LOOSE ENDS

There are other knives that I am aware of that possibly have some valid connection to this OSS/SOE Escape Knife evolution narrative, but which are not part of the mainstream, as follows:

1. Joseph Rodgers “Pilots and Engineers” knife. I have included this knife because of the wire cutter – which is common to all principal knife patterns associated with the evolution of the OSS/SOE Escape Knife. There are however significant differences between this and the escape knife that need to be considered. There are only two examples of this knife that I am aware of: the first is in an article by Bill Karsten: “US. MILITARY FOLDING KNIVES” originally published in KNIFE WORLD in July 1981, and also included in the book: MILITARY KNIVES – A REFERENCE BOOK[15]. The illustration below is copied from that book. Kasten describes the knife on page 215 as follows: “The plated pilot’s and engineers’ knife consisted of a four and one-eighth inch sheepfoot blade, can opener, marlin spike, wire cutters, screwdriver and a bail. Closed, it measured six and seven-eighths inches. It bore the name of Joseph Rodgers, the star and cross trademark, and was marked “GR” indicating it was made during the reign of King George VI, 1936-1952”.

Source: “Military Knives – a reference book” page 215

The second example is a photo (adjacent) copied from the first illustration in the article “Knives of the OSS” by Adrian Van Dyke (see Appendix 3), and is described as “a knife usually referred to as a “Pilots and Engineer’s knife”,I assume it was one of the knives obtained by Bill Adams from the Joseph Rodgers factory in the late 1960s – as detailed elsewhere in the Collector Note. I am not aware of any other documentation regarding this knife.

 

It is possible that the illustration taken from the Kasten article (see top of this page) is actually of the knife in the above photo.

The matters for consideration include the following:

a. The Registered Design number stamped on the scale is: “Rd. No.532733” which indicates a date of 1908. As with other Rd. No. discussed elsewhere in the Collector Note, it is unclear as to which element of the knife the date refers to – is it just the scales, the wire cutters, or the knife as a whole? Note that the Royal Flying Corps (the forerunner of the RAF) was formed in April 1912 – four years after the 1908 date associated with the Rd. No.

b. The size of the knife and some of its components are significantly larger than for the escape knife; for example: the length closed is “six and seven-eighths inches” whereas the escape knife is 5½ inches; the main blade “consisted of a four and one-eighth inch sheepfoot blade” whereas the escape knife blade was always a spearpoint blade and 2 ½ inches long.

c. The frame and overall shape of the knife has more similarity to a ‘Champagne pattern multiblade’ knife than to an “escape knife”.

d. Dating the knife is difficult; the Rd. No. indicates a date of 1908 (a date for what – is not known); Karsten however suggest that the “GR” is a reference to the reign of King George VI, whereas it could equally apply to the reign of King George V (1910 – 1936).

e. The stamping on the blade is “JOSEPH RODGERS & SONS” which is the same as all four versions of the Rodgers “Military Knife P.1633” that were manufactured from c.1900 to c.1930.

f. If the knife was in-fact of the post-WW2 era, it may also be a candidate for the 1952 UK Ministry of Supply contract with Joseph Rodgers for the supply of 250 “general purpose” knives as detailed earlier in this Collector Note in reference to an article by Ron Flook in the September 2012 edition of Knife World (page. 29.)

Given these considerations, and in the absence of any further examples, it is suggested that any connection to the OSS/SOE Escape Knife is tenuous. At best, it may be that the “Pilots and Engineers” knife was developed in parallel with the pre-WW2 versions of the escape knife.

Currently, I am not aware of other examples of this knife, so I doubt that it was produced in commercial quantities.

