The classic Wilkinson Second Pattern F-S is in many ways a collector’s dream.  Throughout its production the basic design never changed, but one can encounter many subtle difference not only in finish, etchings and options offered but also anomalies in the production process.  It would be going too far to suggest that any of these were some kind of sub-variation which is certainly not the case.  But for ease of description it is reasonable to describe the three main versions that one encounters. 

This Second Pattern is the version that immediately followed the original First Pattern design.  As Second Pattern production commenced in August of 1941, it is reasonable to date these knives to the latter part of that year.  These early Type I ‘nickel’ Second Pattern knives are quite scarce, especially with their original scabbard which can be recognized by its nickel-plated chape and new elastic retainer.  This Type I knife is easily distinguished from those that follow in the that is has a bright finish throughout the whole knife (as per its predecessor).  The blade now shows a continued grind and no longer has a ricasso, also the cross-guard has now been left flat, no longer having been formed into the ‘S’ shape one sees on the original First Pattern knives.  The only change to the scabbard is in the way the knife is retained, as the snap-fastener now being replaced by the previously mentioned strip of elastic.  In order to secure this correctly the reverse of the frog now has an addition of a piece of leather to sandwich the elastic and securely anchor it in place.

In my experience the all blued Type II knife is the rarest of the three finishes and is exceedingly difficult to find in good-plus condition.  In contrast to the previous (Type I) knife, these have an all over blued/blackened finish.  Examples have been noted where the etching process has been applied before as well as after the bluing process, the later allowing for a much clearer representation of the etched panels.  The scabbard was also slightly changed from the previous (Type I) example in that the chape was blued and squared off, simplifying the construction process.  Although some examples are still found with an earlier rounded bottom chape but blued, no doubt these were parts left over from earlier production.

The last version of Second Pattern is easily the most common, although in saying that, it is still a rare knife to find in good condition.  This Type III knife has a blued/blackened hilt but the blade has not had any finish applied, being just factory-polished.  This is a very attractive Second Pattern as the etched panels are clearly visible and the contrast between the blued hilt, polished blade and dark etchings provides us with a very esthetically-pleasing knife.  This style of knife is often found with the addition of a personal etched panel to one side of the blade and although these privately purchased etched panels are encountered on the previous two types, they are much more prevalent on the Type III Second Pattern.

As with all collecting we look for knives in as best condition as possible, however in many cases there are exceptions to the rule.  First, it is important to recognize the difference between a knife that has seen good, honest wear and has been used the way it was intended and a knife that has been abused or altered in such a way that brings into question its authenticity.  Another thing to bear in mind is the history and provenance of a knife.  This is one area where I believe the condition of a knife plays less of a role.  If one finds a knife that can be positively attributed to an individual soldier and perhaps comes with supporting evidence like original period documentation, etc., this, then, is an historic find indeed and the fact that the knife is well-used is of less importance. 

The ‘F-S’ etching stayed constant throughout the knives’ production, although due to different etching blocks very minor details can be found comparing one panel to another. The image right is a fine representation of the F-S etching panel.  This example is on a very rare Type II all-blued Second Pattern and is representative of the etching having been applied ‘after’ the blade has been blued.

All three patterns of Wilkinson F-S are normally found with blades that carry acid-etched panels.  However for pure variety the Second Pattern is unsurpassed.  As well as the standard F-S etching, there are variations on the Wilkinson-etched panel and countless unique ‘personal’ etchings.  This is a fascinating and prolific area of collecting in its own right.  For a larger overall look at etched blades, click on the dedicated link in the primary navigation bar at the top of this page.

Like the F-S etched panel, the Wilkinson logo panel also can be found with very minor differences depending on the particular block used to create it.  But aside from these there are two very different styles of Wilkinson-etched panel one can encounter.  The short and more often seen type can be seen in the photograph left.  The less often seen ‘long’ version is in the photograph right.  The wording and well- known ‘crossed sword’ is the same but the difference can be seen in the floral motif at the top and bottom.  The more elongated version (right) has a slightly more elaborate floral device resulting in a longer etching panel.

As well as the two standard etchings one sees on Second Pattern F-S knives, ‘unique’ personal etchings can also be found.  This was a popular option offered by Wilkinson as one could have their personal details etched within a scroll on the blade.  Many of the knives seen appear to be attributed to US personnel, no doubt this was a popular option with Americans stationed in or around London. Personal-etched knives can be a study in their own right and this topic is covered in more depth on the ‘Blade Etchings’ page.   The photograph below shows a fine example of a scrolled etched-panel encasing the name ‘F. PRATTEN’.  Lieutenant F.R. Pratten served in the 2nd Canadian Tank Brigade, Royal Canadian Corps of Signals.

With their different finishes, variety of etched panels and minor production variations, the Second Pattern F-S can provide an endless source of interest for collectors.  Many of these knives have seen hard use and as such it can be a challenge to find exceptionally fine examples.  The knives shown on this page represent some of the very finest examples one would hope to find.   In some cases one can expect to pay as much for a rare Second Pattern as you would for a First Pattern.  If your budget is limited or you just don’t have the patience to spend what could be many years looking for a particular knife, I highly recommend starting with more modestly priced knives.  Those that have ‘been to war’ can make for some wonderful and fascinating pieces of history and never more has the phrase “if only it could talk” been more apt.  Use the examples here as a guide to what a good F-S should be, avoid any knife which does not conform to a standard pattern and always try to get a second opinion if the seller is not known to you.

Collecting these historic ‘Commando’ knives is a fascinating and very rewarding passion but as with all pastimes that require money to be spent, study your is the key.  The more you know, the more interesting each and every detail becomes.  At first glance a dozen or more knives can look the same but ‘we’ know each and every one can be unique and have its own personality. 

A good example of this is the Wilkinson Second Pattern shown above. This knife was owned and ‘used’ by Private 5822759  J. Rodway, 2nd Battalion The Suffolk Regiment.  As you can see in the photograph the etchings have all but gone due to hard use.  Nevertheless, this is a fine example of a working knife that clearly ‘went to war’, along with its associated period documentation we know who owned and carried it.  Historic knives like this one should rightly be considered a valued part of any F-S collection.

The original Second Pattern (as per the design it replaced) is all Nickel in finish and this is best referred to as a Second Pattern ‘Type I’.  Although we cannot be certain when each of the following two types were introduced, for ease in identification we will refer to the F-S with an all blued finish as a Second Pattern ‘Type II’.  This leaves us with what is clearly the most frequently encountered of all the Wilkinson Second Patterns, those with a blued hilt and polished blade.  This when is best referred to as the Second Pattern ‘Type III’.

It is worth noting that the quality of many of these early Type I Second Patterns is exceedingly high indeed and mirrors that (changes accepting) of the First Pattern it replaced.  Although  subsequent patterns and types maintained a high standard of craftsmanship we would be remiss if we were not to recognize the exceptional high quality of the First Pattern and indeed that to still be found on some of those early Type I Seconds Patterns that immediately followed it.

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