What's a trench knife?

Oct 6, 1998
Finally I remembered to ask this...What makes knife a trench knife? I've seen pictures of couple of them. Some were with a D-guard, some were not. On basis of the pictures, I can say I'd love to have one and I like D-guards (never handled a knife with one, though), too.

[This message has been edited by Jani Kemppainen (edited 09 May 1999).]
Sounds like you're asking about the WWI US army issue trench knives. The first one had a stiletto blade with an equilateral triangle cross-section, good for thrusting only, and a cast brass D-guard with pyramid studs. The second one had the same kind of blade but IIRC it was shorter -- used the same issue sheath though -- and a sheet brass D-guard with triangles folded forward instead of pyramid studs; it cost less to make. The third model had a double-edged dagger blade and could actually cut things. That model continued to be an issue weapon after the war but no new ones were bought. The remaining stock was sold to the surplus market after WWII.

IIRC the third design was called the Mark 1 for some reason; I don't remember what the first two were called.

They were all pretty bad designs as weapons and even worse for other purposes, especially the first two with no edge, but they're interesting to collectors.

The army specified they wanted a knife that wouldn't be dropped if the soldier was knocked unconscious; that's why they had D-guards. It's hard to understand why the army thought that was important ... one of those trivia bits; the military mind in action....

-Cougar Allen :{)

P.S. When you look at those trench knives it's easy to understand why everybody thought the later K-Bar was so wonderful. The K-Bar is a good knife, but compared to those things it's a GREAT knife -- it's a WONDERFUL knife -- it's a SUPERB knife!

Yeah the first two models were really cheesy,the last one was no multi purpose tool for sure but I`m not so sure it wouldn`t be a fearsome weapon in the hands of a relatively untrained knife fighter in trench fighting conditions. With mud and blood everywhere and the enemy storming your trench and getting right in your face with no room to use your rifle and bayonet,the "brass knuckle" guard seems to make a lot of sense both for weapon retention and unconventional blows. I just saw a documentary on WW1 trenchfighting where they interviewed a WW1 combat vet(!),he mentioned the trench knife and it`s use in extreme CQB. He said it was a nasty weapon and that the "knucks" could just about smash the side of an enemy`s face in,tearing it open in the process. He shivered a bit saying it,I suspect he`s been there and done that. I have a EDMF 12" Trenchbowie with the "knucks" D guard,it holds the knife in my hand even when doing very heavy chopping,protects my hand ,and I can embed it more than 1/2" into a board without any discomfort,I suspect that`d do some damage. Not being a trained knife fighter and having only SCA "combat" and book knowledge about other techniques,I know if I *had* to be in a knife fight that`s the knife I`d grab! Marcus
"Trench Knife" is a generic term referring to any number of knives and stabbing weapons used during Word War I for close quarters fighting "in the trenches." As most armies were not prepared initially to issue such weapons to their troops, the troops tended to improvise with shortened bayonets, sharpened spikes and all manner of homemade and self-bought weaponry. Eventually the militaries adopted a number of designs ( including the ones mentioned by other posters to this thread) some of which are still used and issued to this day. All of the historic examples are sought after collectors items. In fact it's easy to make an entire collection of "Trench Knives."


The original triangle stilleto blade was due to the type of uniformes that the armies wore during that time. They were all wool and thick. It was felt that they would be more able to penitrate the thick clothing,webbing and leather. Also the knuckle guards were for close in fighting. The original "D" guard was too large to help with the knife retention. The brass knuckle guard on the later dagger bladed knives was discontinued due to the shortage of Brass. My father has 13 different models of trench knives in his collection from WWI. This includes a strait taper dagger with a dogleg grip that was German issue. He also has two WWII issue knives I got for him from a friend in England. One is a "COSH". a HOLLOW HANDLE GRIP WITH A LARGE BALL ON ONE END, RETRACATABLE SPIKE AND BUILT IN GARROT. The other is a "Theatre knife" made from a cut down Springfield bayonet with a Micarta/brass/aluminum disc spacer grip and a very wicked triangle tooth D guard.

Also as an aside the Smachet of WWII was copied from a Welsh short sword that saw limited use in Welsh units in WWI.

Interesting designs from one of the Worst European conflicts.


I visited the Eight Dollar Mountain Foundry website today and those knives looked like bad boys. Does anyone else make trench knives?