The Minute Book
Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Bayonets (1862)
Topic: Cold Steel

Bayonets (1862)

The Compiler, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 23 June 1862

The dispatches from General McClellan's army have several times spoken of a "regular bayonet charge." The pride of the English army has been in bayonet force.—But the dispatches state something unusual, and which must be considered complimentary to the enemy as well as to our own soldiers. We allude to the remark that the enemy were driven a mile, "during which one hundred and seventy-three rebels were killed by the bayonet alone." It is a very rare occurrence that men stand the approach of a well directed bayonet charge, and it is understood that the highest courage and daring are necessary to resists it. There are stories extant of regiments meeting bayonet to bayonet, and crossing weapons. But we do not find any authemtication of these. One favorite military anecdote relates that an English and a french regiment once met in that way and stood pressing against each other without wounding a man for a full half hour. In the Mexican war we carried several important points "with the bayonet," but this was seldom with any direct heavy charge in line.—We once asked a distinguished officer whether one of those charges was an old fashioned bayonet charge in solid rank.—He laughed and said it was very different. When the word "charge" was given the men started on a run, yelling and shouting, and throwing off all encumbrances as they ran. The very appearance of a body of furious tiger-like men, approaching at a full run, and making the air hideous with their cries, frightened the enemy from his position, and it was seldom that a man had a chance to touch another with his bayonet.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 18 March 2017 8:44 PM EDT
Sunday, 16 April 2017

Company Officer's Experiences (1942)
Topic: Cold Steel

Company Officer's Experiences (1942)

The Age, Melbourne, Australia, 15 August 1942

The bayonet legend is also upheld by newspaper men who never miss an opportunity of referring to positions taken 'at the point of the bayonet.'

One of London's younger publishers is Michael Joseph. He served in the last war; in early middle age he has been caught up by the army again, and in 1939-41 served as a company officer with an infantry battalion guarding a stretch of England's coast when invasion was thought to be imminent. He has now written a very quiet, but not the less deadly, account of his experiences, having, obviously, not ceased to be a thinking and reflecting being because his new job brought him into intimate touch with War Office mentality. Mr. H.M. Tomlinson goes so far as to say that Mr. Joseph's little book—"The Sword in the Scabbard," by Michael Joseph (London; Michael Joseph)—should either have been censored "or else made compulsory reading at the War Office."

This is going a little far, because while Mr. Joseph points several morals, his narrative is concerned with the homely and sometimes amusing day to day life of a company commander. But the morals are important. One example will suffice: "I dare say the bayonet has its occasional uses, but I am prepared to wager not one infantryman in a thousand ever has a chance to use it. But the Army still swears by the bayonet. The bayonet legend is also upheld by newspaper men who never miss an opportunity of referring to positions taken 'at the point of the bayonet.' In case there should be any doubt as to the functions of this obsolescent weapon, the B.B.C. naively refers to 'hand-to-hand bayonet fighting.' Our troops are still taught that the Germans 'hate cold steel.' No doubt they do, but I somehow don't think we shall win the war by insistence on the vital importance of the bayonet in modern warfare. Bows and arrows were good weapons once."

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Saturday, 28 January 2017

Cold Steel Yet Winner of Wars (1922)
Topic: Cold Steel

Cold Steel Yet Winner of Wars

Doughboy and Bayonet Are Hopes in Battle, Says Army Questionnaire
Tin Hat His Armor
Clothed Only Against Weather and With "Own Agility Is Most Vulnerable"

"That man remains the fundamental instrument in battle, as as such can not be replaced by any imaginable instrument short of a more perfect thing than the human body, including the mind."

The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Washington, 14 February 1922
By Associated Press

Washington, Feb 13.—The "dough boy" with a bayonet still is the "basic combatant" unit in battle. This is the virtually unanimous judgment of the American army, officially rendered in cold post-war analysis. Aircraft, tanks, bombs, machine guns, cannon, merely are valuable auxiliaries for the infantry "man in the bulk," armed with rifle and bayonet, and each foot soldier armored only by his "own agility" and a steel helmet.

For "battle is normally determined by physical encounter with the bayonet or the fear thereof," the official conclusion of the army made public today asserted. It is based on answers to a widespread "questionnaire sent recently through the war department bureaus and out through corps and divisional areas, even down to commanders of regiments, to lay the ground work for the doctrines of tactics and of training on which post-war building of the army shall proceed."

Cold Steel Always Best

The answers were unmistakable. There has been no change—soldiers who fought in France believe in the age-old-gospel of "cold steel" in war. As it was with Cromwell's grim host, striving for victory "with push of pike," with Napoleon's old guard that "dies but never surrenders," with Pickett's flower of the south" at Gettysburg, so it was with Pershing's "buddies" in France. Cold steel was the ultimate arbiter of battle.

The conclusion follows "an exhaustive study of the influence that modern scientific development will have upon the technique of warfare, especially with regard to aviation, motor transport and tanks." Chiefs of all combat branches had their say on the questionnaire, designed to bring out the best present military thought," both on basic principles and as to changes in fighting technique necessitated by new weapons.

Planes and Guns at Issue

As the research work goes on tests will be made "to solve debatable questions." Among these is the "comparative value of bombing planes and fixed heavy guns in sea coast defences."

"It is possible at this time," the statement added, "to announce the conclusion of the war department resulting from the answers to the basic question as to which there was substantially unanimous agreement. It is concluded, and doctrines of tactics and of training will be based accordingly:

"That man remains the fundamental instrument in battle, as as such can not be replaced by any imaginable instrument short of a more perfect thing than the human body, including the mind."

Fights Best on Foot

"That man in the bulk—meaning the greater portion of the armed forces—fights with the greatest freedom of action and with greatest efficiency when on foot, not on horseback, in a tank, in an airplane, in a fixed fortification, etc.

"That to achieve decisive action he is best armed with the rifle and bayonet or the fear thereof; all other [arms support the infantry soldier who is most] vulnerable when merely clothed against the weather and armored by his own agility with steel helmet.

"That battle is normally determined by physical encounter with the bayonet or the fear thereof, all other agencies of destruction, as artillery, machine guns and aircraft, are auxiliary in their effect, however potent, and serve to make possible the advance of the foot soldier to hand-to-hand encounter.

"That infantry is the basic combat arm upon whose success normally depends the success of the army; the primary duty of other arms when associated with infantry is to assist the infantry to achieve its mission by protecting and aiding it in every way and by destroying enemy resistance to its efforts.

Infantry Against Infantry

"That no arm except infantry can be expected under normal conditions to destroy an approximately equal force of enemy infantry armed with rifle and bayonet.

"That while infantry is normally the basic arm of war, under certain circumstances or during certain phases, cavalry may replace it as the basic arm, for example in operations against mounted forces or against foot troops whose efficiency is below normal for any reason."

Misconceptions arise in the public mind, the statement said, as to the possible efforts of new agencies of war and in making public results of its studies the war department "hopes to insure that the heresymerely clothed against the weather shall never become implanted in the country that any material means can ever replace in war the individual soldier who is willing and able to fight."

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Thursday, 24 November 2016

The Bayonet has its Occasional Uses
Topic: Cold Steel

The Bayonet has its Occasional Uses

"The Sword in the Scabbard," by Michael Joseph, 1942

"I dare say the bayonet has its occasional uses, but I am prepared to wager that in this war not one infantryman in a thousand ever has a chance to use it. But the Army still swears by the bayonet. The bayonet legend is upheld by newspaper men who never miss an opportunity of referring to positions captured 'at the point of the bayonet.' In case there should be any doubt as to the functions of the obsolescent weapon, the B.B.C. naively refers to 'hand-to-hand bayonet fighting.' Our troops are still taught that the Germans ‘hate cold steel.' No doubt they do, but I somehow don't think we shall win the war by insistence of the vital importance of the bayonet in modern warfare. Bows and arrows were good weapons once."

