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Timerover51 February 11th, 2013 10:28 PM

Some Interesting Military Data
 
Generally, I would not post historical accounts here, but I thought that this account might have relevance to the Forum at large, as it would pertain to Skills chosen or acquired. The information comes from the book by Winston Churchill, The Story of the Malakand Field Force. The book was written at the close of 1897, and the events occurred in the summer of 1897.

Quote:

Then suddenly, as matters were approaching a crisis, the cavalry of the relieving column appeared over the Amandara ridge. The strong horsemen mercilessly pursued and cut down all who opposed them. When they reached the Bridgehead on the side of the river remote from the fort, the enemy began to turn and run. The garrison had held out stubbornly and desperately throughout the siege. Now that relief was at hand, Lieutenant Rattray flung open the gate, and followed by half a dozen men charged the Civil Hospital. Captain Baker and Lieutenant Wheatley followed with a few more. The hospital was recaptured. The enemy occupying it, some thirty in number, were bayoneted. It was a finish in style. Returning, the sallying party found the cavalry—the 11th Bengal Lancers—checked by a sungar full of tribesmen. This they charged in flank, killing most of its occupants, and driving the rest after their comrades in rout and ruin. The last man to leave the sungar shot Lieutenant Rattray in the neck, but that officer, as distinguished for physical prowess as for military conduct, cut him down. This ended the fighting. It is not possible to think of a more fitting conclusion.
I have highlighted the comment on the use of the bayonet, as throughout the account so far, the use of the bayonet has shown up repeatedly, along with the use of the lance by the 11th Bengal Lancers on routed infantry. As generally, the use of the bayonet is viewed as extremely rare, that does not appear to be the case so far here. The same thing shows up in the account of the British intervention in Egypt in 1882, leading up to the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir. Also, in his account of the fighting on Guadalcanal, which appears in Shots Fired in Anger, Lt. Col. John George, then a First Lieutenant, continually mentions the important of the knife or bayonet for use against Japanese night infiltrators. This does tend to fly in the face of conventional wisdom, so I thought it of interest.

Vladika February 11th, 2013 11:17 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by timerover51 (Post 422390)

The hospital was recaptured. The enemy occupying it, some thirty in number, were bayoneted.

Also, in his account of the fighting on Guadalcanal, which appears in Shots Fired in Anger, Lt. Col. John George, then a First Lieutenant, continually mentions the important of the knife or bayonet for use against Japanese night infiltrators. This does tend to fly in the face of conventional wisdom, so I thought it of interest.

In neither example did one side stand a bayonet charge. If you research the topic critically you will find that almost never has a military unit actually stood to receive such a charge.

In the hospital example there was nowhere for an exhausted defender to run to. In the infiltration example it was isolated individuals or small groups involved.

The wounded, captured and infirm or fleeing are the only ones likely to be bayoneted.

The US Army pathologists keep excellent records of wounds and death from all causes. You will find very few such reports there either.

Timerover51 February 11th, 2013 11:32 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Vladika (Post 422394)
In neither example did one side stand a bayonet charge. If you research the topic critically you will find that almost never has a military unit actually stood to receive such a charge.

In the hospital example there was nowhere for an exhausted defender to run to. In the infiltration example it was isolated individuals or small groups involved.

The wounded, captured and infirm or fleeing are the only ones likely to be bayoneted.

The US Army pathologists keep excellent records of wounds and death from all causes. You will find very few such reports there either.

Actually, I have looked at the pathology reports. And I have been reading military history for about over 50 years, as my degree is in history.

As for standing a bayonet charge, I would suggest you read about the Bloody Angle at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House in the American Civll War. Then S. L. A. Marshall has a detailed account of a company bayonet charge during the Korean War, by a US infantry company on a North Korean position in, if I remember correctly, the spring of 1951.

BytePro February 11th, 2013 11:38 PM

Hmmm... I guess I suffer from no conventional wisdom, as such things are not anywhere near my areas of expertise. But I'd have thought blades, including bayonets, quite effective and commonly used in combat before the advent of heavy and automatic weapons fire and precision artillery support... presumably up to around WWI. Mid to late 1800's probably saw the start of a shift, I would think (civil war on?).

Getting in close and personal was quite survivable to the point in those times - and a length of blade has an edge (pun intended) over a single bullet or two in terms of making reliable and effective contact. Plus, they don't have the whole reloading issue against them.

As times progressed, charging the enemy has become less likely to result in surviving to come into close contact combat - tech means you'll more likely be cut down. IIRC, the Japanese made the most effective use of bayonets in WWII - though perhaps as being more likely to engage in what many combatants would see as a suicide tactic. (Got no real idea or facts on that - just my 'feel' for things...)

But I think bayonets are still in use - and still have a purpose in close quarters fighting - though such is probably pretty rare and better done with knives and stealth than extended blades and charges.

