German Inter-War Reichsheer M84/98 Second Model Bayonet, Dated 1920
Single-fullered spear-pointed knife blade measuring 9 7/8 inches (approx. 25cm), 15 1/8 inches overall (approx. 38.5cm). Steel flash guard and pommel, wood scale grips with cleaning hole, held by two screws. Steel scabbard with frog hook.
The ricasso of the blade is stamped on one side with the maker’s mark ‘Böntgen & Sabin Solingen’. Manufactured between 1915 and 1917, this bayonet was originally produced with a sawblade running along the spine of the blade: standard German practice was for 6% of the bayonets to be manufactured with the sawback feature, for issue to NCOs, pioneers and machine gun crews. However, this example has had its saw blade removed during the war by an armourer, leaving a telltale ‘dip’ in the back of the blade.
Officially this was done because the saw was deemed unnecessary, but it is much more likely that the German command took notice of a pervasive rumour that German soldiers using them would be victimised if captured by Allied forces, on the basis that the saw blade was ‘inhumane’. There is no clear evidence that such ill-treatment actually took place, but there were instances of German soldiers refusing to go to the front line while equipped with sawback bayonets because of it, which would have been reason enough to reconsider their use.
After the end of WW1, the Treaty of Versailles dramatically restricted the size of the German army, or Reichsheer. From 4.5 million standing troops in 1918, having mobilised 13.4 million soldiers over the course of the war, the new Republic was permitted only 4,000 officers and 96,000 other ranks. German arms production was also restricted and therefore this new force was armed entirely from the enormous stocks of leftover wartime equipment. Obsolete patterns were eliminated from use and the Seitengewehr M98/05 and 84/98 were the main bayonets.
The pommel and spine of the blade have crown stamps. The hilt is stamped on one side with ‘1920’. on the other side with ‘8./J.R.110’ and on the flat top surface next to the blade with ‘8.110’. The ‘1920’ is a service date: an order was issued in August 1920 that all Reichsheer weapons had to be stamped with that date to show that they were being officially retained in service. The other mark is a unit mark: I would tentatively identify this as meaning bayonet number 110 issued to the 8th (Preußisches) Infanterie-Regiment, which came under the 3rd Infantry Division. This would have had 3 battalions. Unit marking for Reichsheer bayonets was first ordered in December 1923.
Reichsheer infantry unit marks are typically thought to follow the scheme [battalion number]/J.R.[regiment number].[weapon number], but given that no regiment had 8 battalions this bayonet must not follow that scheme, suggesting there was some inconsistency (see also Imperial War Museum, Object 30002228, an identical model bayonet marked ‘1./J.R.6’, and conversely John Walter, The German Bayonet, page 89, another example marked ‘1./J.R.6.76’)
The scabbard is also stamped at the throat with the matching numbers ‘8./J.R.110’, although the ‘110’ has visibly been stamped over an older mark ‘125’. The frog hook of the scabbard is also stamped ‘8.125’. This indicates that the scabbard was previously issued with rifle 125 of the same regiment, then was later swapped and re-stamped by the regimental armourer.
The metal parts retain some of their original dark blued finish, most notably at the ricasso and fuller, with some patination and light pitting in places where this has worn. The blade is unsharpened but with machining marks to its edge, the tip is slightly rounded. The wood grips have denting but no losses.