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 15 November 2016 11:05 PM EST
Sunday, 25 September 2016

Bayonets and Sabres (1878)
Topic: Cold Steel

Bayonets and Sabres (1878)

Boston Evening Transcript, 13 August 1878
[From the New York Times]

General Winfield Scott used to assert that such a thing as a bayonet wound inflicted in a charge was almost unheard of in his experience; and General Grant says in effect that in modern warfare "neither the sabre nor the bayonet is of use."

General Grant is reported to have said recently, at Berlin, to an officer in the German Army detailed to his suite, that he questioned very much whether in modern war the sabre of the bayonet was of use. "What I mean," said the general, "is this: Anything that adds to the burdens carried by the soldier is a weakness to the army. Every ounce he carries should tell in his efficiency. The bayonet is heavy, and if it were removed, or if its weight in food or ammunition were added to its place, the army would be stronger. As for the bayonet as a weapon, if soldiers come near enough to use it, they can do as much good with the club end of their muskets. The same is true as to sabres. I would take away the bayonet, and give the soldiers pistols in place of sabres. A sabre is always an awkward thing to carry."

The general had no doubt war showed instances when the bayonet was effective, but those instances were so few that he did not think that they would pay for the heavy burden imposed upon an army by the carrying of the bayonet. The German officer was not convinced by the general's reasoning, and said he "knew of cases where effective work had been done with the bayonet, and that the Prussians would not abandon it."

Now, he could hardly have read the statistical abstract, published in 1877, of the returns of killed and wounded on the German side in what is officially known as the "German Campaign in France," for where, in that great war, the bayonet killed its units and tens, the bullet destroyed its thousands and tens of thousands. Nor, comparatively speaking, were the wounds inflicted by cold steel severe. Three officers and eighteen men were killed by lance or bayonet, to a total of five hundred and seventy-four injured by those weapons. The most harmless, however, of all instruments of warfare would seem to be the sabre, which, in the furious charges of the valary regiments engaged at Sedan, and in all the battles of the war, killed but six men.

Great interest is being taken in many countries in this subject of "cold steel in time of war." and efforts are being made to prove the truth of falsity of the saying attributed to the humorous though ferocious Souvaroff, that "the bullet is a silly thing, but the bayonet firm and heroic."

In our own army the discussion was initiated by General Sherman, upon a recommendation of General Benet, chief of ordnance, that the bayonet and sabre shall cease for form part of the armament of troops. The general-in-chief called, not only for the views of officers of the line and staff who can speak as experts, and commanders whose men are thus armed, but also instructed Lieutenant Green, our military representative with the Russian Army in the late campaign, to make a special study of the question involved. So far as the views of our officers are concerned, a majority of them seem to be in favor of a retention of these time-honored weapons; but the theory of the minority is equally good argument for their abolition. Lieutenant Green, however, had excellent opportunities for proving the truth of the maxim of Napoleon, that "theory and practice are not the same thing in war." In the Turco-Russian was several instances occurred in which bodies of men closed with one another on the actual field of battle, and when, consequently, the bayonet was used, with more or less decisive effect. These hand-to-hand encounters were, it is true, never of very long duration, but while they lasted the fighting was exceedingly fierce. On more than one occasion, so it is reported, no quarter was either asked for or given after once bayonet had crossed bayonet; but official statistics may possibly disclose the fact that these sanguinary and stubborn contest were not more fatal than during the German campaign.

While the weight of evidence given by American officers is in favor of the retention of the sabre and bayonet, that of foreign officers is in the opposite direction. This is particularly true as regards the sabre. Colonel Dennison, in his prize essay on cavalry, goes so far as to pronounce the the sabre contemptible, and advocates a charge revolver in hand. An "English Cavalry Officer," in a work entitled "Notes on Cavalry tactics, Organization, etc.," is of opinion that the sabre of lance is the first weapon of the cavalry soldier; but he thinks firearms of some sort, in fact, indispensable. The Germans go beyond this. In a precis of an article from the Militair Wochenblatt, Colonel Ouvry says, "The view that the sabre is the arm which forms the essential characteristic of the cavalryman must, since the experiment of 1870-71, falls to the ground. The most complete independent action for cavalry must be the watchword in the future, and to aid this a good firearm must be supplied." We may add that in Germany even the lancers have a certain proportion of rifles in every squadron.

What is so much lost sight of in this kind of argument is the fact of the enormously increased value of firearms. The increased use of intrenchments on battle ground will, it is believed, tend to circumscribe the action of cavalry. The extreme range and rapid firing of the rifle and the increased power of the cross fire will, as a rule, enable the infantryman to hold his own, not only against horsemen in any formation and moving at any speed, but against infantry charges as well. But opportunities may occur in the best regulated battles, and, though they would suffer dreadfully in passing the zone of fire, the attacking party might, in a hand-to-hand fight, have their revenge. With a view, however, to such a chance, a cavalryman should be armed with a straight weapon, being the one best adapted for giving point, inasmuch as a cut is seldom deadly, while a thrust is generally so. As for "terror in a long line of glittering steel," or as to its not being "in human nature to stand and wait for bristling bayonets," there is perhaps a good deal of nonsense in such expressions. At any rate, the Confederate soldiers in front of Thomas at Chickamauga, and of Schofield at Resaca, were not so intimidated, much to the surprise, not to say disgust, of those who were trying hard to convince them that these charges were irresistible. The testimony on this subject of three great captains may be epitomized as follows: Napoleon, at St. Helena, said that he knew not "a single instance in which twenty pieces of cannons, judiciously placed and in battery, were ever carried by the bayonet"; General Winfield Scott used to assert that such a thing as a bayonet wound inflicted in a charge was almost unheard of in his experience; and General Grant says in effect that in modern warfare "neither the sabre nor the bayonet is of use." Such testimony as this should strengthen rather than weaken the recommendations made by the chief of ordnance. It is by no means unlikely that such fighting behind earthworks will have so large a place in warfare of the future, some armor covering for the head, neck, and perhaps arm, may be desired for infantry, in which event they will have to be relieved of much of the weight they now carry.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Bayonets and Sabres (1878)
Topic: Cold Steel

Bayonets and Sabres (1878)

Boston Evening Transcript, 13 August 1878
[From the New York Times]

General Winfield Scott used to assert that such a thing as a bayonet wound inflicted in a charge was almost unheard of in his experience; and General Grant says in effect that in modern warfare "neither the sabre nor the bayonet is of use."

General Grant is reported to have said recently, at Berlin, to an officer in the German Army detailed to his suite, that he questioned very much whether in modern war the sabre of the bayonet was of use. "What I mean," said the general, "is this: Anything that adds to the burdens carried by the soldier is a weakness to the army. Every ounce he carries should tell in his efficiency. The bayonet is heavy, and if it were removed, or if its weight in food or ammunition were added to its place, the army would be stronger. As for the bayonet as a weapon, if soldiers come near enough to use it, they can do as much good with the club end of their muskets. The same is true as to sabres. I would take away the bayonet, and give the soldiers pistols in place of sabres. A sabre is always an awkward thing to carry."

The general had no doubt war showed instances when the bayonet was effective, but those instances were so few that he did not think that they would pay for the heavy burden imposed upon an army by the carrying of the bayonet. The German officer was not convinced by the general's reasoning, and said he "knew of cases where effective work had been done with the bayonet, and that the Prussians would not abandon it."

