Modern Sport Bayonet Fencing was based from the combat bayonet.
Please read more about the combat bayonet below.
The text was approved by L. F. CHAPMAN, JR. Lieutenant General, U.S. Marine Corps.
US Government. (August 1, 1991). Marine Bayonet Training: Us Marine Corps FM 1-1. Desert Publications. El Dorado, AR.
Evolution of the Bayonet
The Bayonet is the infantry weapon which has changed the least during the development and refinement of weapons of war during the last three hundred years. There are several suggested origins of the bayonet. Some sources suggest that it derives from the Baioniers, crossbowmen of the middle ages, who carried a large knife or dagger to supplement their crossbows. Other sources credit the smugglers of Basque with using a bayonet-type weapon as at ditch defense. Most English literature sources give the credit to Seigneur Marecal de Puysegur who, in 1647, at Ypres, France, ordered his troops muskets after firing. De Puysegur and his unit were from Bayonne, France, a town known for dagger manufacture, hence the term bayonet.
Early infantry commanders employed a warrior known as a pikeman, armed with a knife attached to the end of a quarterstaff, to defend the musketeers from an enemy charge while the musket was reloaded. Reloading was a time consuming operation and the musketeer was vulnerable during the time his weapon was empty. The pikeman stationed himself in was empty. The pikeman stationed himself in front of the musketeer and warded off any enemy assault with his pike until the musketeer was again ready to fire. De Puysegur’s development thus enabled the musketeer to assume both function of the “medieval fire team”. This so called plug bayonet was used for a period of forty to fifty years. It consisted of a long dagger with a tapered shaft which was inserted into the muzzle of the musket. The taper was necessary since muzzle diameters were not standardized. The plug bayonet fitted snugly into the muzzle of the musket and was difficult to remove. This was necessary in order to prevent it being withdrawn by the enemy. The musket could not be fired with the bayonet inserted, a significant disadvantage. The plug bayonet lost favor when it contributed to the defeat of the English at the hands of the Scots at Killiecrankie, Scotland, in 1689. The English were ordered to fix bayonets after firing a volley at the Scots. The British commander then discovered that his troops were further from the Scots than he had originally thought. He ordered bayonets detached and muskets reloaded. Before loading could be accomplished the Scots closed with the English and thoroughly routed them. The English commander, Hugh MacKay, having noted the disadvantages of the plug bayonet, developed a modification with came to be known as the ring bayonet, but the tapered shaft was inserted between two rings fastened to the muzzle, allowing the musket to be fired with the bayonet attached. There is some evidence that a similar device was being used in France ten years prior to the engagement at Killiecrankie, indicating that the ring bayonet was not an English invention.
The ring bayonet still left much to be desired. The lack of standardization made a secure fit difficult, and the rings had a tendency to stretch out of shape with use, rendering the bayonet useless. This led to the next development. The socket bayonet was introduced in the early 1690’s. the lower part of the blade well out of the line of fire and seating the bayonet firmly on the barrel. Again, lack of standardization made it impossible to produce a single model which would fit even a small number of the weapons of one unit. Also, a sudden tug by an enemy would dislodge the bayonet from the barrel. These difficulties led to further advancements in bayonet design, in an attempt to find a rapidly attachable bayonet which could be held securely to the barrel. One development made the bayonet parts of the musket sleeve of the ring lengthwise permitting a wider opening which could be hammered closed to obtain a snug fit. Experiments with slots, rings, catches, clasps, springs, and other assorted devices were made in an attempt to develop a more satisfactory bayonet.
