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Why did Canadians file down the teeth on their knives in WWII?

Discussion in 'Small Arms and Edged Weapons' started by Jamuna, Mar 9, 2020.

  1. Jamuna

    Jamuna New Member

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    Hello everyone,,
    I'm reading Three Day Road right now and it's an outstanding read. In one passage the protagonist talks about the serrated edges on the tops of their knives always being filed off. He says the Germans would kill a Canadian soldier on sight if he were found with the teeth intact and the Canadians would do the same to the Germans. Is this true and if so https://100001.onl/ https://1921681254.mx/ https://acc.onl/hotmail, why? They were sniping and shelling each other so why would this be forbidden????
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2020
  2. harolds

    harolds Member

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    I didn't know the Canadians had knives with serrated edges! At least in WW1, the German pioneers had bayonets with serrated edges because the bayonet could then be a tool as well as a weapon but Allied soldiers were supposed to have killed any German found with one. To my way of thinking, sawteeth on a bayonet would easily catch on clothing, webgear, ribs, sinew, etc. making very hard to retract, which could be fatal in a wild hand-to-hand melee.
     
  3. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    ..if they found the teeth intact, they would kill on sight?? sounds very odd...any context to that passage?
     
  4. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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  5. Jack B

    Jack B Active Member Patron  

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    The book referenced by the OP is a work of fiction, so there may have been some artistic license employed there.

    I'm not aware of any Canadian bayonet (or issued knife) that had 'teeth' or a saw incorporated into the design of the knife. I suppose it's possible that an engineering unit might have a saw-toothed knife, but I doubt it.

    The German army did have some saw-back bayonets. Here's an example from the IWM:

    [​IMG]

    I believe the Allies decried these bayonets as examples of barbaric German behavior. The French may have argued that such bayonets were banned by the Hague conventions for causing cruel wounds, but that seems like nonsense given the wide range of bayonets, trench knives, and improvised weapons being used in the First World War.

    [​IMG]
    Calgary Herald, 16 Aug 1918


    [​IMG]
    Morning Leader, 23 June 1915



    Is it possible that Allied troops would be harsher in their treatment of a German soldier equipped with a saw-edge bayonet? Maybe. Especially if Allied propaganda had made it seem as though these weapons (as opposed to poison gas?) were 'unlawful' in some manner.
     
  6. harolds

    harolds Member

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    I loved the term in the caption under the second picture: "civilized warfare". Talk about an oxymoron!
     
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  7. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    that explains it ...thanks
     
  8. harolds

    harolds Member

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    The only bayonets that I know of for the No. 4 Mk1 rifle was the knife bayonet and the spike (a pitiful thing if there ever was one).
     
  9. Jack B

    Jack B Active Member Patron  

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    Agreed; that spike bayonet was a bit.....sad.

    At the same time, I wouldn't want one stuck in my guts. o_O:_eek:
     
  10. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    I think there should have been more "development" in uniforms to stave off the bayonet attack...even inserts in the uniform for wood panels to be placed inside the tunic would be easy to put in or remove...be placed in the "usual" bayonet target spots (guts, heart and lungs) - hitting a wooden board could very well spell the end to an attacker, giving the victim time to retaliate - Could've ended the bayonet for good...
    I'm thinking 1cm thick ply wood panels bible sized that can be slid into special pockets inside the tunic, taken out for every day use...
     
  11. harolds

    harolds Member

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    I think if you compare the number of bayonet wounds to all other casualty causing agents, the bayonet wounds would be a very, very small percentage-probably less than 1%. Changing the uniforms and adding what is essentially armor would be a lot trouble for little gain. Besides, the average infantryman didn't need any more weight added to his already heavy load. Added to that, is that when bullets or shell fragments hit the wood and went into the body, it would push in all sorts of wood splinters as well. The best defense against someone trying to stick you with a bayonet is to grab your own personal weapon and blow his s^**t away!
     
