Original U.S. WWI / WWII “Paratrooper” Modified Model 1918 Mark I Trench Knife by AU LION with Leather Sheath - Complete Marking

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. 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 maker's 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 good condition. The knife is one of the French made examples which is marked on the ricasso with a (Recumbent Lion) / AU LION. The blade mark is very detailed unlike most encountered. 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 was normally cast with two grooves along the top edge of the grip though they appear to have been completely rounded off on this example. The brass knuckle grip has a lovely brass color with a bit of patina, and spots of oxidation. This example of the U.S. Model 1918 MkI Trench Knife was modified more than likely during WWII for paratrooper use, and then reissued.

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 some of the factory final grind marks on the blade flats. It does seem to have had post manufacture sharpening, so the edges are currently somewhat sharp, as they were intended to be sharpened by the user. The tip is reshaped and present but there are some nicks in the edge as well as denting, particularly on the middle of the blade, so this is definitely an example that did see real use in service. The blade itself is stained and peppered but still beautiful.

The leather sheath does appear to have been added and is in the “Kabar” style. The stitching is still mostly intact with all rivets present. The overall condition is nice but there is heavy wear, staining and a tear by the mouth of the sheath.

Overall this is a great example of the very popular and collectible World War I era US trench knife. 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“

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