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~ Introduction ~

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~ Variations Of The Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife ~



The Second Pattern

The changes made to the original (First Pattern) F-S knife design by Wilkinson Sword in August of 1941 resulted in what we now refer to as the Second Pattern (F-S Fighting Knife).  Those modifications were in response to an increased demand on production and a need to ‘speed up’ the manufacturing process.  The most notable changes to the knifes design were the loss of the blades tablet ricasso and the replacement of the ‘S’ shaped crossguard with one that was straight.  This resulted in a design of more symmetry and a visually sleeker profile which importantly achieved its intended goal of facilitating faster production without affecting the basic design or quality.  These changes resulted in what collectors now recognize as the classic Second Pattern F-S knife design.

Wilkinson Sword Co Ltd were the only manufacture of the First Pattern F-S and initially this was also the case with the Second Pattern.  However around late September of 1942 Wilkinsons were approached by the Ministry of Supply (MoS) and asked to provide a full set of technical drawings of both the F-S Knife and its scabbard.  Wilkinson of course complied promptly and on 2nd October (1942) supplied a full set of the drawing as requested.  We can assume that the demand for the F-S (now in its Second Pattern) had increased to such an extent that the Ministry of Supply would be seeking additional manufactures to fulfill its increased requirements.  October of 1942 then is the time at which we can say with some confidence that from this point on other manufactures likely became involved in producing the F-S.  With few exceptions this other makers did not mark their knives, however my research indicates that well in excess of two dozen other makers were involved with F-S production from this point on.

The original technical drawings of the Second Pattern F-S Fighting Knife (left) and scabbard (right).  Created and supplied by Wilkinson to the Ministry of Supply.

A great many Second Pattern F-S knives went on to be made, not only by Wilkinson but as stated by other makers.  Some of these variations can deviate slightly from the standard form and as a result in some instances this can create a distinct variation in its own right.  The ‘Fat Gripped’ F-S variation for example - clearly of a Second Pattern form but with its noticeably thicker ‘swelled’ grip it is most often categorized in its own group and rightly so.  Another example worthy of mention are those early knives manufactured by J. Clarke & Son of Sheffield, England which at a cursory glance appear to be a standard Second Pattern.  It is only when one looks a little closer at the knurling applied to the grip one discovers is is ‘reversed’ and not of the standard (Second Pattern) form.  This along with other details and occasionally their makers mark (not all are thus marked) has enabled this rare knife to be categorized as its own stand alone variation.

Aside from the many F-S knives that have a passing resemblance to the standard Second Pattern the knives under discussion here are those examples that are identical or very near identical to the standard pattern first produced by Wilkinson in August of 1941 and illustrated by them in the October 1942 drawings but NOT having any Wilkinson etchings, as these are covered in their own dedicated area.  For the most part then the knives illustrated and discussed below will differ only slightly from one another.  This usually takes the form of either their finish and/or any official markings.  If you have examples in your collection that can add to this study, especially in the area of inspection markings, then please feel free to contact me.

~ The Wilkinson ‘⩚B2’ Second Pattern ~

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For a long time the origin of the ⩚B2 marked knives was not fully understood but has now been confirmed to be linked with Wilkinson Sword.  Researching old Wilkinson records during 2013 by Robert Wilkinson-Latham discovered conclusive links that this Ministry of Supply inspection marking was used exclusively by Wilkinson Sword.  As a result we can now say with confidence that such marked knives (both Second and the scarcer Third Pattern) are of Wilkinson manufacture.  There is also supporting evidence to confirm that Wilkinson was not always required to include their manufactures trademark on F-S knives, as this was specifically requested in October of 1943 for an order of Third Pattern knives for the Indian contract.

