Trench knife pattern 17

In 1917, the Austro-Hungarian soldiers got their hands on an inconspicuous weapon, which fully characterised the unprecedented brutality of trench warfare, in which there was no place for chivalrous manners or flashy weapons.

It fulfilled all the elements of mass consumption and its purposeful shape was underlined by its durable construction. The cheap materials used allowed mass production, churning out these daggers by the thousands. The appearance of the „butcher knife“, so unlike the beautifully crafted Art Nouveau parade sabres of the pre-war era, clearly declared where the perception and practical needs of modern warfare had shifted during the early years of the war. In the environment of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, it was essentially the first mass-produced modern combat knife, which is still found in the attics or drawers of many Czech households as a silent memory of the ancestors.

With a knife on the enemy
Nowadays often referred to as an assault knife, but officially a trench knife model 1917 (Grabendolch Modell 1917) was supplied in large quantities by several companies (e.g. Wlaszlovits in Štós near Košice, Slovakia).

The knife weighing 180 g had a single-edged blade 205 mm long and 26 mm wide (total length of the knife was 326 mm) with a central point and a false blade without cutting (such as the well-known rak.-uh. bayonet for the Mannlicher M 95 rifle). Three rivets held the oak-wood blades of primitive appearance.

The soldier’s hand was protected by a double-sided oval guard, which bears army acceptance marks (rarely also interwar, Czechoslovak). The steel scabbard of steel blue (early version) or grey colour of later pieces had a riveted plate on the back with a grip for a hanging strap made of leather or later of a substitute fabric.

The M 1917 trench knife was also worn unofficially, but still quite frequently on the belt of soldiers of the Czechoslovak First Republic Army until 1939. The individual and collective use of assault knives of various models originating from the First World War remained, however, quite common in many armies of the interwar period.

The „Seventeen“ did not disappear even during the Second World War, when it was widely used by the Hungarians and Italians. It is not without interest that the considerable demand for the legendary knife among collectors inspired the traditional Czech company Mikov to produce a limited series of distinctive replicas of the M 1917 dagger in 2009 on the occasion of the 215th anniversary of the company’s foundation.


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