  12. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    A small percentage (especially in WW2) but WW1, trench warfare a very different story...No need to change uniforms these inserts are just internal pockets to hold the board in place...your grandma could sew them in! And far from a small gain, saving your life or a hideous wound that haunts you for the rest of your life. 4 Pieces of plywood or chip board is super light, they would barley notice the difference. Plus this is for situations you know is going to result in possible bayonet attack...not general duties. The wood splinters is a small argument, easy to remove, plus the body can even tolerate wood inside it!
    As for "the best defence" - doesn't quite work that way...often you have already taken a shot and someone backs up the first, and then another, they aren't going to wait for you to pull a bolt back and forth and raise your weapon...its not that easy.
    [​IMG]
    Australian Pattern 1907 Bayonet...heavy with a strong blade. A sword bayonet.

    [​IMG]
    Some people don't realise that the Australian Army symbol is the rising sun...the rays are bayonets.
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2020
  13. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    There were three types of bayonets for the No4 Mk1 (in order from most common to least common):

    1. "Spike" (early ones were a cruciform pattern like on a Mosin bayonet, later ones were simply a pointy metal rod with a sharpened tip. Socket-mounted, no handle. As harolds says, this is rather pathetic and completely useless for anything other than sticking the jerries. This is the "wartime-correct" bayonet for a No4 Mk1 rifle)
    2. "Blade" (not introduced until after WW2, consisting of a bowie-style blade on a socket. No handle. Of limited use for non-bayonetting activities due to lack of a handle, but at least it had a proper blade edge and point. Designated No9 Mk1)
    3. "Knife-style" (limited production between late 1944-48, consisted of a bowie-style blade on a handle and rotating socket. These did not see widespread use, with less than 200k being produced. Designated No7 Mk1)
    Here is a good picture from milsurps.com showing all No4 Mk1 bayonets. The No7, is on the left, followed by the No9, No5 (for the No5 Mk1 Lee Enfield "jungle carbine" -- this does not fit the No4 Mk1), and the 4 subvariants of the No4 "Spike" bayonet (cruciform spike on the left).

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2020
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  14. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    I like the look of the middle knife bayonet...
     
  15. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    The No7 was intended to be a dual-purpose blade (bayonet and fighting/utility Knife) and rather complex and expensive to manufacture. It was decided to phase it out and replace it with the cheaper No9. The blade profile on all both the No7 and No9 is identical. I agree on the blade profile -- I like it a lot.
     
  16. Jack B

    Jack B Active Member Patron  

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    Forgive me for a lengthy post; this is a subject I’m interested in and have read a bit about. The question of the utility of bayonet is a potential can of worms, but I’m going to wade right in. The following is my opinion, and only that. I don’t claim to be a subject matter expert.

    I think Harolds is spot on with his comments. While there are instances of bayonets being used effectively in battles (from the invention of the bayonet to the present), from the perspective of an Army, they are not terribly important.

    "The casualties suffered by the participants in World War I dwarfed those of previous wars: some 8,500,000 soldiers died as a result of wounds and/or disease. The greatest number of casualties and wounds were inflicted by artillery, followed by small arms, and then by poison gas. The bayonet, which was relied on by the prewar French Army as the decisive weapon, actually produced few casualties. War was increasingly mechanized from 1914 and produced casualties even when nothing important was happening." — ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA

    John Keegan in The Face of Battle also notes, “edged-weapon wounds were a fraction of one per cent of all wounds inflicted in the First World War.”

    I think bayonet charges were primarily used to drive the enemy out of a position or force a surrender. The tangible fear of the bayonet at close range and closing fast would get the job done.

    A great example from the US Civil War is Col Chamberlain’s charge down Little Round Top mountain at the Battle of Gettysburg: out of ammunition, the Union soldiers fixed bayonets—which seemed wildly desperate at the time—and charged into the Confederate forces, causing them to retreat or surrender.

    The bayonet seems to have been more like a cattle prod than a killing tool.

