Big Bertha

Big Bertha
Circa 1940, on the streets of Rochester New York, Bertha does her work.
"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

Paul Valery

"You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time."

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Thursday, November 09, 2006

More on Trench Raiding


Knuckle knives.
The big question, for me as well as those on some knife forums on which I've lurked is: "how useful were they?" I think that the reality is "not very" except when you look at the above picture taken from a contemporary publication called "The War Illustrated". You see a raid in progress as the Brits make their way from dugout to dugout clearing them out with "bombs" what the English call grenades. And check out these grenades. They look like medieval scepters. As mentioned in a previous post, I believe that knuckle knives developed as a "put it in your hand and forget about it" weapon for your idle hand the right being otherwise occupied as illustrated above. This belief is supported by the fact that they are indeed difficult to drop, but equally hard to deploy. None of them I've ever looked at, with the possible exception of the McNary pattern, would have been anything but a pain to get out of the sheath and into your hand quickly. The Robbins of Dudley knives invariably have the keeper strap going through a finger loop. Some almost have to put on like a glove so quick-draw weapons they ain't. With this in mind, imagine you're on a raid, creeping across no-man's-land in the dead of night to wreak havoc on the Boche. A lot of accounts say that rifles with bayonets were used on raids but I would find it extremely uncomfortable jumping into a trench which may only be a few feet wide with a weapon almost six feet long. How would you turn around in a hurry? And, contrary to the illustration, helmets were never worn. Too noisy during that long dark crawl. Then, crouching under the parapet waiting for the signal to "jump the bags" in makes perfect sense to get your sack of bombs together and put one of these wicked little blades in your other hand. Also, notice the grip used by the man in the illustration, overhand, icepick style. If you try holding a knife like this while you move about, you realize it's far easier to do so without accidently stabbing yourself as well as any of the foks with you. This would be especially true if you were not really paying attention to that hand as would be likely moving through an unfamiliar system of ditches in total darkness. Raids were never planned for moonlit nights. That long crawl through no-man's-land again.
Although none of the lad's ever allowed that these "stunts" as they called them were "good fun". The folks back home imagined them to be. The popular periodicals were also major cheerleaders for the high-command's view of "the fighting spirit". These links will lead you to "The War Illustrated" as well as another publication with the unlikely name of "The War Budget". I guess "budget" meant something else back then.

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