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Second Front Shop

Holloway Road


Beginning in the Roman era, various fighting blades have become known classics that are always linked to the fighting force who used them. In recent times, no blade is a better example of this fame than the Fairbairn-Sykes dagger. Shanghai knife-fighting experiments were the inspiration for the blade, created especially for Commando soldiers during World War II, and it continues to embody elite military units worldwide.

The British Commandos of World War II would precede all modern special forces units, like the SAS. The creation of the blade came about in dual circumstances. Primarily, firearms were in short supply and so the subsequent attacks on the Germans were weaker than they might have been. Furthermore, those charged with coming up with a solution intended to allow Commandos to be more aggressive and engage more with the enemy when attacking. The Fairbairn-Sykes dagger proved to be an excellent weapon for close combat and a symbol of the Commandos’ power and status. Back home, the dagger was widely used in patriotic material to symbolise the British fighting spirit and determination to win.

William Ewart Fairbairn and Eric Anthony Sykes are considered revolutionaries in modern close combat techniques and it is believed by some that each 1st Pattern Fairbairn-Sykes dagger was inspected by them, creating a connection between them and the owner. Variations in design mean that three Patterns are available to collect, some of which have the name of an owner engraved on the blade. The dagger remains part of many special forces units and is often used as a presentation piece. The spirit and aggression intended to be behind the original design is still true of the Fairbairn-Sykes dagger today, helping it to remain a time-honoured specimen.

IMAGE: This close-up of the classic carotid thrusts taught to World War II special forces is delivered by a member of the US 1st Special Service Force on one of the night raids this unit carried out, killing German soldiers and leaving calling cards to dishearten the survivors. Severing the carotid artery could be expected to cause unconsciousness in five seconds and death in twelve seconds.