Now, he could hardly have read the statistical abstract, published in 1877, of the returns of killed and wounded on the German side in what is officially known as the "German Campaign in France," for where, in that great war, the bayonet killed its units and tens, the bullet destroyed its thousands and tens of thousands. Nor, comparatively speaking, were the wounds inflicted by cold steel severe. Three officers and eighteen men were killed by lance or bayonet, to a total of five hundred and seventy-four injured by those weapons. The most harmless, however, of all instruments of warfare would seem to be the sabre, which, in the furious charges of the valary regiments engaged at Sedan, and in all the battles of the war, killed but six men.

Great interest is being taken in many countries in this subject of "cold steel in time of war." and efforts are being made to prove the truth of falsity of the saying attributed to the humorous though ferocious Souvaroff, that "the bullet is a silly thing, but the bayonet firm and heroic."

In our own army the discussion was initiated by General Sherman, upon a recommendation of General Benet, chief of ordnance, that the bayonet and sabre shall cease for form part of the armament of troops. The general-in-chief called, not only for the views of officers of the line and staff who can speak as experts, and commanders whose men are thus armed, but also instructed Lieutenant Green, our military representative with the Russian Army in the late campaign, to make a special study of the question involved. So far as the views of our officers are concerned, a majority of them seem to be in favor of a retention of these time-honored weapons; but the theory of the minority is equally good argument for their abolition. Lieutenant Green, however, had excellent opportunities for proving the truth of the maxim of Napoleon, that "theory and practice are not the same thing in war." In the Turco-Russian was several instances occurred in which bodies of men closed with one another on the actual field of battle, and when, consequently, the bayonet was used, with more or less decisive effect. These hand-to-hand encounters were, it is true, never of very long duration, but while they lasted the fighting was exceedingly fierce. On more than one occasion, so it is reported, no quarter was either asked for or given after once bayonet had crossed bayonet; but official statistics may possibly disclose the fact that these sanguinary and stubborn contest were not more fatal than during the German campaign.

While the weight of evidence given by American officers is in favor of the retention of the sabre and bayonet, that of foreign officers is in the opposite direction. This is particularly true as regards the sabre. Colonel Dennison, in his prize essay on cavalry, goes so far as to pronounce the the sabre contemptible, and advocates a charge revolver in hand. An "English Cavalry Officer," in a work entitled "Notes on Cavalry tactics, Organization, etc.," is of opinion that the sabre of lance is the first weapon of the cavalry soldier; but he thinks firearms of some sort, in fact, indispensable. The Germans go beyond this. In a precis of an article from the Militair Wochenblatt, Colonel Ouvry says, "The view that the sabre is the arm which forms the essential characteristic of the cavalryman must, since the experiment of 1870-71, falls to the ground. The most complete independent action for cavalry must be the watchword in the future, and to aid this a good firearm must be supplied." We may add that in Germany even the lancers have a certain proportion of rifles in every squadron.

What is so much lost sight of in this kind of argument is the fact of the enormously increased value of firearms. The increased use of intrenchments on battle ground will, it is believed, tend to circumscribe the action of cavalry. The extreme range and rapid firing of the rifle and the increased power of the cross fire will, as a rule, enable the infantryman to hold his own, not only against horsemen in any formation and moving at any speed, but against infantry charges as well. But opportunities may occur in the best regulated battles, and, though they would suffer dreadfully in passing the zone of fire, the attacking party might, in a hand-to-hand fight, have their revenge. With a view, however, to such a chance, a cavalryman should be armed with a straight weapon, being the one best adapted for giving point, inasmuch as a cut is seldom deadly, while a thrust is generally so. As for "terror in a long line of glittering steel," or as to its not being "in human nature to stand and wait for bristling bayonets," there is perhaps a good deal of nonsense in such expressions. At any rate, the Confederate soldiers in front of Thomas at Chickamauga, and of Schofield at Resaca, were not so intimidated, much to the surprise, not to say disgust, of those who were trying hard to convince them that these charges were irresistible. The testimony on this subject of three great captains may be epitomized as follows: Napoleon, at St. Helena, said that he knew not "a single instance in which twenty pieces of cannons, judiciously placed and in battery, were ever carried by the bayonet"; General Winfield Scott used to assert that such a thing as a bayonet wound inflicted in a charge was almost unheard of in his experience; and General Grant says in effect that in modern warfare "neither the sabre nor the bayonet is of use." Such testimony as this should strengthen rather than weaken the recommendations made by the chief of ordnance. It is by no means unlikely that such fighting behind earthworks will have so large a place in warfare of the future, some armor covering for the head, neck, and perhaps arm, may be desired for infantry, in which event they will have to be relieved of much of the weight they now carry.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Lesson For Our Army (1906)
Topic: Cold Steel

Lesson For Our Army (1906)

Russian Army's Notes Officially Distributed
Fire of Modern Infantry Wasteful of Ammunition
Practice in Estimating Distance Needed
Captain Soloviev's Views Regarded of Great Value

Boston Evening Transcript, 14 November 1906

Washington, Nov. 14—From the foreign officers who were attached to the opposing armies as observers in the Russo-Japanese War the world has received many valuable reports concerning the operations in Manchuria, the condition and conduct of the troops engaged and other subjects of general military interest. Several officers of the contending armies have also contributed to this fund of information, and one of these, Captain L.Z. Soloviev, of the Thirty-fourth East Siberian Rifle Regiment, has prepared a paper entitled "Actual Experiences in the War—Battle Action of the Infantry—Impressions of a Company Commander," which is of such importance that it has been translated into English by order of the general staff for distribution among the officers of the United States Army. "This officer," says the general staff, in an official memorandum, "has shown such a keen and appreciative observation in his description of great battles as seen from a company commander's point of view, and his remarks cover so many moot questions in regard to the battle tactics of today, that the little work has been deemed worthy of publication in English for distribution to the army."

What particularly impressed Captain Soloviev was the fact that many of the things he had to do in battle were not what he had been taught, and that much he had been taught was not applicable to combat, which may or may not be a blow to "military education" derived from the books. According to the regulations, the observer says, "effective rifle fire began at a range of from 1000 to 1400 paces," whereas rifle fire was found to be effective at a range of 2333 yards. Attention is called to the difficulty of keeping fire discipline well in hand during a battle, and of maintaining a reasonable and well sustained fire—difficulties which are increased during the fight. He says: "Sometimes a man will fire in his sleep and hundreds of shots follow, thus bringing about a useless loss of cartridges, a sleepless night, fatigue, nervous tension, wounded and killed by stray bullets, and there is before the men the prospect of days in battle."

Another thing that struck this observer was the extreme wastefulness of rapid fire. He states that one infantry regiment at Liao-Yang fired 1,200,000 cartridges, a vast expenditure that charred the stocks of the rifles and distorted the ends of the bayonets from the heat. Captain Soloviev asks if it would not be better to fire more slowly, with greater accuracy and better aim. The mass of fire takes place of accuracy while the short term of service tells upon the trueness of aim. It is difficult, too, to determine the distance of the objective, there remains as a principal means the eyesight, a mode of range finding that was used most frequently and by which the firing had to be guided. "This is why," adds the writer, "we deem it most important that during peace time frequent exercises should stake place in estimating distances by the eye, taking advantage of each favorable occasion, and not treating it as a tedious formality." One serious result observed during the campaign was the frequent deterioration of rifles caused by such intense fire, and it is observed there is only one means of replacing the disabled rifle in battle—the utilization of the pieces belonging to the killed and wounded. The local conditions of dust, rains and changes in temperature contribute top this disastrous end.

