Continuing our current theme of slightly less common weapons to see in Normandy, such as the Lebel M1886 two weeks ago, we present an old favourite of many of us, the Lee Enfield No.1 SMLE.
The Short Magazine Lee Enfield No1 Mk III* is one of the most famous and popular firearms ever to be issued to a soldier. Robust, reliable, fast to operate and accurate with its ten .303 rifle rounds, the SMLE saw service throughout the First and Second World Wars. Despite the advent of the No4 Mk. I Enfield rifle the SMLE did not drop out of service quickly as supplies could only trickle in as the No4 was manufactured. Thus the SMLE never fully went out of service with British forces in non-priority theatres, serving throughout the Africa campaign as well as in Italy and Burma, with the No4 coming in haphazardly. Government-in-Exile forces also continued to use the SMLE, mostly adopting it as it was freed up by replacement with the No4. Some nations never adopted the No4. Sometimes, as was the case with Australia, out of a genuine fear and paranoia that the No4 was actually a ruse to equip their forces with an inferior rifle! Such was the love for the SMLE.
The SMLE would go on to serve, in one way or another, during the Korean War, and in many wars large or small into the 21st Century. Indeed, it is still produced in India under license by Ishapore for issue to their police forces (re-bored to 7.62 NATO), and it remains standard issue to the Canadian Army’s Rangers in the northern expanses of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. Much like the Lebel, it is a rifle that has proved hard to kill.