Relic Weapon Parts – Part 1 – Lee-Enfield Rifle

In this new mini series of blogs I shall be showing some of the numerous relic weapon parts I have recovered over the years, all from sites in the UK. This first one is dedicated to the Lee-Enfield rifle.

The Lee-Enfield rifle, in its various incarnations, has had a long and varied life, and can still be found in use even to this day. A highly reliable and accurate rifle, I often see examples being recovered from the battlefields of Europe. Rusted to heck and back with the wooden furniture missing, these rifles are still easily recognisable, even after being buried for more than 70 years. Indeed, ones from the WW1 battlefields have been buried for more than 100 years!

Finding a complete Lee-Enfield rifle in the UK is pretty darn near impossible, or at least so I thought. Now let me not mislead you……I have yet to find a complete Lee-Enfield rifle in the UK, but I have found enough bits of one to mock up a pretty good example.

One site in particular I have permission to dig was an old British army base. The dump site for this base is full of relics from all kinds of weapons, items of kit, boxes and crates…….so much stuff it is impossible to list. And in among all these items I also find parts to the Lee-Enfield rifle.

The equipment wasn’t just dumped in the ground and covered over. It was burnt before being covered. And the reason I know this is exemplified by the first relic shown below.

 

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Remains of Lee-Enfield rifle stocks, with butt plates still in place and the rear sling mount.

The charred remains of these rifle butts show the men used the wooden furniture of the rifles as fuel for the fire. It is highly unusual to find the stocks still more-or-less intact like this. It is far more common to find only a pile of ash, with a butt plate and stock ID disc in the debris.

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Lee-Enfield brass butt plates
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Lee-Enfield stock ID discs

If you are really lucky, you can also find the oil bottle as well.

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Brass, Bakelite and early plastic oil bottles

There is plenty more of the metal furniture that survives the fire, although as most parts are steel, they are often in very poor condition. With the right treatment though, they can be preserved and the corrosion stopped.

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Rear sight protectors, Front sight protectors, rear stock bands

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As you make your way through the debris of the fire, almost tracing the outline of a burnt Lee-Enfield, you can sometimes find the magazines. The fact that there are both types of magazines found in the ash piles, it shows that both No 1 and No 4 rifles were being disposed of. But you don’t just need the magazine to show that, as you can very very rarely find parts of a barrel and end cap to show which type of rifle had been burnt.

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Two types of Lee-Enfield magazine
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No 1 nose caps
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Remains of the very very end piece of barrel from a No 1 and two examples of a No 4

The No 1 nose caps can sometimes throw you a bit of a curve ball. Every now and again, one will be recovered with a bayonet lug different to the norm. The British army had lots of different bayonets in stock, but not necessarily the rifles to go with them, so the good old Lee-Enfield was adapted to use them.

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No 1 nose caps with unusual bayonet lugs. The two on the left are thought to be for mounting an Arisaka bayonet, the one on the right is thought to be for a Ross bayonet.

In amongst the parts from the rifles themselves, other bits and pieces relating to the Lee-Enfield can be found. For instance, the spike bayonet was cheap to make, and even cheaper to chuck away when needed. Both the bayonets and the scabbards are found in this dump, including the Bakelite versions, and even the flat backed ‘Victory’ scabbard.

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Two models of spike bayonet and a metal scabbard
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Two versions of the spike bayonet Bakelite scabbard

Other items that are regularly recovered which also relate to the Lee-Enfield rifle.

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Lee-Enfield ‘dummy’ practice rifle components. Mock trigger and magazine, along with mock bolt
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Pull through rods
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Pull through cleaning attachments and barrel brushes
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The army have a great name for these….. ‘Tab, Securing, Bayonet’. I wonder what they are for   🙂
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Lee-Enfield trigger gauge
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Lee-Enfield sling buckles
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Very few of the sling buckles are marked, but every now and again one is. 1916 dated.

this site shows that you don’t need to travel anywhere to find relics of this historic rifle. With the right research and permissions, they can be found right here in the UK.

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