Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (The 2/4th Battalion)

Research and Resources around the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry during WWI

British Lee-Enfield Rifle

1. Butt, 2. Trigger, 3. Trigger Guard, 4. Magazine, 5. Bolt Handle, 6. Rear Sight, 7. Front Sight, 8. Barrel, 9. Bayonet.

The Short Magazine Lee-Enfield (SMLE) – also known as Rifle, Number 1

Prior to World War I, the Rifle, Short, Magazine Lee-Enfield, or SMLE, was developed to provide a single rifle to offer a compromise length between rifles and carbines, and to incorporate improvements deemed necessary from experience in the Boer War. With a length of 44.5 inches (1,130 mm), the new weapon was referred to as a “short rifle”; the word “short” refers to the length of the rifle, not the length of the magazine. From 1903 to 1909, many Metford and Enfield rifles were converted to the SMLE configuration with shorter barrels and modified furniture. Production of the improved SMLE Mk III began in 1907. Earlier Mk I and Mk II rifles were upgraded to include several of the improvements of the Mk III. The compromise length was consistent with military trends as the US Springfield M1903 was only produced in the compromise length and the Germans adopted the kurz (short) rifle concept between the world wars for the Mauser 98k (model 1898 short).

British Lee-Enfield

“Lee-Enfield 1907. Rivalling the Mauser both in terms of use and reputation was the British Lee-Enfield 0.303-inch rifle, which was issued to virtually all British soldiers on the Western Front (and many elsewhere). First produced in 1907 and officially titled the Short Magazine Lee-Enfield (SMLE) Mark III, the name was derived from its designer (James Lee, an American) and its manufacturer (the Royal Small Arms Factory based in Enfield, London).

Unlike the Mauser the Lee-Enfield, with its ten-cartridge magazine, was well suited to rapid fire; a suitably trained soldier could expect to fire twelve well-aimed shots a minute.

The Lee-Enfield proved so sturdy and reliable that its use continued into World War Two. Its design was also incorporated into both U.S. and Canadian models.”


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