Monday, 27 July 2015

Historical British Army Clasp Knife - a review

 The British Army clasp knife is a icon in its own right.
Copied and issued to other allied armies around the end of the Second World War, the knife and its simple yet effective design has lasted the test of time. It is still as robust and useful today as it was back then when our forebears fought to free the capitulated peoples of Europe from Nazi rule.

There are two basic models imaginatively described as the 2 piece and the 3 piece models. In the above pictures are two three piece models (the two bottom knives - one circa 1950s with Bakerlite scales and one circa 1960s onwards) and one two piece model with safety lock (top knife).

All the knives have a small 2-3 inch sheepsfoot blade, a can/bottle opener and in the case of the three piece, a marlin spike.

The marlin spike is more of a nautical item and in seamanship is used for ;-
  • As levers to open strands of laid rope when forming eyes or inserting items into the lay.
  • To untie knots that have tightened under tension.
  • As a lever or handle to tension marlin or rope using a marlin spike hitch, much tighter than by gripping the line with the hand alone.
  • As an improvised weapon against pirates (ooooh arrrrr me heartees).
However, it is also a pertinent tool for the soldier. During both wars it was used to remove pebbles from horses hooves for example. It was also used to punch holes in explosives for the insertion of detonators and back in the days of composite rations, the spike was ideal for making pouring holes in the old squaddy favourite .... cans of condensed milk!

The modern tool is stainless steel and a very surgical clean piece of kit, which once sharpened takes(and holds) a good edge.

The older model (here a Belgian army three piece) is made of carbon steel and throws a good spark when struck with flint ........ a great advantage in a survival situation if you know how to capture said spark. Its disadvantage is the blade will rust if not looked after.

The two piece knife comes in both a locking and non-locking model. The non-locking model being the more authentic British army one and the UK LEGAL version too.

Pictured above is a two piece model with lock in a leather sheath. This is a ideal way to carry this small unobtrusive knife on the belt. All these knives come with a shank onto which a lanyard can be tied, this is ideal if the risk of losing your knife is great.
The above sheath, with knife, will soon be available from the BaSS website. Alternatively you can order them directly from the maker at

In use the knife is a great little work horse and will do all the tasks required of a tool of its size. Be mindful of the lack of lock!
It is a good utility tool and ideal for food prep but the blade is also a excellent carving tool in its own right and will even produce a passable feather for fire lighting.

Both knife and sheath available soon - watch this space for further details..