Well gang the book is coming along but it is not finished. The bad news is I had to break it into two volumes. There was so much material I would have had to throw half of it out if I wanted to fit everything into one volume. What would be the sense in that? It is still over two hundred pages long, heavily illustrated, and not finished. I spent hundreds of hours on it this summer and hoped it would be done before I started back teaching at college.
I actually redid the whole front end of the book to include some examples of iconic WW-I fighting knives and provide some background into the knives that Fairbairn and Sykes could have referenced before finalizing their design. I am of the opinion that Fairbairn had a rethink of how he wanted the new knife to be modified from the Shanghai F-S model. These changes were based on the difference between fighting Chinese gangsters in light weight clothing, to killing soldiers in heavy uniforms and battle gear. I believe his long voyage home from Shanghai gave him time to reflect on these changes. His basic design was solid, but it needed “beefed up.”
Fairbairn also knew one of the major obstacles he would face was finding a manufacturer who would make what he wanted, the way he wanted it, and who was not already operating at full capacity. We all know who ended up making the first ones. They made hundreds of thousands of them, but were they his first choice? I have the answer to that question in the book.
Daily I check on Ebay for new listings of commando knives. Quite often I find the same knives going around like a child's Merry-go-Round. Why is that? Many of them are very mediocre third pattern knives in awful condition and listed as "Rare." Now I have been known to buy some really beat-up knives if there was any historical value. But, a badly rusted and abused third pattern is just junk. People have bought them and used them for throwing knives, digging in the flower bed, stirring paint, prying open doors or cans or whatever and bent or snapped the tips.
A broken tip does not make them valuable, rust is not a value added patina, deep gouges from some idiot using a power grinder to "sharpen" the knife is not attractive. A cheap 3rd pattern knife in the 60s or 70s could be purchased for under $20.00. Because it is now 40 years old does not make it any more valuable because most of them were cheap junk when Sheffield was cranking them out by the thousands. When I see a cheaply built and badly mauled 3rd pattern for sale for $400.00 I have to ask, is it ignorance or greed? Surely inflation has not added that much to the worth of a worthless knife.
Second pattern knives are different. They were produced in far smaller numbers for a shorter period of time and with greater quality invested in them. Still, now I see people asking upwards of $1,000.00 for a beat up second pattern! I realize they are not making WW-II knives anymore but really, $1,500.00 for a 2nd pattern? I sometimes worry that my website has played a part in this escalation of prices. I hope that instead it would steer people to buy more wisely and not be suckered by all of the falsely patinated Pakistani reproductions. I see several on Ebay right now advertised as genuine WW-II, foot locker find, estate purchases, etc. Many of them are anything but what they claim to be. Earlier in the year I got taken by a 2nd pattern that was purportedly a grandfathers original 2nd pattern. When it arrived I instantly knew i had "been took." It was a modern Nowill & Sons with the finish removed. Maybe the sellers Grandfather lied to him about the knife. I doubt it! Maybe there wasn't even a grandfather involved. But I only got taken for $100.00. I can stand that but if you buy a "genuine" WW-II commando knife for $500.00 plus and it turns out to be a modern Pakistani knife that's another thing.
I hope, foolishly perhaps, that sellers will police themselves morally and try to offer an honest appraisal of their wares. The caveat that "I am not an edged weapons specialist," or "I don't know much about knives" is not sufficient to excuse you from ripping off buyers. Do some homework. If you are selling on ebay you know how to use the internet. Do some research. Putting "rare" in front of a piece of junk does not make it valuable or rare. If you bought it for $15.00 at a flea market or garage sale and mark it up to $350.00 (knowing it is at best only a $15.00 knife) that's not capitalism, that's not good business, that is just pure greed. Rant over
Walnut Handled Dagger: Our second Shanghai Dagger, with the walnut handle, came from the collection of Bill Windrum via Pete Hooker. Pete expressed a desire for his knife to go to a “good collection” and he gave me a price that made it possible. Thanks Pete!
According to Dr. Windrum, Kelly Yeaton identified this exact same knife as matching, in size, one he owned. Kelly referred to his as “an early prototype,” sent to him from Shanghai in 1934. (This turned out to be the knife known as the “Pilot Model.”) Our dagger is stamped on the tang as being made in 1933 and has a nicely turned walnut handle. Unlike later Shanghai daggers the handle profile is a full round in cross-section, not a flattened oval shape.
Our Walnut handled knife is the exact same knife illustrated in Windrum’s book “The Earliest Commando Knives,” page 23. A better photo of it can be found in the book “Military Knives: A Reference Book.” However, despite believing it to be a legitimate knife Dr. Windrum candidly states: “there is nothing about it to link it to a bayonet blade.” I am not sure what prompted Dr. Windrum to say this. I laid Pete‘s Shanghai dagger on top of an original, unaltered, 1888 Lee-Metford bayonet and the two are absolutely identical to within a hair’s breadth. It is my opinion that a skilled craftsman may have simply ground the blade a little thinner and in the process erased the hollow grinds and flat spot on the central spine of the original bayonet blade. I have proof of this happening in several of the half-converted knives I own. Of course it is also possible the maker simply traced the tip of a bayonet blade onto a blank piece of steel, using it as a pattern for this blade and others.
 “Military Knives: A Reference Book” Knife world publications, page 80
In response to a query to my good friend "Fred" (who is a recognized arms expert in England) I got the following reply.
John Paisley was real. The photo of his roofless forge is nonsense, he produced many superb blades."
