The Smatchet: The Enormous Fighting Knife of World War II

Armies stopped using swords when the First World War broke. The advancement of firearm technologies basically rendered them obsolete, but armies never really discarded their edged weapons. In fact, up to now, a bladed implement is still a part of a soldier’s kit, with utility being its main usage. But back in World War I, a myriad of exotic, strange and frightening edged weapons were deployed in response to the brutal close-quarter fighting in the trenches. Daggers made a reappearance, with some having brass knuckles for hand guards. It was the situation that defined the blades, and the same was true in the Second World War.

In the battlefield of World War II, dagger-type and bowie knives were the most commonly carried edged weapons, though large machete type bladed implements also saw actions. In the pacific theater, knives like the Filipino bolo saw widespread deployment. It was the favored weapon of the ill-equipped guerilla units, being readily available, portable and silent. And in Europe, special forces also wielded their own version of a hewing blade. It was made to complement the smaller commando daggers, and with a blade length of approximately 16 inches, it resembled a sword rather than a knife. It was known by its catchy name, smatchet.

The Blades of the Special Forces
The F-S Commando Knife.

William E. Fairbairn was a man no one wants to cross. He first served in the Royal Marines before going to the Shanghai Municipal Police. There he engaged in hundreds of street fights, leaving his body scarred from brawls and knife wounds. His hands-on experiences in real-life violence helped him innovate firearms shooting techniques, and developed a training system for various special forces.

And together with Eric A. Sykes, they designed a fighting knife for commandos and clandestine units.

The Fairbairn–Sykes fighting knife was always associated with the British Commandos, and was designed to suit their needs for silent killing and close-combat. The knife is