Much has been written over many years about the escape knife, some of which can be unintentionally misleading and not now supported by available evidence. For me, the primary reference regarding the escape knife was the book “British and Commonwealth Military Knives”1 (refer page 48) written by Ron Flook (an eminent UK military knife historian) and first published in 1999. More recent research undertaken by Flook of documents in the UK Public Records Office, as published in his article in the April 2009 edition of Knife World: “Is it or Isn’t it SOE?”, identifies a catalogue2 that provides precise details of the original escape knife, as having “the catalog number of 5/188 along with a description of “KNIVES ALL-PURPOSE” – see following insert.
For the collector, this is what an “OSS/SOE Escape knife” should looks like. Any differentiation from this image (perhaps apart from the “Ibberson” version detailed later in this Collector Note) indicates that the knife is less than complete (e.g. broken sawblades, missing saw blades, etc.) or has been re-assembled from parts.
A ny suggestion that a non-conforming example is a “prototype”, “rare version”, etc. is often an intention to mis-lead (a possible example of this is the Joseph Rodgers “parts knife” described in the “LOOSE ENDS” section of this Collector Note). The valid exceptions, of course, are the examples detailed in Cole III where there is a provenance that connects these pre and post-production knives back to the Joseph Rodgers factory – see explanation and elaboration in the later section “Phase 3: the OSS/SOE Escape Knife, circa 1941 – 1945” of this Collector Note, and in Appendix 2.
In addition, a most informative article: “The Elusive MI9 Escape Knife”3 by Brian Moyse & Roy Shadbolt in the September 2014 edition of Knife World magazine provides a detailed World War 2 and post-War context for the Escape Knife.
After completing the final draft of this Collector Note, a colleague directed me to a more recent article in the October 2016 edition of Knife World by Brian Moyse & Allan Moyse titled “A Rodgers Military Special”4 which provides extensive details of the precursor of the OSS/SOE Escape Knife – being the Joseph Rodgers “Military Knife P.1633”and its variants – see following. There is a strong commonality between what I had written in the final draft about this knife and what the Moyses’ had written, so I have adopted their terminology to differentiate between the four known versions of the “Military Knife P.1633” and hopefully achieve some consistency in the terminology used by collectors.
1 Ron Flook, British and Commonwealth Military Knives. Howell Press, 1999
2 “Secret Agent’s Handbook of Special Devices” Public Records Office, London 2000
3 Brian Moyse & Roy Shadbolt “The Elusive MI9 Escape Knife” article in the September 2014 edition of Knife World magazine
4 Brian M Moyse & Allan H Moyse “A Rodgers Military Special” article in the October 2016 edition of Knife World magazine