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~ The Broad Arrow ~

Including Other Ministry Of Supply Markings

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The Broad Arrow

~ Introduction ~


The Australian Army StilettoThe_Australian_Army_Stiletto_by_Michael_Lobb.html
Fairbairn’s BooksFairbairn_Books_%26_Other_Period_Literature.html

For those of us who collect or study the militaria of Britain and its Commonwealth nations there is one mark that we all recognize, one mark which can link all items to the British Empire...the ‘Broad Arrow’.  Whether you collect weapons or watches, battledress or binoculars, tanks or teaspoons....the venerable Broad Arrow can often (but not always) be found stamped, printed or engraved as it is the one mark that often links all things of military ownership. 

The Broad Arrow can be seen as a stand alone mark or along with other symbols, numbers and/or letters to convey various details of manufacture, ownership, inspection, alteration, repair or issue.  Along with such marks the Broad Arrow can yield a wealth of interesting and historical information pertaining to the item to which it is on.  However in the case of the F-S Fighting Knife this is normally ‘not’ the case as many of the markings thus far observed have yet to be fully understood.

As collectors and students of the F-S Fighting Knife we often observe such markings on many differing variations, although rarely on those knives that carry any Wilkinson etching panels.  I am attempting here to delve into this very broad and challenging topic in the hope that we can have some (albeit limited) understanding of the marks found on the F-S.  It is not the intention of this study to define as ‘fact’ the precise meaning of any particular mark or group of marks but to try to catalogue those original markings we can expect to encounter.  My sincere hope is that many of you will be able to assist in this ongoing research.  With this in mind if you have an F-S knife with a marking that is not listed here and are able provide a high resolution image, please contact me.  Likewise if you have an example of one of the rarer markings and can assist with an image I would be pleased to hear from you.

A simplistic style of the Broad Arrow, in this case  straddled by the letter D, this indicates the ownership mark for Australia. The double D being an abbreviation for the ‘Department of Defence’.  This particular stamp is from the ricasso of the very rare Australian Army Stiletto.

~ The Broad Arrow ~


Commonly referred to as the ‘Broad Arrow’ or ‘Crows Foot’, the ‘pheon’ is a common heraldic symbol depicting an arrowhead and has long been the standard British military ownership mark.  It can be found in varying forms from simplistic to stylized.  It can be used as a stand alone marking simply to denote ‘ownership’ or along with other markings to convey more detailed information.  It can also be used in a pair as opposing arrows (pointed towards each other) denoting official disposal or the ‘sold out of service’ mark.

The Broad Arrow when stamped as an opposing pair denotes official disposal or ‘sold out of service’.  This example is stamped on the butt-stock of a British .577 percussion Artillery carbine.  Although a common marking on firearms of all kinds, this mark is surprisingly never seen on F-S knives, despite the fact that many were indeed sold ‘out of service’.

The Broad Arrow is the most recognizable British (and Commonwealth) military mark and easily the most frequently encountered, although there has never been any legal requirement for the various military establishments to apply this mark. This causes some confusion amongst collectors who mistakenly believe that if there is no mark then the item has no military connection, which is not strictly true.  A good example of this (for the F-S collector) is those knives made by Wilkinson Sword, especially the First Patterns, as almost (exceptions apply) all of these have no government ownership marks, yet most (likely all) were to fulfill military contracts.

A good example of an official Broad Arrow marking stamped on a Wilkinson Sword Third Pattern F-S.  The mark if of course the standard arrow ‘I’ that denoted Indian ownership.  This was a special request for 2,500 F-S Knives in December 1943.

~ Broad Arrow Ownership & Acceptance Marks ~


As noted above the Broad Arrow was used along with letter/s to denote ownership & acceptance by the various Commonwealth nations.  As a stand alone symbol the Broad Arrow is the ownership mark of Great Britain but many other nations used it as part of their distinct ownership mark,  Although it should be noted that ‘W ⩚ D’ was also used (WD an abbreviation for War Department) and prior to that ‘B ⩚ O’ (Board of Ordnance) was used.  However by WWII the stand alone Broad Arrow seemed to be the standard mark.

The ownership marks of other nations are commonly seen on weapons and equipment owned, issued or accepted into stores by their respective nations.  Such marks are less often encountered on the F-S Fighting Knife.  Perhaps the most frequently seen example is that of the ⩚I for Indian ownership.  Another example, albeit rarely seen is the D⩚D for Australia (DD being an abbreviation for Department of Defense).  In Canada the most frequently used mark is an ⩚ encircled within the letter ‘C’, although only very rarely seen on the F-S.

Below is a chart showing some of the ownership marks to look out for.  If you can assist with any images of the rare marks and/or have example of marking not shown, please feel free to contact me.

