The Lee Enfield rifle was the standard issue rifle to the British Army during World War One and World War Two.
The Lee Enfield was first produced in 1907; it had been designed by an American called James Lee and built at the Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield – hence the rifle’s name. The Lee Enfield enjoyed a good reputation with those who were issued with it. It had a ten-bullet magazine and its rate of fire in the hands of well-trained men was high. At the Battle of Mons, the advancing Germans believed that they were under fire from British machine guns. In fact, it was the well drilled infantry of the BEF using their standard issue Lee Enfield. A good infantryman would expect to shoot off about twelve well-aimed bullets in a minute.
If the Lee Enfield had one weakness, it was that the firing mechanisms (see below) were susceptible to dirt and grit. Therefore, keeping your rifle clean in the muddy environment of the trenches was of paramount importance. When not in battle, many men simply covered the firing mechanism with cloth in an effort to keep out dirt which would clog up the rifle. The butt of the Lee Enfield had a space inside it where cleaning material could be kept.
The Lee Enfield was so highly thought of that it was the standard issue rifle to infantrymen in the British Army in World War Two, some twenty years after World War One.
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