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~ The Australian Army Stiletto ~

A Guest Article By Michael Lobb

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~ Introducing A Guest Article By Michael Lobb ~


My good friend Michael Lobb has a particular interest and expertise in one of the most fascinating wartime F-S variations, namely the Australian Army Stiletto or AAS as it often called.  What follows is a wonderfully researched and written article by Michael that covers the full history of this important Australian fighting knife.  This uniquely Australian knife has a fascinating history and although scarce and much sought after by todays collector, there are a number of variations both in the knife, it’s markings and the sheath to look out for.  Michael has done a sterling job in bringing this elusive knife to life, sharing all the details and characteristics that make it one of the most interesting fighting knives of its period.

If you have a specific area of expertise and would like to consider submitting a guest article then drop me a line.

Cheerio and happy collecting,

The Australian Army Stiletto

~ The Australian Army Stiletto By Michael Lobb ~


The Australian Army Stiletto (AAS) is a fascinating piece of Australian military history. These knives were produced in comparatively small numbers to other Commonwealth fighting knives for Australian troops designated as ‘special units’ during World War II. It is believed the knife takes it origins from the iconic Fairbairn–Sykes fighting knife and was inspired by members of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), which assisted in raising Z Special Unit and the Independent Commando Companies during the war.

The AAS was produced in three distinct versions: a wooden-handled stiletto and two Mazak handled versions by two separate manufacturers, Gregory Steel Products (Gregsteel) and Whittingslowe Engineering (WE).

Gregsteel AAS with wooden handle

This knife was produced by Gregsteel, of Melbourne. Much conjecture surrounds this knife, largely revolving around several divergent but plausible stories.

Firstly, it is believed it was not issued but produced for private purchase. Secondly, that it was part of a bespoke order for Z Special Unit (Z-SU). This notion is drawn from a diary entry made by Lieutenant Donald Davidson whilst preparing for Operation JAYWICK at Camp X.

Z Special Unit – extract from the JAYWICK Log (26 November 1942):

Thirdly, that it was intended for use by paratroopers serving in the 1st Parachute Battalion, which was raised in early 1943 but did not see active service in the war. What is acknowledged, however, is that the square ended ‘Paratrooper’ style sheath has a government mark, and that this sheath does not fit the Mazak variants of the AAS due to their greater blade length. Regardless of the burgeoning truth, one thing remains clear: this knife is intrinsically linked by maker and design to the Mazak versions of the AAS.

These knives were marked with the maker’s name “Gregory Steel Products” applied to the ricasso in small print with no government acceptance mark observed. The knife’s blade length is 184mm and the steel is blued. The total length of the knife is 309mm, and the turned-wooden handle has 21 concentric rings.

The thin leather square ended ‘Paratrooper’ style sheath is purported to have been made by a firm on Wellington Street in Collingwood, Melbourne, Victoria. This sheath has no maker’s marks but is commonly marked on the reverse side with a government acceptance/inspector’s mark generally in blue ink. Marks noted to this date include /l\ over L or J.H.

Gregsteel wooden handle AAS with correct square ended ‘Paratrooper’ style leather sheath:

Gregsteel  AAS with Mazak handle

This knife was developed because service knives at the time were deemed to be not suitable for commandos. The commanding officer of the 2/6th Independent Company made arrangements for the AAS to be produced for his unit in June 1942, as highlighted adjacent.

2/6th Independent Company – extract from unit war diary (17 and 24 June 1942):

Reference to operational use of this knife can be found in a letter provided by #NX93552 Private Alex M Mackay, who served with the 2/6th Independent Company (The Purple Devils) in New Guinea. On donating his stiletto to a military museum Private Mackay stated in an accompanying letter that they were issued to commando units in 1942. He said that the AAS were affectionately known as "Harcourt Hackers" after his Commanding Officer, Major Harry Harcourt. Of note the 2/6th disembarked for New Guinea on 6 August 1942, several well documented photos exist of their use by the 2/6th (as seen below).

