Lee-Enfield: A burning issue
Geoff Smith’s answer to Ross Robinson (Top Shots, March 2019) about woodwork on military rifles isn’t quite complete. During the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) the British used the .303 Lee-Enfield Mk1 which had wood extending underneath the barrel only. The Boers used Mauser rifles which had wood also covering the top of the barrel, forward of the rear sight, for half its length.
They adopted fast-moving guerrilla tactics, ambushing British columns then fleeing on horseback with rifles slung over the back of the horse. When the British attempted to copy these tactics the exposed hot barrels of the Lee-Enfields burnt the horses, causing them to bolt and throw their riders. This is why the SMLE, introduced in 1904, had woodwork fully encasing the barrel up to the muzzle. In Britain, this design feature lasted until 1957 when the 7.62mm FN self-loading rifle was adopted, although the reason for it had long been forgotten.
Michael Cook, Vic
25 June 2019