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The Trooper

Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden poses with a British Pattern 1853 Cavalry Trooper’s Sword at the National Army Museum’s “Britain’s Greatest Battles” exhibit in March of 2013.

Source: National Army Museum  via Victorian Sword

Which of course, if you had a Trooper poster from the Maiden on your wall in the 1980s (like me) gives you a sense of nostalgia.

Ramrod to get a well deserved MoH

Born in 1975, Staff Sergeant David Bellavia loved show tunes and theatre before he found himself on his 29th birthday leading the “Ramrods” of Coy A, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment as the Big Red One made its way through Fallujah. You see, he was in charge as his sergeant major, company commander and executive officer had all been cut down by enemy fire.

Charging into a tough what could politely be called a persistent strong point in the form of a multi-story house during the city fighting that took place there, he started off with an M249 and ended fighting room-to-room with guys jumping out of closets and getting super CQB on him at bad breath distances. In the end, he ended up falling back on a Gerber Gator to get out of there.

“I have had better birthdays, for sure,” Bellavia later said.

I read his book, House to House: An Epic Memoir of War, then saw him speak at the Pritzker back in like 2009 and found his experience and the way he told it haunting.

The recipient of the Silver Star, SSG Bellavia, now 43, is set to the Iraq War’s first (living) Medal of Honor recipient.

That old Ka-Bar magic

Union Cutlery Co. of Olean, New York, began using the “Ka-Bar” name on its knives and in its advertising in 1923.

Fast forward to WWII and the company worked with the Marines to modify the old Western States L77 hunting knife to create what the Navy termed the Mark 2 Utility Knife and in the Marines as the Mark 2 Combat Knife– the blade known as the now-classic Ka-Bar.

WWII-era Ka-Bar MK2 with original fiberglass sheath via Ka-Bar. The drawing is actually of the Ka-Bar commando a very similar offering

Made during the war and since then by Camillus, Ontario, PAL, Robeson, Utica et. al while Union still trademarked the name, the knife has become an icon, a totem.

Two WWII Marine Raiders demo knife fighting– note the K.

Marines somewhere in the Pacific. Note the Ka-Bar in the boot

Today, owned by Cutco, Union long ago changed their name to Ka-Bar formally and they still make the knife in Olean, though some complain that the current version just isn’t the same as the 1943 classic. I blame a lot of that stink on Chinese counterfeits.

With that, the company posted this today, which I thought was interesting.

“The vehicle ran over the KA-BAR and it punctured the tire and lodged in the wheel. The handle did not break off until it was inside the tire.”

It looks like one of the more modern blades which are constructed with a 1095 carbon steel blade that is epoxy powder coated.

Of course, there is no telling which vintage this blade is from, but it is still impressive.

A German Dragon, by way of Solingen, Tientsin and Canberra

From the collection of The Australian War Memorial comes this great German-made sword used by the Qi Army in the twilight of Imperial China:

Imperial German Model 1889 sword and scabbard. The grip is brown bakelite held to the tang by two steel rivets and has an oval steel pommel. The blade is a single edge, pipe back with a double edge spear point. The ricasso is stamped with E&F. HORSTER SOLINGEN and there is a leather washer where the blade meets the guard. The steel scabbard is plain with two fixed rings on a band at 50 mm and 150 mm from the throat which is held to the body by two screws. Attached to the lower ring is a chain that is connected to a broken brown leather hanger strap with a brass buckle in the center.

Founded in 1850, Hörster E. & F. Co., Solingen, made military edged weapons through WWII.

The hilt has a half basket steel guard with a Chinese dragon as the cartouche badge.

This sword was brought back from China by a member of the Victorian Naval Contingent in 1900.

Group portrait of Australian Naval Brigade who served in the Boxer Rebellion, 1900-1901

The Doughboy knuckle-sandwich

Via the U.S. Army Ordnance Training and Heritage Center:

This Model 1918 Mark I trench knife was made in France by Au Lion in 1918 for use by US troops during World War I. The US also produced these knives during the war, but having a French contract allowed for expedited distribution to US troops already overseas. The knife has a 6.75” doubled edged steel blade and a bronze handle with cast spikes on each of the knuckles, and a distinctive 4-sided nut on the end. Stamped in the handle: U.S.1918. On the opposite side, engraved in the ricasso: [Au Lion logo] / AU LION. The Model 1918 Mark I knives were also distributed during World War II, though often modified, for example removing the knuckles.