2/6th Independent Company – Pongani, New Guinea on 25 October 1942:

This knife is marked with the manufacturer’s name “Gregory Steel Products” applied to the ricasso in large print with no government acceptance mark observed, although many knifes were unmarked. The knife’s blade length is 192mm, with the steel being of a bright finish. The total length of the knife is 320mm, with the Mazak handle having 26 concentric rings. The Gregsteel knife was used with a canvas sheath. These sheaths were designed for tropical use in the Pacific campaign. It has been noted that they were susceptible to rot and, as a result, surviving examples are very rare. No acceptance/inspector’s or maker’s mark is known for this sheath.

© John Fischer Collection

WE  AAS with Mazak handle.

Whittingslowe Engineering Ltd of Adelaide produced this knife. The knife is marked with the maker’s name on the ricasso in the form of a stylised “WE“  applied to the ricasso over the government acceptance mark D/l\D. On the obverse side of the ricasso an acceptance mark can be found /l\ over I. The knife’s blade length is 192mm, and the blade is blued. The total length of the knife is 320mm with a darkened Mazak handle containing 26 concentric rings. The WE and also the Gregsteel AAS are found with a tapered leather sheath. These sheaths were made by R.G. Brown, who had a store in Little Collins Street in Melbourne. These sheaths are marked with the maker’s mark of R.G. BROWN over 1943. These sheaths also have a government acceptance mark D/l\D stamped on the front and acceptance/inspectors marks on the obverse. Marks noted to date stamped into the leather include /l\ over J.B or J.H.

WE Mazak handle AAS with correct tapered R.G. Brown leather sheath:

Identifiable differences in design.

Besides the obvious differences in the Mazak versions of the AAS being markings and blueing, some slight variations in the design and manufacturing techniques can be identified on unmarked knives, allowing them to be attributed to a maker with some certainty. This is done by examining the length of the flat surface on the hilt above the last ridge. This flat surface is of a different length: WE AAS are shorter than Gregsteel AAS. In addition to this the grind applied to the ricasso is different: Gregsteel is horizontal and WE is angled slightly downwards.

WE and Gregsteel Mazak handle AAS distinguishing features:

WE AAS (short)   Gregsteel AAS (long)        WE AAS (angled grind)      Gregsteel AAS (straight grind)

Operational use.

The weight of evidence (e.g. documentation, personal accounts, imagery etc.) indicates the Mazak AAS was only issued in bulk to the 2/6th Independent Company for the Kokoda Campaign in New Guinea. However, there are examples of the AAS being used by other units in other theaters. Such as the AAS from the MV Krait exhibited in the Changi museum in Singapore, which belonged to a member of Z-SU. Another AAS in the Australian War Memorial was owned by a member of 1st Independent Cavalry (Commando) Squadron who later served with the 2/7th Australian Cavalry Commando Regiment. Another AAS is in the RSL at Port Augusta and belonged to John Ward of the 2/2nd Independent Company.

Reason for low production numbers.

Z-SU and the 2/6th Independent Company were both small-scale organizations and this, in part, accounts for the AAS’s low production numbers. However, extracts of wartime documents from the Army Inventions Directorate (AID) shows formal communication in April 1943 from the Commanding Officer of the 2/6th, Major Harcourt, requesting the AAS be withdrawn from the area of operations and a more suitable knife be sought. The AID then goes on to describe its replacement in a further communiqué from May 1943. As a result of this evidence it appears that production numbers were low due to the stiletto being superseded in theatre during the closing stages of the war in the Pacific campaign. In total the Mazak AAS was in-service in the Pacific theatre for a period of no greater than nine months from post the 2/6th’s deployment in early-August 1942 through to it being replaced by May 1943.

Major H.G. Harcourt requests the AAS be replaced and the memo confirming replacement in New Guinea:


Many of the facts known today are due to the hard work and diligence of those who have a passion for this knife. Many of these important breakthroughs happened within a short time of this synopsis being written. It is the firm belief of those who continue researching this topic that many new interesting facets of the AAS are yet to be discovered. With these discoveries will come a greater understanding and appreciation of the knife along with the men who made it and the men who fought with it.

Compiled by:

Michael Lobb and Trevor Ball, Feb 2013.



British and Commonwealth Military Knives, by Ron Flook (1999)

Online resources:





Bob Stone, John Gibson, John S. Fischer and the Australian War Memorial (AWM)


Trevor Ball, Bob Stone, AWM and The National Archives of Australia (NAA)


John Kroezen, Bob Stone and Stewart Townsend.

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