~ Some Examples Of Common Ownership & Acceptance Marks ~










Country Of Ownership


(Department [of] Defence)

New Zealand


South Africa

Union [of South Africa]

A common marking found on F-S knives but never alone, always accompanied by a number, or letter or both.  And on rare occasions seen along with a makers mark i.e. J. Clark & Son.

Seen On & Comments

Third Pattern F-S knives

Second Pattern F-S knives (need photos)

Local made Second Pattern F-S knives

Wooden Hilt F-S (one example noted)

Australian Army Stiletto

Wooden Hilt F-S (one example noted)

Also seen on other (non F-S) combat knives from Australia.

To my knowledge no genuine WWII F-S knives have been observed with this mark.

Also seen on (non F-S) combat knives from New Zealand.

A very rare seen marking on F-S knives.  One (maybe two) examples of the First Pattern F-S known with this marking.

A post 1910 marking from which the country became known as The Union of South Africa.  I have never seen an F-S with this marking.

Please note that the markings in the above chart are only representative and may not precisely match the actual marking

~ Letter (With/Without Number) Marks ~


Aside from the letters incorporated into the ownership markings shown above, the F-S knife can also have other letters stamped into the crossguard and on rare occasions the ferrule of the grip.  These are always seen along with the Broad Arrow and on many occasions with a number as well (see next chapter).  In fact the most common marking found on the F-S is the ⩚B2 marking, most often seen on Second Pattern knives, occasionally on Third Patterns but always denoting Wilkinson manufacture.  This seems to reflect (at least for a period) when an inspector was assigned to just one manufacturing company, in this case Wilkinson Sword Co. Ltd.  Although research still continues as a single example of a Martindale machete with this mark has been noted.  Perhaps an indication of the inspectors role prior to being assigned to Wilkinson (?).

Easily the most common mark found on the F-S is the Wilkinson ⩚B2 (on the cross-guard) found on many Second Pattern example and also (all be it scarcely) on Third Patterns.

~ Some Examples Of MoS Letter Acceptance Marks Found On F-S Knives ~



Seen On & Comments






This Wilkinson mark is normally seen on the crossguard of Second Pattern F-S knives but also sometimes on early Third Patterns.  This mark has now conclusively been linked to Wilkinson Sword.

Seen on the crossguard of a handful of Second & Third Pattern knives.  An excessively scarce marking.

This very rare marking has only been seen a few times, always on Second Patterns and always on the ferrule.  The only reference I can find to anything being marked ‘T’ is for Tasmania (very unlikely) and the Lee Enfield No4 ‘T’ sniper rifle.  There have been reports that the F-S came supplied in the travel case with the No4 but I have yet to find any evidence if it was marked up in this way.  A nice idea though..!

This mark has been noted on early Third Pattern F-S knives with hand-ground blades.  The meaning of this mark is unknown.  It is very rarely seen.

~ Ministry Of Supply Inspection (Number) Marks ~


As a group ‘numbers’ are easily the most prolific marking to be found on F-S knives.  Sometimes seen along side a letter code as in the ‘B2’ example shown above they often are seen just accompanied by a Broad Arrow.  Although occasionally on the cross-guard as in the (arrow) 21, 38 & 42 examples, most number are stamped on the ferrule and can be read while holding the knife pointing away (in the usual fashion).  These ‘number’ markings are thought to be an inspector’s code and not, as some collectors believe, a manufacturer’s identification number.  As can be seen from the chart below some numbers span different variations of the F-S, so it is likely that a particular ‘inspector’ would visit different manufacturers likely in the same area.  Indeed there is some evidence to suggest that some makers may have been visited by different inspectors (presumable at different times); take the J. Clarke knives, for example, which can be found with the numbers 4 and 9 inspection codes.

As with all the other marking research and recording the process is still very much ongoing.  If you have a F-S knives or another item that is marked in a way that has not been recorded here and can provide a detailed image I would be very happy to hear from you.  I may when time allows create a page to show all the known marks but for the time being I hope these charts of the known marks will be of assistance.

A typical Ministry Of Supply inspection mark ⩚9 as found on the ferrule portion of an F-S grip.

In an attempt to broaden this topic and expand our understanding I have included in the comments section inspection numbers that I have observed on other ‘non F-S’ items which I hope will be of interest.

~ Broad Arrow & Inspection (Number) Marks ~



F-S Variation (Where Applicable)

Seen On & Comments










































Ribbed & Beaded

Third Pattern (late-war) /  Ribbed & Beaded

Fat Grip / Ribbed & Roped & one example of the Fat Wooden Grip.

