British P1879 Martini-Henry Artillery Sword Bayonet

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Rare 1879 second pattern Saw-backed sword bayonet for the Martini-Henry artillery carbine Mk1. Made by the Royal Small Arms Factory (RSAF) at Enfield. These bayonets were only produced for an eleven years period between July 1879 and 1890. RSAF, Enfield made the lion's share with only around 2000 being made by the Wilkinson Sword Company.

The 654mm blade is double-edged for the last 220mm and terminates in a spear point. The blade is in excellent condition, clean and bright with only a few tiny specks of tarnish and marks from use.

The spine has 20 pairs of offset saw teeth above a short fuller ending with a medial ridge towards the point. The saw teeth remain extremely sharp. The spine of the blade bears an Enfield inspection mark and the letters W and R.

The ricasso bears the War Department stamp and broad arrow, a bend test cross and Enfield inspection stamp. It also has later, post 1899 sold out of service marks. The obverse ricasso bears the crowned VR cipher and numerous issue and inspection stamps. The latter being from both Enfield and Birmingham factories. There is also one “BR” stamp dated 1896, indicating refurbishment in the Birmingham factory.

Despite the relatively short span of their official usage (1879-1900), these artillery sword bayonets saw intense service and were present in every British campaign during that period, from India, Afghanistan, Egypt, The Sudan, South Africa (Boer Wars) and China (Boxer Rebellion) to name but a few. This example bears an issue date for August 1889, with subsequent re-issue dates for 1890, 1891, 1893, 1894, 1895, 1896 and 1899.

The steel D-guard has a beautiful plum-brown patina and is free of rust or pitting. The knurled leather grips are in great condition and the press-stud and external leaf spring mechanism work perfectly. The pommel bears the markings of the Royal Artillery. The spine of the grip bears some interesting markings that I have not been able to identify. Present, in order towards the pommel is the numeral “1,” followed by a Maltese style cross and “18 J.M.” These marks are followed by a Birmingham refurbishment/repair mark, something that resembles a fishing hook and lastly an Enfield inspection stamp.

This rare sword bayonet is in fantastic condition. It is one of the best I have seen. The numerous issue marks coupled with the regimental marks (not to mention the unusual spine markings) will enable the purchaser to research the history of the piece and the campaigns in which it saw service.