Since the Lee Enfield rifle had been introduced, soldiers had made do with an oil bottle and a pull through stored in the butt-trap for cleaning their weapon. It was only in 1945 that a proper cleaning kit for the rifle was introduced in a green metal box:
The box is about the size of a contemporary tobacco tin and fits neatly in the pocket. Inside the box is divided into three parts, with space for pull through, oil bottle and 4”x2” cleaning cloths:On the back of the lid is space for metal gauze and a small brush used to remove debris from in the breech of the rifle etc. Laid out all the contents can be seen clearly:This set is clearly unused as the oil bottle still has the waxed packing paper around it. The base of the tin has a stores code and a date of 1945, also just visible is a stamped /|\ mark:Soldiers had to clean their weapons regularly to keep them in good working order. This was not always without risk as Ann Hurden, whose father was in the Home Guard, recalls:
One day after his shift at the coal mines he decided to clean the rifle he had been issued with. He pointed the rifle at the fire place and it went off with an enormous bang, the room was filled with black smoke, no one was hurt but when the smoke settled my father and Roy emerged with black faces. My mother was in the garden gathering in her washing at the time, she was too frightened to go in the house but when they came out with black faces she was very relieved. After a strong cup of tea they all had to set about cleaning the place up. Needless to say my father didn’t clean the rifle again in the house.
The 1942 training manual for the Lee Enfield set out how to clean it:
Cleaning the barrel
- Place a piece of flannelette, size 4 inches by 2 inches, in centre loop and wrap it round cord. Insert weight in breech. With butt on ground, pull the cord straight through the barrel. Avoid cord rubbing against the side of the barrel. Repeat as necessary, changing flannelette when required.
- Examine bore by holding muzzle close to the eye, draw head back and look into the groves for dirt. Repeat from breech end. If barrel is clean, oil it with flannelette 4 inches by 1 ½ inches. Should dirt still be present (as it may be after firing) use water if available.
Use a stick about a foot long with a slot at the top for flannelette. A piece of flannelette 4 inches by 2 inches should be inserted and wrapped around the stick which is then pushed hard into the chamber and turned several times.
Cleaning outside of rifle
After cleaning barrel and chamber, wipe the dirt from all metal portions, using an oily rag. Make certain all crevices and gas escapes are clean.
Cleaning and replacing of bolt and magazine etc.
- Bolt:- Dirt and grit must be removed from all parts. Oil it, except in dusty climates.
- Magazine:- Remove dirt from inside and outside, if necessary remove platform and spring by pressing down wide end…
Presumably this neat little set made cleaning much easier, especially the tricky part of packing the pull through back into the butt of the rifle which was never easy. These sets continued in use into the 1960s and were repacked for use with the SLR until plastic cleaning sets were introduced in the seventies.