The British Army Knife

A blast from the past- the British Army Knife

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.

Crows foot, date of manufacture and part number were stamped on to the side of each knife issued

Crows foot, date of manufacture and part number were stamped on to the side of each knife issued

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:

Folding heavy duty sheepsfoot blade

Folding heavy duty sheepsfoot non-locking blade

  • 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.

Huge and effective can opener

Huge and effective can opener

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.

 

1984 and 1985 was spent in Northern Ireland. There was little room in the cramped cab of an armoured Allis Chalmers wheel loader. Occasionaly an SMG could be thrown behind the seat while working, but invariably, all that we were armed with was our clasp knife

1984 and 1985 was spent in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. There was little room in the cramped cab of an armoured Allis Chalmers TL645 wheeled tractor. Occasionally an SMG could be thrown behind the seat while working, but invariably, all that we were armed with was our clasp knife. Though it was more frequently used when accessing the engine cowlings or adjusting the winch

Nope, its not for getting stones out of hooves, the marlin spike is an essential tool for splicing ropework and loosening knots in heavy cordage

Nope, its not for getting stones out of hooves, the marlin spike is an essential tool for splicing ropework, loosening metal D shackles and knots in heavy cordage

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.

The wide flat screwdriver was used for anything from stripping down a 7.62 L1A1 Self Loading Rifle (SLR) To prising the lids off paint tins

The wide flat screwdriver was used for anything from assisting in the stripping down of a 7.62 L1A1 Self Loading Rifle (SLR) to prising the lids off paint tins

 

 

 

A useful piece of kit- in its day

‘Oil the Joints’- A useful piece of kit- in its day

 

 

 

 

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