I have asked for further explanation on his comment about the photo of the forge. As I might have mentioned another friend living near Glasgow has pinned down the area we feel Paisley had his shop. I also have a bit of new information that Paisley was considered "an armourer his entire life." So perhaps the silversmith of Lindsey-Paisley shop is not the same as John Paisley the armourer/cutler?? The photo is of my first Paisley Metford-Fairbairn knife. All of this new information trickling in is another cause for the delay of my book being finished. This long running debate is soon to be resolved in John Paisley's favor.
I just got back from a 2 week vacation in Idaho. We own land out there and plan to eventually build a home on the 40 acres. It is near a small town. My daughter and I spied a small building for rent in town. We both said it was a perfect place for THE Commando Knife Museum. Someday, maybe, heck I traveled to Spean Bridge in Scotland to the Commando Museum. All they had was one 3rd pattern on display!
I bought a new second pattern B2 with an aluminum handle! It is in mint condition and comes in a commercial style (but custom made) sheath. With my purchase my good friend in the west has also gifted me with an unusual wood handled knife. Once they arrive I’ll post the photos. He says it might be post war and perhaps India-made. I don’t care, it’s a really unique looking handle. Wood handled knives do not have the mass to give the same feeling you get with an alloy or brass handle. It’s sort of a hard thing to describe since it is completely a tactile experience.
My friend also sent me a small library of original WW-II commando books. I don’t know what I did to deserve such good karma. Maybe it’s the stray cats I’ve rescued, two of them who feel like they need to lay on my keyboard as I type. Anyway, the package included two original copies of “Get Tough,” “All in Fighting,” “Hands-Off,” “Commando Ju-Jitsu” “Lightning Ju-Jitsu,” and “Guerilla Warfare”. Pretty cool collection of combat text books from the day.
There are a few great knives still for sale from this man. He guarantees your satisfaction with them. If not you pay the postage back and he’ll refund your money. You cannot do better than that.
Here is a short bit from my book. It was an email to me from a good friend and historian, Clive MacPherson. Clive passed away and it was a terrible loss for he was well respected by his friends at the CMSM Museum in Maldon England. For me it was also a loss of a valuable source of information and contacts. A lot of the most valuable information in my book came from Clive and another source I'll just call Fred.
To a casual reader it would seem a simple task to search archives and compile records into an historical publication on something as common as the production of more than a quarter of a million commando knives. But the researcher often finds there is a disappointing dearth of information available and many dead ends. As Clive MacPherson once advised me:
“I always tell people who are researching Britain in the early days of the war not to rely too much on documentation. Much was destroyed during the Blitz, nearly every major city was hit at one time or another and huge swathes of records were destroyed. There was a lot of improvisation and private purchase taking place. An example of this is one of the |Commando units made their badge from melted down canteen spoons. It is possible that S.O.E. had daggers of various patterns privately made,( each S.O.E. Section was conducting a campaign against other S.O.E. and each section had a great degree of latitude) this latitude would probably cover a lot of the smaller "agent" daggers. It is important to remember that all of these companies were privately owned. For instance, we know there was a Polish dagger but we don't know who manufactured it. Did the Poles order it themselves? If they did there would be no British record of it being produced. It is possible that some of the more exotic Special Forces units during the war ordered their own knives. There were a plethora of these units, some of them very small.
As with anything to do with SF, then and now, is a matter of conjecture rather than hard fact. Some of our wartime records remain sealed and will do so until 2045. I have a tendency to tell people who believe themselves to be stone cold certain of a fact to prove it, which they invariably cannot.” Clive MacPherson
August H. Hubert
SMALL ARMS INSTRUCTOR, FEBRUARY 1943 THROUGH DECEMBER 11, 1945.
This is the third time i have written this blog and had it disappear for some reason. Frustrating day on the computer! Research can be frustrating or rewarding too depending on how your luck goes. Many of the genealogical website are now membership only, making it very hard to get any information. This is not very much information for all of the hours spent searching. The hard part was deciphering the man's name that was ink stamped on the sheath. Luckily he stamped it three times and between the three I finally managed to figure out his full name.
Sergeant Hubert's knife is a very cool dagger and sheath combination. I wonder if he taught knife as well as small arms? Sales of my knives on this website helps me continue to grow the collection in a focused direction and as I do I share the new pieces with you. Eventually all of the really unusual knives will find their way into one of the volumes I am writing. Thanks to all of you for your visits to my site.
I wish all of you a safe and fun July fourth holiday. God bless our veterans and those currently serving in all branches of the military.
I know people are wondering what is taking so long with my book. I thought I had it all ready to go to a printer. But I started seeing holes in the manuscript that needed addressed. I took a moment today to stop editing and put together an outline of the topics that will be covered. I think you will see that the volume of material is almost overwhelming. It will be worth it in the end. I told Leroy Thompson it might turn into an encyclopedia and rather than laugh at the idea he said one was really needed because the whole story had never been covered in depth. That's coming from a man who has authored 3-4 books on the subject and done a damned good job! So here is a list of the topics I am writing on. The first three to four portions nearly kicked my butt sorting out the real story. And as a famous author once said I have; "Miles to go before I sleep."
So altogether there are over 400 pages, and I am not finished writing. The size may require dividing it into two or even three volumes. So put on your thinking caps and help me find a way to get it printed (at an affordable cost to you) while I continue to write and edit. It seems like daily I find new versions and previously unknown types of F-S knives. Thank you for your patience and visiting my site.
You can find out more about me on the "Stories" pages. My hobbies have included training in Japanese martial arts, Kenjutsu, many forms of knife fighting, long range rifles and tactical firearms. I have written several self published books on muzzle-loading firearms, knife-fighting and gas engines and compressors. I am working diligently on my 400+ page F-S book.