Camp Devens - Bayonet Practice - WW1 Cantonment 1918
One of the most important branches of military science which soldiers must master is the skilful use of the bayonet. Before the men leave for France, every one of them will know how to defend himself from another bayonet, how to conduct an offensive, and how to combine skillfully the two movements.
Quite naturally, this work has been very popular at Camp Devens. There is nothing that the American likes better than hand-to-hand, man-to-man fighting. For that reason he excels in football, in wrestling, in boxing, and in every other sport in which the element of personal contact and aggression is predominant. That is the reason why he must learn this science thoroughly, and that is why, when he has learned it, he will make the best bayonet fighter on the Western Front.
There is nothing particularly inspiring about shooting at a forest two miles away in the hope of hitting some one, or in firing at a trench, the occupants of which are not in sight. But when the American meets his adversary face to face, when it is skill against skill, there he will be at his best.
But there is another feature of American fighting which will hinder our men. The Anglo- Saxon likes to fight fair; he plays a clean game and expects his adversary to do the same , hence he is not looking out for fouls. According to the German code of fighting, a man fouls whenever possible.
The Huns surrender and then shoot their captors in the back, and have innumerable other little tricks which "are not being done" in clean fighting. Our boys are being trained how to deal with these methods. The American soldier is not encouraged to emulate Prussian barbarism; he is being taught how to cope with it, how to overcome that barbarism, and thereby save his own life. Every element of warfare which the authorities teach your son, your brother, your friend, is for his own good and is likely to save his life at one time or another.
Photo 1: Bayonet Practice - "Over the Top -- and Give Them Hell"
The bayonet work of Camp Devens is under the tutelage of Major Reginald Barlow, of the 302d Infantry. Major Barlow is a veteran fighter and has seen service in South Africa. When the war broke out he was an actor playing in "Old Lady 31." He is now regarded as one of the most expert bayonet instructors in the country.
As yet, the United States has not evolved any particular form of bayonet fighting for this war, but the authorities are constantly experimenting. When the perfected system is adopted, it will probably be a combination of the English, French, and Canadian codes. The men are being trained according to certain principles which the English have found most successful and efficacious.
The bayonet fighters in these pictures are men of the 13th Company, Depot Brigade.
The preceding picture shows them coming over an imaginary "top," and gives some idea of what a bayonet charge in skirmish line looks like.
Photo 2: Bayonet Practice - Getting Ready for "Der Tag"
The picture below shows the same men receiving instruction in thrusting from Lieutenant Russell Codman of the 4th Battalion. The dummies are of burlap sacks filled with straw. The man en the end seems to be making a particularly determined and deadly thrust.