Civilian cold steel

Picked this up in my travels. Made by the Russian JSC Kalashnikov Concern (Izhmash) it is classified as the “HO-8 Household Knife.”

Based on the Udmurt “purt” style traditional blade (Izhevsk is at the center of the Udmurt population base), the handle is birch wood wrapped with leather strips with brass accents. The thick (3.5mm) single-edge blade is razor sharp (but soft) stainless with the classic industrial “arrow” stamp of the Izhmash factory and it has a decorative leather sheath. Overall length is just under 10-inches with a 5-inch blade.

The certificate is to accommodate Russian weapon laws as they pertain to post-Soviet knife laws in the country.

Since 1997, blades considered to be “military” or “hunting” styles, which are deemed “civilian cold steel” are tightly regulated and since 2016 have to be registered. As this is a “household” knife that fails to meet those tests due to blade strength, shape or size, it can be bought and sold over the counter– though not necessarily carried everywhere.

It would be interesting to see what the Rockwell hardness of this blade is. I would imagine somewhere in the 55 range as it feels akin to 420 stainless.

Joubert’s Welsh trench sword

Thomas Scott-Ellis, 8th Lord Howard de Walden, was a polymath who had ridden with the 10th Hussars in the Boer War and was always ready for a fight.

From the National Trust

Tommy’s enormous range of interests included: documenting heraldry as a medieval historian, editing Burke’s Peerage, competing in the 1908 Olympics at speed boat racing (the only time this has ever been an Olympic event), horse racing, sailing, hawking, golfing, flying, model-boating, writing libretti for operas (with music by his friend Joseph Holbrooke) and writing both pageants and pantomimes for his six children and their friends – he did the lot!

When the Great War came, Lord Walden became involved with the 9th Batt., Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and as can be expected, began searching for a blade that set his Welshmen apart.

That’s where antiques dealer, arms collector and scholar Felix Joubert of Chelsea came in. The so-called Welsh sword was a trench dagger that Joubert said was based on the traditional “Welsh cleddyd” (or cledd), but this has been ruled out as just so much window dressing to appeal to Lord Walden.

Welsh Knife with scabbard (WEA 785) The ‘Welsh Knife’ was designed in 1916 by the sculptor and armourer Felix Joubert and patented by him, as a ‘new or improved trench knife’. It was allegedly based on an ancient Welsh weapon, although the existence of such a distinctly Welsh mediæval sword has since been disproved. An unknown, but limited, number of Welsh Knives were manufactured by the Wilkinson Sword Company, Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30001257

The pommel is heavy and pointed, the hand guard folds flat against the blade for sheathing and the ricasso is inscribed “Dros Urddas Cymru”, Welsh for “For the honour of Wales”

The blade was some 17.6-inches long, leading to a two-foot long, 36-ounce weapon.

Joubert’s Welsh sword trench knife, patent drawing. Note the folding mechanism

He patented the blade in 1916 (GB108741) and it was produced by both Wilkinson (who apparently made 200) and locally in France by firm(s) unknown. Originally only for use by bombers (grenadiers), trench-pirates and machine gun crew, it was later issued to most officers and ranks of 9th RWF.

They were reportedly “used with great effect in a raid at Messines Ridge, 5 June 1917.”

From the Royal Armories

As noted by the Royal Armories, “The ‘Welsh knife’ inspired the design of the Smatchet fighting knife of The Second World War by the renowned hand-to-hand combat expert and innovator, Lieutenant-Colonel William E. Fairbairn.”

Behold, the famous Fairbairn Smatchet…or is it a Welsh cleddyd?

The Welsh trench swords are widely reproduced by Windlass in India as well as others, while the Smatchet is even more common.

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