Paid Advertisement
Historynet/feed historynet feedback facebook link World History Group RSS feed World History Group Subscriptions Historynet Home page

Mark I Trench Knife: Doughboys’ Double-Edged Dagger

By Jon Guttman 
Originally published by Military History magazine. Published Online: November 02, 2012 
Print Friendly
1 comment FONT +  FONT -

The brutal realities of trench warfare spurred development of crude close-quarters stabbers that developed into the American Mark I trench knife. (Illustration by Gregory Proch)
The brutal realities of trench warfare spurred development of crude close-quarters stabbers that developed into the American Mark I trench knife. (Illustration by Gregory Proch)


Opposing army units on the Western Front often livened up the quiet spells with trench raids, usually to snatch prisoners for interrogation. These prompted development of specialized close-quarters weapons, epitomized by the trench knife.

Originally handmade, early trench knives included the German Nahkampfmesser ("close combat knife"), a 6-inch, single-edged steel blade with a wooden slab grip and metal sheath, as well as the crude "French nail," fashioned from a steel barbed-wire stake, its blunt end heated and bent into a handle. Also popular among the poilus was the poignard baïonette ("dagger bayonet"), a stiletto-like stabber with a cruciform blade, cut down from a standard Lebel M1886 bayonet. Replacing it was the double-edged couteau poignard modèle 1916, popularly known as the Avenger, which added a steel knuckle guard.

Subscribe Today

Subscribe to Military History magazine

When the American Expeditionary Forces entered the trenches, its troops carried the M1917 trench knife, based on the French type but with a triangular blade. A metal knuckle guard curved down from the blade to the pommel. It proved unwieldy, though, and within months gave way to the M1918, with a modified knuckle-duster grip. Soldiers still found the design limiting.

Then came the definitive American trench knife, the Mark I, designed by a board of AEF officers. Similar to the French couteau poignard, it boasted a full tang, double-edged blade with a cast-bronze hilt, a knuckle-duster grip and a skull-cracking conical nut on the pommel. Issued too late for frontline service in World War I, it saw use in World War II by airborne troops, Army Rangers and Marine Raiders.

One Response to “Mark I Trench Knife: Doughboys’ Double-Edged Dagger”

  1. 1
    Gord Woollard says:

    May be of interest; I have a WW2 Machete which had been invented as an all purpose farmers/woodsman tool with several interesting features which included a digging edge a brush hook, a cutting edge, sword handle. The scabbard was made to attach to a soldiers web belt in the military version. In the scabbard is a pocket containing little booklets. One contains instruction on how to use it in the civilian mode. The other one, which really intrigues me is the fighting mode which includes little drawings of Japanese soldier complete with slanty eyes being attacked using the Machete. I carry it in my car as an all purpose tool. Not for fightg off course but it is so well balanced it is a great brush cutter. Gord Woollard Retired cdn army WW2 and peacetime Vet.

Leave a Reply

Human Verification: In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.

Related Articles

History Net Images Spacer
Paid Advertisement
Paid Advertisement
History Net Daily Activities
History net Spacer
History net Spacer
Historynet Spacer

Which of these wars resulted in the most surprising underdog upset?

View Results | See previous polls

Loading ... Loading ...
History net Spacer
RSS Feed Daily Email Update
History net Spacer
Paid Advertisement

Paid Advertisement
What is HistoryNet? is brought to you by World History Group, the world's largest publisher of history magazines. contains daily features, photo galleries and over 5,000 articles originally published in our various magazines.

If you are interested in a specific history subject, try searching our archives, you are bound to find something to pique your interest.

From Our Magazines
World History Group

World History Group Network:  HistoryNet | Armchair General | Achtung Panzer!
Today in History | Ask Mr. History | Picture of the Day | Daily History Quiz | Contact Us

Copyright © 2015 World History Group. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
Advertise With Us | Subscription Help | Privacy Policy