A Tale of Pikes and War


01 May 2010
imports_MIL_thepikeheadcomparedwi_52362.gif The pike-head compared with a Confederate Spencer Rifle socket bayonet of similar blade form
Far from being an archaic weapon, the pike was also used in the American Civil War and with the WW2 Home Guard. Graham Priest has the facts and figures. ...

As with most budding bayonet collectors, my specialisation took some time to develop. Also romantic attachments had to be reconciled with the future hobby. The epitome of courting technique for a 1965 student in England was a trip to Brighton so arrangements were made one summer’s day for an early start from London, and by 10 am my future wife and I were alighting from the steam train at Brighton Station.

Within ten minutes we commenced our passage through The Lanes, an area of antique and junk shops. Temptation soon arose when a double-fronted shop (David Hawkins Brighton Ltd.?), with a mounted knight in armour in the window, hove into view. Buckets of swords, bayonets, muskets etc. were dotted around the interior (to this day I dream about the items I missed!). The shop was entered and in deference to the impatient girlfriend a snap decision to buy was made, especially as she had offered to pay as a birthday present!

My eyes alighted on a drum of African spears. A few minutes later, and £3 lighter, we stood on the pavement with a pair of spears, in a packet around 8 feet long, wrapped in brown paper. Odd glances from passers-by soon raised another issue. What to do with them all day? The British Railways ‘Left Luggage Office’ was the solution. The parcel virtually stretched the length of the counter, but the porter said, “Only the one, Sir?” as he passed over the ticket.

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After a happy day, adventures continued when trying to enter a compartment carriage holding an obvious spear, and then changing trains at Clapham Junction in the rush hour. Amazingly the girlfriend was not fazed, the trophies hung on the study wall, and a few years later we all eventually migrated to our combined home.

Thus was my first encounter with spears. The African Kikuyu and Maasai weapons hung over the fireplace for years, but were eventually traded away.

Next, in December 1993, came the purchase of a Confederate infantry pike-head, made from a socket bayonet blade. During the American Civil War (1861-1865) the Southern States were at a huge technological disadvantage compared with the Union. Most manufacturing facilities were beyond their boundaries, and better communication links with Europe, together with stronger naval forces in the Atlantic, meant that the North eventually had a ready supply of firearms and other weapons.

To read the rest of this article please see the May/June edition of the Armourer magazine.