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~ The Clarke Second Pattern ~

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Those F-S Knives we can attribute to J. Clarke & Son are indeed an interesting area to study.  There was a time when the only knives conclusively attributed to this maker were those high quality Second Patterns that along with their makers stamp also carried the date of 1942.  This is now not the case as the story of J. Clarke and the F-S Knives it produced has now expanded to also include the Third Pattern, unmarked examples of both patterns and surprising even the possibility of the Ribbed & Beaded F-S also.  What follow is a brief study of this area of the F-S and as new knives and information becomes available, what is likely to be an increasingly fascinating topic.

The Second Pattern F-SSecond_Pattern_-_Variations_Of_The_Fairbairn-Sykes_Fighting_Knife.html
The Third Pattern F-SThird_Pattern_-_Variations_Of_The_Fairbairn-Sykes_Fighting_Knife.html
Variations Of The F-S KnifeVariations_Of_The_Fairbairn-Sykes_Fighting_Knife.html
The Ribbed & Beaded F-SRibbed_%26_Beaded_Pattern_-_Variations_Of_The_Fairbairn-Sykes_Fighting_Knife.html
The Wooden Gripped F-SWooden_Gripped_Pattern_-_Variations_Of_The_Fairbairn-Sykes_Fighting_Knife.html

~ Variations Of The Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife ~



The J. Clarke & Son Second & Third Patterns

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The J. Clarke F-S

We know that J. Clarke & Son were manufacturing the F-S Knife and fulfilling MoS contacts in the last few months of 1942.  These details are bore out by two facts.  Firstly that Wilkinson at the request of the Ministry of Supply had provided a set of (Second Pattern) technical drawings as of 2nd October 1942, so it is unlikely that any maker would have been producing such knives prior to this date.  Secondly, those J. Clarke knives of the Second Pattern that are maker marked always include the date of 1942.  Along with the reality that such knives are excessively scarce, it most likely that these knives were amongst the first batch of such knives produced by Clark and date from mid to late October (at the earliest), November & December.  I have not been able to find a specific 1942 date for this contract as yet but strongly suspect that all of these early Clarke knives were part of the initial oder during this time period and by March 1943 had been supplanted by the Clark Third Pattern (see details further down).

The first two lines of the 1942 (Second Pattern) Clarke makers mark stamped into the crossguard.

The original Clarke Second Pattern F-S appears to conform precisely to those specifications laid out on the technical drawings supplied to the MoS by Wilkinson in October of 1942.  Although one must remember that the F-S was never a ‘sealed’ pattern and as such there was no requirement to manufacture any F-S to exact tolerances - one of the reasons we have so many variations surviving today.  As a result and in the case of these early Clarke knives there are quite a few subtle but unique manufacturing details that clearly made this variation distinctive, one of the reasons some knives without the makers mark evident can be attributed with reasonable confidence to this maker.

Perhaps the most distinctive feature of some Clarke knives is in the so called ‘reversed’ knurling applied to the grip.  This is by no means on every example as some do have a more traditional ‘cut’ knurling.  However those knives with this reversed or impressed knurling are quite distinctive.  Such details (along with others) have been noted on identical knives that do not carry a makers mark, leading to the reasonable conclusion that these knives are by Clarke despite having no marking to identify them as such.

This J. Clarke marked example clearly shows three of the characteristics that distinguish these knives: the peacock colored blueing of the blade, the elongated V grind of the ricasso and the reversed, impressed knurling to the grip.

Only a small detail but one that s often overlooked, is the pommel nut.  Those found on the Clarke Second Pattern tend to taper and have a gentle conical profile, this is in contrast to the more donut  style seen on a Wilkinson F-S (for an example).  Such details in isolation are not to be taken to conclusively when forming any opinion but when taken alongside other details, these can all add up to give one a better understanding of a particular knife and thus aid with any conclusions.

