exceedingly uncomfortable; and one doughty warrior of my acquaintance, who is at present engaged in growing a moustache—if not exactly for England and home, at any rate for beauty—and whose fatter calf was punctured at bayonet practice by the energetic gentleman immediately behind him, has informed me that on future occasions, unless he be permitted to rehearse alone in the centre of the parade ground, he will pay an extra half-crown and have gas.
So much for the bayonet from the offensive point of view. As such you will probably have observed that its scope is somewhat limited. In short, it can merely be jabbed in and pulled out. But it is an article of general utility, rather than as a weapon, that its remarkable versatility is displayed. It makes, for example, an excellent toasting fork. Practically any sort of provender may be thus treated at the bayonet's point. A notable exception is the domestically constructed crumpet of the kind that Cousin Connie's constantly cooking for corporals. More bayonets have been blunted by attempts to impale these delicacies than by any other means, and there is a large staff at Woolwich Arsenal ceaselessly employed with their noses to the grindstone in repointing them.
As a tin-opener the value if the bayonet would be hard to over-estimate. Anybody who has had experience of the elusive and untrustworthy habits of tin-openers can testify to their inability to cope with anything made of more robust material than cigaret-paper. This has long been a national disgrace; but the war office, I am happy to say, has now recognized the inefficiency of the ordinary implement, and had approved the appointment of the bayonet to the honorary post of official tin-opener to the army. Thus there is no longer any fear that when Sister Sarah's sending sardines off to sergeants there will be any reluctance on the part of the tin to disgorge its oleaginous contents.
Then, too, as a pencil sharpener, a letter-opener, a hat-peg, a croquet-stick, a meat-skewer, and (when heated to red-heat) a salamander, the bayonet has been known to do yeoman service. A couple of them affixed to the heels of a cavalryman's boots will even—at a pinch—make very effective emergency spurs. But probably the most unique office ever filled by a bayonet is that shown in the following incident.
When the Honorary Infantry Company (known as the H.I.C., and not to be confused with the H.O.C. or H.A.C.) acted as a guard of honor on the occasion of the unveiling of a new section of the Tube, a strong wind was blowing, causing one unfortunate man's busby (which only fitted his head at rare intervals) to assume and angle of 45 degrees to the horizon. Twice had the officer in command threatened to mention his in dispatches for slovenliness of headgear, and a third caution he knew would means his being led out in front of the ranks, deprived of his watch and chain and loose cash, and riddled with blank cartridges as per King's Regulations, Vol. 3, Act 2, Scene 4. However, when the officer had gone to lunch, the owner of the recalcitrant busby was seized with a bright idea. Snatching his bayonet from its socket, he thrust it through his busby in such a manner as to gather up with it a quantity of his hair, which fortunately chanced to be standing on end through fright. The result was that his busby remained for the whole of the performance in a state of stable equilibrium, and although this is the only recorded instance of the use of the bayonet as a hatpin, the incident serves, I think, to show that its uses are not yet exhausted. Indeed, I quite expect to hear before very long that some ingenious soldier at the front has split the point of his and converted it, with the aid of a set of bagpipes, into a fountain pen.