The bayonet as we know it today has its origins at the beginning of the 19th century. Late in the 18th century a major bayonet modification appeared, the sword bayonet. This has been the prototype for most bayonets since that date. The now familiar knife blade bayonet came into general use about the same time as the introduction of the magazine rifle, just prior to the Civil War. There were a variety of shapes and sizes ranging from the sword-like, 24-inch blade down to the dagger-type, 10-inch blade. Typically, there were a variety of short-lived variations and multiuse bayonets. There were saw-toothed blades for use by engineer troops, saber-edged blades for use by the cavalry, spade-shaped blades to help the infantryman did in, and bolo-knife blades for cutting through the jungles. In addition, there was a ramrod/cleaning rod, sharpened to a point at one end and folding under the barrel like the old fashioned cleaning rod. None of these modifications were adopted for long. At this point the rifleman had an instrument with which he could protect himself as he reloaded his weapon. It served to protect him and better his morale when rain had soaked his pan. He could now defend himself against the sabre slashes of the cavalry or a charge by the infantry.
Development of Bayonet Fighting Techniques
The bayonet was developed to protect the musketeer while he reloaded his weapon, a defensive mission. The tactics employed were an individual or unit matter; there was no published doctrine for bayonet fighting. However, as weapons improved and rapid fire, longer range weapons were developed, the troops were more widely dispersed on the battlefield. The percentage of time spent in close combat with the enemy was reduced. As a result, the use of the bayonet, a close combat weapon, was also reduced. There is little said about the use of the bayonet in the American Civil r and Spanish-American War.
The development of the machinegun and refinements in artillery reversed the trend toward battlefield mobility and World War I was a static conflict in which trench warfare was employed. There were great concentrations of troops, sometimes in close proximity to one another. The bayonet was extremely important in trench fighting, and the experience gained in World War I led to the publication of the first manuals on bayonet fighting doctrine. The bayonet was depicted as an offensive weapon, used in assaulting enemy troops in trenches. Many of the principles appearing in the manuals are still valid today. Early doctrine pictured the bayonet as essential for successful culmination of the attack. Artillery fire was capable of demolishing enemy trenches, but this was undesirable since the trenches would have to be redug to defend against the inevitable counterattack. Therefore, the only way to drive the enemy from his trenches without destroying the trench and burying him was through the bayonet the bayonet assault. The doctrine set forth in these manuals regarding attitude, standardization of movements, and practice for bayonet fighting was as follows:
(a) The bayonet fighter was given a firm knowledge of the underlying principles of bayonet combat. The bayonet was regarded as an individual weapon and each bayonet fighter was taught in such a manner as to take advantage of his own physical characteristics. No attempt was made to set down prescribed standards as to the position of feet or hands on the weapon. Each bayonet fighter was left free to choose positions and movements most natural to him.
(b) Instructors corrected individual errors, but took advantage of any particular skill possessed by any individual. Instructors tried to develop to the fullest degree the proficiency of the individual, consistent with his physique and degree of development, but guarded against attempting to make a precise parade or callisthenic drill of bayonet training.
(c) Assumption of a vicious, aggressive attitude was the “spirit of the bayonet”. An actual bayonet fight was depicted as lasting only a few seconds during which time the bayonet fighter was to kill his opponents or be killed himself. The necessity for aggressive action was as obvious then as it is today. The enemy was to be forced on the defensive; the battle was won if this was achieved. The attack consisted of a succession of thrusts, cuts, feints, and butt strokes delivered in succession and without pause, so as not allow the opponent to recover.
(d) The employment of teamwork in the bayonet assault was emphasized. The assaulting troops remained on line. An individual who got too far ahead and was killed before assistance could arrive was not contributing to a successful assault. Similarly, an individual who remained behind was useless in the assault.
The individual attack movements described in early manuals closely resemble those taught and employed today. Today’s system is somewhat simpler and facilitates better balance of the bayonet fighter and control of the weapon. Training consisted of individual familiarization with the movements, the use of dummies, thrusting rings, and practice in assaulting enemy trenches with troops on line. The latter category received more emphasis. Dummies were placed in trenches and attacked by bayonet fighters. The system of bayonet fighting taught to American fighting men during World War I. The basics of this system were established in 1905 and changed very little through the conduct of World War I and II. Bayonets were employed during World War I principally in the assault of enemy trenches, while, in World War II, their employment was extended to include seizure of key enemy held terrain objectives.
