Saturday, July 23, 2011

Fairbairn-Sykes Commando Dagger

Many fighting blades have achieved iconic status over the centuries. The Roman gladius, the Scottish claymore, the Saracen scimitar, and the American Bowie - all resonate in the imagination, and each is forever associated with the fighting men who used it. Among more recent blades, none has achieved such an iconic status as the Fairbairn-Sykes (F-S) dagger. Created for the new Commando force during World War II, using experience learned from Shanghai knife-fighting experiments of the 1930s, the "Commando dagger" was the fighting knife of this new breed of soldier, and for half a century it has remained the symbol of military elites around the world. The F-S dagger was designed for the World War II British Commandos, arguably the forerunners of every modern special forces unit from the Rangers to the SAS. In June 1940, when the Commandos were formed to take the war to the Germans, Britain found itself in a tenuous position -driven out of Europe and fearing German invasion. Firearms were in short supply, to the extent that early Commandos drew their Thompson submachine guns when leaving for a raid and turned them in upon their return so that another Commando unit could use them - woe to any man who lost his! Appeals even had to be made to Canadian and US sport shooters to donate weapons to arm the British Home Guard. The issuing of a handgun to each Commando as a secondary weapon, a common practice among special forces units today, was not an option.