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

Sunday, April 29, 2007

"Hey, little Cobra, don't you know you're gonna shut 'em down"


Tne title reference is a bit juvenile, I admit. Not because of its subject, the single coolest car ever manufactured, but because it doesn't relate to the matter at hand.
The damage being done, let me introduce an AC Cobra 427. This is a Carol Shelby creation from the early sixties, comprising an aluminum-bodied two-seater manufactured by AC Cars of Great Britain with a giant Ford V8 dropped into it. It was available with either a 289 or a 427. The story's more complicated than that, but this isn't about cars, no matter how ass-kickin'. In any case, according to a Road and and Track magazine I read back when I cared about such, either model approached 90mph in second gear. Good enough? I think so.
Now that I have your attention, here's the spoiler. I don't mean that - at least I hope I don't. Weapons are cooler than cars. Am I right?
Our old friend, William Ewart Fairbairn, while in his dotage, was still knife crazy. Even though the world at large is still ga-ga over the F/S stilletto of WW2, old Fairbairn was moving forward in different directions.
In the fifties, the Brits were hitting some snags in Cyprus, so they sent old Fairbairn to teach the local constabulary such niceties as point-shooting and riot control. During this period, he designed what has been called his favorite knife which he named "The Cobra".
Before we give away the game, let's just say that it was an incurved fighting knife with more than a few precedents around the world.
The story begins, as many do, in Mespotamia where the Sumerians used a "sickle sword". This was adopted and improved upon by the Egyptians who called it a Kopesh and it evolved further into a Greek knife (with a Greek spelling) the Kopis. Notice that the illustration shows it being held in preparation for an overhead cut. The Greeks, under Alexander, went East to India. While in the West, the Romans, who adopted everything of the Greeks and just gave them different names, used the falcatta. The falcatta looks essentially the same as the kopis. The Romans weren't known for their originality.
The knives that this grew into in the East include the Kukri (next photo), common to India, Nepal and Afganistan and most famously used for the bobbing off of unsuspecting German heads during wee-hours raids in WW1 Flanders.
The knife pictured is mine, one of two that my Grandparents, Baptist missionaries, brought back from Northern India in the 1940's. Many a time I took it and its companion to show-and-tell only to have kids tell me, "That's not a real head-choppin' off sword". If I had only known. It's a very well-made shiv even though it's obviously the "tradesman grade" and check out the authentic East Asian rubber bands holding the sheath together.
Another Eastern example is the ginunting of the Southern Islands of the Phillippine archipelago. This is the style of knife favored by my colleague, Stephen Renico at "The Panday's Gazette".
Back to the source, the Middle East, conveniently close to Cyprus where Fairbairn is now (1956) looking for ideas. From Turkey, a 19th century example of a yataghan.
Finally, what all this is in aid of is that I've endeavored to reproduce the Cobra based on the one photo available.

It can be looked at, drooled over wondered at (along the lines of: "what the hell was he thinking?") or even purchased, here.
Adieu.

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