Phase 4: Post WWII – 1950s.
1. Joseph Rodgers & Sons “All-Purpose” Knife. In an article “Makers of SOE Knives revealed” by Ron Flook in September 2012 edition of Knife World (page. 29), he details his research of the Contract Record Books in the Archive of the Ministry of Supply that have become available from the UK Public Records Office. According to Flook, the Archive indicates that “… in December 1952, a contract was placed with Joseph Rodgers for 250 of these knives” – assumed to be the “ALL-PURPOSE” knife which is the ‘official’ name of what we collectors call the OSS/SOE Escape Knife – see DESCRIPTION section at the start of this Collector Note.
I am unaware of any other documentation regarding this 1952 contract knife, and Flook also raises the question at the conclusion of his article: “… why and for whom were knives associated with the SOE (which had been disbanded in 1946) still being ordered in 1952?”. I have no precise answer to such question – except perhaps to observe that the date 1952 corresponds with the start of the Mau Mau terrorist ‘uprising’ (independence movement) in the then British colony of Kenya, and perhaps the knives were considered by the UK Ministry of Supply as being suitable for UK military and/or police Special Branch personnel engaged in the conflict. I can however suggest a candidate for the knife: being that illustrated as: “No. 4. Trial piece all metal blue except cutting blade” on page 158 of Coles III – as detailed in a previous section of this Collector Note. A copy of the illustration follows:
My reasoning for this suggestion is that the knives detailed in Cole III (page 158) were obtained by Bill Adams in the late 1960s (see further details in the Joseph Rodgers section above) during the closure of the Joseph Rodgers business, which is 15 or so years after the Ministry of Supply contract was awarded to Rodgers – probably enough time for there to be vagaries regarding the exact details of contract, and of the role of the knife in illustration No.4. This doesn’t mean that the description attributed to the factory workers is incorrect, as it may also have been the “factory pattern’ for the knives in the 1952 contract – especially given that the blade stamping of illustration 4 above is not consistent with the blade stamping shown in illustration No.1; my assumption being that all main elements of the escape knife that were part of the pre-production process (in 1942) would likely be the same – especially the blade stamping which is the more simple “Joseph Rodgers and Sons”.
I am aware of three probable examples of this knife:
· The first is the photo on page 76 of Mike Silvey’s book “Pocket Knives of the United States Military”, see photo extract following, noting that the main blade is shown as well-worn and bright whereas the rest of the knife is blued, however the blade is clearly stamped: “G[crown]R” together with the text “JOSEPH RODGERS & SONS CUTLERS TO HIS MAJESTY SHEFFIELD *+ ENGLAND” – being the same as the knife in Cole’s illustration No.4 .
Source: Michael Silvey. Pocket Knives of the United States Military
· The second is a knife sold by a UK auction house in March 2016 that is totally consistent with the detailed description of the “all purpose” knife referenced in the “DESCRIPTION” section of this Collector Note, except that it is also blade stamped as for the knife in Cole’s illustration No.4. It is unclear from the photos whether the master blade is “bright” or blued, see photos following sourced from the internet:
I have on-file details derived from an internet search of another knife sold by a UK auction house that appears to be identical to the above.
All of which suggests to me that this knife was produced in sufficient quantities by Joseph Rodgers that could equate to a military contract.
All of this however is conjecture on my part until further examples of the “ALL-PURPOSE” escape knife with a stamped main blade are found – hopefully! Although, given that there were only 250 pieces specified in the Ministry of Supply contract, this is probably unlikely.
2. Joseph Rodgers ‘multitool knife’(my name for it). I purchased this knife in late 2019 from a UK dealer because it was the only other example of a Joseph Rodgers knife that I am aware of that also incorporates the ECLIPSE style hacksaw blades – that I believe were first used in the (so called) Rodgers’ “sawblade” knife in the early 1930s as detailed above, and subsequently incorporated into the OSS/SOE Escape Knife in the early 1940s. The knife was described by the dealer as: “a Joseph Rodgers & Sons of Sheffield pocketknife with a blade, 2 saw blades, a pricker and a can opener. One end of the knife has a screwdriver and the other end has a lanyard ring. The grips are made of stippled gutta percha and are undamaged”. See photos following:
Source: Author’s collection
A photo of an identical knife (together with a variant) is included in the article by Adrian Van Dyk (page 17) discussed above and included here as Appendix 3.
Ron Flook has advised me as follows: “These Rodgers multi tool knives have incorrectly been attributed by Van Dyk as experimental OSS knives. There are two variants of this knife and I have owned both types. However, the grip material is not Gutta Percha but some other form of plastic material and in addition the grip stippled pattern is the same as that used on the RAF flight suit knives from the post war years. (1960’s/70’s)”. Flook also advised: “Although there is no firm evidence to support this, I am sure these were an attempt by Rodgers to produce some form of survival knife for the Military that was never adopted”. In support of this conclusion by Flook I note that the can opener configuration is a of post-war type. If this is correct, it can be assumed that this Joseph Rodgers “multitool” knife (and its variant) perhaps marks the 1950s – 1960s conclusion of the evolution of the escape knife that commenced with the production of the Rodgers “Military Knife P.1633”in the early 1900s; that is, the final chapter in the OSS/SOE Escape Knife narrative.
Given that to my knowledge there are 3 known examples of this knife, it is probable that it was produced in commercial quantities.