Fix Bayonets! (Hardback)
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The bayonet is an essential item of a soldier's kit even on today's modern hi-tech battlefield. This work examines the origins of this humble weapon and the 'cult of the bayonet' as espoused by the Russian General Alexander Suvorov who asserted that “The bullet misses, the bayonet does not”. The first bayonets appeared in France in the early 17th century and soon they were being used by every army in Europe. The author examines the spread of this simple weapon and how it led to fundamental changes being made in battlefield tactics. Over 300 years later, in the age of hi-tech warfare and weapons of mass destruction, the bayonet is still in service with armies around the world. British and US forces in Afghanistan regularly have their bayonets fixed. Fix Bayonets illustrates how tactics changed and the design of the weapon, although fundamentally the same, has evolved over the centuries.
Much myth and legend surrounds the subject of bayonet charges and the weapon has become an icon of defiance and the determination to do whatever it takes to win. The author examines evidence for the reality of such actions. How did the ordinary soldier feel to be told 'fix bayonets'? John Norris draws on personal accounts of soldiers using bayonets in combat from the Napoleonic and Crimean Wars, various Colonial campaigns, through the World Wars, Falklands War and into the 21st century in Afghanistan. In so doing he explains the seemingly anachronistic survival of this simple weapon on the modern battlefield.
An interesting addition to the book is the chapter on ceremonial use and the lengths various armies have gone to fix bayonets to other firearms; Norris is suitable scathing of the efficacy of these more unusual weapons. Whilst no advocate of the “cult of the bayonet”, he points out that although the bayonet passed its heyday in the late 1700s, it remains a part of the standard infantry equipment and in the final chapter he gives a whistle-stop tour of modern bayonets.World War One, David Smith
If you're interested in the history of this most essential of weapons, especially its use in battles through time, then this book will not disappoint. The book has its quirks, but as a solid and well-presented piece of research that brings together a 350 year long tale into a single volume, it is a useful addition to the literature.
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The bayonet itself is still manufactured from steel although some modern alloys are now used which are just as strong but much lighter weight. The bayonet is one of those rare weapons the design of which does not have to be unduly altered or modified. As long as infantry forms part of armies there will always be a need for the bayonet and it will always be used as shown during the Falkland War of 1982 and more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. We can be certain that the bayonet will continue to be used for many more years to come, no matter what advances are made in weaponry design. It is as the Russian General Alexander Suvorov (1730 – 1800) once said: “The bullet misses, the bayonet does not”The Western Front Association, Dr. Giovanni Timmermans
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Possibly the deadliest weapon of all when it comes to close in-fighting. John Norris's research marks an important and essential addition to the library of knowledge about infantry weaponry.Books Monthly, May 2016 - Paul Norman