Captain Soloviev places a high estimate on the value of the bayonet as an infantry weapon, declaring that the late war "demonstrated most vividly all its power and moral importance, which, it is probable, it will maintain unaltered as long as there are wars." More than once there were fierce hand-to-hand fights, when the Russian depended upon their bayonets and used them with success, although there are no statistics to show the vital effect of such raids. There were instances where lines of intrenchments were taken with the bayonet as at Tumilin Pass. At another time "a bayonet fight was raging along the entire front of our enemy," when an entire corps fought with the bayonet. Captain Soloviev says the data on losses caused by the bayonet are very convincing, and that the losses "are almost as large as those caused by artillery fire, in spite of the enormous development of the latter."

Of the general characteristics of modern infantry combat, Captain Soloviev says: "Speaking of the characteristics of modern infantry combat, we note the following general traits:—

  • the deployment of large units as a skirmish line;
  • the absence of small partial reserves; the desire to develop at once the greatest intensity of fire;
  • the advance of skirmishers at a run, bent double, and sometimes creeping;
  • the advance under effective fire, one by one; the movement in the zone of fire in chain formation;
  • the difficulty of controlling fire discipline and the necessity of developing fire discipline in time of peace;
  • the unparalleled development of ammunition;
  • the necessity for an uninterrupted supply of cartridges to the fighting line, and a close touch of regiments to the artillery parks;
  • the deterioration of rifles and the necessity of replacing them frequently, as a rule;
  • enormous losses in infantry combat, and the tenacity and duration of infantry combats without decisive results."

Captain Soloviev speaks in praise of the Japanese infantry and artillery. Emphasis is laid on the fact that a new factor in artillery combat was the firing against invisible targets, for in battles the battery does not see its opponent. The Japanese had apparently adopted the rule of ceasing fire under well-aimed fire of the enemy. If the Russian battery found the range of the Japanese battery and aimed well the Japanese immediately sought to change its position unawares. Captain Soloviev pronounces the Japanese infantry as far behind the Japanese artillery in accuracy of aim. The Japanese rifleman is described as a veritable machine-gun, on account of the rapidity with which he loads and fires his rifle, but most of the shots go high, and there was dexterity without aim too often. The Russian rifle appears to have been a satisfactory weapon, but the revolver was useless beyond seven paces, while the infantry sword is of little value. The supply of food was sufficient, and much praise was bestowed upon the system of the wheeled field kitchen, a provision for furnishing hot food to the soldier wherever he may be and for which method the commissary general of our own army has been striving indefatigably. It is remarked that more than one of these kitchens bore the marks of bullets.

In view of the modern effort at invisibility in military dress and equipment, it is interesting to know that Captain Soloviev found that quality to be the principal characteristic of the field. His first experience in battle produced a sense of insecurity and irresolution. He heard the bullets, but he saw no trenches or fortifications or enemy. He found the soldier in battle of "astounding simple and everyday demeanor, with betrayal of nervousness only in his rapid firing," in which condition the officer in command comes to his great task of controlling the men. The tension is terrible with the protracted battles of the day, and the demand upon the mental and physical powers is unrelaxing.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Sunday, 21 August 2016

Hand to Hand Encounters
Topic: Cold Steel

Hand to Hand Encounters

…but battle is a great leveler of distinctions, racial and other, and all men who will fight to the death are much alike when they get into action.

Yukon World, 22 September 1904

Among the surprises of the war in the east is the frequency with which the opposing forces come to close combat and kill each other with cold steel. It was generally thought by the military experts that the enormously increased range and accuracy of modern firearms had rendered such struggles almost or quite impossible, on account of the terribly numerous fatalities that would result from a charge of the old-fashioned kind upon any considerable number of intrenched troops, and it has been comfortably predicted that the bayonet would soon be, if it was not already, as useless as the sword. The Japanese, however, have repeatedly demonstrated that, in their hands at least, the bayonet need not yet be degraded to the humble purposes of the shovel—always. Again and again they have rushed through a zone of withering fire, and enough of them have reached the Russian trenches to engage in desperate fights with individual foes, sometimes successfully. And, of course, these attacks by the Japanese had to be met in the same way by the Russians so that the accounts of the battles have often read much as do those of the Franco-Prussian war, the American civil war and even of Napoleon's time. The peculiar qualities of the men now in conflict, with utterly reckless disregard for life on one side, and stolid valor of an antiquated type on the other, may account in part for the employment of a weapon especially suited to each, but battle is a great leveler of distinctions, racial and other, and all men who will fight to the death are much alike when they get into action. So it seems probable that the day of the bayonet is not so near its end as was supposed, and that for some time to come there will be hand-to-hand encounters as well as those in which the contestants use telescopes in aiming high-power guns at each other.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Monday, 13 June 2016

Advise on the Bayonet Question
Topic: Cold Steel

For turning flapjacks the trowel bayonet has no rival.

Advise on the Bayonet Question

The Corvallis Gazette, Corvallis, Oregon, 15 June 1883

We perceive in a Washington paper that there is some talk in military circles of introducing a new style of bayonet into the army. It is a painful thing to the soldier to have a new kind of bayonet introduced, particularly after he has be come accustomed to the triangular, or trowel bayonet heretofore in use. The short, broad, triangular bayonet has several advantages possessed by no other implement of death. After a hostile Indian, or any other foe of Uncle Sam's has been bayoneted with the trowel bayonet, he may not like it at first, but he never will use any other kind in his family. In case of necessity, the trowel is intended to be used as an intrenching tool. If a company of infantry, armed with the trowel bayonet, is about to be attacked in a large open prairie, the soldiers can, in a few moments throw up a breastwork almost as high as their heads. Instead of doing away with the trowel bayonet, other weapons that might serve two or three purposes should be furnished our gallant soldiers. For turning flapjacks the trowel bayonet has no rival. With the ordinary long, narrow bayonet the soldier cannot possibly turn his flapjack without making a mess of it. In digging up mesquite roots for fuel on the boundless prairies of the West, the trowel bayonet is a perfect terror, so the soldiers say. Excellent as the trowel bayonet is, it might be improved somewhat. We think a kind of combined battle axe and pitchfork bayonet might be invented. It should be somewhat after the style of those table knives made for one-armed men, with a fork on the back of the knife, with which to impale the chunks of beef-steak that have been cut into by the blade of the implement. A weapon of this kind in the hands of our soldiers would be very effective. It is also our opinion that a combined spade and revolver, a kind of revolving spade, might be invented, that would deliver a dozen shots a minute, and dig up a ten acre field while it is being reloaded. We have very little practical military experience, and merely call the attention of General Sherman to these suggestions in a casual off-hand sort of way. We do not wish to be understood as dictating to the military authorities.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Sunday, 22 May 2016

The Bayonet; US Army, Korea (1951)
Topic: Cold Steel

The Bayonet; US Army, Korea (1951)

Commentarty of Infantry Operations and Weapons Usage in Korea, Winter of 1950-51, S.L.A. Marshall, October 1951

… there is a tendency to credit the bayonet with almost miraculous powers as a catalyst of the fighting spirit.

More for Morale

In most of what has been reported in the American press, and in part of what has been circulated officially within the Army, the role of the bayonet in Korean operations has been stressed far beyond its intrinsic importance, when the latter is estimated in the very real terms of the battlefield and the thinking of troops about the weapon.

It is no doubt true, and subject to competent proof, that there has been more legitimate bayonet fighting by our troops in Korea than by our armies of World War I and II.

