British 1903 Pattern Bayonet, South Wales Borderers and King’s Shropshire Light Infantry
Spear pointed unfullered blade, wood scale grips secured with two screws. Steel beaked pommel with locking button and clearance hole, steel hilt with short quillon and muzzle ring. Black leather scabbard with steel throat and chape, brown leather frog.
The blade is stamped on one side of the ricasso with a crowned ‘E.R.’, a production date of 11 ’03, meaning November 1903. On the other side it is stamped with a broad arrow meaning War Department property, ‘EFD’ meaning the manufacturer, the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield, a crown inspection mark with ‘E’ for Enfield and an ‘X’ which indicates that the blade passed a manufacturer’s bending test. The spine of the blade has another two ‘E’ crown inspection marks.
The pommel is stamped with ‘3 S.W.B.’ over ‘159’. This indicates that this was bayonet number 159 used by the 3rd Battalion, South Wales Borderers. This has been cancelled with a strikethrough, and below it is stamped ‘3 S H’ over ‘439’ indicating that it was reissued as bayonet number 439 to the 3rd Battalion, Shropshire Regiment a.k.a. the Shropshire Militia.
The Royal South Wales Borderers Militia was formed in 1876 out of a merger of the Royal Radnor Rifles and Royal Brecon Rifles, both militia infantry units with long histories dating back to the Trained Bands of the 17th century and earlier shire levies. In 1881 the Childers Reforms merged Militia units into existing regiments as new battalions, so it became the 3rd Battalion, South Wales Borderers. It deployed to South Africa in 1900 for service in the Boer War. That war ended in 1902 and this bayonet was probably issued to them as new equipment following their return to Britain. During WW1 it served as a training unit for the regular battalions.
The Shropshire Militia similarly dates back to at least the reign of Henry VIII. In 1881 the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (KSLI) was formed from the merger of the 53rd (Shropshire) Regiment of Foot and the 85th The King’s Regiment of Light Infantry (Bucks Volunteers). These became the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the new regiment, the Shropshire Militia became the 3rd Battalion and the Royal Herefordshire Militia the 4th. In 1908 the 3rd and 4th Battalions were merged to form the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion. It served as a training unit in WW1 until 1917 when it was sent to garrison County Cork in Ireland.
It is hard to tell when this bayonet changed ownership from the SWB to the KSLI, but the usual trend was for older equipment to be handed down when it was replaced. The 1903 Pattern had quite a short service life before the 1907 Pattern was introduced in much larger quantities with the new SMLE rifle.
The blade has some patination, no edge damage, and the ricasso of the blade retains its original band of bluing. The hilt and pommel also have a blued finish with light wear to raised edges revealing bright steel. The scabbard fittings have some patination. The scabbard leather has light rubbing wear and a small crack at one side of the midsection, probably resulting from bending. The wood grips are very good with only light surface dents and no chipping. The leather of the frog is very good with only light rubbing to the belt loop, all stitching is intact.