Original U.S. WWI Model 1918 Mark I Trench Knife by AU LION with Scabbard in Custom Leather Frog

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. The U.S. Model 1918 Mark I Trench Knife was the second major "Knuckle Knife" to be officially adopted and issued to the US military. It was developed for use in the horrific trench warfare that typified the stalemate on the Western Front during the latter part of World War One and saw use not only there, but during World War Two as well. The knife was manufactured in the United States by Henry Disston & Sons (H.D. & S.) as well as Landers, Frary & Clark (L.F. & C.) and Oneida Community Ltd (O.C.L.). The knives were also produced in France and are marked with the usual 1918 and US marks, as well as Au Lion on the blade. Whether this mark was a maker's mark or simply a motto is not known. The U.S. M-1918 Mark I Trench Knife is easily identifiable due to its large "brass knuckle" style guard and grip. The knives were 11 ¾" in overall length, with a 6 ¾" dagger style blade. The brass grips were marked U.S. 1918 and with the makers name or initials.

As originally issued, U.S. made knives were entirely blackened; both the blades and the brass knuckle hilts. The Au Lion knives however had bright blades and much less robust grip blackening. These knives remained in use with the US military, classified as limited standard (secondary issue) through January of 1945, when the knives were officially classified as obsolete. The knives were carried in a blued sheet steel scabbard that was typically maker marked, and was equipped with a pair of wire tabs that were intended to engage the US pistol web belt but never fit properly so various belts and rigs were used or the scabbards were replaced with more usable ones. Many of the knives issued during World War II ended up in substitute leather scabbards of various designs and styles, many of which were "theater made".

The example of the U.S. Model 1918 Mark I Trench Knife offered here is in excellent condition. The knife is one of the French made examples which is marked on the ricasso with a (Reclining Lion) / AU LION. The blade mark is very crisp and well defined, much better than is usually encountered these days. This brass grip of the knife is clearly marked: U. S. 1918. As is usually the case with the AU LION marked knives, the cast brass grip is much rougher and cruder than the US made versions. As is also typical of the French made knives, the knuckle points are also less defined and not as sharp as the US made knives. The French made grips are cast with a variety of minor differences, and this one is cast with two grooves along the top edge of the grip.  The brass knuckle grip has a lovely brass color with a bit of patina.  It also appears that to make a better fit in the custom leather frog, the sides of the cross guard were ground off a bit, so that it did not hang up on the frog.

The blades of most of the AU LION knives were produced in the white, with no finish on the blade. This blade is in excellent condition, probably the best we have ever seen. It has a great polish, and just a few areas of oxidation.

The steel scabbard is in good condition, and unlike most examples still has both belt prongs intact, and they do not appear to be bent at all. The scabbard appears to be the standard simple French design. We cannot tell much more about it, as the scabbard was sewn into the custom made holster/ frog, and there is no way to remove it without destroying removing the stitching or cutting the leather.

The frog itself is made of soft leather, with a lovely color. There are the initials R W cut into the top part of the frog, and the securing strap has an original "LIFT-THE-DOT" snap on it. The frog is very solid, though the leather around the snap has deteriorated due to brass corrosion, and is partly split around the male portion of the snap, so we do not recommend trying to unsnap it.

Overall this is a great example of the very popular and collectible World War I era US trench knife, with a custom made leather frog/holster for the sheath. The knife and scabbard are 100% complete and original, and would make a fantastic addition to any military edged weapons collection. These brass D guard knuckle knives always make a great centerpiece to any military knife display and certainly draw attention due to their size and fierce appearance.

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