Unlike the patterns which followed the original F-S (what we now refer to as the ‘First Pattern’), it would appear to have had little variation during its nine month production run.  Strictly speaking this is true as there were no changes or modifications to the original design until of course it was replaced in August of 1941 by the Second Pattern (the ‘new’ design).  To say that all First Pattern F-S knives were made identical would be misleading and indeed incorrect.  However before we continue I feel it prudent to remind the reader of two important truths regarding the production of this ‘the original’ Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife.

Also and at the risk of repeating myself and despite what has been published in some books, there was never a pre-production First Pattern F-S knife and absolutely no prototype First Pattern knives survive.  In fact only one prototype knife was made and this was scrapped after being used to set up machinery.  Over the years a number of knives have surfaced and in some cases have been published in well-known books as ‘rare pre-production’ or ‘experimental’ knives.  Some of these have been made from ‘butchered’ Wilkinson Sword bayonets...no doubt in an attempt to support the ruse. Many of these have sadly deceived collectors and sold for small fortunes.  Please take heed as all of such knives are fake.

The following knife with its interesting anomalies I believe represents a First Pattern that was early in production and even possibly in the first batch!  But before I get ahead of myself let me first point out these anomalies and explain my reasoning behind my conclusions.  Note also the full article I have written on this topic shown in the navigation bar at left.

The splendid First Pattern F-S shown here has a number of very interesting production anomalies worth closer study.  The first and most obvious is the distinctive and pronounced curvature to the ‘S’ shaped cross-guard.  The second and far more subtle anomaly is the slight variation in the Wilkinson etching panel.  Perhaps of lesser importance but worthy of note is the knurling of the grip and how it terminates very close to the cross-guard.  All of these anomalies are by no means unique to this particular knife as they have been observed on other examples, albeit very rarely.

At first glance the etched panel shown above appears to be the standard Wilkinson logo.  However when one takes a closer look, paying particular attention to the foliate design at top and bottom, distinct differences can be seen.  In comparison to the more usual etching the foliate design is more ornate and clearly different.  One could speculate as to why this design differs from most other First Pattern knives, but possibly the design was just standardized as production increased or simply a different etching block was initially used.  Either way this style of etching has only been seen with this pronounced S guard.

The unusual deviation from the standard etching shown above is interesting but perhaps not as telling as the pronounced ‘S’ shaped cross-guard and the associated ricasso grind.  Most other First Pattern knives retain the distinctive ‘S’ guard that for many characterize this pattern of F-S, but rarely do we see a knife with a guard of such curvaceous appearance.  From a production point of view it is certainly true to say that a shallower curve as we see on other knives would be easier to produce.  However it is the ricasso, or more correctly its grind to the shoulder that is more revealing in this instance.

A close inspection reveals that the ricasso has been ground to precisely match the S curve of the cross-guard.  This is no small task and is certainly not done on the more usual First Patterns.  In fact their ricasso is simply left flat and not ‘ground to fit’ at all.  So what does all this mean?  And why do I conclude that this knife in particular could have been part of the first batch of First Pattern knives made?  Having spent many of my formative years in the production industry I am familiar with the process of introducing new products onto the workshop floor.  Often a ‘settling in’ period and in many cases once the first run of the product has been through the manufacturing process, a few ‘tweaks’ here and there are needed on the production line to make things run smoothly and more efficiently.  It seems logical to me that perhaps what happened in this case was that the skilled craftsman had carefully ground each knife to fit the curvature of the guard, a process which may have taken too long.  It could have been decided that a simple solution would be to make the curvature of the cross-guard just a little more shallow and leave the ricasso shoulder square, thus resulting in time saved.

Of course all of this is almost impossible to prove as with many ‘theories’ about the early years of the F-S knife.  However when one considers that a few of these knives have been observed (i.e. it’s not an isolated example), the interesting etching, the pronounced guards and the associated ‘extra’ work involved then it does make one draw conclusions.  Further speculative evidence exists in that we know that the knife shown here belonged to Jimmy Dix of No3 Commando.  This unit was the first such Commando unit to be formed and Dix was one of the original early Commandos.  As such he would likely have been one of the first recipients of the new Wilkinson F-S Fighting Knife.  Assuming this knife was acquired early in his career then it adds weight to the theory that it was likely one of the earliest made.

Courtesy Brian Moyse collection

Whilst on the subject of the cross-guard it is worth touching briefly on a minor anomaly that has been seen only on a handful of First Pattern knives (four if my recollections are correct).  The ‘S’ shaped guard is normally assembled so when viewing the F-S etching with the blade pointing away from the user, the right side of the cross-guard curves forward towards the blade.  On the example shown the reverse is true, as the guard curves backwards toward the hilt.  Some less experienced collectors have claimed that this was especially made for left-handed users..!  Of course this is complete fantasy.  The reality is that it is no more than a simple oversight by the individual who assembled the knife, nothing more.  Nevertheless it does leave us with another interesting detail to observe on these rare knives.

The Wilkinson three inch cross-guard First Pattern is a very rare variation indeed and as such there are a number of very spurious examples to be encountered, so one must always view any such knife with suspicion.  However a few original examples have survived.  In an internal Wilkinson memo dated 21st January 1941 it was requested that the 3” cross-guard be reduced to 2”.

As well as the First Pattern variations and production anomalies mentioned above there are other interesting features to be found on the First Pattern F-S that I was unable to show here due to no photographs being available.  For example:  There are knives known with an elongated ricasso that also carry an etching of ‘E’.  Some knives have also been seen that appear to have skipped the etching process altogether and have neither the W-S or F-S etching.  A couple of knives are also known with a straight Second Pattern cross-guard, no doubt a late production and somewhat ‘transitional’ knife.  If you have any example of the knives mentioned previously or indeed any variations that I have not mentioned and would like to share them here I would very much like to hear from you.

First, it is important to remember that all of these early knives were essentially hand-made and as such minor differences are to be expected.  For the most part any variation in these knives can be categorized as merely production anomalies either in the manufacturing or assembling process.  As interesting as these ‘anomalies’ are they should in no way be seen as an official variation, modification or sub-pattern to the basic design as such a thing simply did not happen and if described as such is misleading and incorrect.

The above images clearly show the difference between what I believe to be the earliest form of the First Pattern (at right) in that the shoulder of the ricasso is ground to follow the curve of the pronounced ‘S’ shaped guard.  This is in contrast to the standard pattern at left.

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~ The Wilkinson First Pattern F-S Fighting Knife ~

Variations & Production Anomalies

~ The Importance Of Details ~


~ The Pronounced ‘S’ Guard & Ornate Etching Panel ~


~ The Reversed Crossguard ~


~ The Three Inch Crossguard ~


~ End Notes ~


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