Featured Bayonet - Colour Party nightmare

Arguably the most stirring Regimental spectacle is parading their Colours.

As a youngster growing up in England, there were three annual national rites for which we gathered around the TV: the Oxford and Cambridge boat race, the Remberance Day Parade in Whitehall, and the Trooping of the Colour at Horseguards to celebrate the Queens official birthday.

Seen through the eyes of a young teenager on black and white TV presented by the BBC, the Trooping of the Colour was to be marveled: an awesome spectacle of precision paradeground drill by the Guards. It was topped only by the ever present possibility of watching young Guardsmen fall flat on their faces as they fainted from the summer heat. In those days, they were left to lie where they fell. It must have been a Guardsman’s worst fear, to faint so publicly before the Queen. I used to wonder what happened to them after the event. Were they reprimanded, discharged?

It never occurred to me that the colour party would have suffered their own fears, but for an entirely different reason. The Colours are the Regiment’s holy grail; to be guarded and defended to the last man. On parade, accompanied by guards with rifles and bayonets fixed.

What if the Colours snag on a bayonet? Disaster for all. Is there anything in the drill book to cover that possibility?

Prevention being better than a cure, covered bayonet points offer a practical solution. None of the following examples bear government ownership or inspector markings, so we can reasonably assume these evolved at a unit level.

I would never have recognized this first example on eBay for what it is, unless I hadn’t seen an example in Jim Maddox “Collecting Bayonets”, validating once again the importance of a good reference library.

The three P1907 bayonet covers are contained in a contemporary made velvet lined wood case with a glass top.

Each cover is made from sheet brass with a ball finial, and nickel plated overall.

They slide snugly onto the point of the bayonet, and present an aesthetic appearance when mounted.

This second example is more commonly found.

A Canadian, Longbranch made No4 MkII, with the point reshaped and mounted with a flattened ball. The bayonet has subsequently been chrome plated overall, a feature that I have only observed on Canadian made 'ball' bayonets.

The following are three examples of No4 rifle bayonets treated in a similar manner. All are British made.

The top two were acquired from the same source, and both show similar steel spheres crudely attached to the point. Whether these were simply partially finished or a back room workshop effort can only be speculated.

The third is more professionally finished. The overall length of the blade has been shortened, and the ball welded to the end.

The same overall blued finish has been applied to both bayonet and ball.

The final example comes from Australia.

Similar to the P1907 examples above, this is a custom made sheath that slides onto the point of the SLR bayonet. Easily fitted, is provides appropriate protection and peace of mind for the Colour Party to go about their business.

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Since posting this Feature article, a fellow collector in the UK has kindly contributed the following two images, on display in the Queens West Surrey Regiment Museum

The top image shows bayonet covers for the L1 series of SLR bayonets, while those in the lower image mounted on a commemorative presentation are for the P1907.

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Three further images of Colour Parties from the 1920s, each with protectors fitted to the tips of their P1907 bayonets.

More detailed information on these three photographs will be found in the Contemporary Images section.

A further image of a Colour Party using bayonet tip protectors on their P1907 bayonets. This photograph, taken in Belfast on 7 June 1921 shows The Lord Lieutenant inspecting troops outside City Hall on the day of the first meeting of the Ulster Parliament