Original British WWII Fairbairn Sykes Early Third Pattern Commando Dagger with Inscribed Prayer Book - Attributed to Canadian Commando Lance Corporal W.J. Baird
Original Item: Only One Available. This is an excellent example of an early "Third Pattern" British Fairbairn-Sykes commando dagger, with a blacked brass handle and original scabbard. Not only is this a prime example, it also comes with identification as to who the original owner of this dagger was! Both items came together directly to IMA from a descendant of the original owner.
As brass was a "strategic material," only the early examples of the third pattern have brass handles, with later war produced models having alloy handles. The handle dates production to late 1943 - early 1944. The knives varied somewhat in size, and this example measures 11" overall,, with an approximately 6 ¼” inch blade. This example comes with the standard belt scabbard, with elastic at the top. The sheath is in excellent condition, especially considering its age.
The condition of the knife is excellent, still with sharp edges, and almost all of the finish on the blade. It was never given the final sharpening by the soldier that it was issued to, however, it appears that the blade may have been shortened slightly. The plain blued steel cross guard still retains most of the finish. The guard has a very slight wobble to it, and is not marked in anyway (not even the usual ENGLAND marking). The handle is overall very good with lots of original black finish in the recesses of the grip, with the exposed areas of brass exhibiting a very pleasing mellowed patina. The only marking on the entire knife is a cast number “3” near the pommel.
Best of all, the knife came with a small pocket size Catholic Religious Book for Servicemen dated 1941 - Devotions Under the Flag: A Prayer Book for Catholic Men In Every Branch of the Service. Inside the front cover is the name, rank, unit, and hometown of the original owner “L/Cpl W.J.Baird, Canadien(sic) Commandos, 13 C.T.C.(Canadian Transit Camp), Listowel, Ont (Ontario) Canada". We have not conducted any research into Corporal Baird, But this is an excellent stepping off point for one who wishes to do so! In addition, the British War Relief Book Mark was contained within the book when found.
An increasingly hard to find knife that would fit into any British/Commonwealth WWII collection.
Blade length: 6 3/8”
Blade Style: Spear Point Knife
Overall length: 11 1/8”
Scabbard length: 7 1/4" with belt loop
History of the Fairbairn-Sykes British Commando Dagger:
The demand for a good fighting knife was so very urgent that a meeting was arranged in November 1940 between W. E. Fairbairn, E. A. Sykes and Jack Wilkinson Latham at Wilkinson Sword Company. Fairbairn and Sykes described the type of knife they envisioned and the purpose for which it was intended. As discussion continued, preliminary sketches were drawn up and modified time and time again.
As Robert Wilkinson Latham tells it: 'In order to explain exactly their point, the two men rose to their feet and one, it was Fairbairn my grandfather mentioned, grabbed the wood ruler from his desk and the two men danced around the office in mock combat'.
The very first 1st Pattern F-S Fighting Knives were made in November 1940. In January 1941the full war full production started, according to Robert Wilkinson Latham. The grip was made from solid brass and cut by 16 lines per inch in a diamond pattern. The grip and hand guard were nickel plated. The hand guard was curved to S-shape. The blade was grounded by hand. For this reason it is difficult to find two blades of exactly the same size and shape. This model was produced in very limited numbers.
The very first 1st Pattern Wilkinson Sword F-S knives were ordered the 14th of November 1940. Order 294 mentions 500 'RBD and Commercial knives' but possibly less. They were called in this way in the order to disguise the actual type of knife. The 1st Pattern was delivered from November 1940 until April 1941. 17th of December 1940 5000 "hunting knives" were ordered. This order concerned the first 1st Pattern knives. Price for each was 13 s 6d. All together 6,779 - 1st pattern were made.
However, as wartime demand increased, it was necessary to simplify and speed up production. Furthermore strategically important materials like brass were now in short supply. This meant that crucial changes were made to the knife design, resulting in the "Second Pattern" commando dagger, produced from August 1941 until October 1943.
While the handle design remained the same, it was cast with a hollow core meaning that it could be made using less brass. The s-shaped guard was replaced by a simpler flat design and the flat ricasso was removed from the base of the blade, enabling a more straight forward grind which could be done by machine. The scabbard’s press-stud was replaced by an elastic retaining strap. It is important to note that as there was no official specification to cover the knife, many subtle variations from the period can be seen. In September 1942, the bright finish was replaced by the now more familiar blacked knife. The scabbard chape was also blacked to help prevent the metal from reflecting light.
In October 1943, to further expedite production, further changes to the design were made, which resulted in the "Third Pattern", which is in production to this day. The dagger was being made at a number of different companies, many based in the Sheffield area, and these changes were mainly motivated from their end, not the field end. Most manufacturers now favored a fully machine ground blade, such that the central grinding line ran the complete length of the blade. The checkered knurled handle was replaced by one with 27 concentric rings to aid grip, thought to be the idea of Joseph Rodgers of Sheffield. The brass handle material was then replaced with a non-strategic alloy as production continued. The new handle was easier to cast and would have been requiring of little or no remedial work.
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