Largely because of this comparison, and partly because the upsurge of interest in the bayonet and the exaggerated wave of publicity concerning bayonet action coincided roughly with the beginning of American recovery, there is a tendency to credit the bayonet with almost miraculous powers as a catalyst of the fighting spirit.

There is nothing particularly new about this supposed connection. Indeed, it is because this view of things is so very old and traditional that it always reasserts itself upon the slightest provocation. In Korea the bayonet advocates have a considerable case based upon an impressive body of evidence—even when rumors and provedly false reports are thrown out. The main question is whether the case as it stands is being argued to a rational set of conclusions, or will serve once again to place undue training emphasis upon the weapon and what it contributes to the building of an aggressive spirit.

At least four-fifths of the reports of "fierce bayonet charges" by our troops emanating from the Korean theater are false either in whole or in part. In some instances, the troops which were described as engaging in this manner did not even possess bayonets. In others, they had bayonets and fixed them, but, during the attack, did not close with that weapon upon the enemy. One of our allies was credited in the operations of the early winter with a bloody repulse of the enemy at bayonet point in which scores were It helped inspire the new interest skewered; this story drew attention the world over. No doubt, the killing took place. But all of the attendant circumstances in the weapon. indicate that its main victims were friendly ROKs, trying to fall back into protective lines after their own position had gone; it was a case of mistaken identity.

The need for a sharp killing instrument at the end of a rifle is well indicated by the course of Korean operations; the need of a discipline which will compel troops to retain such a weapon and will enable them to use it with some efficiency when an emergency requires it is equally well indicated. Recurrently through the winter in the defense of hilltop perimeters, infantry companies were engaged with the enemy at such But killings close range that the rifle used as a spear would have taken many a victim. by Eighth Army infantry under these circumstances were so few that they could be When the rifles began to run empty and the enemy counted on one man's fingers. at last closed, with very few exceptions the men had no blade with which to stand off the rush. For lack of bayonets, they fought with clubbed rifles, stones, and sometimes with their bare fists. All of these things are in the record: the companies and individuals who so participated can be named. Oddly enough, however, the repetition of situations in which the bayonet might have proved useful did not of itself stimulate the interest of troops in the return of the weapon. The companies which had been They caught short for having thrown the bayonet away did not demand its re-issue. were not "bayonet-minded," and they seemed perfectly willing to fight again under the same odds in the next round.

1st Marine Division retained the bayonet. The Corps has continued to hold with the idea that the bayonet makes men aggressive. The entire Chosen Reservoir operation was fought at close range, with the Chinese repeatedly charging the defensive works in the night attacks and occasionally breaking the circle. Even so, the bayonet was used with killing effect in only two instances. Three Chinese were bayoneted at Hagaru-ri—all by the same man. Three, possibly four others, were either wounded or killed by the bayonet in the one assault that, managed to break into the lines at Koto-ri. The Marines make a strong display of the weapon when in defensive position. It is within They argue with some cogency that this may be one of its chief values. reason that the Chinese attacks upon Marine perimeters north of Chinghung-ni might have been pressed with even greater determination had the attackers not anticipated that they would be met with cold steel. But to attempt to justify Marine retention of the weapon, and the attendant burden, upon what the bayonet has done as a killing weapon in Marine hands during Korean operations is impossible in view of the cold figures.

The same would have to be said of results through the Eighth Army as a whole, including those non-American elements which have received especial acclaim because of their ferocity in the bayonet charge. In February, outside of Suwon, the writer visited a hill where a battalion belonging to one of our Allies was said to have killed 154 of the enemy with bayonet thrusts; these figures were publicized in the theater. Examination of the bodies made it conclusively clear that the preponderant number of the enemy dead had been killed and badly mangled by artillery fire prior to the direct assault upon the hill. In some of these bodies, there were superficial bayonet wounds. Judging by the condition of the bodies, there may have been a dozen or fewer who were eliminated by the bayonet.

Not since the rifle bullet began to dominate the battlefield has there been any sound tact'ical ground for contending that the bayonet was per se an efficient way to kill and an agency toward keeping one's own casualties low. Argument for its retention and use has been built largely around these points: (1) it creates aggressiveness in troops, (2) it instills additional fear in the heart of the enemy, and (3) troops need a last-resort weapon when other means fail.

None of these points is to be despised. If all are true as stated, they compose a valid case for retention of the weapon and a discipline serving that end. When gradual restoration of the bayonet to infantry forces was undertaken in the mid-winter of 1950-51 by the Eighth Army and lower commands, the impulse developed partly around consideration of these ideas.

But there was one other thing—the bayonet in this instance served a conspicuous need of the moment. The Eighth Army at that time was a greatly demoralized body, and lack of confidence was manifest in the ranks. The command greatly needed Restoration of the bayonet, and a something to symbolize the birth of a new spirit. Dramatizing of that action, was at, one with the simple message given to troops: "The job is to kill Chinese." Once men could be persuaded that those in other units were deliberately seeking the hand-to-hand contest with the enemy, they would begin to feel themselves equal to the over-all task.

There can be no question about the efficacy of this magic in the particular situation: it worked! But rekindling of the spirit of the Eighth Army was due even more to loud talk about the bayonet, and the power of suggestion, than to the effectiveness of such bayonet action as took place against the enemy. The benefits came from the rallying of the intangibles rather than from direct use of material means. The rapid moral recovery of Eighth Army in January is one of the true phenomena of our military history. Here there is time for reflection only on certain of its tangential aspects.

The Army had spent five weeks in retreat; the salient fact in its operations had Ranks were discouraged; having been the avoiding of close contact with the enemy. no idea what the main purpose of the nation might be, they could find none in themselves. It was an interlude of negative leadership and moral vacuum. Where a spate of words about the need for personal decision and maximum individual aggressiveness might have been received by troops as just so much bombast, emphasis on bayonet fighting served pointed notice that the period of uncertainty was over, and henceforward all ground would be contested. In combination with other techniques employed by the command and staff, it shook Eighth Army out of a state of extreme depression and gave it fresh confidence in its own power and in leadership's hold upon the general situation.

This was the significant contribution of the bayonet to the restoration of Eighth Army. It was a device toward the restoring of morale in a particular situation. But it does not follow by any means that the bayonet and bayonet doctrine make the difference between half-hearted troops and stalwart strong-going fighters in any situation.

Some of the ablest and hardest-fighting infantry companies in Korea have not taken up the bayonet and say outright that they see no good in it. They resent the effort by higher authority to persuade them to use it because they say that it is an invitation to be killed uselessly.

There are also other companies which have used the bayonet with great intrepidity during the recent months. It may be remarked of them, according to the record, that they were already combat-worthy, aggressive, and efficient in the use of their other arms before they became bayonet fighters. There is no proof whatever that the bayonet transformed them as fighters or added materially to their fighting power as a group.

Case Study

The bayonet charge by Easy Company, 27th Infantry Regiment, against Hill 180 is the one modern operation of this character which may be studied in its full detail, in the light of knowledge of the individuals concerned, their prior service in combat, their reactions, physical and emotional, during the fight, and the operational results. It therefore throws a revealing light on the general subject and particularly on the degree of emotional intensity which is required before average Americans can go all-out in bayonet fighting.

The results were truly phenomenal. One cannot help but marvel at the impetuosity of these men, once they got started forward with their rifles ready for a cutting action. But this was not an "average" infantry company nor an average man who led it. Both had already made a reputation for unusual bravery and sangfroid before ever they got together. The company included a high percentage of individuals with Spanish or Mexican-American blood; they were represented in great disproportion in the actual employment of the blade against enemy soldiers.