    As noted, historically, bayonets just don’t cause a lot of physical casualties. Certainly not in WWI or WWII. The bayonet appears to have been more of a psychological weapon. It intimidates. But few of an army’s soldiers will be injured by them, so it isn’t worth investing in armor to defend against it.


    [​IMG]

    -- Medical treatment of Australian soldiers in World War I


    Soldiers carry too much stuff, and that stuff is heavy. If you have to climb out of a trench and slog over muddy ground or through tangled woods, ‘less is more.’ I bet that soldiers issued with protective plates would have discarded them. That is true of modern body armor—which actually works! Steel helmets make sense given the overwhelming risks from artillery, although some units were slow to catch on to that idea.

    Where the bayonet may be useful is in training soldiers to be aggressive and helping to instill a sense of confidence (Hence ongoing USMC bayonet training.). The purpose of most hand-to-hand combat training is to create a sense of confidence and aggression in soldiers (and I’m including marines, sailors, airmen, etc…. in my generic use of ‘soldier’ here.).



    [​IMG]

    — Elements of Trench Warfare: Bayonet Training, William Henry Waldron, 1917​


    I should note that Capt Waldron in his text emphasized the massed bayonet charge and teamwork in the assault. He seems to be a fan. Although the casualty figures, both sustained in these assaults and delivered by the bayonet make me question his conclusions. In reality, the bayonet charge proved to be a disaster for both sides, but more so, I believe, for British and French forces.

    Despite being hyped by the militaries of the day, they don’t seem to have been significant weapons.

    ”Looking into the obsolescence of the bayonet during the First World War is a complicated issue. As a direct killing weapon the bayonet was certainly past its prime, though it is debatable whether or not it ever had history. At best, a fraction of a percentage of total casualties were inflicted by the bayonet during the Great War, though unfortunately we will never know the true account for many deaths on any battlefield in modern numbers.”
    Just How Useless Was the Bayonet in the Great War?


    I recall Shelby Foote, in the tv series “The Civil War” stating that there were hardly any bayonet wounds in the American Civil War. What?! What about Chamberlain's charge?

    Turns out he was right. I have a Textbook of Military Medicine (Part I, Volume 5) that gives a table of causes of wounds for Union forces. Less than 5% were caused by “Cutting Weapons”. This from a war where cavalry closed with each other and hacked away with swords. ‘Hand-to-hand’ combat was not uncommon. Soldiers armed themselves with Bowie knives, daggers, and short swords in addition to bayonets. But I don’t think they were actually used much.

    That seems to be true of the First World War, too:

    “While popular literature emphasizes machine guns, rifles and bayonets, the grim reality was that two-thirds of all casualties on the Western Front were produced by artillery shells. Machine guns and rifles used the same ammunition, and between them produced most of the rest. Bayonet wounds were so uncommon that they were tabulated under “miscellaneous wounds” in the hospital log books.” — Injuries in World War I

    Still, there seems to have been a low-level use for bayonets. They proved handy, often enough, to warrant carrying them. Apparently Australians were both highly trained and more willing than most soldiers to employ the bayonet. They developed a reputation for engaging with the bayonet.

    “By the latter stages of the first world war, the Australians’ skill had manifested in the use of a particular lethal movement with the bayonet known as the “throat jab”.

    It is well illustrated in William Longstaff ’s iconic painting Night Attack by 13th Brigade at Villers- Bretonneux, which shows an Australian holding aloft his Lee Enfield, bayonet attached, and thrusting it into a German’s exposed throat.”


    [​IMG]


    “Still, in reality the bayonet’s role in the first world war was more prominent in the telling than on the battlefield. Sober analysis showed that the vast majority of deaths and casualties were put down to machine-guns and artillery. As for the Australians themselves, more than half of those admitted to field hospitals in France suffered injuries from shells and shell-shock, and more than a third from bullets. The combined tally from bombs, grenades and bayonets was just over 2%.”

