Oil the joints…
Having yet another tidy up of some drawers a few days ago, I came across a relic from my army days. I am pleased I hung on to this knife as it saw a lot of miles with me and a lot of sentiment is associated with it. I lost my previous issued knife and this replacement was issued to me in 1980, the same year it was manufactured, the date also being stamped on the side.
Three Points of the Compass was in the Royal Engineers, well known as the very finest of the British Army Corps. Whereas most British soldiers were issued with a simplified version of this knife, in my time, the version Engineers were issued also had a tough marlin spike on the opposite side to the blade.
There were actually four different knives issued to the British forces. Each had its own Nato Stock Number (NSN). These were:
- NSN 5110-99-301-0301 (with locking blade and can opener)
- NSN 5110-99-794-0491 (without can opener)
- NSN 7340-99-975-7402 (with can opener and no marlin spike)
- NSN 7340-99-975-7403 (with can opener and marlin spike)
As you can see, my example is the final one on the list. Made in Sheffield of stainless steel, these ‘squaddy proof’ tools are incredibly tough pieces of kit. They had to be as they put up with a lot of punishment. The back spring to the blade is equally tough. No nail nick is built in to the blade, instead, the metal scales are shaped to permit a good grip of the back of the blade to open it. This is a 60mm blade and could hold an edge pretty well. I see that my knife still has a good edge though I cannot recall the last time I sharpened it. Probably a couple of decades ago.
The can opener found on this knife has to be one of the largest found on any pocket multi-tool. Wickedly sharp, it’ll open any can put in front of it. A shackle is fitted to the opposite end to the can opener and would be attached to a lanyard.
Sappers carried the knife in the breast pocket and it was a chargeable offence to be caught without one. This was our EDC, or Every Day Carry, and was used for any task imaginable on a daily basis. On exercise they were indispensable- cutting para cord, batoning, opening tins and cutting up the awful, pale sausages and bacon grill found inside.
The marlin spike was intended for rope work. Put to considerable use when in training in the late 1970s, less so when it came to later service. Though I do recall using it when engaged in improvised rafting or for loosening D shackles. This is not a lightweight knife coming in at 120g. While it went everywhere with me back then, I cannot see my ever resurrecting it as an EDC item, and will never take it backpacking. It is in need of a bit of a clean up now so I’ll probably just give it some attention, hone the blade, oil the joints (as per the instruction stamped on the side!) and once again consign it to a drawer somewhere.