In regards the all important makers mark found on these early 1942 Clarke Second Pattern, there is rarely any inconsistency and it appears the same stamp was used to apply this mark in all cased noted.  The full legend reads; 1942 (line 1) J.CLARKE & SON (line2) SHEFFIELD (line 3) ⩚ (line 4).  On rare occasions one could be forgiven for thinking that the first line reads 1943 but on close inspection the last figure is most certainly a 2.  Possibly some wear or light damage to the stamp on this character has resulted in a poor rendition. 

Along with the grip details mentioned above there are also small manufacturing anomalies that are quite distinctive.  In regards the blade Clarke knife often have a pleasant ‘peacock’ blue colour to the finish applied to the blade.  There is also a flattened triangular section to the ricasso similar to that found on Wilkinson knives, although often these are narrow and elongated. 

One further small detail but certainly worth pointing out, is in the location of the makers stamp.  On nearly all examples observed the marking is present on the blade or underside of the crossguard, resulting in the blade ricasso shoulder often obscuring the last two letter in the word ‘son’, a clear sign that the stamp was applied on the guard prior to any assembly.  However I have noted on one example (see below) that the mark is on the upper or grip side, as this is the only example noted it seems clear that the assembler simply fitted the crossguard on the wrong way around - fortunate for us in this case as the stamp is much more visible and not obscured in any way.

All those J.Clarke marking found on early Second Patterns are consistant and almost certainly were applied using the same stamp.  The marking of the crossguard was done prior to any assembly, as the blades ricasso shoulder normally obscures the last two letters of ‘Son’ in the legend as shown on the example here.

On this example this knife has the crossguard placed incorrectly during the assembly process, so now shows the makers mark on the upper or grip side of the hilt.  This of course is to our benefit as the full marking is plainly visible and not in any way obscured or hidden.

These Clarke Second Patterns can also come with Ministry of Supply ownership/inspection marks.  Such markings if present are always noted on the ferrule portion of the grip and consist of a broad arrow (pointing towards the blade) atop a number.  The only two numbers thus far observed have been 4 & 9.  Neither mark is exclusive to Clarke as inspectors who help such number designations would have traveled to difference manufactures.

Examples of the known inspection marks found on Clarke Second Patterns.

~ The Clarke Third Pattern ~

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It is clear from a few rare examples that Clarke also supplied the Third Pattern F-S Knife.  This I believe started with a contract on the 27th January 1943 for 5,000 knives at 10/- (ten shillings and no pence) with delivery commencing 5th March 1943 at a rate of 500 per week and was completed 7th May 1943.  Although the term Third Pattern was not in usage at that time, the low price per unit would strongly indicate that these were indeed what we now refer to as Third Patterns. 

This rare late-war Third Pattern is marked ‘J Clarke & Son Sheffield England’ on the grip side of the crossguard. Courtesy Steve Leverington collection.

Including the contract mentioned, J. Clarke & Son would ultimately fulfill MoS orders totaling 31,044 knives over the years 1943 and 1944.  Although a great many other makers were involved in supplying Third Pattern F-S Knives during this time, only Wilkinson Sword Co Ltd were to fulfill larger contracts.  With Clarke marked Third Patterns being so incredibly rare today, there can only be once answer as to where all these knives are - and that is the simple fact that the vast majority were not maker marked in any way.  It is reasonable to assume that the few that have surfaced that are marked were perhaps a few knives in the first production run and as time and money became pressing it was one detail that was considered not essential and therefore omitted on all subsequent knives. The only MoS ownership/inspection marking that has thus far been confirmed as being applied to their Third Pattern F-S Knives is ⩚13, as the adjacent example indicates.

Another rare example of the Clarke Third Pattern.  This example is marked with the MoS ownership/inspection mark of ⩚13.  Courtesy Wil  Custers collection

~ The Clarke Ribbed & Beaded (?) ~

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Although no Ribbed & Beaded F-S has been noted with the makers mark of Clark there is compelling circumstantial evidence that such knives were produced by this marker.  The occasional example has been observed with similar characteristics in both blade grind, finish and pommel nut form to at the very least give weight to this theory.  The example shown below is also marked with the MoS stamp of ⩚9 which is seen on some Clark knives.

Although not marked as such, this Ribbed & Beaded F-S has many characteristics of a Clarke knives.

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The J. Clarke F-S