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

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Variable "V-44"



We've gone through this before, the V-44 nomenclature issue, so I'll just link back to where I covered that in case anyone needs to be brought up to speed.
Even though the actual Case V-44, a utilitarian, bolo-bladed mini-machete, was about the same size, all the big Bowies that came about as spinoffs from the Collins #18 machete (above at right) came to be called generically, V-44's. So be it.
They were popular. The Army Air Corps adopted the Collins as a survival-kit machete in the mid-thirties however, it became famous for it's contribution to the efforts on Guadalcanal. This background is all covered on my website. They were obviously popular even before as shown by the above photo. A Royal Australian Air Force ground crew pushing an aircraft in New Guinea at about the same time Evan Carlson was ordering his #18's. The guy on the right, as you can see, is packing.



The Collins Axe, Adze and Machete Co. of Connecticut had been in business for over a century before pilots even knew they needed survival machetes. They were founded in 1826 from an earlier, apparently successful venture in rum trading. They went from there straight to axes,etc, remaing in business until the mid-sixties. As shown above, their wares were quite pretty in the 19 century. Ornate, cast brass handles and the ubiquitous, double fuller along the spine of the blade, as shown on the example to the right.
The double fuller shows up predominantly in many of the third-world spinoffs of the Collins #18. Below are three photos, taken from Ron Flook's book "British and Commonwealth Knives", and showing the V-44 as interpreted in India.I like the modified handle shape but what I find interesting is that the makers of all three of had gone to the trouble of adding those purely decorative fullers.
The Australians didn't find the fullers so captivating. As shown below, only one of the three is so marked.
The middle example is one I find especially intriguing. Flook says they're somewhat common and the one shared factor is a "...low standard of manufacture". They were apparently purchased blades, put together with handles and guards in people's garages as a cottage industry. Another common feature is that the two halves of the handle have an off-center glue line. This means nothing but that the maker didn't want to chisel out both sides, but it's an oddity which seems common to all of this type. My theory is that there were plans either published or otherwise available so the average home handyman could get in on the WW2 knife trade, do his bit for the war effort.
In closing, the fullers are attractive if non-functional. In fact, I'm thinking about a jig to hold my angle-grinder and I'll move into the gratuitous, fuller-copying thing myself.
Finally, the New Zealander's contribution. No fullers I might add. This is the knife I copied for my own V-44 (see "website" link above) and is shown below on the left.
On the right we have Howard Cole's rendering of same but he gets it wrong. A Carlson, of Carlson's Raiders fame, did purchase 1000 of these aluminum-handled knives but, he was the Colonel's son - and his Marines weren't Raiders. Still I think it's a cool knife, and it's the one I'd choose if the world ended and I only got one pick for a blade to carry.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

how were these knifes marked i found a old knife the only thing i can make out on blade is maybe s t a the blade is rusty an pitted

Bob Brock said...

V-44's were made by so many different people, they could be marked with anything - or nothing.

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