The ⩚B2 marked Second Pattern is a knife of fine quality and identical in nearly all respects to the etched Wilkinson examples.  These knives however are always of a Type II configuration in that the finish is all over black/blued.  From my observations these are the most prolific of all Second Pattern F-S knives and although some sellers on internet auction sites will try and convince you of their rarity the fact is that they are not rare at all and are in fact one of the most common F-S knives to be encountered, no doubt reflecting the great quantity that was produced by Wilkinson.  Now that said, finding especially fine examples of these ⩚B2 Second Patterns can be somewhat challenging.  The splendid example shown adjacent being the exception.

Before leaving the Wilkinson ⩚B2 Second Pattern F-S it is perhaps worth noting that one can occasionally encounter knives that contain a ‘fake’ version of this mark!  As stated this mark is perhaps the most common of all inspection marks so why one would choose to fake it is beyond me, perhaps the over enthusiastic descriptions by some dealers and internet auction sellers have unwittingly convinced some individuals into believing it is worth faking?  Who really knows what goes on in the minds of these unscrupulous sellers.  Some of these markings have even been found on knives that are clearly not correct for this marking.  Nevertheless if unsure please exercise caution.

B2

This excellent example of a standard Second Pattern F-S knife with correct scabbard was actually manufactured by Wilkinson.  No makers mark or etchings are found which is correct as the only marking is that of a government ownership broad arrow and Ministry of Supply inspection mark of the letter ‘B’ follow by the number ‘2’ i.e. ‘⩚B2’.  This mark has been confirmed as being that used on knives originating from Wilkinson from their in-house MoS inspector.

A close-up and clear view of a correct ⩚B2 marking.  More often than not this marking is not easy to read.  Many examples were imported into the US postwar and are ‘over-stamped’ with the ‘England’ import mark.  Also many of these markings are poorly applied resulting in part of the mark not being fully visible.  Such stampings have lead to a less experienced eye miss-reading the mark.

~ The Scarce ‘⩚T’ Second Pattern ~

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Perhaps one of the rarest Second Pattern F-S knives or more correctly I should say one of the rarest MoS inspection marks is that of the ‘⩚T’.  Only a few examples of this knife with its related marking have been observed.  Perhaps the most interesting detail is in its placement, as it would seem the most often encountered area on a Second Pattern to find an MoS marking is on the cross-guard as in the previous (B2) example.  However all of the thus noted ⩚T knives are marked on the ferrule area of the grip.  Although most examples noted are well worn the finish on these knives originally appears to have been the all over black/bluing (Type II) as per the previously discussed example.

Example A

⩚

T

Over the many years I have been studying the F-S I have only observed around eight examples of this knife, so clearly only a very small quantity were produced with this marking.  Intriguingly in all respects save the ⩚T marking both knife and scabbard appear identical to the Wilkinson products!  It is not beyond the realms of possibility that these did originate from that company but in the absence of any evidence it is impossible to say with any authority one way or the other.  The markings as you can see in both example A & B shown above is always identical i.e. a Broad Arrow ownership mark pointing towards a seriffed capital ‘T’. 

Also as you can see part of the extremities of the stamping are often missing due to the curvature of the grip often resulting in the letter ‘T’ being miss-read as the letter ‘L’.  Nothing is known of this mark - its original or reason for use (beyond that of an inspection/inspectors mark), however I do have a theory but have thus far been unable to make any significant progress on my research, so will not share it here just yet to save on any speculation.  Needless to say this is a very scarce Second Pattern variation and if you have an example and would like to send my some details for my ongoing research I would be most grateful.

Example B

⩚

T

~ The ‘⩚56 & ⩚60’ Second Pattern ~

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For the time being I have grouped the ⩚56 marked Second Pattern along with the ⩚60 example, as both appear near identical in every respect save the inspection number.  Although it must be pointed out that where the former is scarce the latter is excessively rare with only a very few known to exist.  Both of these knives are of the early Type I style in that they exhibit the all over plating which was the original finish found on First Pattern knives and those scarce Second Patterns that immediately followed.  Those knives that carry the 56 MoS inspection mark are stamped on the crossguard in the common way, however the very few examples that have been seen with the 60 number marking are stamped on the ferrule like the previously discussed ‘T’ marked knives but unlike these knives the ⩚ point away from the number and not toward it.

