Phase 1: Early 20th Century – Joseph Rodgers “Military Knife P.1633.”

This was a commercial production knife made by Joseph Rodgers in their factory at No.6 Norfolk St. Sheffield and was probably available for sale c.1900. It was promoted by Rodgers as a ‘private purchase’ item aimed at military personnel. Flook has quoted a UK military regulation of around the time that required military officers to include a wire-cutter as part of their kit – and the Rodgers’ “Military Knife P.1633” would appear to be eminently suited to this purpose. There are two primary documentary sources for this knife, as follows:

· Joseph Rodgers’ sales catalogues – circa early 1902 and circa 1912.

· Registered Design number “Rd. 354051” stamped on the nickel silver scales – indicating a date of May 1900. In their article “The Elusive MI9 Escape Knife” Moyse & Shadbolt state that the Registered Design was specifically for a “Military Wire Cutter knife

The following illustration is copied from the Joseph Rodgers catalogue circa 1902, and the illustration in the Joseph Rodgers catalog circa 1912 is identical.

In both catalogues the subject is identified as “P.1633” and is one of three knives depicted under the heading “Military Knives”. The stamp “Rd.354051” is clearly illustrated. A brief note on the other two knives in the illustration is included in Appendix 1 to this Collector Note. Interestingly, the illustration shows the Rd. number stamped on the mark-side[6] scale, whereas it is actually stamped on the pile side scale on all known examples. There are three acknowledged versions of this Phase 1 pattern P.1633 as follows:

Original “flat-latch” version: as depicted in both the circa 1902 catalog and the circa 1912 Joseph Rodgers catalogue – where the (flat) latch secures the wire cutter from opening when not in use, and the standard bail also pivots from the same pin. This original version was first produced with the tin opener stamped “RODGERS CUTLERS TO HER MAJESTY” – being a reference to Queen Victoria. The knife shown in the following photo is such a “Her Majesty” example.

Given that Queen Victoria died on January 22, 1901, such stamping would only have been in use for a very short time, and was replaced by the stamping “E[Crown]R RODGERS CUTLERS TO HIS MAJESTY” – being a reference to Edward VII who became King immediately following the death of his mother Queen Victoria. The actual date when the stamping changed is not known but it is assumed to be soon after Edward became King in 1901 and lasted until the introduction of the First variant at some date prior to his death in 1910. Therefore, a date range of c.1900 – c.1905 is suggested. Examples of both knives are now quite rare, especially the “Her Majesty” example; Moyses’ were only aware of the “His Majesty” example when they wrote their article in 2016.

I note that a flat-latch” version is illustrated in Stephens[7] “Fighting Knives” Chapter 9: ‘Knives of the Second World War” (illustration 434 on page 85 – tang stamp not shown), and an excellent example sold on eBay in 2010 that was a “E[crown]R” tang stamp example. Interestingly, the Joseph Rodgers’ sales catalogues dated circa 1912 (a date which is well after George V became King) displays the Original flat-latch version although there are no known examples of the Original flat latch version that show the G[crown]R stamp.

Two distinguishing features of the Original flat-latch version and the following “First variant” are:

(1) The inside of the nickel silver slab handles are slightly concave and rough (as it was when it came out of the mould), and

(2) The tin opener tool has a nail nick.

First variant: where the flat-latch has been replaced by a strong wire latch to secure the wire cutter from opening, and the standard bale is attached to the latch rather than from the pin – see illustration following.

It is not known when this first variation was introduced; as noted by Moyses’ “Knives of this design are known with either of two tang stamps on the can opener: E[crown]R and G[crown]R which refers to King George V (1910 – 1936, with the latter being more common”. So, the start date was at some point in the reign of Edward VII (died 1910), and the finish date was probably early in the reign of George V (1910 – 1936). Therefore, a date range for this First variant of 1905 – 1911 is suggested. The knife shown in the adjacent photo is a more common ‘G[crown]R’ tang stamp example.

Second variant: is easily distinguishable from the First variant due to the lack of the nail nick on the can opener, and the inside of the nickel silver slabs being flat and polished smooth. As noted by Moyses’: this variant always has the G[crown]R tang stamp.

It is not known when this variant was introduced, or why? One line of speculation is that it was to facilitate production because of increased demand for the knife following the outbreak of WW1 in 1914. For this reason, the suggested date range for this Second variant is c.1914 – c.1930. Evidence of this could be provided if owners of Joseph Rodgers “Military Knife P.1633” with a known WW1 provenance checked to identify if such knives were a First variant or a Second Variant (i.e. either concave handle slabs or smooth handle slabs inside, and is with/without a nail nick on the tin opener).