The war-time Wilkinson Third Pattern F-S Fighting Knife is an intriguing area of study and an oft misunderstood, dare I say unjustly maligned F-S Pattern. This, the last of the war-time Wilkinson F-S patterns would at first glance appear to be relatively mundane and require little observation in its study, especially in comparison to the two patterns that it followed. This flawed thinking I suspect has been perpetuated not only by the misguided critique of the then new cast grip but also that in the current collectors climate example of etched knives are extremely scarce, resulting in many collectors having little or no actual experience in handling these rare knives. 

A classic? without a doubt. This exceptionally fine Wilkinson etched Third Pattern is beautifully made and finished. A knife in such stunning condition as this is much sought after by collectors but ‘very’ rarely found.

Perhaps the most obvious production variation that one may encounter is the finish of the blade. There was in essence just two options in this regard. Knives can be found with either the now (for that time) standard blued finish as in the example shown directly above or the blade was left without a darkened coating and polished, the latter from observation appears to be the rarer of the two (below left).


Jan Brouwer collection

As with all other pattern the ‘F-S’ etching (for Fairbairn-Sykes) remained constant. The Wilkinson Sword etching appears to have continued along the same theme as the Second Pattern, in that example of both the short and long version were used simultaneously. The two examples shown both above and at left both show the longer W-S etching panel, the standard or ‘short’ etching shown below.

As with the Wilkinson Second Pattern it was also possible to have some personal details etched onto the blade. Although with the etched Third Pattern being an extremely rare knife, examples with personal etching are incredibly rare. The example shown immediately below as you can see is well worn but non the less a very rare find indeed. The blade would appear to have been originally polished and the blackened hilt has lost almost all of its original finish. Despite what looks to be a little ‘over’ cleaning sometime in its history the knife is a solid example and fortunately for us the personal etching remains reasonably strong and easily deciphered, the name ‘Sam Newman’ placed centrally within an ornate scrolled banner.

As rare as the example above is, the example show at right and below here is representative of only a handful of knives (regardless of pattern) that have had a singularly unique and very special etching applied. In this case a rectangular panel reflecting name, rank, number and location. This truly magnificent knife has etched onto its blade ‘SGT BREWSTER M. TRUTH 39247249 LONDON, ENGLAND’. When new it must have been spectacular and no doubt a source of great price for Sergeant Truth.

A well-worn but rare example of a Wilkinson

Third Pattern F-S Knife with personal etching banner.

Before we leave the topic of etchings it is worth commenting further: All the examples thus far noticed with blued blades have had the etching panel applied ‘after’ the bluing process, resulting in a very visible contrast to the etching and blued blade. Some examples of blued Second Pattern knives have been noted where the etching panel (standard or special) was applied ‘before’ the bluing process, resulting in a very subdued effect. As previously stated I have not yet seen this on a Third Pattern knife, although there would be no reason not to suspect examples were etched in this way. Therefor if you have an example of such a knife and would like to share it please feel free to write me.

The pommel nut found on Wilkinson Third Pattern F-S knives is generally of the standard type (left) and identical to that found on all other patterns. This usually (but not always) included the cross-hatched impressions that one sees on opposing sides, left there when the nut was place in the clamp or vice during the assembly process. The image at left clearly shows the ‘standard’ style of pommel nut along with one of the grip impressions. Note that the tang is just visible protruding through the top. After assembly this was trimmed off and then ‘peened’ over (sometimes filled flat). In contrast the example right has what is known as a ‘spigot’ or blind pommel nut. That is to say the tang does ‘not’ protrude through the nut. This results in a cleaner but more domed finish. Such example are also known on Second Pattern knives.

I feel it is worth mentioned here that there were four separate suppliers of the cast grip, recognized by the four different ‘mould’ numbers 1 through 4. It has been suggested that Wilkinson knives can be identified by the association with one specific number, however this is wholly incorrect. Wilkinson Third Pattern knives can be encountered with ‘all’ four of the mould numbers. The example above left clearly shows the mould number #1 whereas the knife at right has the #3. I have personally exampled correct Wilkinson Third Pattern knives with all four numbers. Also Wilkinson’s own internal records mention dealing with different supplies in respect of the grips. A minor detail but one I feel worth clarification.

One interesting anomaly that has been noticed on the grips of some knives and has yet eluded conclusive explanation, is the addition of what appears to be extra ribs along two side of the ferrule part of the grip. Although subtle there is no doubt that these were placed there with purpose be it intentional or not. Collectors have mused over the reason for this odd addition but a consensus has eluded many. One theory is that it was little more than an inadvertent mishap when cleaning up the flash from the join of the two cast halves. This could explain it but it does not explain why the ‘damage’ is always seen on both sides, never just one! Another explanation put forward by Robert Wilkinson-Latham is more purposeful and his suggestion being it was a deliberate attempt to increase ones grip purchase. It is true that when held correctly in the modified saber grip the thumb does indeed rest on this area.  Further in the much developed design of the Applegate-Fairbairn knife there is a clear grip portion in this area of the hilt. Whatever the reason this anomaly only has been seen on a few knives, so if it indeed was intentional it lasted but a little.

The ‘Third’ Pattern would remain the standard pattern of Wilkinson F-S not just into the post-war years but right up until the end. It is true that Wilkinson would at times manufacture First & Second Pattern F-S knives but these would all be for commemorative or presentation purposed. Whenever the need arose to fill a military contract a no nonsense standard Third Pattern style F-S would be supplied, as in this example immediately below.

A circa 1982 Wilkinson Third Pattern

F-S Fighting Knife produced to fulfill a rush

order for the the Falklands conflict.  This example

was one of the ‘sample’ knives retained by Wilkinson, note

the official and embossed Wilkinson label  and also the long etching.

Perhaps the most enigmatic of post-war Wilkinson Third Pattern knives is indeed the very last F-S that Wilkinson made. Harking back to this its origin of a no nonsense fighting knife this, the last of a breed was a simple all black Third Pattern expertly sharpened and with the simplest of etching. A fitting tribute to a true fighting knife and to the family that brought them to life, for this, the very last Wilkinson F-S was presented to Robert Wilkinson-Latham in recognition for his families long association with the company.

The end of a legend, this is the final Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife to be made by Wilkinson Sword and presented to Robert Wilkinson-Latham in recognition of his families long association with the company.

Wilkinson is also known to have completed orders for the Ministry of Supply that were not ‘maker marked’ (etched) but did carry official ownership and/or inspection marks stamped into the cross-guard. Two examples of such knives were: Those carrying the official marking of ‘⩚B2’ most often seen on Second Pattern F-S knives but can also rarely be encountered on Third Pattern F-S knives. Another example were those knives that are marked with ‘⩚I’ denoting India stores ownership.  In October of 1943 Wilkinson received an order and subsequently supplied 2,500 such knives. These ‘un-etched’ Wilkinson knives appear to have been manufactured to the same high standards as the etched examples. A fine example of an ⩚I Wilkinson is shown below.

Understandably this does not curtail the fervent desire to add one of these illusive knives to ones collection, after all a complete run of patterns is a very desirable achievement. What follows is by no means conclusive, as any study could never be, but I hope will avail the collector of a broad look at the subtle differences one can expect to find while exploring what is perhaps one of the most elusive of F-S knives.

A rare and very fine example of the seldom seen war-time Wilkinson Third Pattern F-S. This example with a  polished blade.

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