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Canadian Army Edged Tools

Artifacts and photos courtesy of Ed Storey

Throughout the 20th Century, Canadian soldiers were issued (or purchased) a variety of pocket knives and tools to assist them in such various tasks as small cutting jobs, tying and untying rope, minor weapons repairs, etc.   The tool issued in the first half of the century was officially called a "clasp knife" and was a small, hand-sized pocket knife with folding blade(s), as well as the famous "Marlin Spike."  The spike is subject of some controversy among collectors; various descriptions tell us that is was used by sailors to assist with knots, others say it was used to clean horses' hooves.

The clasp knife was eventually replaced by other patterns of folding knife (and deleting the marginally useful Marlin Spike), and in the 1990s - perhaps in response to the number of soldiers purchasing Leatherman tools and other implements which featured a wide range of devices beyond a mere cutting blade - the Gerber combination tool was made official issue. 

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It should be noted that the cleaning kits of weapons such as the Bren Gun and FN C1 also had what was called a "combination tool" with which to perform specific maintenance tasks on those particular weapons.

Other edged tools were used in the field; machetes were commonly used in the World War Two and after, and were as widely issued as axes/hatchets.  They could be used for cutting underbrush to clear fields of fire or bed down for the night, as well as cutting snow and ice when operating in arctic conditions.

This listing does not include Commando and other "fighting" knives which are properly a seperate subject.

Unless otherwise indicated, all photos and artifacts are from Ed Storey.

Issue Pocket Knives

Clasp Knife - The clasp knife was a standard issue item from the early days of the century.  By World War Two, it was commonly carried in a uniform pocket, often suspended from a lanyard (when coloured lanyards were introduced for the Battle Dress uniform, the official purpose   for Other Ranks was to secure the clasp knife while officers attached whistles to theirs).  A metal D ring with web loop can be seen in many period photos as well, attached to the 1937 Pattern waistbelt when in the field, to which a clasp knife is secured.

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RCN clasp knife.

Ebay photo
 

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Second World War
dated knives as used by the Army

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RCN clasp knife

Author's  photo

 
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Second World War Canadian clasp knives as used by the Canadian Army (left) and Royal Canadian Navy. Second World War British clasp knives; these would not have been uncommon among Canadian troops as well. Post-1945 Canadian Army clasp knife.

 

Canadian Signalman's Knife - The use of special knives by signalmen goes back to before the Second World War; the knives were used to strip wire and were carried in the leather Signalman's Belt Pouch.

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Ed Storey adds: This is known as the TL-29 which stands for Tool for Linemean 29 which  is probably the year that it was introduced.    This knife is part of the TE-33 Tool Equipment 33 and consists of leather Pouch CS-34 in which Pliers Tl-13A and TL-29 Knife fit into.
 

C5 - The standard utility tool issued beginning in the 1980s and continuing through to 1998 was the C5.  Sturdily constructed, the C5 had a ring for attachment to a lanyard as well as two separate blades.  A pouch was added on the 1982 Pattern web gear Knife-Fork-Spoon carrier specifically for tools of this size.  Private purchase Swiss Army knives could also be carried in this pouch.

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Gerber - The Gerber replaced the C5 knife in 1998; several useful tools were contained in one single unit, including a screwdriver and pliers.  Show also is the black web carrier for the tool, usually worn on the waistbelt of the combat trousers and secured closed by velcro.   A foldout lanyard attachment is provided with the Gerber that can be used when desired/needed.

Steve Forth of 3 PPCLI passes on some other info:  Leatherman tools were commonly used as private purchase items (in fact, the webmaster himself also carried one in the early 1990s) by many troops and may have been a special issue to some small numbers such as Pioneer platoons.  The tools were apparently commonly used in 2 PPCLI's pioneer platoon, for example, in 1991.  The use (official or unofficial) of the Leatherman was before the introduction of the Gerber to replace the C5.

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Leatherman - See above under notes for the Gerber; while not an official issue item (though it may have been issued in limited numbers to some subunits), the Leatherman was a popular tool carried and used by many soldiers throughout the Canadian Forces in the early 1990s.  


Other Knives:
 
Russell Belt Knife - a variety of larger knives have been popular among Canadian soldiers, especially towards the last decades of the 20th century.  The Russell belt knife at right is one example; this knife was actually standard issue to the Special Service Force of the 1970s and remained on inventory up into the 1980s.  Other "Rambo" style knives and other similar items have also been carried as private purchase items throughout the Canadian military.

Steve Forth of 3 PPCLI further informs the webmaster that the knife is (as of 2002) still issued to all members of his battalion (at least) as part of "light infantry kit" by the Regimental Quarter Master Stores.  Ed Storey also points out that the knife is also issued (again, as of 2002) to field engineers and para-trained soldiers.

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Other Edged Tools

Machete - a variety of machetes have been used by the Canadian Army; the examples below include (from top to bottom) a British Second World War era machete, a Canadian Second World War machete, and at bottom a US manufactured machete dating from 1968.  Throughout the 1970s, '80s and '90s the Canadian Army relied to a considerable extent on Vietnam era US equipment (though much of it was actually manufactured much later than the end of the Vietnam War), from M35 trucks and M113 personnel carriers, to field radios and their backpacks, to jungle boots.   This machete is a fine example of that trend.  

Vehicle collectors have noted that photographs of Canadian jeeps rarely show axes or hatchets mounted in the pioneer rack of such vehicles and have inferred that greater reliance on machetes is the cause.

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