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 knife was 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 knives were also produced in France and are marked with the usual 1918 and US marks, as well as a reclining Lion and the words Au Lion on the blade. Whether this mark was a maker’s mark or simply a motto is not known. 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 11 ¾” in overall length, with a 6 ¾” dagger style blade. The brass grips were marked U.S. 1918 and the US made knives were additionally marked with the makers name or initials. As originally issued, the US made knives were entirely blackened; both the blades and the brass knuckle hilts. These knives remained in use with 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 scabbards that were 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. 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”. To my knowledge none of the US made M-1918 Mark I knives ended up making it to Europe in time to see use during the Great War, but the French made AU LION knives did make it in time to see service during the war. As a result, fining the Au Lion knife today is much more difficult as many never made it back to the United States after the war. Those that did were often in heavily used condition.
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 (Reclining Lion) / AU LION. The blade mark is very crisp and well defined, much better than is usually encountered these days. This brass grip of the knife is clearly marked: U. S. 1918. As is usually the case with the AU LION marked knives, the cast brass grip is much rougher and cruder than the US made versions. As is also typical of the French made knives, the knuckle “points” are also less defined and not as sharp as the US made knives. The French made grips are cast with a variety of minor differences, and this one is cast with two grooves along the top edge of the grip. The brass knuckle grip has a lovely, un-cleaned dark bronze patina. The blades of most of the AU LION knives were produced “in the white”, with no finish on the blade. This blade is in about FINE condition, and shows only some light sharpening marks along the edge and some light scattered patches of minor age discoloration. The blade is free of any rust or pitting. The blued steel scabbard is in about VERY GOOD+ to NEAR FINE condition. The scabbard is unmarked, which is typical of the French made knives. The scabbard is complete and original and retains about 10%-20% of its original blued finish, which has mixed with a plum-brown patina. The scabbard also shows some light to moderate scattered pinprick pitting on the surface. The scabbard retains both of the original web belt mounting prongs, which is very uncommon. The fragile hooks are normally broken and missing or repaired on these scabbards. The scabbard does a couple of very small impact dents on the rear, between the prongs. Normally these thin metal scabbards show significantly more wear and damage, and this one is really in pretty nice shape.
Overall this is a really outstanding example of a very popular and collectible World War I knife that may have seen service in World War II as well. The knife and scabbard are 100% complete, correct and original in every way. It 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. These French knives are particularly desirable for Great War collector, as they had the potential to have seen real combat action during World War I. SOLD