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Clasp Knives

Part 7

Image Collection 6

Gavin K. Watt

Every soldier was issued with a clasp knife for general use. The Canadians continued to employ the Great War pattern of knife which had stainless steel scales; a large, bull-nosed cutting blade and a long marlinspike for easing knots in the omnipresent natural-fibre rope that was used for a wide variety of purposes throughout the army. There were two patterns of can opener: 1) the rocker type and, 2) the punch and lever type with an integral bottle cap opener. Obviously, the steel scales were uncomfortable in freezing weather.

The second pattern was British designed and made. It was a smaller knife with hard rubber scales, the same three tools and the addition of a useful, short, non-retractable slot screwdriver. Clearly, rubber scales were far better for winter use. Photo evidence suggests that all of 3CID and 2CAB received this British knife.

Both patterns of knife had a metal loop at one end and pictorial evidence indicates that a purpose-built hook was issued to the soldier for hanging his knife from a trousers’ belt loop. Some soldiers may have used spare Bren sling hooks for the purpose, as the MkII Bren only required one and slings were issued with two.

Another method of carriage, which I have not been able to illustrate with a photo, was to hang the knife from a lanyard tied around the waist.


Three different patterns of knives, two of British manufacture and one Canadian.  All were worn by Canadians during the Second World War.


The knife on the left is of British manufacture and one above is of Canadian manufacture. 

Clasp a130610.jpg

1. A Perth Regiment sniper wearing the Canadian-pattern knife hooked to the belt loop of his trousers, Orsogna, Italy, 29Jan44.
(LAC, PA130610)

Clasp a115460-v6.jpg

2. A Signalman and officer of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals digging a slit trench, Ifs, France, Jul44. This British knife is not hanging from a trousers’ belt loop, but perhaps from a tab on a ‘non-reg’ leather belt.
(LAC, PA115460)

Clasp a177652-v6.jpg

3. A South Saskatchewan Regiment, 2CID Bren gunner wearing the Canadian pattern clasp knife seemingly hooked to a split-ring mounted on his trousers’ belt loop, Nieuport, France, 09Sep44.
(LAC, PA177652)

Clasp a174406-v6.jpg

4. A Sapper of 31st Field Coy, Royal Canadian Engineers organizes German prisoners captured at Boulogne, France, 18Sep44. He wears a British clasp knife using a ring and hook system.
(LAC, PA174406)

Clasp a114378-v6.jpg

5. A sergeant of 14th Army Field Regiment, 2 Canadian Corps pretending to work on the breech of a 25 pdr Sexton Self Propelled gun wears his British clasp knife hung on a belt loop using what appears to be a purpose-built hook, Tilburg, Holland, 17Mar45.
(LAC, PA114378)

Clasp a130943-v6.jpg

6. Men of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, 2CID lined up for a hot meal at Groningen, Holland, 14Apr45. One infanteer has his Canadian clasp knife hooked to his belt loop.
(LAC, PA130943)

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