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Au Lion Marked US M1918 Mk1 Trench Knife

Au Lion Marked US M1918 Mk1 Trench Knife

  • Product Code: EWSK-1620-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

The U.S. Model 1918 Mark I Trench Knife was the second major “Knuckle Knife”  to be officially adopted and issued to the US military. It was developed for use in the horrific trench warfare that typified the stalemate on the Western Front during World War One and saw use not only there, but during World War Two as well. The knives were manufactured in the United States by Henry Disston & Sons (H.D. & S.), as well as Landers, Frary & Clark (L.F. & C.) and Oneida Community Ltd (O.C.L.). The  U.S. M-1918 Mark I Trench Knife is easily identifiable due to its large “brass knuckle” style guard and grip. The knives were nominally 11 ¾” in overall length, with a 6 ¾” dagger style blade. The knife blade was copied from the French M1916 “Avenger” trench knife, which no doubt made it easier for French contractors to produce. The scabbard was also a copy of the French M1916 scabbard but replaced the wire belt loop with a pair of wire tabs that engaged the grommets on the US waist belt. The cast brass grip had the designation U.S. 1918 cast into it, and the US made knives were additionally marked with the makers name or initials. The knives were also produced in France and are marked with the usual U.S. 1918 found on the US made variants but bear the additional markings of a “Recumbent Lion” over the words Au Lion on the obverse ricasso of the blade. Whether this mark was a makers’ mark or simply a motto is not known. As originally issued, the US made knives were entirely blackened; both the blades and the brass knuckle hilts. The French made knives were not finished, with the brass handguard being left its natural color and the knife blade left bright. There is no doubt, however, that some were darkened intentionally by the troops that were issued the French made knives. 


Due to the unexpectedly quick end to the war in November of 1918, none of the US made M1918 knives ever made it to France in time to see combat. However, the French made knives were delivered in time to be issued to troops in the field, although it is unlikely that they saw a serious use. The M1918 Mk1 knives remained in the inventory of the US military, classified as limited standard (secondary issue) through January of 1945, when the knives were officially classified as obsolete. As originally issued, the knives were carried in a blued sheet metal scabbard that was typically maker marked by the US makers and was equipped with a pair of wire tabs that were intended to engage the US pistol web belt in use at that time. The French made scabbards were unmarked. Many of the knives issued during World War II ended up in substitute leather scabbards of various designs and styles, many of which were “theater made”. Due to the fact that the French made knives actually saw service during the Great War, the Au Lion marked knife is much more difficult to find today. It is quite likely that many never made it back to the United States after the war and those that did are often in well used condition, although more likely from opening ration cans than from stabbing the enemy.


The example of the U.S. Model 1918 Mark I Trench Knife offered here is in about VERY FINE condition. The knife is one of the French made examples which is marked on the ricasso with a  {RECUMBENT LION} / AU LION.  These marks are often weakly stamped and this one is no different, although it is weak at the front of the stamp and clearer at the end. This means that the letter “A” in “Au Lion” and the face of the lion appear to have barely been struck and the “A” is not at all visible and the lion’s face is weak at well. This sand cast brass grip of the knife is clearly cast with the U. S.  1918 legend. As it typical of these grips, the sand casting shows scattered roughness and some flaws, as well as some file marks from the finishing of the hilt. The brass grip and knuckle guard retains traces of what appears to be a field applied, blackened finish, which has faded and worn, and has blended with a lovely, un-cleaned dark bronze patina. The unfinished steel dagger blade has a smooth, mostly bright steel patina with scattered areas of lightly oxidized age discoloration and freckled darkening as well as a couple of tiny pits that may be blade flaws. The French knives were made in small cutlery shops and show varied quality in the production of the blades and hilts. The blued steel scabbard is in about VERY FINE condition as well. The scabbard is unmarked, as is typical of the French made knives. The scabbard is complete and original and retains about 30%+ of its original blued finish, with some wear and fading, mixed with a plum-brown patina. There are even flashes of the original brilliant blue on the metal, which is almost unheard of. The scabbard retains both of the original web belt mounting hooks, which is uncommon. The fragile hooks are normally broken or repaired on these scabbards. This is one of the finest examples of a French-made Au Lion M1918 scabbards that I have ever encountered.


Overall this is a really outstanding example of a very popular and collectible World War I knife that may have seen additional service in World War II as well. The knife and scabbard are 100% complete and correct in every way and would make a fantastic addition to any military edged weapons collection. These brass D-guard knuckle knives always make a great centerpiece to any military knife display and certainly draw attention due to their size and fierce appearance. The French made examples are much scarcer than the US made LF&C variant, which is more commonly encountered. They are also much harder to find in such wonderful states of preservation. These French knives are particularly desirable for the Great War collector, as they have the potential to have been issued and might have seen action during World War I.


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Tags: Au, Lion, Marked, US, M1918, Mk1, Trench, Knife