"What's that you got there, mate? Is it a bloody coconut splitter or some sort of weapon?"
The Aussies brought us their version of the English SMLE (Short Magazine Lee-Enfield) Mk III, the No. 1 SMLE Mark III in 1914-and our friends Down Under produced quite a few of these sweet-shooting Enfield rifles, chambered in .303 British, for the next 30 years-till the end of WWII.
Lee-Enfield British bolt-action guns are the second-most widely produced rifle next to the Russian Mosin-Nagant M1891/30. Since its birth in 1895, a staggering 17 million or more rolled off assembly lines worldwide, produced in various chamberings and models for several countries and wars.
This gun traces its lineage to the magazine and bolt-action design of British arms designer J.P. Lee and the revolutionary barrel rifling design of William Ellis Metford. The Lee-Metford black powder rifle was adopted by the British Army in 1888, and after that, sales skyrocketed worldwide.
The Magazine Lee-Enfield (MLE) saw its first engagement against Boer-operated Mausers during the Boer War of 1899-1902. By the end of that war, a single rifle was developed for military forces-cavalry, infantry and artillery-not a different rifle size for each component as before.
And the Short Magazine Lee-Enfield series was born in 1907.
It featured a simple rear sight and a fixed charger guide.
The magazine was improved, beefed up for the Mark VII High Velocity Spitzer round in .303.
In part, due to its magazine design, the Lee-Enfield was touted as the fastest bolt-action of its day. It held 10 rounds and could be quickly reloaded. The Mk 1 had an overall length of 49.5 inches and weighed about 9 pounds; the SMLE Mk III was shorter at 44 1/2 inches and weighed 8 1/2 pounds. The SMLE Jungle Carbine was just 39 1/2 inches in length and weighed a modest 7 pounds and change.
The Australian No. 1 SMLE Mark III was made by M.A. Lithgow and was chambered for .303.
Many of these rifles made their way to the United States and are fairly reasonably priced.
Two bayonets were mated to the No. 1 SMLE Mark III-the 15-inch, single-edged blade that bears the same name, and the most interesting Australian Bolo Bayonet. The No. 1 SMLE Mark III bayonet has a single-edged 11 1/2-inch bolo blade with a wood grip.
Bolos are machete-like tools used in jungle climes to hack trails and harvest fruit (e.g., coconuts and sugar cane). Along the way, peasants-turned freedom fighters, like Filipino resistance, learned it wasn't all that different splitting coconuts from splitting the heads of Spanish soldiers during the 1898 Philippine Revolution. No wonder why, the SMLE Mark III Bolo Bayonet bears a striking resemblance to the Filipino sundang, an instrument used to open coconuts-and hapless Spanish soldiers' skulls.
Coming soon to a plantation or guerrilla war near you: the No. 1 SMLE Mark III Bolo Bayonet.