This page is for general discussion, notes on fakes, items of interest and other areas of interest to Military and Antique knives.
Good things come to those who wait
Besides FS knives I have an interest in the knives of ROBBINS DUDLEY and there has been one variant I have been after for close on as long as I have been collecting. The only example I knew of being in the Imperial War Museum.
A find by a friend some years ago got me close to getting the piece but it took sometime, however I was lucky enough to strike the deal and obtain this exceedingly rare variant.
The knife in the top of the image is shown in my books and a further example is shown on a website, there being a round 5 or 6 known examples. However a variant of the knife recently turned up. It is devoid of any markings though there are possible signs that they have been removed, also the guard is an exact fit for a 1st Pattern FS guard. Some say that these knives were given by Lord Love to his Officers but as far as I am aware there is no evidence to prove it. But if you have any information on these please contact me.
The dialogue below on X daggers and fakes has caused the owner of one website to take umbrage about the two articles, though as it happens it was not singularly aimed at him, there being other sites that also mention these so called X daggers. In claiming that we attacked his credibility he seems to have forgotten that he attacked the credibility of those who do not believe in these X daggers long before these items were ever posted i.e.
It is ironic that all of the writers who choose to declare X-Daggers are fakes, illegitimate, counterfeits, etc have to steal my photos to use in their papers and books. Why is that? It is because they do not own any of the knives and most of them have never handled the knives personally. How much confidence does that instill in you about their assumptions and conclusions? They refuse to admit this because it might damage their internet reputation as "experts." My book will prove their theories are wrong.
A case of Double Standards!
But just to make it clear I am sure that the owners of these items 110% believe the knives are real but they completely fail to look at the other side of the story and cannot account for all the inconsistencies that go with them.
THE MYTH OF THE X DAGGERS
The following illustrations are of so called X Daggers - are these really prototypes as claimed by some? (Photos from my book The Fairbairn Sykes Fighting Knife)
What follows is the other side of the story.
You will find on some websites appertaining to F-S knives photos and descriptions of knives deemed to be X Daggers. The daggers are a combination shortened bayonet (1903 or 1888) blades and F-S 2nd pattern style grips.
The owners of these knives and websites will have you believe that these knives represent prototypes and were commissioned by Fairbairn or that they were used/made at Camp X. They also say that those of us who declare these knives to be fakes do so because we do not own any, have never handled one personally. Whilst this last point may well be true you do not necessarily have to own or handle a fake knife to know one when you see it.
I will however put this to one side and look at the real story of these X Daggers. The story and a lot of the evidence is one which the believers wish to ignore.
The source of the knives is important in this story. These knives first started to appear in the writings of Windrum and to a lesser extent Thompson. This was around the early to mid 1990’s and in both cases there was a thread that ran through both author’s stories and that was the main source of these knives. Many, if not all, having come from one man located in Canada who seemed to have a remarkable ability to turn up other so called prototypes along with knives made by the likes of Bruce Hand, and John Paisley these both being makers about which there is absolutely no evidence to support their existence.
Next lets look at the supposed timeline of the knives which are supposed to be prototypes. Well Fairbairn and Sykes arrived back in the UK from Shanghai in May 1940 and were commissioned with a seniority of July 1940. The first contracts with Wilkinson for the F-S knife was placed in early Dec 1940. Thus this gives us 4/5 months in which these so called prototypes were produced.
However if you look at the available images of these so called X daggers you will note that many of these knives have grips that have come from 2nd pattern knives, knives not produced until late 1941. Others have grips in the style of the 2nd pattern but no two are alike. One website shows around 12 different X daggers, one must ask if these are prototypes why do they have different features, though the differences are such that they do not represent any obvious attempt to design a better knife. You could expect to see a few changes on say one or two examples of real prototypes but not on 12.
Next we have the markings found on some. These range from engraved WSC marks to single number codes. The engraved WSC mark supposedly to represent Wilkinson Sword Co, have been done with a pantograph engraving machine and not stamped a you would expect to find on a 1940’s era knife. Also the use of this mark does not align with its use by Wilkinson and which only appeared on bayonets. The single number stamp are supposed to be makers codes, a theory put by Windrum, however there is no evidence of the use of such codes by the British.
The believers in these knives have also implied that the detractors have said it is impossible to make a knife in this way. Not so. What has been questioned is the practicality in terms of time and effort of doing so. Whilst some individual may well have a go at doing so, on production basis it would make no sense. The guards of a 1888 or 1903 bayonet would need to be removed, the tang that is left would be useless because of the rivet holes, so these would need to be infilled and a new tang shaped to fit a 2nd pattern style grip, or a new stick style tang welded on.
The believers say ah yes but Fairbairn made his Shanghai knives from bayonet blade. That is true but they have totally missed the point of John Fairbairn’s statement that the made them from the tops of bayonet blades. What he actually meant was that they were made from the tips of bayonet blades. This is clearly the case when a dis-assembled genuine Shanghai knife is examined.
