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, December 07, 2006

Some Hatchet! Smatchet


I must admit, with no small amount of embarrassment, that this is all I could come up with for an origin of the name of this most interesting WW2 knife. Luckily I stumbled onto this definition from the Superior Dictionary (intended for people who want to sound 'superior' - Hey that's me!)

n. A small, nasty person, or a nasty child. "Why, Carol — you've brought the twins! Gosh, when I see them together — smatchet and smatchet — I think I'm seeing double!"

Elsewhere I found out that this definition is reputed to be Scottish. I'm reminded that my own name, Brock, is Old English for European Badger (cool) as well a disagreeable fellow (again, Hey, that's me!).
Enough grabass. The pic is a knife I'm in the process of finishing, bound soon for Merrie Olde England. It's a smatchet, designed by W. E. Fairbairn (Scottish for "pale baby" I'm guessing. The good major would certainly kick my ass for saying that, so I'll quit now). Anyway, William Ewart Fairbairn, designer of the Shanghai fighting knife as well as many others, was reputed to have designed this in cooperation with my homeboy, Rex Applegate. It rates mention in Fairbairn's WW2 vintage manual "Get Tough" and as you can see to the left: at least one British Commando carried one. I've always thought the smatchet looked a bit silly but now, having made one, I can only agree with the good Major:
"The psychological reaction of any man, when he first takes the smatchet in his hand is full justification for its recommendation as a fighting weapon. He will immediately register all the essential qualities of good soldier - confidence, determination, and aggressiveness. Its balance, weight and killing power, with the point, edge or pommel, combined with the extremely simple training necessary to become efficient in its use, make it the ideal personal weapon for all those not armed with a rifle and bayonet." It's very well-balanced and makes one feel wicked-bad.
The Major had some rather eclectic souce material. He was reputed to haunt the Tower of London, always on the hunt for interesting blades. Some say the smatchet was inspired by the Welsh Sword, aka the Royal Welch Fusiliers machine gunner's sword. This was cosiderably longer in the blade, 17 1/2" vs 11 1/2" and boasted a really cool folding guard. This feature made it a patentable item by its designer, a French artist named Felix Jourbert in 1917. It was designed from the Welsh "Cledd". I couldn't find any specific references for that however. The best I can offer is this Welsh saying:
* Segurdod yw clod y cledd."
Translation: "A sword's honor is its idleness."

In closing, more information can be found regarding the good Major at this link.
Smatchet purchasable here.

5 comments:

Stephen Renico said...

Dan,

That smatchet is a beaut!

Anonymous said...

I've always heard the smatchet desgin was based on the Roman gladius, now it is welsh?

Deathinlonging said...

The smatchet and gladius differ heavily in use. The gladius was a specialized stabbing weapon, whereas the Smatchet seems to be more oriented towards hacking, likely why it is weighted the way it is. While the official use "instructions" did include a stabbing move, that was to the gut (soft target), and the rest were hacking, slashing, or use of the heavy weight of the knife focused by the pommel.

Michael Z. Williamson said...

I believe smash plus hatchet = smatchet. It was intended as a fighting/pioneering/wrecking tool.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was a compression of "Small Hatchet"

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