The Wilkinson Third Pattern F-S Fighting Knife is a surprisingly interesting area of study and one that is often misunderstood amongst F-S knife collectors. The novice collector especially is often unaware of the extreme scarcity of certain examples of these knives and shocked at some of the high prices that very fine, rare examples can demand. Many collectors aspire to have a ‘one, two, three’ Wilkinson in their collection, in other words a ‘full set’ of war-time Wilkinson F-S knives consisting of a First, Second and Third Pattern. However, this is often much easier said than done, as the ‘etched’ Wilkinson Third Pattern is one of the most challenging knives to find and significantly rarer than even the elusive First Pattern!

As mentioned the (etched) Wilkinson Third Pattern is significantly rarer than the original First Pattern F-S Fighting Knife. The reason? Well this is probably due to a complicated set of circumstances, most of which we will likely never know but perhaps some of the reason is likely due, at least in part, to a change in policy regarding the time-consuming etching process. Third Pattern, due to design changes, was a product of increased pressure placed on its production. And as the blade etchings were clearly not integral to the knife fulfilling its intended role, they were dropped.

From a collectors perspective the Wilkinson Third Pattern can be found with both polished and blued blades, the latter being much less often encountered. The image above shows a lovely example with a high luster blued blade and sporting the long Wilkinson etching panel, note how the blueing process has been applied ‘after’ etching. The equally splendid example at left has a polished blade, this time showing the more traditional etching panel.  A fine pair like this could take decades to find.

Many collector’s would wish to acquire a war-time Wilkinson ‘etched’ Third Pattern F-S, however difficult this may be. And within this framework there are a number or variations and/or production anomalies that one may encounter. These are discussed more fully on the ‘Variations & Production Anomalies’ page but for the sake of completeness some are mentioned here also: Blade finish, etching style, mould numbers, pommel nut and of course examples of knives with personal etchings are also known (although rare).

If an original war-time etched Wilkinson Third Pattern is out of reach, either due to budget and/or availability, then there are other options open to the collector wishing to fill that gap in their collection. I would highly recommend one of the superb examples of Wilkinson’s ‘un-etched’ Third Pattern knives, as in the ‘⩚I’ and also the ‘⩚B2’ examples (see examples below). These are identical in every respect save the markings and were made to Wilkinson’s usual high standards. In the case of the ‘⩚I’ knives, found in much larger quantities and at a fraction of the price of a comparable etched example, these knives represent a great opportunity to own an original war-time Wilkinson Third Pattern, albeit without a maker’s mark.

As the Third Pattern was introduced in October of 1943, it is clear that the blade configuration was still carried over from the Second Pattern. The hand-ground blade was initially retained as were the familiar etchings. However the latter was soon to change, as there was at least one request (that we know of) to dispense with all makers marks and logos (the etchings). Instead, the Ministry of Supply requested various inspection marks to be permanently stamped into the cross-guard which was to accompany the appropriate Government ownership mark (Broad Arrow). These knives (for example the ‘⩚I’ & ‘⩚B2’ marked Third Patterns) were identical in every respect save the lack of any etching panels and of course the addition of inspection marks. There are other MoS inspection marks known on Third and Second Pattern knives, the construction of which bear a striking resemblance to Wilkinson made knives. Although it is not beyond the realms of possibility that these too were actually made by Wilkinson, to-date no evidence has surfaced to confirm this possibility. This is not the case with those Third Pattern knives that are marked ‘⩚I’ or ‘⩚B2’ as internal Wilkinson documents can confirm.

If you are looking for a very special and rarely seen Wilkinson Third Pattern F-S for your collection, don’t forget to keep your eyes open for one of the many versions of the post-war military contract knives Wilkinson are known to have produced. These can be some of the rarest knives to find and are often overlooked by the inexperienced or novice collector. Wilkinson continued to fulfill military contracts both in Britain and abroad and it appears that the venerable Third Pattern was the pattern of choice. From examples that carry the seldom seen circa 1954 style of etchings, to those knives ordered by the admiralty in 1964 and marked ‘FR693’ (beware of fakes!), to name but a few.  There are some very seldom encountered examples out there, so few in fact that many collectors either miss-identify them as war-time knives or go to the other extreme and overlook them altogether.  These knives turn up so infrequently I personally think they present a fascinating area to collect.

There are a number of differences that distinguish the Wilkinson postwar F-S from the wartime pattern of knife; the grips no longer contain a mould number, the pommel nut is different as the design started to become more sunk into the grip and most interesting, of course, was a change to the etchings. Wilkinson continued to keep wartime parts for their scabbards long after wars’ end, so many postwar knives came with the same (or very similar) pattern of scabbard found on the original knives.

The circa 1964 Wilkinson F-S is a superb example of how interesting postwar knives can be. These knives were ordered by the Admiralty, presumably for the Royal Marine Commandos. They were quite distinct in having the long Queen Elizabeth II etched but also as per Admiralty instructions marked with stores codes; the cross-guard was marked ‘FR693’ and the scabbard ‘FR271’. A stunning and exceptionally rare example is presented here, note the details above.

There is much to reflect upon when collecting and studying the topic of the Wilkinson F-S Fighting Knife in general and the Third Pattern in particular is not short of its twist and turns. For most the desire to own near perfect examples is a strong one but if I can offer one piece of advise I would suggest that collectors don’t discount any knife due to its condition alone. Rather consider also its rarity and history. These were always designed to be a working tool and many filled this task admirably. The Wilkinson Third Pattern is an extremely allusive knife, if you see one give it all due thought ‘before’ passing it by, as it may be quite some time before another crosses your path.

Examples like this Wilkinson wartime Third Pattern F-S with personal etching panel are hard to beat for rarity. Standard Wilkinson etched examples are extremely rare indeed, so a knife which includes a personal etching is truly a treasure, as only a handful are known to exist. Most collectors are constantly looking for examples in a very high grade of condition but I would encourage all collectors not to discount such rare knives regardless of condition. The example shown here was owned by ‘SEAMAN J.W. BURNSIDE.’ as the etching attests. A beautiful and rare example and to date the only etching I have ever seen to a Seaman!

This example is one of the Wilkinson made Third Patterns but with no etchings and the ownership/inspection mark of ‘⩚B2’ stamped into the cross-guard (see inset). This mark is probably the most commonly encountered marking when found on Second Pattern F-S knives but a very scarce mark to see on Third Pattern knives. The most logical reason for this situation was likely due to the introduction of the Third Pattern happening at the end of the contract to supply knives that were marked ‘⩚B2’. This would explain the apparent disparity in numbers found today.

The example shown here is a very fine ‘Wilkinson’ Third Pattern F-S but with ‘no’ etchings! This was part of the order for 2,500 knives in December of 1943, all of which were made by Wilkinson. Aside from the lack of etchings and the addition of the MoS ‘⩚I’ marking on the cross-guard, these are identical in every respect to the etched Wilkinson knives. Ordinance marked examples such as this one should be considered for a place in a Wilkinson F-S collection and are significantly much less of an investment than an etched example in the same condition.

A rare circa 1954 Wilkinson Third Pattern F-S. Note the ‘new’ style of etching panel introduced in that year.

An exceedingly rare circa 1964 ‘FR693’ F-S made by Wilkinson for the Royal Marine Commandos.

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~ A Surprising Rarity ~


~ The Wilkinson Third Pattern F-S Fighting Knife ~

Observations On Collecting

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~ End Notes ~


Collecting The Wilkinson Third Pattern F-S

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