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Bayonets Hit the Mark

by christian on January 29, 2010

I wasn’t sure my post from yesterday would garner such a reaction, but I’d say the pros outweigh the cons 10:1.

Many of you mentioned that the last known bayonet charge might have been executed by a squad of Brit troops in Basra back in ’04.

Well, a little Googleing and low and behold it turns out that bunch of maniac Scots from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders got ambushed by about 100 Mahdi militiamen near Basra, fought it out, and when they ran low on ammunition, fixed bayonets and went to town.

Based on an after-action report found at this link, the intimidation factor of the bayonet and the surprise such a charge caused among the enemy used to engagements at a distance were pivotal.

The bayonet charge by British troops in Basra achieved tactical success primarily because of psychological and cultural factors. It also shows that superior firepower does not guarantee success by either side. In this case, the value of surprise, countering enemy expectations, and strict troop discipline were three deciding characteristics of the bayonet charge.

And, reading the report, you can’t help but come away from it thinking that while the insurgent is courageous in a sense that he’s willing to commit suicide in an attack on his enemy, and that he’s cunning in his building and implementation of weaponry, and that he’s agile in his ability to move quickly in tight spaces and mingle with the population — in the end their internal propoganda that the coalition are wusses just doesn’t make sense.

Propaganda by Sunni and Shiite jihadists regularly advertised the perception that American and British soldiers were cowards. Similar rhetoric increased after the battles of Fallujah in April2004, perhaps to steady the resolve of militia fighters in the face of aggressive coalition attacks.

In addition, British convoys did not engage significantly during previous ambushes, which probably validated the narrative for many Mahdi militiamen. Because many of the Mahdi fighters were teenagers, it is also likely that the Mahdi army used these ambushes for training and recruiting. The attacks were an opportunity for young fighters to use weapons in combat with little risk of serious reprisal.

Who would you pick in a hand-to-hand standoff — in a eyeball to eyeball fistfight? A Scot highlander or a pencil-necked Mahdi bomb clacker?

I pick the guy who eats haggis. Like this dude…

“I wanted to put the fear of God into the enemy. I could see some dead bodies and eight blokes, some scrambling for their weapons. I’ve never seen such a look of fear in anyone’s eyes before. I’m over six feet; I was covered in sweat, angry, red in the face, charging in with a bayonet and screaming my head off. You would be scared, too.”

Corporal Brian Wood
Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment

In the end, the Brit counterassault killed 35 bad guys and left three UK troops lightly wounded.

Keep the bayonets brother!

PS — And here’s another young Brit who had to resort to his rifle blade when the chips were really down:

– Christian

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