British Peninsular Wars Brown Bess Socket Bayonet. Osborn & Gunby 1809

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The .75 calibre India Pattern Brown Bess musket and its accompanying bayonet were introduced in 1795 and were the standard British infantry weapons until 1840. This bayonet was made by Osborn & Gunby around 1809 and would have been issued for the Peninsular War.

After retreating from Napoleon’s Army of Spain, General Sir John Moore’s 35,000 men fought heroically against Marshal Soult at the port of Corunna in January 1809. Despite winning, they suffered heavy losses (including Sir John Moore) and were shipped back to England.

Reinforced and re-equipped, the British army soon returned to Portugal under the command of Sir Arthur Wellesley (later The Duke of Wellington). After fighting its way through Portugal and Spain, this bayonet may have even charged at Waterloo.

The bayonet has a total length of 524mm comprising a 100mm long socket with an internal diameter of 25mm at the back and 23mm at the front joined by a steel elbow to the 410mm triangular blade. The bayonet is in excellent condition and the blade is stamped on the forte with the maker’s name, “Osborn & Gunby.”

The absence of a War Department inspection stamp along with the twin maker’s names help date the bayonet. Henry Osborn was joined by John Gunby in 1808 and Osborn & Gunby produced Brown Bess bayonets until 1811 (“Brown Bess Bayonet” 1995, Graham Priest.)

The need for equipping the troops for the return to the Peninsular in May 1809 meant that equipment was not held back for inspection and acceptance marking. It is also possible that the absence of a War Department acceptance stamp means that the bayonet was purchased by one of the volunteer battalions raised at the time and was therefore not the property of the War Department.

This bayonet was on display in a Suffolk museum until its recent closure.