The mortality figures show this breakdown: Of the 18 enemy soldiers killed by the bayonet after Easy Company had closed on their foxholes, 6 met death that way because something untoward had happened to the attacker's rifle—either a misfire In four instances, the bayonet was or a failure to load consequent to the excitement. the "weapon of last resort" because one group had used up its ammunition. In most of the other killings, the men were in so close that if a bullet missed, the consequence might have been fatal.

There is no need in this writing to dilate upon the emotional stress undergone by the bayonet fighters of Easy Company or to attempt an answer to the question of whether troops could for long be sustained at such a pitch without risking total nervous breakdown. The record is the best evidence of the varying reactions of the individuals; the question is one which could be answered competently only by medical authority. But it is germane to any study of how far bayonet training and use of the bayonet in the attack should be pushed in the interests of increasing the combat quality of the Army.

The tactical omissions, which accompany and seem to be the emotional consequence of the verve and high excitement of the bayonet charge, stand out as prominently as the extreme valor of the individuals.

  • The young Captain Millett, so intent on getting his attack going that he "didn't have time" to call for artillery fires to the rearward of the hill, though that was the natural way to close the escape route and protect his own force from snipers who were thus allowed a free hand on that ground.
  • His subsequent forgetting that the tank fire should be adjusted upward along the hill.
  • The failure to use mortars toward the same object.
  • The starving of the grenade supply, though this was a situation calling for grenades, and the resupply route was not wholly closed by fire.
  • The fractionalization of the company in the attack to the degree where only high individual action can save the situation, and individual ammunition failures may well lose it.

These are not entries on the debit side, or words uttered in criticism. One cannot study this fight without being reminded of the words of Justice Holmes that "heroism alone promotes belief in the supreme worth of heroism." But it is precisely because of the extreme determination of the action that its negative lessons should be held at as great value by the Army as the inspirational effects of the example.

In Summation

The main issue in regard to the bayonet is not whether troops in combat should have a knife ready for use at the end of a rifle, but how much time should be devoted to bayonet in the training schedule, and what type of blade would best suit the general purpose.

There is every advantage in equipping troops with a "last-resort weapon" provided that it is a model which they will prize for its manifest usefulness, and which, at the same time, will give them extra protection in an extreme emergency.

Of the value of the bayonet charge as a nerve tonic to troops or as an expedient in tactics, this report cannot attest. The data from Korean operations proves nothing except that given an unusual company of men, an unusually effective use of the weapon may occasionally be made. There is nothing to show that it induces phenomenal moral results when employed in the attack, either upon the using individuals or the targets; proof is lacking that in any particular situation it achieved a greater economy in operations than increased fire power might have done.

But a line of sharpened steel along the defensive line is additional insurance for the individual and may well have a profoundly deterring effect upon the enemy's resolve. If troops can be conditioned to having the blade ready for defense, they will soon form the habit of carrying it in the attack, ready for use if needed. The best results will ensue if use of the bayonet is emphasized in this order. There is no steadying value in any tactical teaching which runs counter to the common sense and instinct of the average soldier.

The Knife Bayonet

The issue bayonet is heavy, unwieldy, hard to sharpen, and harder yet to achieve a penetration with. The blade is not liked even by those units which have retained it and used it.

All infantry companies interviewed in Korea were in agreement that a knife-type bayonet for the M1 would be vastly preferable, and if a knife with a slotted handle were issued, which at the same time would serve a utilitarian purpose, troops would retain it and would fight with it. Such a knife is needed in any case for the cutting of brush, loosening of dirt, first aid, the opening of cans, and a variety of uses. The carbine knife is well thought of by troops, but they believe that an even better model could be designed.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Thursday, 5 May 2016

Sabre-Bayonet Manual
Topic: Cold Steel

Sabre-Bayonet Manual

Close Fighting Guide being prepared

Boston Evening Transcript, 20 September 1905

Washington, Sept. 20.—The General Staff of the army is hard at work on the new manuals for the sabre and the bayonet for the army. Hitherto these manuals have called for much skill on the part of enlisted men, so much, indeed, that few of them can acquire the art of wielding either weapon in a satisfactory manner. It is proposed to omit from the manuals everything of a fancy fencing character, such as is taught in the private drillrooms. It is intended that there shall be a return to the simplest methods, and that everything shall be on the most practical and useful basis. Both weapons are meant for use in time of war, and especially is this so of the bayonet. The officers who have been on duty in Manchuria with the Russian and Japanese armies are furnishing special reports to the General Staff on the subject, and such experts as Captain Herman J. Koehler, the master of the sword at the Military Academy, and Civil Engineer Cunningham, of the navy, who is an expert swordsman, and who had charge of the Naval Academy fencing last year, are also giving valuable advice along the line indicated. The War Department recently adopted a new type of sabre, which will be kept with a sharpened edge and carried in a wooden scabbard. A new bayonet was adopted several weeks ago, based on the results of the observations of our military attaches with the troops in Manchuria. The sabre and bayonet are therefore of fighting value, and the manual will be of a kindred practical spirit.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Monday, 2 May 2016

The Bayonet in Battle
Topic: Cold Steel

The Bayonet in Battle

The Journal of Commerce, Montreal, 30 September 1914

The bayonet is proving to be the last argument of battles in the present war. Previous to the war, military critics in various countries declared that the day of the bayonet was past, and that in future wars artillery and rifles would settle the day. It is undoubtedly true that artillery and rifles are playing a very important part in the present war. Heavy siege guns, field artillery, rapid fire guns of every description, as well as the latest and best rifles, thunder out their messages of death to the opposing force. Apparently, however, the two sides are so evenly matched in artillery that no progress can be made either way, Whatever gains have been made by the Allies have been accomplished at the point of bayonet.

The bayonet has always been a favorite with the British soldiers. The big, brawny Scots, and the other stalwarts who constitute the backbone of the British army, have always loved to fight at close quarters. Despatches from the front tell of a hundred occasions when the Germans gave way before the furious bayonet charges of the allied troops. Every soldier back from the front tells the same story of the Germans being unable to face cold steel. In addition to the terrible loss which can be inflicted by the bayonet, there is a psychological reason why me should be unable to withstand a bayonet charge. Men cannot see a bullet coming, and know nothing of it until they are hit. With bayonets it is different. Soldiers can see a long line of glistening steel, which wavers, falters, comes on faster and faster. They see the determined faces of the men behind the bayonets, can read he lust for blood in their eyes, and know that in a few minutes these visible instruments of death will be buried in their bodies. The psychological effect of a bayonet charge is enough to unnerve any but the very bravest and most fearless fighters. In every battle where the Allies have gained ground, it has been done by means of the bayonet, which forced the Germans out of their entrenched positions.

There is perhaps an added reason why the Germans fear the bayonet attacks of the Allies. Both the British and the French bayonets are longer than those in use by the Germans, and a few inches in length in a hand-to-hand fight makes all the difference between life and death. Added to this, it is undoubtedly true that the British have always excelled in bayonet work, which the scientifically trained German was taught to rely entirely upon artillery and rifle fire. As a result of the fighting in this war, and the splendid results achieved by the bayonet, it is likely to retain its place as an effective arm.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Roosevelt on Bayonets
Topic: Cold Steel

Roosevelt on Bayonets

The President's Personal Test of a Bayonet Newly Invented and Submitted for His Approval

Boston Evening Transcript, 20 April 1905

Springfield armory personnel and others will have a special interest in the following story sent from Washington to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Since the departure of President Roosevelt for Texas a story has leaked out illustrating anew his versatility and physical energy. General Frazer of the British Army, who was a guest at the White House not so long ago, told of the incident after leaving Washington as the most remarkable thing he had so far observed in the United States. It seems that General Frazer sat in the President's office on a day when General Crozier, head of the Army Ordnance Corps, brought in his new rod bayonet to show the President.

