Phase 2: probably circa 1930’s – Joseph Rodgers & Sons.
Third variant: as defined in the Moyses’ article – and herein referred to by me as the “sawblade” version. I suggest that the variations, when compared to the minor changes that created the First and Second variants as described above, are sufficiently significant to justify it as a separate Phase 2 in the evolution of the OSS/SOE Escape Knife. Given that there is a total lack of documentation regarding this knife, I have refrained from using the terminology “Military Knife P.1633” in describing it.
Examples of this knife can be found by a Google Image search of “OSS/SOE escape knife”, and were previously documented some years ago (e.g. on the Multi-Tool Museum website and Blade Forum website – although I have been unable to find/access them in recent years). I purchased mine on eBay in 2018 – see illustration following:
The knife is identical in size and shape with the previous “Phase 1: Early 20th Century – Rodgers’ “Military Knife P.1633” variants, especially having the nickel silver scales stamped with the Registered Design number “Rd.354051”. The inside of the nickel silver slabs is flat and polished smooth in common with the Second variant detailed above. Based on currently available information, it appears that there is only one version of this knife, which involves the following variations to the Phase 1 examples detailed above:
1. the removal of the tin opener,
2. the introduction of the three hacksaw blades with a ‘blued’ finish,
3. the provision of strong wire latch which secures the wire cutter from opening, together with a standard bail which also pivots from the same pin.
The example that I have (as shown in the previous photo) has each of the hacksaw blades marked with the word “ECLIPSE”, together with the Registered Design number Rd. “76613” and the designation “23G” (which I am advised refers to the thickness gauge of the saw blade), see following photo.
All English “Rd.” numbers have six numerals whereas there are only five shown on the saw blades, however a close inspection indicates that the last number is most likely covered by the small piece of sheet metal that has been welded to the tang to increase its thickness (this feature is also evident on the hacksaw blades of the Escape Knife). If this assumption is correct, the Registered Design number corresponds to the date 1931, and most likely only refers to the date of registration of the design of the hacksaw blades rather than the whole knife.
Conventional wisdom has it that the “sawblade” version was a ‘prototype’ for the design of the Escape Knife in 1941, (most likely by Clayton Hutton who is assumed to be the ‘designer’ of the escape knife).
My initial challenge to this conventional view was motivated by a post by Martin Cook on the “Military Knives and Daggers of the World” website dated December 2014 titled “Clayton Hutton’s Personal Knife”. Cooky states as follows: “Here are images of the Rodgers Rd 354051 ‘Escape Knife’ that is in the Royal Air Force Museum in Stafford. It is Item number 72/S/1413 and was the personal property of the person credited to be its inventor Christopher Clayton Hutton. This was his personal knife which he bequeathed to the museum”.
One of the photos in the post is copied above. It is clearly evident that the Hutton knife and mine are identical – even to the ‘blued’ hacksaw blades.
Also, I have on-file a copy of a post by “JOOLIESEWS” on the “Blade Forums” website dated July 2006 that includes a photo of an almost identical knife (the only difference being that the main blade on the JOOLIESEWS knife appears to be blued also) – see top knife in the following photo. I can no-longer access this post however I recall that JOOLIESEWS was the author of a detailed discussion of the “Escape Knife” on the Multi-Tools forum at around the same time (which I also can no-longer access)
I have details on file of another five examples of this knife that I sourced by a Google Image search, noting however that mine is the only one that I have actually handled, and therefore I cannot determine if the other examples mentioned here also have the “ECLIPSE” etc. stamp on the hacksaw blades. Given the absence of any mention of such marking it is best to assume that they were not so marked. Also, another collector has advised me that an example that he once owned was not so marked. Therefore, given the current state of knowledge it is better to assume that my “Eclipse” marked example is the exception rather than the rule.
My conclusion is that this (so-called by me) Joseph Rodgers “sawblade” version was produced in commercial quantities (given that I have knowledge of six examples) most likely during the 1930s. More specifically, it appears evident to me that Clayton Hutton based the escape knife directly on his own Rodgers “sawblade” knife rather than on the earlier versions of the Joseph Rodgers “Military Knife P.1633” as has been previously assumed, and thus the sawblade knife is the intermediate phase in the evolution of the Escape Knife.
I am aware of another view amongst collectors that the Rodgers “sawblade” knife was in-fact produced much earlier than the circa-1930s – possibly even during or immediately after WW1. Whilst this is a possibility, I do not see why the tin-opener tool would have been specifically excluded as part of this modification at that time.
The question still remains as to what prompted Joseph Rodgers to produce the “sawblade” knife in the early 1930’s (or earlier?) in the first place? Was it produced for some specific purpose that required the ‘design’ and subsequent registration of the hacksaw blades suitable for inclusion in a pocketknife? Or was it seen as an updating/upgrading of the “Military Knife P.1633” to suit changes in military requirements. Due to the current lack of any documentation regarding this “sawblade” knife, we may never know the answer. One area of speculation however is the occasional reference in literature regarding the escape knife as having an RAF connection. To-date, I have seen no evidence of this, however I have seen reference to Clayton Hutton being originally an RAF officer – so, is it possible that the “sawblade” knife was produced for the RAF in the 1930s? (see also the reference to “pilot’s and engineers’ knife” later in this Collector Note at page 14).