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History of Collecting

Adrian Van Dyk

In the early years of military knife collecting, there were very few books to refer to. The first one that Adrian Van Dyk came across was American Knives by Harold Peterson, published in 1958. It was a wonderful read and he still recommends it for anyone interested. He then corresponded with Mr. Peterson for years and shared information with him.

An early collector was Lt. Col. Ben Eubanks, who wrote some articles about military knives that were published in the journal of the Company of Military Historians. Col. Eubanks facilitated my joining of this organization. Until now, Adrian is still a life member.

Another knife enthusiast like Adrian is George Irvine, a WWII member of the US Navy branch of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the CIA. He was a photographer during his stint in the OSS and made a training film about knife fighting. This featured Col. Fairbairn, designer of the Fairbairn-Sykes stiletto, hand-to-hand combat specialist, and author of various books on knife fights.

George amassed a very large number of military knives. Adrian and US and Foreign were very fortunate to purchase his collection when he decided to
sell spit.

Lacking published sources, information was acquired from other collectors, studying existing specimens, digging through magazines, reading through military publications and arms dealer’s sales catalogs, and contacting manufacturers. A lot of correspondence was carried out between collectors and the officers of knife companies. Workers who made the knives were also interviewed and information taken from them proved quite helpful.

In 1971, Adrian and his wife Judy took a trip to England. We spent two weeks there by going to a gun show in London, buying things, and traveling to Sheffield. From there, he inquired of anyone who was still manning the mostly closed-up factories if they had any slabs of mother-of-pearl. He had a market for this material for people who wanted to replace broken pearl on existing knives or use it for custom knives.

The expenses for the two weeks’ time they stayed in England were paid by the several packages of pearl he bought from one of the knife companies. He also got to meet with George Ibberson, Jr. and purchased several gravity paratroop knives that his company had made for the OSS/SOE during WW2.

Gordon Hughes, a military knife collector in England had produced a book titled “A Primer of Military Knives/European & American Combat, Trench & Utility Knives.” This consisted of line drawings, photographs, and descriptions. Some interesting knives were illustrated in his work and Adrian sold
copies of it.

Adrian and Judy took the train to Brighton and had a nice visit with him. He was also able to purchase some knives from Gordon, which included several British-issued Smatchets.

As a knife collector, Adrian subscribed to various English auction catalogs that dealt with weapons and military artifacts. He had an agent in London bid for him and arrange for shipment of his purchases and picked up some very fascinating knives in that manner.

One he remembers having was a WWI Welsh knife. The description from Gordon Hughes’ book is as follows: “Perhaps the most fearsome of WW1 close combat weapons, the massive ‘Welsh Knife’, carried by machine-gunners, raiding parties etc. of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers-used to good effect at the battle of Messines Ridge in 1917. The design was based on an ancient Welch Sword, and weapons were provided by Lord Howard de Walden…sometimes found with the Welsh motto on the blade “DROSS URDDAS CYMRU” (for the dignity of Wales) the blade is 17 ½” long and 3” wide….”

The leaf-shaped blade design was probably copied in the design of the WWII Smatchet.

Adrian and I have been very good friends for many years. I had a reputation of locating knives in what Howard Cole described as “drippy mint” condition. That is because I aim to come up with knives that are outstanding in condition.

I have amassed an amazing collection of knives and used them to illustrate two books that are very well done according to Adrian. The first book is U.S. and Allied Military Knives M3’s and M’4s and the second book is U.S. and Allied Military Knives World War II.

Both books are fine quality publications on nice glossy paper and have many beautiful photos of tremendous quality knives. The second book is massive, weighing 8.5 pounds and contains photos of various knives that I have never seen. According to Adrian, it would certainly be difficult to surpass this work.

Since Adrian stopped collecting military knives, much information has been revealed and published about the subject. Mike Silvey has authored several excellent books on U.S. military knives while Frank Trazaka has become quite an expert and writes for various publications. Through the internet, research on the subject is much easier now with instant knowledge at your fingertips.

One article Adrian wrote for the American Blade Magazine was titled “Knuckle Knives of WWI.” He explored and had photographs of knives, including some rare and experimental variations.

Adrian met Greg Aloisio at the MAX show in Pennsylvania two years ago. He was selling his first book on knuckle knives which caught Adrian’s attention to his table. He introduced himself to Greg and they proceeded to talk about the subject matter.

During that time, Adrian had just finished work on a book titled “Communist Bloc Handguns,” authored by George Layman with some of his handguns pictured in this book. They made a deal to trade books, to their mutual satisfaction.

From this first introduction, they formed a friendship and are the reason you are reading this today. He has reviewed a rough draft, found it very interesting, and is looking forward to receiving his copy as I am sure that you are enjoying yours now. Adrian and I wish you many years of
happy collecting!

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