General Crozier was responsible for the rod bayonet, which was simply a modification of the end of the new Springfield rifle's cleaning rod, about the thickness of a lead pencil, with a rounded, sharpened point. This bayonet end on the cleaning rod could be pulled out 12 or 14 inches, clamped in place, and there you were. The soldier needed no longer to carry a bayonet at his side. He could tote an intrenching spade instead.

When officers, who had been observing the war in Manchuria, returned with their reports of bayonet charges by Jap and Russian, a storm of criticism developed against the Crozier rod bayonet. Army officers wanted to retain the present substantial savage-looking knife bayonet. The manufacture of the new Springfields, all equipped with rod bayonets, was stopped while the question hung in abeyance. President Roosevelt threw the weight of his influence in the scale against the new rod bayonet. On the morning of which General Frazer told his friends General Crozier had brought one of the new Springfields, equipped with the rod bayonet, to show the President how practical a tool it was. General Crozier had a pine plank with him and he drove the rod bayonet several times through the plank with the triumphant air of a magician doing a card trick.

"There!" he said. "You see."

"I don't know whether I do or not," said the President, and took a hand himself. He drove the bayonet through the pine plank, but that did not satisfy him. He then demanded to know how the rod bayonet would stand up in a contest against a soldier equipped with the present knife bayonet. General Crozier insisted that the man armed with the knife bayonet would have no advantage.

"Let's see about that," exclaimed the Chief Executive.

He sent a messenger out for a Krag-Jorgensen rifle equipped with a knife bayonet. It came.

"Now you stand over in that corner, Crozier," directed the President. "I'm attacking you, you know."

Swinging the heavy Krag in practised hands, the president danced across to the chief of the ordnance corps, who held his rifle loosely in his hands and looked at him in a rather bewildered way. It is a rather sudden shock to find yourself involved in a bayonet fight with the Chief Executive of the Government.

"Stand up to it, Crozier!" cried the President. "On guard, man!"

General Crozier thereupon fell into position and guarded. The President made half a dozen quick passes with his rifle, then a wild whoop. There was a clatter of steel, and half of Genetral Crozier's rod bayonet fell to the floor. With an old fencing trick, the President had caught it under his bayonet's guard and over its blade. With one twist of his powerful wrists he had broken the rod bayonet in halves.

"I don't think your rod bayonet is much good, Crozier," he said with a laugh. General Crozier could not think of anything more to say just at that time. He stood, bewildered, with his rifle in his hands and looked from the jagged remains of his bayonet on the end to the half of it lying on the floor.

Pretty soon he departed.

It made a great hit with General Frazer of the British Army. "Now there is a man for you," he told his friends. "My word! Think of it! That's the kind of President to have, a man who not only understand technical military business, but who can stand up and demonstrate his views. My word! But he's a man!"

The readers have probably noticed recent despatches that told not only of the knife bayonet's retention, and the rejection of the Crozier device, but also of the decision to materially lengthen this knife bayonet so that the reach in cold steel of the American soldier may equal that of any soldier in the world.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Monday, 25 April 2016

Wound Statistics 1883
Topic: Cold Steel

Wound Statistics 1883

"Military Matters," The Toronto Daily Mail, 2 June 1883

One of the most valuable contributions to the progress of medical science is undoubtedly the series of volumes recording "The Medical and Surgical History of the Rebellion, Part III., volume II," which was partially compiled under the direction of the surgeon general by the late Surgeon G.A. Otis, U.S. Army, and completed by Surgeon D.L. Huntington, U.S.A., contains some very interesting statistical tables.

From this it appears that during the Crimean War out of a total of 7,660 British wounded, 2,396, or 31.2 per cent., received their wounds in the lower extremities. Among the French troops the ratio was a little higher. The percentage in the Franco-German war was 30.5, or 7,360 wounds of the lower extremities out of a total of 24,788 wounded.

The following record of wounds received in foreign battle is given: —

  • July, 1830, days in Paris and Lyon, Serrier's table784 wounded, 185 wounds lower extremities; ratio, 23.5.
  • Crimean war, Matthew's return, 7,660 wounded, 2,396 wound lower extremities; ratio ratio, 31.2. Chenu's return, 34,306 wounded, 11,873 wound lower extremities; ratio ratio, 34.6.
  • Italian war of 1859, Chenu's return, 19,672 wounded, 7,704 wound lower extremities; ratio ratio, 39.1. Demme's estimate, 17,095 wounded, 5,248 wound lower extremities; ratio ratio, 30.6.
  • Danish war of 1864 (Heine), 1,907 wounded, 553 wound lower extremities; ratio ratio, 28.9.
  • Franco-German war, consolidated returns, 24,788 wounded, 7,550 wound lower extremities; ratio ratio, 30.5.

This shows a ratio of 33.4, or 35,519 wounds of the lower extremities in a total of 106,202 wounded. The conclusion is "that the relative frequency of shot wounds of the lower extremities does not exceed that of wounds of the upper limbs to the extent that might be anticipated from the greater size of the lower limbs. This is doubtless due to the fact that, in all fighting in entranched positions, the lower part of the person is partially screened from injury."

The following interesting table is given showing the frequency of sabre and bayonet wounds: —

OccasionsInjuriesPercentage of Sabre and Bayonet Wounds
Sabre and BayonetShot
English in Crimean War, 1854-57 (Matthew) 158 9,971 1.5
French in Crimean War, 1854-57 (Chenu) 818 25,993 3.0
French in Italian War, 1859 (Chenu) 565 15,401 3.5
Austrians at Verona, 1859 (Richter) 543 17,978 2.9
Austrians at Montebello, 1859 (Richter) 54 227 19.2
Germans in Schleswig-Holstein, 1864 (Loeffler) 61 3,171 1.8
French in Mexico, 1864 (Bintot) 19 66 22.3
Six Weeks' War in Germany, 1866, Bavarians (Richter) 56 1,641 3.3
Six Weeks' War, 1866, Italians (Cortese) 92 2,811 3.1
Six Weeks' War in Germany, 1866, Prussians and Austrians (Richter) 333 8,194 3.9
Franco-Prussian War, 1870-71, Germans (Fischer) 786 53,482 1.4
Aggregate 3,485 138,935 1.4

Accompanying this table we have this comment: —

"In comparison with the large number of shot wounds, the number of sabre and bayonet wounds seems insignificant, offering a striking commentary upon the advance of modern military science, and showing that, with the general adoption of long-range repeating firearms, the sabre and bayonet are rapidly falling into disuse, and that the time is coming, if it has not already arrived, when these old and honoured weapons will become obsolete, and when such wounds from these sources will be regarded rather as incidents of battle rather than as the results of regular tactical manoeuvres."

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 15 April 2016 9:10 AM EDT
Thursday, 21 April 2016

Bayonets
Topic: Cold Steel

Bayonets

The Day, New London, Connecticut, 6 December 1940

Persistent reports say that the Italians in the Greek campaign regard the use of bayonets by the Greek troops as entirely unwarranted cruelty. The Italian radio, in fact, is reported to have stated that bayonet fighting is "a barbarous form of warfare which shows a nation is uncivilized." The Greek retort is that "bayonet fighting is certainly less barbarous than using Italian bombing planes against non-combatants." The bayonet, it is said, has been used most effectively by the Greeks in rushing Italian positions, and the reports indicate that the Italian soldiers have not relished the prospect of running up against cold steel.

