Original U.S. WWI Model 1918 Mark I Trench Knife by AU LION with Steel Scabbard
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. In order to save time in getting the new knife to troops in the field, the first Mark I trench knives were procured from a French manufacturer, Au Lion (Au Lion/Société Générale, France). 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. French-made knives had bright blades, and much less blackening on the hilt. 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 very good 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, and spots of oxidation. The “skull crusher” nut on the pommel is a variant we have not seen before but appears to be original to the knife.
The blades of most of the AU LION knives were produced in the white, with no finish on the blade. This blade is in good condition, and still shows a lot of the factory final grind marks and does appear to have been darkened at some point. The tip is present but there are some nicks in the edge as well as denting. The blade itself is overall in wonderful condition.
The steel scabbard is in good condition, and unlike most examples still has both belt prongs intact, with the usual bending. There is also minor denting towards the bottom of the scabbard. The scabbard retains some of the original finish, and as with most Au Lion scabbards, there are no markings. It does have light surface rust, however it still has a lot of the original blued finish, and the texture in the steel can still be seen. The overall construction of the scabbard is more simple than the US made scabbards. This example does have some tiny dents, as these were made from much thinner steel than the US version, and the construction is less robust.
Overall this is a great example of the very popular and collectible World War I era US trench knife. 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.
Blade Length: 6 3/4"
Blade Style: Double Edged Dagger
Overall length: 11 1/2“
Guard: 4" long x 3 3/4" wide
Scabbard Length: 7 1/4
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