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Interesting little lot

Article about: G'day fella's, I picked these up not so long ago as a small lot. Para badge appears post WW2 (slider) but it's the pin that's of interest. Appears to be a Middle East fighting knife. These w

  1. #1

    Default Interesting little Commando/Para lot

    G'day fella's,
    I picked these up not so long ago as a small lot.
    Para badge appears post WW2 (slider) but it's the pin that's of interest. Appears to be a Middle East fighting knife. These were used by 50, 51 and 52 Commando in the Med/Middle east and the Chindits in Burma I believe.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    A quick copy and paste...."These very scarce knuckle knives are known as ”Death’s Head” due to the glaring visage that can be seen in the design of the brass knuckle hilt. Until recently little has been known about these knives, other than they were used by the 50th, 51st and 52nd British Commando units in the Middle East during the early days of the Second World War, and were probably procured and produced in Egypt. British GHQ, Middle East Land Forces, formed these three commando units between July and November of 1940. As was normal in the British military, the men who formed these commando units were British volunteers from other British army units. Some of which has also served as volunteers during the Spanish Civil War, fighting fascist forces in Spain. According to research published by Ron Flook in British And Commonwealth Military Knives, the design of the knife was inspired by a knife in the Cairo Police Museum that was referred to as the “fanny”, although is not clear where the nickname originated. The knives were produced locally in Egypt by at least a handful of cutlers, and minor variations are observed in the extant examples. The majority of the knives have a single edged blade that is reversed in the hilt with the edge “up” when it is held properly in the users hand, instead of the traditional downward facing orientation. This allowed the user to slit the throat of an enemy from behind without changing the grip on his knife. The blade was mated with a cast brass hilt that formed a wicked set of brass knuckles, which also resembled a maniacal face, resulting in the “Death’s Head” nickname. Most examples have blades that are approximately 6” in length and have an overall length of around 11 ¾”. Some knives were manufactured with repurposed bayonet blades, often from British Pattern 1907 bayonets. Some extant examples have a four-digit serial number stamped on the brass hilt near the blade juncture and a couple of known examples also bear an inspection mark. The unique design of the wicked looking knife was so identifiable and inspiring to the men who carried them, that the British Commando forces who were issued the knives chose to adopt a miniature version of the knife as their unit designation pin and wore it on their bush hats with pride. The Middle East Commando forces 50 and 52 were rather short lived, and in February of 1942 they were combined to make the backbone of a new, larger special operations group called “Layforce” for their commander Colonel Robert Laycock. However, the 51st commandos remained in tact as an autonomous force during this period. The units participated in most of the British Middle East campaigns during the first half of 1941, including the Raid on Bardia, the Syria-Lebanon campaign, the Twin Pimples raid and the siege of Tobruk. In August of 1941 both Layforce and the 51st Commandos were disbanded. Some members went on to establish Mission 204, a unit that supported and trained Chinese “Surprise Troops” who were Nationalist Chinese guerillas fighting the Japanese in their own country. Other former Middle East commandos saw service in similar roles in Burma, as well as teaching at the Bush Warfare School in that country. Many more returned to the original regiments that they had volunteered from, or went on to service in other British command units. No doubt many of these former Middle East Commandos carried their ”Death’s Head” knuckle knives with them to their new units, resulting in the knives seeing use around the globe."
    50,51,52 Commando locally made hat/beret badge possibly.
    These were picked up here in Australia and make an interesting pair I feel.

    All the best
    Last edited by Thanatos; 09-05-2015 at 01:21 AM. Reason: added text

  2. #2


    Sorry to say but the para badge is a fake. The 50/52 commando badge has been extensively faked, though I am not familiar with them to comment on if it is good or not.


    Whatever its just an opinion.

  3. #3


    I did some research on the ME commando badge and I am sorry to report that it is probably a copy. Any chance of some better pics of it just to be certain? There are variations among originals which were all cast in theater, but usually have some finishing to the blade.


    Whatever its just an opinion.

  4. #4


    Hi Jerry,
    I to had my doubts re the Para badge mate (wing tips for starters) but the Commando badge looked half ok when compared to known repros. As you say being theatre made there are a number of slight variations with these (manufacture) from what I've seen so far. I will post some better images early next week. They only cost me a 20 so if no good then no loss.
    Thanks Jerry.

    All the best

  5. #5


    As you note Dave, the wing tips on the para are the obvious give away. As you say, the commando badge is not so easy to call out as bad 100%, I had a look and found many variants that are considered originals.


    Whatever its just an opinion.

  6. #6


    Thanks mate.
    With the Comm badge I guess there are so many repros out there it's now hard to pick originals due the nature of manufacture of the period pieces. Another grey area caused by greed IMO.

    Thanks again Jerry

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