British Flat Blade (Dutch Pattern) Bayonet - Early 18th Century
- Product Code: EWB-2176-SOLD
- Availability: Out Of Stock
The socket bayonet in British military service was a relatively new phenomenon during the first part of the 18th century. The use of bayonets by the British infantry in the field was had begun during the beginning of the second half of the 1600s, but remained uncommon until the last quarter of that century. At this time, the bayonet in use was the “plug bayonet”, essentially a dagger with a round handle that allowed it to be placed in the muzzle of the musket. This made sense as the British military muskets of the period were stocked to the muzzle and of course had no means by which a bayonet could be attached to them. While the plug bayonet did effectively allow the “musketeer” to transition to “pikeman” with little effort, the plug bayonet had numerous shortcomings. Not the least of which was that the gun could not be fired (or loaded) with the bayonet fixed, and the bayonet could easily become disengaged from the muzzle and lost, particularly after it had been used to stab a target. The French had already determined that there were significant drawbacks to the use of plug bayonets and by 1660s, and had started to work on the development of a socket bayonet that would not only allow loading and firing of the musket with the bayonet attached, but would be more securely attached to the gun when in use. According to research by author Erik Goldstein in his book The Socket Bayonet in the British Army 1687-1783, by the beginning of the 1700s, the French army had effectively replaced the plug bayonet in service and the had adopted the socket bayonet for universal issue with the musket. The British, however, were somewhat slower to make this change, and according to Board of Ordnance returns studied by Goldstein, some 48,000 plug bayonets were procured by the Board of Ordnance between 1689 and 1702. The beginning of the 18th century was the time that the Board of Ordnance was beginning to flex its muscles by trying to establish some level of standards and uniformity in the British army, which was in essence still a locally raised and equipped force as it had been in feudal days. The feudal lord of the medieval era had been responsible for providing troops for the defense of the realm, equipped by him and at his expense. The British regimental colonels of the late 17th century did the same thing, resulting in a great disparity in the quality and type of arms provided to the men. Starting at the end of the 1600s the Board of Ordnance began acquiring small arms for issue to the new “standing army” in an attempt to overcome this lack of uniformity. It would not be until the second decade of the 1700s that the Ordnance Department would really start getting a grip on the situation (especially in terms of specifying “patterns’ of small arms), and it would be well into the 1740s-1750s before “standardization” could be spoken of in the army with any level of accuracy. To this end, the Board of Ordnance began a process of modifying muskets then in order for them to accept socket bayonets, rather than plug bayonets. This included cutting back the stocks to allow the socket to seat on the barrel and the addition of bayonet studs. They also set about to acquire socket bayonets in some quantity for the first time. Some of the first large supplies of “socket bayonets’ were procured by the Board of Ordnance during the first decade or so of 1700 (roughly 1703-1712), when some 7,700 “sword/socket” bayonets were purchased, most of which were to see use with the British army in Portugal. While specific Board of Ordnance examples of these bayonets have yet to be positively identified, it is generally believed that these bayonets probably had flat, knife like blades as the earlier plug bayonets had, but with sockets rather than plug handles. An example of one such bayonet is depicted in Ian Skennerton & Robert Richardson’s book British & Commonwealth Bayonets. It appears as figure B36 on page 26 and is referred to as a “Treaty of Portugal Bayonet”. The bayonet has a flat 15.7” long blade with a median ridge that runs about half the length of the blade from the tip towards the neck, and becomes completely flat for the last few inches of length nearest the neck. This example has a 4.3” long socket with a muzzle diameter of 22.4mm, and has an overall length of 20.4”. It is reasonable to call this the first “official” pattern of British socket bayonet, even though the pattern was certainly never “sealed” in the Tower of London. These bayonets are additionally described as “Dutch Contract” bayonets, as two contracts by the Board of Ordnance with Li’ge (“Dutch”) makers in 1715 and 1740-41 resulted in the delivery of some 40,000 “flat blade” bayonets into Ordnance stores. Figure B37 on page 27 shows another of these “Dutch Contract” bayonets, which has a 17” blade, a 3.8” socket with a 25.1mm muzzle diameter, and an overall length of 21.6”. The bayonet has a median ridge that runs the full length of the blade, rather than stopping about half-way to two-thirds of the way from the tip. Neither example pictured has a bridge over the mortise cut, nor do they have a reinforcing ring around the end of the socket. Skennerton notes that various English cutlers did copy this form of bayonet during the period, as examples with English maker’s marks on the ricasso are known. It is generally believed that the use of these flat bladed socket bayonets did begin as early as about 1700, but that their use was somewhat limited and the bayonets did tend to vary somewhat in dimensions as they would have been purchased by regimental colonels to mate with the muskets that they had in service. This bayonet pattern was rather quickly abandoned in favor of the more commonly known “triangular” bladed bayonet, and after the acquisition of additional “Dutch” flat blade bayonets during 1740-41 it seems unlikely that additional bayonets of this pattern were purchased. In fact, it seems quite likely that the majority of the approximately 245,000 socket bayonets acquired by the Board of Ordnance between 1715-1748 were of the more traditional triangle blade variety, with the flat blade bayonets being in the distinct minority. Even though these bayonets were certainly an obsolete pattern by 1750, they apparently saw use throughout the British Empire until the latter part of the 18th century. Erik Goldstein notes that an example of this bayonet pattern had been excavated at Fort Ticonderoga, and an additional example was excavated at the British Fort Frederick in Pemaquid, Maine. This example is concretely dated between 1729 and 1759, thus indicating that these bayonets saw use in the English colonies during the Pre-French & Indian War period and likely during it as well. It is certainly reasonable to assume that the British government would often send older and obsolete pattern arms to the American colonies for use not only by the troops on station there, but especially to arm the local colonial militias, there by reducing the expense of such supplies.