    “Nonetheless, by 1939, the bayonet still had its place in every army. The true value of the bayonet was in the soldier’s mind, not at the end of his rifle. [emphasis added]

    That was true in two ways. While the greatest threat to the 20th century soldier was the bomb or the bullet delivered anonymously from afar, the most animating of fears was that of “cold steel” inserted into his body in a mortal duel, the most intimate form of combat death.

    The most feared weapons in war are not necessarily the most dangerous. One reason why field hospitals counted relatively few casualties caused by bayonet wounds may well have been that many a soldier turned and ran before taking his chances against a surging line of men, bayonets glistening, and in all likelihood adorning their advance with the kinds of cries or yells designed to curdle blood.” — Friday essay: a short, sharp history of the bayonet

    I for one regret the US Army’s decision to stop bayonet training (2010); while it has been an anachronistic art for 200 years, like Capt Waldron, I think it still has value in creating soldiers. Apaarently the USMC does, too. There is also the off chance that a bayonet charge may still prove to be effective. A British unit in 2012 used a bayonet charge to drive off Taliban from a village. No joke: The Bayonet Charge That Foiled The Taliban
     
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  17. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    I think the author is confusing trench knives (which had no teeth) with bayonets, whatever. There were some pretty nasty items issued to troops in WWI and if captured with one there were likely consequences.

    Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut is a fictional book, except for the scenes about his capture in the Battle of the Bulge and subsequent incarceration in Dresden in WWII, which all actually happened to him. It's been many, many years since I read the book, but one of the soldiers in his platoon had a WWI trench knife given him by his father. When the Germans found that knife on the soldier they beat him pretty badly then took his shoes and made him walk to the rear barefoot. That soldier died on the train of gangrene from his frostbitten feet.
    The US M1918 trench knife.
    [​IMG]
     
  18. Jack B

    Jack B Active Member Patron  

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    Did that knife see much service?

    I highly recommend the National World War One museum in Kansas City, Kansas. Aside from some great local barbecue, the museum was outstanding. They had a collection of trench knives, and might have had a 1918. But I thought I read that it didn't really see much use. It may have been produced too late in the war? (Or my memory could be completely wrong about that.)

    Highly recommend: NATIONAL WWI MUSEUM AND MEMORIAL
     
  19. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    impractical....I was in the military and that sounds impractical
    ...everyday use?
    WW2
    1.no one is going to carry around extra wood panels
    2. the bayonet can still slide off a panel and hit you
    3.. gets in the way of web harness/etc
    4.. bible size? pocket size or a huge bible size? = both impractical
    5.. what were deaths of bayonets vs arty/MGs/etc? very, very low
    6. put them in --take them out--when?
    etc
     
  20. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    Not impractical...I worked for defence for 15 years and studied war for 30...I’ve got an idea of what I’m talking about too...
    1. These panels can be stowed easily and are seriously light...ever picked up chip board or ply wood? Just an extra piece of kit.
    2. True but unlikely in a frontal attack, a face to face attack...no armour works if you find the weak or exposed areas...they found that out even with the Abrahms tanks...this isn’t a cure all, just a significant improvement on no protection at all.
    3. Gets in the way of nothing, these pockets to slide the panels into are under the tunic...it would be like putting a large wallet back into your jacket. Quick and easy.
    4. OK does paper back book make better sense? Not the thickness but the other dimensions are the same. As a rough indicator of size.
    5. Again talking really WW1 on this idea...tell someone who’s been bayoneted that their wound isn’t bad, or legitimate. Bayonets wouldn’t be around if they were useless. This isn’t about comparing to other methods of killing the enemy, it’s focused on the bayonet attack. Something that happened regularly in WW1 warfare.
    6. One would put them in when making a bayonet attack (so you expect to be closing with the enemy) or upon reporting for duty in the trenches every morning...remember these things are tucked away and very light, they could easily be worn all day. I wouldn’t bother with them in certain circumstances for sure, but when there a good chance of an attack from the enemy on your position, I’d wear them.

    some of your arguements were used against the use of steel helmets...and then they discovered the protection it afforded and made it compulsory...
     

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