Trench knife

A Trench knife is a combat knife designed to kill or gravely incapacitate an enemy soldier at close quarters, as might be encountered in a trenchline or other confined area.[1][2][3] It was developed in response to a need for a close combat weapon for soldiers conducting assaults and raids on enemy trenchlines during the First World War. An example of a World War I trench knife is the German Army's Nahkampfmesser (close combat knife).[4][5] With the outbreak of the Second World War, the trench knife, by this time usually referred to as a combat knife, proved so useful that armies continued to develop and issue new designs. On the Axis side, the Nahkampfmesser and designs developed from it were again widely issued to the ordinary soldier as general-purpose fighting and utility knives, while Allied armies generally restricted issue of trench knives to elite infantry units and infantry not otherwise equipped with the bayonet.[4] With the exception of the German Nahkampfmesser (combat knife),[4] most early trench knives were fabricated by hand by individual soldiers or ordnance blacksmiths for the purpose of silently eliminating sentries and other enemy personnel during trench raids.[6] These early "trench knives" were often nothing more than shortened and sharpened Army-issue bayonets. One type of stabbing weapon, the French Nail, was made by cutting and pointing the steel stakes used to support the ubiquitous barbed wire protecting the trench lines. All trench knives share one common characteristic: they were designed specifically for military use in close combat encounters with enemy personnel. Some historians say that some trench knives models were inspired by the Bowie knife for its design.[7] Soon afterwards, these fabricated trench knives were being used in defensive close-quarters rench warfare, and such fighting soon revealed certain limitations in existing designs. A more elegant form of the French Nail was the introduction of the Poignard-Baionnette Lebel M1886/14. Approved as a standard military infantry weapon after its development by Lt. Col. Coutrot[8] of the French Army, the Poignard-Baionnette Lebel consisted of a long, needle-pointed, stiletto-profile blade with wood handle and an integrated knuckle guard made of steel. Originally a conversion of the French Epee-Baionnette Modele 1886 (bayonet), and designed strictly as an offensive weapon, the Poignard-Baionnette Lebel used a section of the M1886 Lebel' long, narrow stiletto-type cruciform blade, designed to quickly kill a surprised enemy soldier with a single deep thrust. Up to three trench knives could be constructed from a single M1886 Lebel bayonet. Because French industry was working under wartime conditions with numerous material shortages, often using subcontracted labor, even officially-sanctioned French Army trench knives tend to vary significantly from knife to knife. The need for knives was so great that already-understrength French Army formations were forced to demobilize hundreds of former cutlery workers so that they could return to their former jobs and begin quantity production of trench knives for the armed forces. As the war went on, newer and more versatile blade-type trench knife patterns such as the double-bladed dagger Couteau Poignard Mle 1916 dit Le Vengeur began to replace the French Nail and earlier stiletto-style trench knives.[9][10] The French lead in trench knife development was closely followed by the United States, which introduced three successive trench knife models - the M1917, M1918, and Mark I (1918) - all based directly or indirectly upon previous French designs.