Offered here is a very scarce example of an English “Flat Blade” Socket Bayonet circa 1702-1720, which could also be called a Dutch Contract Bayonet, but is probably of English manufacture. The bayonet remains in about VERY GOOD condition, and while it does show scattered light to moderate pitting over its entire surface, it is a complete, well-marked and extremely solid example of the first really “official” pattern of British military socket bayonet. The bayonet has a handful of markings that are certainly quite interesting. The face of the blade at the ricasso is deeply stamped with what appears to be a flower or similar figure (possibly a leaf) that appears to have 7 projections or “petals”. This mark is almost certainly that of an English cutler who produced the bayonet on contract. A similar, 8-petal “leaf” is shown on page 16 of Skennerton’s book, and this may be a rougher example of the same mark. It is attributed to an unknown London cutler, and was encountered on a plug bayonet. As the end of plug bayonet production was concurrent with the beginning of socket bayonet production, it is certainly reasonable that a cutler who produced the former might also manufacture the latter, as time progressed. The presence of this mark suggests very strongly that the bayonet is of English manufacture and not “Dutch” in origin. The flat face of the neck is stamped with three deeply stamped dots, which are likely proof or inspection marks. The top of the socket is crudely marked with file slash style hash marks that appear to be the Roman numeral VIII. In his book The Socket Bayonet in the British Army 1687-1783 Erik Goldstein shows a similar marking on the reverse of the socket of a Land Pattern British Socket Bayonet c1720-1730 (page 47). The mark is believed to be an American applied marking, but he does not note if this mark is considered a mating mark to match the bayonet to the musket or some other form of rack number. The bayonet has an overall length of 21 “, with a 17 ““ long blade that is 1 ““ wide at the widest point. The blade has a well-defined median ridge that runs from the tip back towards the socket for about 10 “, with the rest of the blade from the end of the ridge to the neck being flat. The flat part of the blade is .190” thick at the thickest point, closest to the neck. The socket of the bayonet is 3 ““ in length, and has a muzzle ring diameter of 1” (more accurately 25.5mm). The socket is cut with a simple two-step mortise that is about .30” wide at the opening and narrows to about ““ at the end. The mortise has a 1 13/16” muzzle to stud distance. The bayonet neck is crudely welded to the socket and has a half-round profile with an essentially flat face and a rounded back. The neck is about 1” in length and is slightly more than ““ wide. A number of features of the bayonet suggest it is of the earliest production of this pattern rather than later. First, the median ridge only runs for a portion of the blade length, rather than the entire blade. Later production bayonets appear to have full length ridges. Second, socket is cut with only a two-step mortise and does not have a third step cut into the socket towards the muzzle of the bayonet. These two step mortise sockets were essentially obsolete by the 1720s in British service and most such bayonets had their mortises modified to a three-step cut. Additionally, the socket is crudely lap welded and the seam is quite visible, especially inside the socket. A similar two-step, lap welded socket, flat-blade bayonet is depicted as figure 26, page 26 in Goldstein’s book, and on page 22 he dates the bayonet to very late 17th century or very early 18th century. It seems quite likely, considering the “American” mark on the socket, that this bayonet may have been used contemporaneously with the example found at Fort Frederick in Pemaquid, Maine, and could well have been utilized by British troops or Colonial militia c1720-1760, including the French & Indian War. As noted the bayonet is in about VERY GOOD condition, considering that it has survived approximately 300 years. The metal has a medium dull pewter patina, with a heavily mottled patina of dark gray oxidation and surface discoloration. The interior of the socket shows a medium brown, rusty patina, and some similar oxidation appears in the maker’s mark on the ricasso as well. The metal is evenly pitted over the majority of its surface, with the level of pitting running from moderate pinpricking on the lighter end of the scale to moderate pitting at the heavier end. The neck shows extremely crude welding to the base of the socket, with minimal finishing. The socket shows numerous flaws and a very obvious lap seam on its interior. The overall crudeness of construction certainly indicates that the bayonet was manufactured well before the workmanlike production quality of Brown Bess bayonets circa 1740-1750. The socket remains reasonably round, but as with any unbridged socket it is far from perfect and some of the malformations may be the result of the bayonet being more securely “fit” to a musket. There is some roughness to the filing and finishing of the mortise as well, suggesting the bayonet may have been fit to more than one musket during its service life.
Overall this is a really nice example of an extremely rare and very early British “Flat Blade” Socket Bayonet that almost certainly pre-dates the 1720s. These bayonets rarely appear on the market for sale and are the appropriate “first example” in any collection of British socket bayonets, as nearly all other examples will post date this one. The extremely early 2-step mortise certainly suggests the earliest production and in fact this may be one of the original “Treaty of Portugal” bayonets from the opening years of 1700. The “American” marks on the socket also suggest that during the latter part of its service life this bayonet may well have made it to the colonies, and could well have seen service during the French & Indian War. Do not miss you opportunity to own what is probably the earliest socket bayonet that I have ever offered for sale and a wonderful example of a British socket bayonet that pre-dates the American Revolution by a couple of generations!SOLD