Date Published: 2015-08-20

The History Of Trench Knives

By Adelia Ladson
Trench knives, also called knuckle knives, were created to use in close quarters combat, during W.W.I, when the fighting was taking places primarily in the trenches. They became important weapons in a style of warfare that depended on overtaking an enemy’s trench line. Both the Allied and Axis forces continued to use them during W.W.II and improved on the original design as we have continued to do today.
M1918 Trench Knife This is military issue trench knife circa 1918.
M1918 Trench KnifeThis is military issue trench knife circa 1918.
The early versions of the trench knife were constructed by the soldiers themselves or ordinance blacksmiths. They were usually just shortened military-issue bayonets. The first military approved trench knife was created by a lieutenant colonel in the French Army. The United States soon followed suit and developed their own version based on the French design. The Mark I Trench Knife was issued to Army Rangers, Marine Raiders and airborne units during W.W.II. It featured a cast bronze “knuckle duster” guard, which wasn’t intended to be used as a weapon per se but to protect the fingers. However, the pommel, on the other hand, was designed to specifically bash in an enemy’s head.
Soldier WithTrench Knife A soldier with his trench knife on the cover of Life.
Soldier with Trench Knife A soldier with his trench knife on the cover of Life.
What made the trench knives so effective in trench warfare was that they could be quickly and easily maneuvered in tight spaces. Also, they were a silent weapon that could be used to take out sentries without raising the alarm a gunshot would. Yet, the Mark I’s merits as a trench weapon equaled its disadvantages as a utility knife. Soldiers found that the blade wasn’t built to open ration tins or ammo crates. They just weren’t constructed for utility use. According to sources on the web, the soldiers weren’t really fond of the U.S. military issued Mark I trench knife. The handle was made of cast bronze, which made it heavy and unwieldy as a weapon and the blade tended to snap when using it for prying. Also, it was expensive to produce the “knuckle duster” handle and better combat knife options appeared.
Eventually, the military replaced the trench knives with the Ka-Bar, an all-purpose weapon that was good as a combat knife and as a utility tool. However, they have stood the test of time and there are a variety of them available. Here are some of my favorite models.
United Cutlery Sentry Serrated Tanto Point Knife
What I like about this trench knife is that it is a completely modern and sleek looking weapon. This was made for today’s soldier to carry and does come with a shoulder harness sheath. The blade has a non-reflective coating that’s perfect for stealth missions and it has serrations and a tanto point. It’s just a straight out great knife that can pack a punch with its cast metal handguard – if needed.
WWI 1918 Replica Trench Knife
If you are looking to get an exact reproduction of the trench knives that were issued to the troops during World War I, then look no further. Folks, let me tell you, this is just a great piece of history here that you can own. It is exact down to the “U.S. 1918” engraved on the knuckle buster handle. The blade is double-edged and constructed of AUS-6 stainless steel.
Eagle Flag Assisted Opening Folding Trench Knife
I am definitely a sucker for anything patriotic and, to me, this trench knife is a great tribute to America. Another great thing about it is that it actually a folding knife with an assisted-opening mechanism. So, the trench knife is compact and built to carry anywhere and even has a pocket clip. The stainless steel blade is anodized.

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