[I did tinker briefly with bayonets (most of the team objected :devil:) on our M1 drill rifles back in high school - after seeing a Marine team perform with them. I think they were standard issue with the rifle, as our 'loaned' Korea era (at least) inventory included them - IIRC, ours had two sizes, mostly shorter, and were still in use up to Vietnam times...]

madmike February 12th, 2013 01:11 AM

Well, bayonets evolved from the need for musketeers needing some form of defensive/offensive ability when combat got too close or they ran out of ammo. Got to remember the slow rate of fire of early muzzle loaders! Early bayonets merely plugged into the muzzle rendering the musket into a pure spear. The issue of socket or ring bayonets allowed a soldier to fire and melee attack. So the best of both worlds.

Mass bayonet attacks essentially withered away in WW1. Those sort of 18th-19th century tactics could not survive against a Maxim or Vickers machine gun. Unfortunately, to make that lesson known to old school generals, schooled in the belief of massed cold steel, hundreds of thousands of soldiers died on the fields of Yres, Verdun and the Somme.

If you were facing such an attack, even with machine guns, it still would have been damn terrifying.

The bayonet still has a place in modern times, mostly as a form of weapons training and discipline. But, they still teach soldiers bayonet use even now.

Hemdian February 12th, 2013 02:13 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by madmike (Post 422411)
The bayonet still has a place in modern times, mostly as a form of weapons training and discipline. But, they still teach soldiers bayonet use even now.


A quick google finds that bayonets can still be used effectively on the modern battlefield. Two incidents of note (assuming the sources are reliable):
Quote:

"It's not morally very hard to pull a trigger but it is physically hard to get people to die because usually they don't want to. The ultimate level is bayoneting, because there is a physical link between the two of you. You don't stab them in the stomach, twist and withdraw. They grab on to the blade, it stabs them in the mouth and catches them everywhere."
-- Lt Robert Lawrence (Falklands War veteran), Jan 2007

aramis February 12th, 2013 02:23 AM

I enjoyed the hell out of bayonet training at Ft. Dix... I've since used it as a civilian; it works just fine with Jo staff.

madmike February 12th, 2013 02:30 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Hemdian (Post 422413)
A quick google finds that bayonets can still be used effectively on the modern battlefield. Two incidents of note (assuming the sources are reliable):

Truth but very isolated. Bayonets these days are the pretty much the ultimate last ditch method of defending oneself in melee combat. The traditional bayonet charge effectively ceased to exist after WW1.

My grandfather once told me the Japanese in WW2 were exceptionally adept at a bayonet charge, and meeting the same fate as those in WW1. He considered himself very fortunate that he never had to use his in anger, on or off his SMLE. In the jungles of Borneo and Morotai, the machete was used more frequently :)

I think even in the high tech military forces of Traveller, the bayonet will still be issued to infantry and marines

Timerover51 February 12th, 2013 02:36 AM

Following up on BytePro's comments with respect to the Japanese, at Nomonhan on the Mongolia-Manchuria border in the summer of 1939, the Japanese apparently were doing pretty well against the Russian and Mongolian troops by using night bayonet attacks. The problem the Japanese had was that while successful during the night, during the day, the Russian artillery on the heights on the west side of the Halha River pounded them mercilessly, and kept forcing them to withdraw from the positions gained at night. Then, of course, in August, Zhukov mangled the Japanese, and essentially destroyed the 23rd Infantry Division.

With respect to the troops involved in the Malakand area battles, the Indian regiments were still equipped with the single-shot .450/.577 Martini-Henrys, so in the close-quarter night fighting, especially at Malakand, which I did not post, the attacking Mad Mullah forces engaged in a considerable amount of hand-to-hand combat with the defending British and British-led Indian troops.

The following information comes from the book, Report of the British Naval and Military Operations in Egypt, 1882, written by Lt.-Cmdr. Caspar Goodrich for the US Navy Office of Naval Intelligence, and published by the GPO in 1885.

Quote:

The trenches, after the battle, were found filled with dead, mostly bayoneted, and the ground in the rear, as far as the railway station, was dotted with the bodies of those shot down in retreat. . . . The Egyptian loss in killed alone was not far from 2.000. . . . The men displayed real courage at Tel-el-Kebir, as the desperate struggle in the trenches and their heavy loss in killed abundantly prove. The black regiments, composed of negroes from the Soudan, were especially noticeable for their pluck, fighting bravely, hand to hand, with the British. . . . The small arms (used by the Egyptians) were of the well-known Remington make. (pages 156-157)
Goodrich was the official US Naval Observer to the operations, and is regarded by British authors of giving one of the best unbiased accounts of the campaign.

There appear to be a couple of copies available online, but looking at them, they appear to leave a lot to be desired, in terms of completeness.

Now, I am not necessarily turning this thread into a discussion of the use of the bayonet, as I hope to make additional postings here on other subjects.

Khan Trav February 12th, 2013 05:48 AM

My son completed what the US Army refers to as BCT or basic combat training late in 2011 and went on to become a Cavalry Scout. His personal experience was a surprise to me. I asked him about bayonet training and he explained that it has been removed from the US Army by TRADOC. The explanation provided was that trainers and drill sergeants requested the change so they could focus on training that was likely to be useful.

As a former US Marine, after getting over the shock that one of my children had enlisted in the US Army, nothing else he could say after that really surprised me.

When I was trained back in 1984 we benefitted from bayonet training both from a combat training aspect and a physical fitness/team building aspect.


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