2. Joseph Rodgers ‘modern wire cutter knife’ (my name for it). This knife is certainly a mystery. It was initially identified by me as a result of an internet search of Google images, which showed that it was sold on eBay by a well-respected US dealer “North West Knives and Collectibles” in November 2011 under the heading: “JOSEPH RODGERS & SONS, MULTI-BLADED BRITISH MILITARY KNIFE, c. 1890-1910”, and which generated extensive bidding interest. The full description by the seller states: “4 ¾” MULTI-BLADE BRITISH MILITARY KNIFE (PATTERN FOR OSS ESCAPE KNIFE), master flat spear blade, British style can opener, wire-cutter pliers on the pommel, handle running the length of the knife, with spring. We have never seen one of these scarce knives with the spring on the plier handle. Two bails. One is for fastening the pliers. Stamped “G Crown R, Cutlers to His Majesty.” Bright stainless scales, with a few light scratches. NEAR MINT CONDITION”. Interestingly, it appears that this same knife was previously included in the November 2000 sales catalog produced by “North West Knives and Collectibles” previously mentioned in this Collector Note (see Appendix 5 for details) as being part of a seven knife collection owned Adrian Van Dyk and featured in his article “Knives of the OSS” in the “The American Blade” magazine dated May/June, 1975 (see Appendix 4).

 The only information provided by Van Dyke was the description “unknown variant”. It is generally acknowledged however that this knife was part of the group obtained from the Joseph Rodgers factory by Bill Adams in the late 1960s – as previously discussed, and later sold to Van Dyk.

The knife has the same general characteristics as the Early 20th Century – Rodgers’ “Military Knife P.1633.”(see “Phase 1” above) however based on the scant information provided there are several concerns that suggest any actual role in the ‘evolution of the escape knife’ is limited, as follows:

a. The seller’s description suggests that the overall length of the knife is “4 ¾”, whereas the standard for all versions of the escape knife is 5 ½ inches.

b. There is no stamping of the Rd. No. 354051 on the scales.

c. The scales are described as “bright stainless steel” whereas the Rodgers “Military Knife P.1633.” had nickel silver scales.

d. The wire cutter spring mechanism is different to the standard escape knife

e. The ‘style’ of the knife is similar to the “Military Knife P.1633” however the two-bail configuration is from the so-called “wire cutter” version and also the escape knife.

f. The wire cutters are not stamped with the Joseph Rodgers logo whereas the early commercial versions of the escape knife are so stamped.

Given that the knife’s provenance is known, and on the basis that there no other examples have been identified, my assumption is that this was a one-off trial knife assembled by Rodgers, possibly to ascertain if there was interest from the military establishment, but which didn’t proceed to production.

3. Joseph Rodgers ‘parts knife’ (my name for it)This knife is much less of a mystery than the one discussed previously. It was sold on eBay in February 2015 under the heading “Antique Joseph Rodgers of Sheffield wire cutter knife” and also generated extensive bidding interest. The seller described it as follows: “This is a scarce Joseph Rodgers knife combined with wire cutters. Blade is marked Joseph Rodgers and No.6 Norfolk Street Sheffield England, button hook is marked GR Cutlers to his Majesty. Nickel silver scales marked RD 354051, which is the registered design number. The knife is well worn and with pitting, chip to one side of the wire cutters, I think it is missing its bail to retain the wire cutters when not in use. Later modified versions of this knife had saw blades and were used by SOE in WW2. A hard to find Rodgers tool

I have several concerns regarding this knife for the following reasons:

a) The obvious one – as acknowledged by the seller, is that it is “missing” the two-bail mechanism – that was an essential component (albeit in three different forms) of all versions of the escape knife. Why would Joseph Rodgers produce such a knife that lacked a bail necessary to retain the wire cutter handle in the closed position?

b) A button hook was never a component of any known version of the escape knife, apart from this single example.

c) The earliest nickel silver scales version of the escape knife was displayed in both the circa early 1900s and the circa 1912 versions of the Joseph Rodgers sales catalog, however this knife is not displayed in either catalog.

d) The nickel silver scales for this knife appear to be from the so-called “Rodgers’ “sawblade” knife from the early 1930s – as such scales were not intended to house the tin opener pin. Further, an examination of a Joseph Rodgers catalog assumed to be from the 1930s does not show this knife nor any knife that includes a “button hook” – possibly because button hooks were considered to be a redundant item by that date.

e) All three of the pins in the scales appear different to the pins in the earlier nickel scale versions of the escape knife, and also appear to be replacements.

f) There are no other known examples of this pattern

These reasons lead me to the conclusion that the knife is assembled from parts, and if correct – it has no role to play in the evolution of the OSS/SOE escape knife.