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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

World War I: Return of the Bowie Knife

The following excerpt is from Georges Blanchon's The New Warfare (1917):
We must look forward to a mighty development in operations of this kind when we attempt to force trenches that are strongly constructed, defended by unconquerable artillery, and when we cannot obtain mastery of the air. It may also happen that, if the supply of explosives gives out, the mine, rapidly enlarged and lengthened, will be a mere prelude to a direct attack with cold steel. The latter is still the ultima ratio of fighting. Artillery duels, mine explosions, the sweep of the machine-gun, the throwing of hand-grenades, are all when analysed only preparations. They all lead to a hand-to-hand fight. Consequently the bayonet has always played a role of supreme importance, deciding the fate of many a desperate encounter. Even the bayonet is too long for the narrow field of carnage of the trenches. The rifle hinders the grenadiers when hurling their petards, crawling between the lines and cutting barbed wire. They prefer to arm themselves with a long dagger, a regular "bowie-knife" fastened to the waist. But the best weapon for this kind of work is perhaps a short South African club, the knobkerrie, which has met with considerable success in the British Army. If the machine-rifle supplants our bayonet-holder, who knows but that a light spear, slung across the back, will effect a final separation between the two death-dealing weapons? Our fighting men only need a shield to be like the warriors in the Iliad.
  A World War I-issue mace, or knobkerrie.

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