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Andrew Upton

WW1 military issue billhook

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Andrew Upton

Just acquired the following 1914 dated military issue bill-hook to go with my WW1 Machine Gunners equipment. Does anyone have an example or any good pictures of the scabbard that would have gone with it, so I can get a local leatherworker to replicate one for me?

Thanks in advance,

post-2039-1171157779.jpg

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walrus

Andrew,

Are you sure it would have had a scabbard?

Wouldn't it just have gone in the toolbox as it stands?

Tom the Walrus

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auchonvillerssomme

Thats a good question, I dont think they had a 'scabbard' I've never seen one or anything that looks like one but were carried by infantry going over on 1st July so I wonder where they carried them. Military marked billhooks and machetes are perhaps commoner than we think, they come up fairly regularly on ebay, Brades are a common maker, its always worth searching through tool boxes at antique markets and bootfairs.

Mick

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Max Poilu

Andrew,

Cannot help with a billhook but if it is any use I have handy a 1916 Machete handy with 1918 scabbard. I am sure the style of construction would have been similar at least. These machetes and scabbards were unchanged certainly through the 2nd WW. Some pics:

More:

post-569-1171182599.jpg

post-569-1171182640.jpg

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auchonvillerssomme

the sheaths for that type of machete remained the same certainly into the 1950's but the later handles were a type of plastic/bakelelite?

Mick

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Max Poilu

That's right - the machetes even today are much the same. The early machetes had compressed fibre handles but IIRC I have seen WW2 dated examples with the same type too.

Andrew,

Have you got a copy of Lyndhurst - guessing you have (should have! ;) )

Inside the back cover is a pic of what looks like a billhook in sheath but it is not captioned so may be a Gurkha knife. Page 34 does illustrate a WW2 issue Gurkha Kukri knife with leather sheath - should give some more ideas at least.

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auchonvillerssomme

personally i think it was just shoved into the belt for infantry going into action and issued as a tool from stores as is for everything else. on 1st July each company of the 8th Bn KOYLI were issued 16 Billhooks and 25 pairs of hedging gloves in addition to picks shovels etc.

Mick

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john in minnesota

The French infantry carried a similar tool, and they saw fit to issue a sturdy leather carrier - I would bet the British had a carrier as well.

billhook.JPG

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Joe Sweeney
Just acquired the following 1914 dated military issue bill-hook to go with my WW1 Machine Gunners equipment. Does anyone have an example or any good pictures of the scabbard that would have gone with it, so I can get a local leatherworker to replicate one for me?

Thanks in advance,

Andrew,

I think everyone maybe correct about no scabbard. I just did a quick look into the PV stores for 1909 and 1915 and the Bill-hook MKII apparantly had no scabbard.

Joe Sweeney

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Andrew Upton

Thanks for all the replies, seems scary that they might not have been issued wth scabbards as its bl*ody sharp now it's been restored! Will probably take pictures of the British machete scabbards and the French style scabbard into my local leatherworker and see what he recommends. Thanks again.

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PhilB

Even allowing for the fact that Health & Safety hadn`t been invented in those days, I can`t really see soldiers being expected to carry that around without a scabbard! What exactly were billhooks thought to be required for, reversal of trenches? Phil B

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James Blonde

Hallo Andrew Upton, :D

we were issued with similar billhooks in the Irish Army, almost identical in looks, so I presume the Irish bought surplus stock, uses ranged from sharpening stakes for fencing to spliting small logs for fire kindleing, to cutting back Gorse on rifle ranges & removing low branches around camp-sites in wooded areas (pine forest). We carried them in sandbags, and as far as I can recall there were no sheaths for them.

Kevin. :D

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Joe Sweeney

I don't think it was expected that soldiers would carry around the bill-hook like the French carried their equivelent--the "Serpe". The "Serpe was authorized at 16 per Company in late 1916 and carried by troops.

The British Field Manual for an Infantry Battalion, 1914 actually authorized 47 bill-hooks. None carried on the soldier--all neatly to be carried in specific places on the Regimental transport. THE MG sdection got one of these Bill hooks and was carried in the hind portion of the GS Limbered wagon. There were two GS Limbered wagons for tools each carrying 20 Bill hooks in the front portion rear part. The others were carried on the variuos carts etc. in lockers etc.

Although things could change radically from 1914 it shows that soldiers were not expected to carry these things around and only used when needed.

Joe Sweeney

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Andrew Upton
I don't think it was expected that soldiers would carry around the bill-hook like the French carried their equivelent--the "Serpe". The "Serpe was authorized at 16 per Company in late 1916 and carried by troops.

The British Field Manual for an Infantry Battalion, 1914 actually authorized 47 bill-hooks. None carried on the soldier--all neatly to be carried in specific places on the Regimental transport. THE MG sdection got one of these Bill hooks and was carried in the hind portion of the GS Limbered wagon. There were two GS Limbered wagons for tools each carrying 20 Bill hooks in the front portion rear part. The others were carried on the variuos carts etc. in lockers etc.

Although things could change radically from 1914 it shows that soldiers were not expected to carry these things around and only used when needed.