56

This ⩚56 Second Pattern is compete with its correct scabbard with nickel plated chap.  Not the correct MoS inspection mark above, which is always located stamped into the grip side of the crossguard.

This ⩚60 Second Pattern is compete with its correct scabbard with nickel plated chap.  Not the correct MoS inspection mark above, which is always located stamped into the ferrule portion of the grip.  The number along with its location appear to be the only noticeable difference between this version and the early example.  Although the ⩚60 knives are very much scarcer.

60

Courtesy Harry Huyssen collection

The origins of both of these knives and their related markings is not known.  One thing is clear and that is the quality of these knives along with their associated scabbard is near identical to that of the Wilkinson Type I Second Pattern.  Are these Wilkinson knives?  Well we just don’t know and with no evidence to link these inspection marks to Wilkinson we cannot say one way or the other with any confidence.  MoS inspection marks are believed to have been linked ‘not’ to a company but to a specific MoS inspector.  Could it be possible that inspectors number ‘sixty’ was assigned to Wilkinson for a short period only to be replaced by inspector ‘fifty six’ ?  Who in turn was himself later replaced by inspector ‘B2’ ?  We just don’t know but like so many mysteries surrounding the F-S knife there are more questions than answers and at the end of the day even if we don’t have all the answers, what we do have are many intriguing and fascinating examples to study and collect.

~ The Unmarked Or ‘Sterile’ Second Pattern ~

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On rare occasions it is possible to happen across a Second Pattern F-S that is completely unmarked in any way.  Such knives are sometimes referred to by collectors as a ‘sterile’.  These knives are often associated with clandestine use due to being unmarked.  The logic for this association is sound as any clandestine operative who found themselves behind enemy lines and at the risk of capture would not want such details to unwittingly ‘give the game away’.  Although in fairness if one were searched and found to be carrying such a weapon then ones prospects would not be promising anyway be it marked or not.  Nevertheless such links to groups like the Special Operations Executive are near impossible to prove and although tenuous they cannot be completely discounted.

A ‘Type I’ (all nickel) Second Pattern F-S.  A fine knife but completely devoid of any etching or MoS inspection marks - totally correct in every other respect.  Most likely by Wilkinson.

A ‘Type II’ (all blued) Second Pattern F-S.  As with the previous example, completely devoid of any etchings or MoS marking.  Again most likely by Wilkinson.

On close inspection both the examples featured above are identical in every respect to a Wilkinson knife and I have no problem attributing these examples to that company.  Why they are devoid of any etchings or inspection marks is not known.  Yes it is possible that such knives were destined from clandestine use but there of course could be other as yet unknown reasons.  The truth is we just don’t know for sure.  Attributing all such ‘sterile’ Second Pattern F-S knives to Wilkinson is absolutely ‘not’ recommended.  I have studied both of these (as well as other examples) very carefully indeed and although these two knives satisfy my stringent requirements, I have seen other unmarked examples that although have a passing resemblance to a Wilkinson produced knife, exhibit details that would preclude such an attribution.  It is interesting to note that that there is no unmarked Type III (blued & polished) Second Pattern shown here - as to date I have not seen such a knife that I was convinced was of the period.

~ Other Second Pattern Variations ~

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A study of any F-S variation can never be complete, as rare knives continue to surface, with yet more details and information to teach us.  As such I hope this page will continue to develop over time as examples and/or information become available.  If You have an example of interest and would like to share details then by all means drop me a line.


Cheerio and happy collecting,

Roy .

Stamped on the crossguard

Stamped on the crossguard

Stamped on the ferrule

Stamped on the ferrule

Stamped on the ferrule

The Second Pattern F-S
FAKE...!

This ‘B2⩚’ marking is completely fake in every respect.  If you are in any doubt whatsoever about any F-S knife or marking ‘please’ contact me before you spend any money, as I’m more than happy to assist and share my knowledge.

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