If the bayonet is barbarous then the United States remains in that benighted state, for bayonets were used by our troops in the World War and many a veteran can remember the aching muscles of bayonet drill even if he never got into battle, and had to use the things. But little about war is pleasant of "civilized," as a matter of fact. The Germans, for instance, were accused of using "dum-dum" bullets in the World War, a type of soft or hollow nosed bullet that expanded when it struck, tearing away large areas of flesh. Some student of that conflict now insist that this may have been war propaganda and that their researches fail to indicate that these bullets were used to any extent. But enough cruel and unnecessary things were done, nevertheless. New types of gas, against which the Allied troops were unprepared, were used. The American troops, on the other hand, pretty generally used bayonets, which are now called barbarous.

It is a question whether it is worse to be killed by a bullet or a bayonet. Neither is an enticing prospect to a soldier. But hand to hand fighting, or "close-up" battle, is little more terrifying to the imaginative soldier than waiting in some shell-hole wondering when an exploding shell, coming from a distant battery, strikes near enough to kill or maim, or even to bury the soldier alive. The fact that, at some distant point, men are shooting in your direction and hoping to hit you isn't pleasant in any event. The possibility of getting out alive often seems pretty slim.

Everything about war is essentially barbarous, if one wishes to be a stickler for the proprieties. There is nothing civilized about bombing civilian populations, even if one justifies the bombing of military objectives, yet this is commonly done with the idea, apparently of breaking down morale at home. War just doesn't give, as a matter of course, a sporting chance to everyone involved in it, whether it is in the mountains where the Greeks and Italians are fighting or the streets of London.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Monday, 11 April 2016

Bayonet and Sabre Fighting
Topic: Cold Steel

Bayonet and Sabre Fighting

The Toronto World, 21 October 1914

Toronto Central Y.M.C.A. Fencing Club have several members of the various regiments, officers and men, interested in these weapons, and a class is in progress demonstrating bayonet against bayonet, and sabre against sabre, and bayonet against sword. This club is not teaching bayonet drills, but bayonet fighting. The same can be said of the sword.

The use of the bayonet as a weapon of attack and defence is a necessary part of the instruction of the soldier trained to fight on foot. The club has one of the best equipments in Canada—spring bayonets, masks, gloves, etc., approved by the British War Office regulations. The course covers about twenty lessons. Great importance is given to these lessons, as it is by means of them that the combative spirit is given, and enables one to see, step by step, the fighting application of each detail which they are taught.

Bayonet fighting is not taught as a parade exercise, and when inspected it is seen in the assault. At the conclusion of the lessons awards are given for proficiency. In the course, a few very practical hints are given for using the bayonet in action:—

1.     On nearing the enemy.

2.     On getting to close quarters,

3.     If opponent commences the attack before you actually deliver your attack.

4.     Closing with an adversary.

5.     Confidence in actual contact.

These instructions are under the direction of one of Canada's specialists, and a close student of scientific swordsmanship.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 11 April 2016 12:15 AM EDT
Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Few Wounds by Cold Steel
Topic: Cold Steel

Few Wounds by Cold Steel

Shrapnel and Shell Fragments Cause Greatest Trouble Owing to Greater Danger of Infection

The Day, New London, Connecticut, 15 September 1917

During the Franco-Prussian war there were only 600 wounds by cold steel among 98,000 wounded.

Much is said about the comparatively unimportant part played by cold steel in the current war. The following passage from the article on "Surgery Military," in the New International Encyclopedia, would seem to indicate that conditions had not changed much in that respect since the Franco-Prussian war; also that the general classes of wounds remain essentially the same.

"Shrapnel wounds are like those of the old round musket balls, because of their low velocity they are more frequently lodged in wounds than are rifle bullets. Shell wounds, as a class, are much less frequent, but far more severe than shrapnel wounds. Shell fragments cause complete destruction near then bursting point, but effect less damage in more distant zones. Both shrapnel and shell wounds are usually infected, because the missiles carry into the wounds pieces of clothing and other foreign matter. The danger of infection is much increased because of the greater extent of the laceration. Wounds by bayonet, saber and lance occur so infrequently as to be of minor interest. During the Franco-Prussian war there were only 600 wounds by cold steel among 98,000 wounded. Grenades, thrown by hand, rifle and trench mortar, a revival in late wars of an earlier practice, recently have been used to a conspicuous extent in Flanders and France. Their wounds differ in no material particular from those of shell fragments and subterranean mines."

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Friday, 18 March 2016

Ordered to Wear Swords for King
Topic: Cold Steel

Ordered to Wear Swords for King

Military Arm for Officers Now Practically Obsolete in Active Service

The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Washington, 6 December 1915
(Correspondent of Associated Press.)

London, Nov. 15.—A curious survival of the martinet spirit of the old army appeared furing the recent visit of the King to the British troops in France, when an order was issued that the officers should appear with swords during the royal review. It was a costly order for the young officers, as few were provided with swords, which are a most expensive part of a kit.

Swords are obsolete as part of an officer's equipment in the field. Officers who had them left them at home when they came to the front. A small bamboo cane has taken the place of the sword except when in action, and then some officers carry rifles.

In anticipation of the royal review an order was issued at the headquarters by France for all officers to provide themselves with swords. This piece of antiquated etiquette fell heavily upon the purses of the subalterns. The King, on account of falling from his horse, was unable to review his troops after all. And it is said that the King would have been the last man in England to place this heavy tax on his officers for the sake of mere form had he known of the order.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Monday, 14 March 2016

Army Bayonet Altered
Topic: Cold Steel

Army Bayonet Altered

Length Has Been reduced From 20 Inches to Nine

 

The Montreal Gazette, 21 April 1931
(Special Cable to The New York Times and Montreal Gazette.)

London, April 20.—Eleven inches has been taken off the length of the British Army bayonet and the soldier's load lightened by about half a pound as the result of modifications in the army rifle just approved.

The new bayonet is only nine inches long against the twenty of the present sword bayonet. The design has also been changed from a flattish blade to a sort of short, sturdy triangular prog. The Belgian bayonet is now 9 ½ inches, Italian 11 ¾ and the French and German about 15 inches long. Moreover, the accuracy of shooting is expected to be improved by the introduction of the aperture sight, instead of the V-sight hitherto exclusively used on the British Army rifle.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Monday, 7 March 2016

Abolished Sword as a Cavalry Weapon
Topic: Cold Steel

Abolished Sword as a Cavalry Weapon

The Rifle is to Take its Place

Boston Evening Transcript; 17 September 1902
(Special to the Transcript)

Montreal, Sept, 18—A militia order just issued by the new commander-in-chief of the Canadian Militia, Lord Dundonald, practically abolished the sword as a cavalry weapon. He has decided that, for the future, mounted troops, whatever they may be called, shall consider the rifle as their principle weapon. They may use swords on parade, but not on the field. Drill of the simplest kind is to be provided in order that men may get into rendezvous formations, moving from place to place and getting rapidly into position for dismounted work. Rapidity in mounting and dismounting, outpost and reconnaissance work, attack and defence of a position, defence of a bridge, arrangements for ambush, pioneering, map reading, how to find way by compass and stars are recommended as proper exercises to fit mounted troops for the best work. The general expresses his desire, in making this change, to impress upon mounted officers and men that he is not depriving them of opportunities to distinguish themselves, but is rather adding to those chances. He intimates that it may be possible later to arm men with a light sword bayonet, but is satisfies that the greatest efficiency lies in the use of the rifle. He wishes the mounted man to learn from the infantryman and the engineer all that is useful to him, while retaining the dash and "go" which should always distinguish the cavalryman.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST

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