Third Pattern (late-war)

Third Pattern (late-war) / Fat Grip

J Clarke & Son / Ribbed & Beaded

Ribbed & Beaded

Third Pattern (late-war) / Ribbed & Beaded

Fat Grip

Third Pattern (late-war) / Ribbed & Beaded

Fat Gripped

Third Pattern (late-war)

J Clarke & Son

Ribbed & Beaded

Third Pattern (late-war)

Third Pattern (late-war)

Ribbed & Beaded

Third Pattern (late-war)

Ribbed & Beaded

Third Pattern (late-war)

J Clarke Third Pattern

Third Pattern (mid-war)

Second Pattern all blued

Third Pattern (mid-war)

Type I (nickel) Second Patterns

Type I (nickel) Second Patterns

Seen on First Pattern Scabbard

Seen on SCU Commando knife (stamped into the leather grip)

Seen on machete dated 1942.

Also seen on a commercial hunting knife by Southern & Richardson, marked on the grip and sheath, SCU ?

Also seen on scissors by ‘Butler Sheffield’. / WWII folding machete / 1941 revolver holster by J.B. Brooks & Co.

Also seen on British (SOE) Smatchet / military handcuffs

Also seen stamped into the grip of the RAF SCU Commando Knife.

Also seen on a folding machete

Also seen on machete by J.J.B.

Also seen on British (SOE) Smatchet

Also seen on armorers’ tin snips

To date I have not seen one example of this mark on an F-S, so a rare marking indeed.

Also seen on the scabbard of a machete.

Also seen on c1941 leather bayonet frog

Also seen on machete by J.J.B.

Also seen on SOE Smatchet

Also seen on the SOE Smatchet

To date I have not seen any examples of this marking on any item.

To date I have not seen any examples of this marking on any item.

To date I have not seen any examples of this marking on any item.

Seen on tank crew hat along with WD.

Seen on c1940 leather rifle scabbard

Seen on leather bayonet frog.

To date I have not seen any examples of this marking on any item.

To date I have not seen any examples of this marking on any item.

Always marked on the crossguards, mid-war knives only.

Machete sheath dated 1939 Stamped into the back of the sheath, maker looks like S.E. Morris &Co and dated 1939.  Came with the machete mentioned in the ⩚1 section.

Seen on an S&W .38 lend lease revolver also marked for Australia

Seen on 39 pattern leather cartridge carriers.

A ‘very’ scarce marking only seen on a handful of knives and always seen on the crossguard.

Always found marked on the crossguard, mid-war knives only.

Also note the position of the arrow below the number.

Seen on sword guard.

Seen on machete sheath made by D.M & S Ltd

Marked on the crossguard, although one example has been seen marked on the ferrule! can anyone provide a photograph?

Also seen on a spanner.

Marked on the ferrule and also on the sheath.

Seen on rifle scabbard

Seen on a 1945 machete

Seen on a 1944 machete leather scabbard

Seen on a 1915 mess tin by Barringer, Wallis & Manners Ltd

Seen on 1918 leather machete scabbard

Seen on 1917 leather machete scabbard

Seen on sword frog

Seen on WWI leather pouch

Seen on a 1916 revolver holster

Seen on a 1944 machete leather sheath

This example of a Canadian acceptance mark is truly the exception, firstly because it is almost never seen on an F-S knife and secondly because this example is actually on a Wilkinson First Pattern!

Understandably this area of study is vast and research will also be ongoing.  In regards the F-S knife, most known Ministry of Supply marking are known but there is still a chance some rare examples are out there, so if you have an example of a WWII F-S Fighting Knife with genuine MoS marking that are not mentioned here, please get in touch and provide high resolution images, so such marks can be added to our collective knowledge.

You will also note on the table above that I have recorded other non F-S items.  This is done purely for interest and to place those F-S knives with MoS marking in context, so that we may better understand this, no long forgotten and little understood process.  As and when such details surface,  I will continue to include said information here.

~ Research Continues - Can You Help? ~


The McKinley Tariff ActThe_McKinley_Tariff_Act_%26_The_F-S_Knife.html
The Etched F-S BladeWilkinson_Sword_%26_The_Etched_F-S_Blade.html
The F-S Personal Etching RegisterThe_Wilkinson_F-S_Knife_Personal_Etching_Register.html
The Very Last Wilkinson F-S KnifeThe_Last_Wilkinson_Fairbairn-Sykes_Fighting_Knife.html
Variations Of The F-S KnifeVariations_Of_The_Fairbairn-Sykes_Fighting_Knife.html

A Ministry Of Supply cap badge.  Courtesy of Andy Plewa ( Sell My Militaria ).

The Wilkinson First Pattern F-SThe_Wilkinson_First_Pattern_Fairbairn-Sykes_Fighting_Knife.html
The Wilkinson Second Pattern F-SThe_Wilkinson_Second_Pattern_Fairbairn-Sykes_Fighting_Knife.html
The Wilkinson Third Pattern F-SThe_Wilkinson_Third_Pattern_Fairbairn-Sykes_Fighting_Knife.html

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