The bayonet fighting system currently taught and employed by the Marine Corps was developed by Doctor Arnold H. Seidler, professor in the Department of Physical Education at the University of Illinois. Dr. Seidler was a bayonet instructor in the U.S. Army during World War II when he Biddle system was taught. He felt the movements of the old system were awkward and difficult to execute, and often caused the bayonet fighter to lose his balance. If the bayonet fighter failed to disable his opponent with the first blow he was then frequently left at the enemy`s mercy. Dr. Seidler was convinced that the movements of the Biddle system were unnatural and this would result in their being discarded in an actual bayonet fight, and the bayonet fighter resorting to a disorganized attack on his enemy. Under the Seidler system the guard position remains the basic position. All movements begin from the guard position and each movement consists of an attack and a recovery. The recovery is a return to the guard position. In the execution of a movement, the two phases follow without deliberate pause. This makes the entire movement a uniformly smooth action. The attack may be continued without returning to the guard position, either by repeating the same movement or utilizing another followup movement. Followup movements are designed so that a blocked initial movement sets the opponent up for the delivery of another killing blow without the bayonet fighter having to return to the guard position and without loss of balance.
The Importance of Bayonet
The importance of the bayonet cannot be measured by the frequency of its use or the number of casualties for which it accounts. It is indispensable because of the confidence it breeds in the individual Marine to accomplish this mission under a wide variety of conditions. The bayonet is always loaded and always operative.
1 – The importance of assuming the offence as a principle of war cannot be questioned. The bayonet is a symbol of the offense; of aggressiveness. It gives the infantryman courage and confidence, provided he is properly trained in its use. It gives individual infantrymen a more offensive attitude, and better enables them to accomplish their security and safety. In addition to its offensive roles, the bayonet can serve as a last ditch protective measure.
2 – In situations where friendly and enemy troops are mingled in hand-to-hand combat, rifle fire may hit friendly personnel. However, the bayonet is more selective and kills only the person into which it is thrust. As long as the infantry closes with the enemy this capability remains important. In situations of reduced visibility, the presence of the tragedy which can result from it. For a discussion of the employment of bayonets in the control of riots and civil disturbances, see FMFM 6-4, Marine rifle Company/Platoon.
3 – When stealth is required the bayonet is irreplaceable. It is flexible, capable of being fixed to the end of the rifle or held as a knife, silent and deadly. It gives the riflemen two capacities, bullets and blade. Bayonet drill is an excellent physical conditioner. The bayonet assault course is stress and skill that contributes to the creation of total military fitness.
Principles of Bayonet Fighting
The bayonet fighter should be aggressive, ruthless, savage, and vicious. Herein lies the key to success with the bayonet. He must never pause in his attack until he has killed his enemy. He must follow each vicious attack with another, remembering that if he does not kill his opponent, his opponent will kill him. Hesitation, delay, and excess maneuvering may result in death. The primary aim of the bayonet fighter is to get his blade into the enemy. All defensive moves, butt strokes, and footwork drive towards this end. They are actions taken to enable the bayonet fighter to sink his blade, for it is the blade that kills. He aims for the vital areas of the enemy. The throat is the best target, but the belly and chest are also vulnerable. When the enemy seeks to protect one vital area, he attacks another. He hacks. Cuts, and slashes the face, arms, and hands in order to get to the vital areas. He delivers the butt strokes blade. If the opponent gives no opening, he makes one by parrying his weapon. If required, the bayonet fighter protects himself through blocks and parries. The rifle and bayonet make a good shield. The best defense is not to allow the opponent to take the offensive. The successful bayonet fighter strikes the first blow and follows up with the kill. Training and practice are the only way to attain proper form, accuracy, agility, and speed with the rifle and feet. Practice and training in these traits lead to coordination, balance, speed, and endurance. The bayonet fighter must continue to practice these movements until they become second nature, and his attack as natural as running.
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