Going back slightly in the story, in terms of the source of these knives, it is remarkable that if the are prototypes conceived by Fairbairn why have the vast majority, if not all, been sourced from the North American market. A few examples have turned up from elsewhere in the world, but at least one that was in the Windrum collection ended up in Europe, and then in the UK. Thus the fact that a piece may have been bought from England or say Australia does not guarantee its origins as a Fairbairn prototype.
In summary we have knives:
Whose antecedents seem to lay in the Shanghai knives but which do not comply with the same construction.
Which have markings e.g. WSC which are incorrect for the period.
Whose appearance in print did not occur until the 1990’s and then with only two author’s who offer no evidence to support their conclusions.
Which in the vast majority of cases only come out of North America and not from their country of supposed origin.
Which have the anomaly of having 2nd pattern grips on some examples of so called prototypes, a grip that was not introduced until late 1941.
So do any readers out there still believe these knives are real?
MORE ON FAKES
Somewhat following on from the X dagger piece above my good friend Roy Shadbolt recently sent an email to his customers regarding fakes. This was a very timely warning as I myself had recently been asked to appraise some items in a collection belonging to a new collector, unfortunately the collection contained a few fake items. I have used some of Roy’s email in the piece below and although his warning was particularly aimed at F-S knives the general sentiment applies to many military knives.
It may (or may not) surprise collectors to hear that people like myself and Roy regularly receive communications from collectors asking my advice about an F-S knife they have just purchased, where either the knife or it's markings don't conform to anything they can find on websites or in books. Excited that they may have discovered something new (and potentially valuable), their hopes are more than often dashed when I have to inform them that the knife and/or markings are completely fake.
We have also been very shocked and frankly annoyed that such knives are still appearing on so called 'experts' (people who should know better) and dealers websites. With some of these knives purporting to be something quite exceptional, terms like 'X Dagger', 'Pre Production' or 'Agents' (aka miniature) F-S knives often begin used. Please know that all these are fake, as such knives never existed and despite being erroneously published in a few early books on this topic, such stories and myths have long been debunked by in depth research. Education will always protect our hobby whereas ignorance will erode it.
It is easy as a novice collector to be drawn in by “its in the book” or the excitement of a possible rare find, (I know I have been there) but knowledge is the best defence against wasting your money. By all means learn from books but also be prepared to question what you read. In one early book on F-S knives the author stated he had identified various makers from some single digit code numbers stamped on the knives. When I asked how he had identified these makers and their numbers he could provide no explanation. Basically the knives were all fake and the numbering a figment of the fakers imagination.
There will always be collectors who have a total unwillingness to learn, who will buy such knives and who completely ignore the evidence put in front of them. There is no helping such people but if you are in any doubt or just need assistance make sure you obtain a second opinion. I don't pretend to be the final word on such topics but along with some very good friends, combined we have a wealth of experience that we are willing to share.
Let us keep this passion positive, enjoyable and free from such rubbish and continue to grow our collections with honest knives that will bring us years of enjoyment. There are still new discoveries out there and some wonderful knives to add to our collections, we don't need to add fraudulent knives to our collection, despite how tempting it may sometimes be.
QUESTIONS FOR THE BELIEVERS IN X DAGGERS & SOME OTHER KNIVES
In thinking over the dialogue that has gone on regarding what I consider to be fake knives i.e. the so called X daggers or prototype FS knives, knives by John Paisley and Bruce Hand, I thought of a list of questions similar to those rated earlier that would challenge the believers to provide answers to their belief that the items are genuine. In asking for answers I do not mean just quoting what is in some book or article but answers that provide real evidence or reasoned argument.
If you think you have such an answer by all means contact me with your reasons.
1. With a very few limited exceptions why do all the examples of so called X daggers or prototype FS knives come from North America and not their supposed country of origin?
2. Why do some alleged prototypes/pre 1st pattern knives come with 2nd pattern grips, a grip not established until 1941?
3. Why do examples theses so called prototypes not follow any obvious logical progression in terms of design improvements/changes?
4. Is it logical that from Fairbairn and Sykes being commissioned into the Army in mid July 940 till their meeting with Wilkinson Sword in early November 1940, some 3 months, that such a variety of so called prototypes would be produced?
5. Why have some got marks. such as WSC or 3 when there is no evidence that Wilkinson ever used such markings?
6. Where is the evidence to prove that Bruce Hand and John Paisley ever existed. Evidence in the form of census returns, trade directory entries, birth and death records. Why do examples of their work not tun up in their own countries?
7. Why is one man who is prominent (sometimes named other times referred to in general terms) in the writings of people such as Windrum the major source of such items. How did he manage to accumulate the many examples of these knives such as the . X daggers, knives by Paisley, Hand etc?
In sorting and tidying up my files I came across and interesting document from 1982 in which Wilkinson's Technical Centre reports on a Commando Knife sent for evaluation. Although not specifically identifying the knife as an X dagger/prototype the mention of an 1888 bayonet blade would point to that. The evaluation raises certain interesting points
a) guard made from stock metal never used by Wilkinsons
b) tang thread is incorrect
c) tang welded on with single spot weld which has been dated as no earlier than the 1950's
I wonder if the owners of any of the current wave of these knives would submit one for detailed technical and metallurgical evaluation.