WW II, a British focus  



memories of Pte Tom Barker
1st Bn Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders

Tom Barker passed on October 1st 2008poppy.gif - 1571 Bytes
Rifle, Charger Loading, Long Lee Enfield mk1


Most people today look at the old WWII .303 Lee Enfield rifle with its fixed bayonet as it hang somewhere on a wall in a museum. The total length of the bayonet is 23" the blade is 18". I think that most people would peruse it and mentally muse "it's just another gun".

To me the .303 Lee Enfield was like a tool kit, and I treated it as such. I had often been chided, a better word would be reminded (accompanied by a swift kick in the dacks) or a belt over the head, by my Father, "if yu has finished wi' that saw mek sure yu oil it afore yu put it away" And I would comply with alacrity and a ringing ear hole Once when I forgot I went to get the saw and it was rusty, boy did I cop it, I never forgot again. But the twist to this was I saw my Dad use the saw and put it away with sap from the wood on it. So I learned the hard way, I also played it safe, I would clean the saw no matter who used it. It stood me in good stead because when I was issued with my .303 Lee Enfield in the Army the rusty saw sprang to mind and I put the rifle before anything else.

The training manual had lots of useful information.

On one page it even had a sketch of the ten rounds in a clip and beneath was a caption that stated the rounds must look like the diagram on the page, to wit, the center round is upright and the two at either side had to lean toward it. It did look very nice and tidy but when the clip was loaded the third round would jam the action.

When anyone complained the sketch was wrong we were told to, "shut it, the manual has been put together by experts"

To anyone using a bit of common sense the Lee Enfield was in fact a beautiful rifle. The range on the backsight was adjustable to 2000 yards. In the right hands it was very accurate.

Before some one refutes this I am aware that today (1999) we have improved on the Lee Enfield. Thank you.

One or two little quirks and the rifle could be made useless to any one but the owner. A tiny piece of hard wood could be shaped and blacked then pressed into the cocking piece. The rifle could still be loaded and the trigger squeezed, and the firing pin would shoot forward. But the firing pin would not contact the round in the breech.

Another way was to remove the bolt and unscrew the head one turn, then replace the bolt. Now the bolt will load a .303 round but it will not close so it is impossible to fire it.

With a round up the spout one could fill the barrel with water, and provided one kept the rifle upright one had a small drink for later. Albeit a bit warm.. The magazine was designed to hold ten rounds, but I found I could get eleven in and with one in the breech I could give some one a nasty surprise if he was counting my shots. The magazine was also a handy money box for paper notes, unfortunately the gun was more important to a thief, so you lost both.

The bayonet was in a class by itself and was sometimes abused by some. It could chop sticks, open cans of bully, behead a snake, gut an enemy, and three shoved through an empty petrol tin made an ideal grill to barbecue on. With practice it could be thrown, but it made a clumsy throwing knife.

On the end of a rifle it was a fearsome spear. On its own it was a short very sharp sword. In a scrum a trained man with a naked bayonet in one hand and its scabbard on the belt with brass buckles in the other made a formidable foe. A bayonet does not have to go right through the body to kill, all it needs is 3 inches in the right place.

Enfield no.4 mk1(T)
Some info just came from a friend who is clued in on WW2 weapons. It would appear the rifle I had on Crete was an 'Enfield N0 4 (T). A special rifle with a cheek piece on the butt, complete with Scope mount and a No 32 scope. These were selected rifles at that time and came already zeroed and complete in a wooden box. Mine is some where in the sea water off Timbakion Crete.

2982252 Pte Barker T.O. 1st Bn Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, Born 23 May 1921.
Tom Barker