This is a VERY FINE+ to NEAR EXCELLENT example of a World War II “Theater Knife” that spent a good part of its collectible lifetime misidentified. Ever since the publication Harold Peterson’s American Knives in 1958, this huge brass gripped “Knuckle Knife” has been identified as the 1st Battalion Army Ranger’s Knife. However, the fact that a handful of these rather scarce knives have surfaced with markings indicating that their origin was in fact Australia, makes it clear that these knives could have never seen service with an Army Ranger battalion that spent its entire World War II career in North Africa, Sicily and Italy! Due to Peterson’s identification of this pattern of knife as one that was issued to the famous Army Ranger unit, these knives will no doubt continue to be referred to by that name. They are, however, in reality simply very wicked and impressive theater knives that likely saw service in the Pacific Theater, or were simply purchased as souvenirs by US servicemen who visited Australia during the war.
To put it simply, the knife is an impressive specimen of Australian manufacturing. Its large size and formidable brass knuckle guard brings to mind the classic Crocodile Dundee clich” “You call that a knife, THIS is a knife!”. The knife is about 14 1/8” in overall length, with a 9 ““ bowie style blade with a 3” false edge and an overall width of just less than 2” at the widest portion of the blade. The brass knuckle guard and hilt is about 4 ““ in length, and the exterior of the guard is augmented with 6 flat cog-like projections, and a single pointed projection, closest to the blade. The brass hilt appears to have been cast directly onto the blade, and some brass has flowed onto the blade during the casting process. This is a good thing, as this particular feature is only noted on authentic and correct examples of these knives. Reproductions and fakes do not show the flowing brass on the blade at the ricasso. The projections are roughly filed into shape and the rough finished file marks are clearly evident within the projections of the grip. The interior of the knuckle bow shows even rougher hand finishing. The grip also shows some minor casting flaws and some minor discoloration, which is the result of some imperfections in the brass. The blade is mostly bright and retains much of its original polish. There are a handful of scattered patches of minor peppering and pinpricking present on the blade, mostly along the edges. These areas show some minor age discoloration and light surface oxidation. The brass hilt is a lovely uncleaned and untouched ochre patina that is truly attractive, and shows streaky green lines of verdigris on the reverse of the hilt. The correct and original leather sheath accompanies the knife as well. The sheath is in about EXCELLENT condition and fits the knife perfectly. The sheath has a belt loop that will accommodate a belt of about 3 ““ in width. All of the stitching is tight and the leather remains strong and pliable, with only some light scuffing on the surface. The exact same pattern of scabbard is depicted in most of the regularly cited reference works on American Combat knives, including those by M.H. Cole, Michael Silvey and Bill Wright. In fact, this exact knife and its scabbard are pictured on page 53 of Bill & Debbie Wright’s “Theater Made Military Knives of World War II”, published in 2001. An analysis of the picture clearly shows the exact same stripe of green verdigris on the reverse of the hilt, along with the exact same casting flaws. The knife is noted in the book as having been in the collection of the author at that time. I acquired if from another collector, who had purchased it from Roger Ballard. Roger was the primary supplier of knives (other than the author) for Theater Knife book project.
Overall this is a choice example of a very desirable and extremely nice condition World War II “Theater Knife” that has a long history of being misidentified. The knife has terrific eye appeal and would certainly make a great addition to any World War II knife or edged weapons collection. Its not a the 1st Battalion Army Ranger’s Knife, and there probably is no such thing. However, it is still a fantastic piece of World War II edged weapon history and its appearance and condition will certainly make it a conversation-starting centerpiece of your knife collection. The fact that this exact specimen is published in the leading text on Theater Knives makes it even more desirable and collectible.