The Small World of Miniature Bayonets

A number of letter-opener bayonets associated with the United States Marine Corps have been featured in previous articles in this series. Two further examples have, however, recently become available for study. The first of these is 199 mm in overall length with a 140 mm blade and a 7.0 mm muzzle ring. There is no scabbard. This miniature is a chromium-plated aluminium (or alloy?) casting (non-magnetic). The pommel has a 17 mm-long rectangular-sectioned mortise along its upper side. On the reverse is a fixing catch button, spring loaded but otherwise functionless. The two dark-brown (wood-grain effect) plastic grips appear to be secured by two rivets, but are actually glued in place. The ‘rivets’ are actually false, being 3 mm diameter studs cast on the blade tang which project through holes in the grips. The straight cross-guard has a muzzle ring and a spatulate lower quillon. The single-edged blade is fullered on both faces.

The blade fuller on the reverse is engraved ‘STAFF NCO CLUB MCAS IWAKUNI JAPAN’ with the base of the lettering towards the cutting edge. The bayonet is therefore a souvenir of the Staff Non-Commissioned Officers’ Club of the US Marine Corps Air Station at Iwakuni, Honshu Island, Japan. The US Marines took over this air-base in 1958 and are still operating there at the time of writing. A gold-coloured USMC insignia — a spread eagle over a globe and a fouled anchor — is mounted on the reverse blade ricasso. The obverse ricasso carries a small label reading ‘MADE IN JAPAN’ with the top of the lettering towards the cross-guard. Such a label is a very rare feature which has never previously been encountered on the many other Japanese-made miniatures which have been examined. This souvenir letter-opener dates from c. 1970-75 and can be regarded as mimicking the design of the US Model 1892 service bayonet for the Krag Rifle.

A second Marine Corps miniature is shown as Plate 2 and is 205 mm overall with a 143 mm blade length and a 7.0 mm muzzle ring.

It is a nickel-plated, white-metal alloy casting (non-magnetic). The pommel has a 17.5 mm-long rectangular-sectioned mortise along its upper side. On the reverse is a fixing catch button, spring loaded but otherwise functionless.

The two hard-wood grips are secured by two functional alloy rivets, finished flat and flush with the wood surface. The straight cross-guard has a muzzle ring and a spatulate lower quillon. The single-edged blade is fullered on both faces.

The upper side of the blade tang, between the grips, is stamped ‘MADE IN SWITZERLAND’ in tiny upper-case lettering. This betrays the fact that this miniature was intended for export to the USA. United States’ customs regulations required imports to be marked as to country of origin. The obverse blade fuller is engraved ‘UNITED STATES MARINES’ with the upper side of the lettering towards the cutting edge. On the obverse blade ricasso is the stamped motto of the United States Marine Corps ‘SEMPER FIDELIS’ (in Latin: Always Faithful) over a variant of their insignia, the spread eagle standing on a globe and anchor.

Miniature bayonets of this type were originally based on the Model 1889 bayonet issued in Switzerland for the Schmidt-Rubin Rifle. The US M.1892 service bayonet for the Krag Rifle was a close copy of the Swiss design, so this letter-opener can also be regarded as a miniature US Krag bayonet.

All other known Swiss-made bayonets of this style exported to the USA are marked by their manufacturer ‘PAUROUX Fr. CHEXBRES’ on the reverse blade ricasso. This intriguing example lacks this marking, has flatter cross-guard faces and appears to be newly manufactured, so may be a late revival of this style of miniature. Pauroux Freres are believed to have ceased production c.1966, so just who made this miniature is therefore something of a mystery.

Yet another Belgian letter-opener has also recently been identified and is illustrated in Plate 3. This is quite small, only 128 mm overall with an 87 mm blade. No appropriate scabbard has been seen. The entire bayonet is a one-piece casting, made of nickel-plated brass and therefore non-magnetic. The pommel has neither mortise nor simulated fixing catch. There are no separately-made grips; the junction between pommel and grips is represented by a cast diagonal groove on each side. The cross-guard has a hooked lower quillon but there is no muzzle ring bored through the upper quillon. The single-edged blade has a fuller on the reverse side only. (Most Belgian miniature bayonets which have a fuller on only one side of the blade are fullered on the obverse side — this miniature reverses that situation.) All four sides of the grip area of the hilt are painted in shiny brown enamel. Three diagonal stripes in the Belgian national colours of black, yellow and red have then been added to the obverse and reverse faces. There are unfortunately no markings of any kind. This souvenir was made in Belgium, probably in the 1918-30 period. Two other examples of this style of all-metal miniature have been encountered in the past, but these differed in details of final finish. One carried the painted Belgian tricolour stripes on each side of the grip and another was identical but was stamped ‘WATERLOO’ along the reverse blade ricasso. Both the above lacked the brown-painted background finish of the grip area which is a feature of the example illustrated here.

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