This Collector Note describes my opinion regarding the evolution of the OSS/SOE Escape Knife from its beginnings as a private-purchase “Military Wire Cutter knife” manufactured by Joseph Rodgers in the early Edwardian era, through an intermediate stage in the 1930s when the sawblades were introduced, to its final form as an “All Purpose” tool supplied to “secret agents” operating behind enemy lines during World War 2, and possibly again produced in the early 1950s. The Collector Note is an attempt to ‘join the dots’ between the various pieces of information that are now available.
All versions of the of the escape knife as described in this Note are highly regarded by collectors and have always been quite difficult to collect. The great majority of the earlier nickel silver scale versions of the knife that do become available to collectors appear to be in quite good condition. In contrast, the wartime version (i.e. the actual “escape knife”) is commonly found with broken or missing sawblades. This should be acknowledged as a common characteristic of the knife – rather than be seen as a negative, as these knives were designed for hard work and the sawblades were perhaps provided in triplicate to compensate for their vulnerability to damage.
The lack of definitive documentary evidence regarding the knives in each of the presumed four stages in the evolution of the escape knife (apart from as described above), is the main hindrance to the completion of this narrative. If any collector has examples or information that may assist in the documentation – I am sure that the collector community would be most grateful if they would publicise such information on any of the suitable websites available on the internet.