No.4 Lee Enfield

No. 4 Lee Enfield Rifle

No. 4 Lee Enfield Rifle

The rifle S.M.L.E mentioned previously had a major failing in that it was designed and made before mass production as it was hand assembled by skilled craftsmen. The dreadful losses of the Great War was a major stumbling block for those tasked with the job of replacing not only soldiers, but the kit which they were issued with and a major problem was that of rifle manufacture. So between the wars, the Lee Enfield was re-designed with the view towards being mass produced, even by people who had no previous experience of rifle manufacture.

This had to happen because the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield was turned over to manufacture the Bren Light Machine Gun and had no capacity to make anything else, especially after the tremendous losses of the B.E.F at Dunkirk.

For the first time, the manufacture of rifles for the services was farmed out to Royal Ordnance factories at Maltby, Fazerkerley and Shirley as well as rifles built overseas. Many shortcuts were made during production, including using a two groove barrel, resulting in a rifle whose looks would have shocked previous generations. However, it was considered more important to produce an arm that would kill the enemy rather than how it looked.

A modified, simplified design was known as the No.4 Mk. 1* and was produced in Canada at the long branch Ontario factory near Toronto who were, by January 1943 making 25,000 per month and as lend / lease, by Stevens Savage Arms Co. Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts in America who made over 1,000,000 during the war.

Although the No.4 rifle lacked the handmade, hand assembled feel of the earlier S.M.L.E, it was a very serviceable arm and continued in use by the British Army until finally replaced by the Self Loading Rifle in the 1960’s.

The No.4 was fitted with a much shorter socket bayonet having a blade length of 8 inches compared with the 17 inch blade of the S.M.L.E. trials showed that 8 inches was considered long enough to kill the most thickly clad soldier who was a Russian in full winter clothing. No Russian was used for testing, his uniform and kit however were!!

Both types of rifles, (No.1, S.M.L.E. & No.4) were used throughout the Second Would War. They are still to be encountered worldwide where their serviceability in adverse conditions are highly prized.