Original WWII French Resistance "Nail Head" British made Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife with Scabbard
Original Item: Only One Available. The British WWII Fairbairn-Sykes "Commando" Dagger or Fighting knife is an iconic design, used all over the world. It inspired the U.S. Marine "Raider" stiletto knives, and countless others. After WWII France officially adopted the pattern as well, and there are many examples out there.
However, even before V-E day, these knives were in the hands of the French Resistance, as they were supplied all steel knives from England, a design referred to as the "Nail Head" due to the shape of the grip. These knives were made "Cheap and Dirty" for air drop into France behind German lines, so it is entirely possible that nails were sometimes used. The idea was to arm the French people and especially the resistance to prepare for the upcoming D-Day invasion of France.
This example measures 10 5/8" overall, with a 5 7/8" blade, very similar to the proportions of the British-issue knives. Post war examples would have much more "French" proportions, with a longer blade and shorter grip. The knife is in very good condition, with a lovely aged gray patina. The blade shows some sharpening, but still retains the original profile. There is a bit of oxidation in places, and some marks from original manufacture, but overall it looks great.
It comes complete with a very nice steel "boot" style scabbard. It was originally all black enamel painted, however now most is missing on the front, with about 50% retained on the back. There is a small dent on the front, but it does not interfere with sheathing the knife.
A very nice example of a French Resistance F-S Knife, ready to add to your edged weapon collection!
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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