Joe Sweeney

Thanks again - so the "authentic" answer would pretty much certainly have been no scabbard. However, for safety and transport issues, some sort of scabbard is likely to be beneficial, so something modelled on the French style will probably suffice! Knowing S*ds Law, the first time I try and transport the bill-hook to an event in an "authentic" sandbag will be the one time I'm stopped by the Police with an apparently concealed weapon... :ph34r:

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auchonvillerssomme

you could say you were hedge trimming, not sure whether that would excite them as much as metal detecting seems to (allegedly)

Mick

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Andrew Upton
you could say you were hedge trimming, not sure whether that would excite them as much as metal detecting seems to (allegedly)

Mick

The Vickers, SMLE, Webley and other associated military items might be a bit of a clue that hedge trimming wasn't my real intention... ;)

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James Blonde
The Vickers, SMLE, Webley and other associated military items might be a bit of a clue that hedge trimming wasn't my real intention... ;)

Errrrr. . . . would you believe Constable its actualy my Anti-Lawn Mole kit????? :lol:

Kevin.

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walrus
The Vickers, SMLE, Webley and other associated military items might be a bit of a clue that hedge trimming wasn't my real intention... ;)

With that lot aboard, even if D/A or properly licenced, If the plod are looking for trouble, then I think a bill-hook will be the least of your problems.

Tom the Walrus

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6th Hauraki KIA KAHA

Hi

It is strange that they didn't have a holder.

As I am a member 65th Reg Reenactment group, 1860s Maori Wars.

one one of our members has one. They were issued to pioneers its hard to imagine them not having a holder of some type.

For cutting a path through the bush or make a shelter.

If it was not worn on a belt it would be lost, you would think?

Tim who has one, has a leather holder he made.

I will ask him where he got his pattern.

In WW1 they were issued to linesmen as part of the kit.

I will read my manuals, to see if it has any mention of being worn on the belt.

Jonathan

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Andrew Upton
With that lot aboard, even if D/A or properly licenced, If the plod are looking for trouble, then I think a bill-hook will be the least of your problems.

Tom the Walrus

All my weapons are deactivated, it's a lot of hassle to own any sort of live-firing Lee-Enfield, and the financial and legal obligations of owning any sort of live-firing machine gun is mind boggling!

Actually, the Police can be very difficult to please regarding transporting weapons to events - keep them out of sight, and if they are discovered and they're in a bad mood you could in theory be charged with carrying a concealed weapon. Keep them in plain view, and they're more likely to be called out in the first place. Hence, you have to tread a fine line (I normally make sure that any guns or bladed weapons are near the top, so not too difficult to access should it be necessary, but are always kept wrapped/stored/scabbarded to I can point out that they are not immediately ready to be improperly used, hence me thinking a scabbard for the bill-hook is a strong advantage!).

If it was not worn on a belt it would be lost, you would think?

Tim who has one, has a leather holder he made.

I will ask him where he got his pattern.

In WW1 they were issued to linesmen as part of the kit.

I will read my manuals, to see if it has any mention of being worn on the belt.

That sounds excellent, thanks very much, look forward to hearing what they have to say!

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Joe Sweeney

I looked in the Priced Vocabulary and found nothing under scabbards, sheaths, carriers and covers for the Bill-hook.

If it existed it might be under another name that I'm not just thinking of.

The PV not only lists the Bill hook MKII but also the repair parts such as different types of handles etc. It would be a bit odd to not mention a scabbard unless I looked under the wrong nomenclature. If any one else has a suggestion for nomenclature let me know I'll look it up.

I have the 1894 PV of stores also, which I did not check. I'll take a look this weekend to see if there was a scabbard/sheath at one time.

Joe Sweeney

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Andrew Upton
I looked in the Priced Vocabulary and found nothing under scabbards, sheaths, carriers and covers for the Bill-hook.

If it existed it might be under another name that I'm not just thinking of.

The PV not only lists the Bill hook MKII but also the repair parts such as different types of handles etc. It would be a bit odd to not mention a scabbard unless I looked under the wrong nomenclature. If any one else has a suggestion for nomenclature let me know I'll look it up.

I have the 1894 PV of stores also, which I did not check. I'll take a look this weekend to see if there was a scabbard/sheath at one time.

Joe Sweeney

Thanks for taking the time and trouble again Joe! :)

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DaveBrigg

I've just copied this from a post about trench raids, describing an action by 18th KRRC in July 1916. Can I assume that the hooks referred to are like the one being discussed here?

Party B 10 bombers, each carrying a knobkerrie & 10 bombs. Party C Lieut Wingfield & 9 men carrying knobkerries & hooks.

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auchonvillerssomme
Hi

It is strange that they didn't have a holder.

As I am a member 65th Reg Reenactment group, 1860s Maori Wars.

one one of our members has one. They were issued to pioneers its hard to imagine them not having a holder of some type.

For cutting a path through the bush or make a shelter.

If it was not worn on a belt it would be lost, you would think?

Tim who has one, has a leather holder he made.

I will ask him where he got his pattern.

In WW1 they were issued to linesmen as part of the kit.

I will read my manuals, to see if it has any mention of being worn on the belt.

Jonathan

The difference is that it wouldn't have been an everyday issue item for an infantryman. A pioneer or any other soldier during the Maori Wars would be using, as you say, for cutting paths, making shelters and it would be an essential piece of kit, probably more important in some respects to his daily life than his weapon. Linesman, signallers and other specialists all had specialised equipment and adapted load carrying equipment is common. But I have never seen anything that an infantryman would use or pictures of infantryman carrying the billhook.

Mick

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