Lee-Enfield Rifle

A soldier carved his memories into his First World War weapon.

Written by Annick Desmarais

Posted December 23, 2022

This 1916 Lee-Enfield No. 1 MK III, .303-calibre rifle was nicknamed Rosalie by the soldier who carried it, Henri-Paul Lecorre. In 1915, Lecorre volunteered with the Canadian Expeditionary Force’s 22nd Battalion, Canada’s only entirely francophone infantry regiment.

When the nations of Europe went to war on August 4, 1914, Canada —  whose foreign relations were determined by the British Empire — also joined the conflict. In response to popular demand, a combat unit made up entirely of French Canadians — the 22nd Battalion — was formed. The regiment distinguished itself on all fronts and took part in decisive battles. In 1921, King George V of England conferred upon it the title “Royal” in recognition of its soldiers’ courage. The battalion, which still exists, has since been known as the Royal 22nd Regiment.

Enduring difficult conditions on the Western Front, Henri-Paul Lecorre took consolation in decorating his Rosalie — a contravention of army regulations. Using a pocket knife, he carved the names of the battles in which he fought — including Arras, Passchendaele, Courcelette, and Vimy — into the rifle. Having “damaged” it, he was obliged to reimburse the army for the cost of the weapon.

After losing his rifle during a gas attack in June 1918, Lecorre did not see his cherished Rosalie again until thirty-eight years later, when he spotted it in an exhibition of military artifacts in Lachute, Quebec.

This object resides at the Musée Royal 22e Régiment.

This article originally appeared in 50 Merveilles de nos musées : les plus beaux trésors de la Francophonie Canadienne. The special interest publication was part of Projet Portage, a five-year initiative to connect history lovers in French and English Canada, generously supported by the Molson Foundation.

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