US WW2 Marine Corps Hospital Corps Knife by Briddell
Broad, non-tapering chopping blade swelling towards the point, with round tip and false edge, 11 1/8 inches long, 16 3/8 inches overall. Thick wood scale grips secured by three brass rivets to the exposed tang. Brown leather scabbard with brass throat piece, webbing hooks and grommet hole at the chape.
The blade is stamped on one side with ‘U.S.M.C. Briddell.’, indicating use by the United States Marine Corps and the manufacturer Charles Briddell of Maryland. The reverse of the scabbard is stamped ‘USMC Boyt 45’. Boyt was the only manufacturer of the scabbard, from 1942-45.
Briddell was founded in 1895 as a blacksmith producing farm and fishing equipment. During WW2 the firm produced these knives as well as kitchen knives and anti-tank shells. Their line of ‘Carvel Hall’ steak knives produced from 1946 became so popular that the company itself was renamed Carvel Hall. It ceased trading in 2000, but its signature lines of kitchen and utility knives are still in production with another company.
The Hospital Corps Knife was originally a tool issued to U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsmen, the enlisted medical personnel of the Marine Corps: not strictly speaking Marines, Naval Corpsmen served with them on permanent assignment. The earliest model was introduced in 1887 for what was then the Field Sanitation Corps, primarily to clear brush and cut branches for use as stretcher poles and splints.
This model was introduced during WW2 for essentially the same purpose, but as the manufacturer Chatillon explained in a letter to the Marine Corps in 1942: ‘the Hospital Knife was used as a general-purpose field tool for cutting splints, prying open boxes, even for driving nails’. Despite the introduction of the M1942 Machete, Chatillon’s letter urged the Marine Corps (who were seeking to cancel their production contracts) to reconsider, since ‘the gauge of the machete is so light compared with that of the Hospital Knife that it would not be practical to use it for the same type of service’.
The Corps evidently agreed, as not only was the Knife retained in service, it was officially authorized to replace the square-tipped ‘Machete, Intrenching’ which had been in service since 1912. This meant that one in every 4 Marines would be issued one, hugely increasing its presence in the field. It was ideally suited to do the heavier work in the lush environments of the Pacific where the Marine Corps fought in WW2. It was also standard issue in the Korean War, and appears to have still seen some use as late as the Vietnam War.
This model is sometimes called a ‘bolo’, but it was never officially referred to as such and its design owes more to its Hospital Knife and Machete predecessors than to the M1909 or M1910 bolo knives produced at Springfield for the US Army.
Some prior cleaning/polishing to the blade which can be seen in the slightly faint stamping. Light patination in places. The edge is undamaged and sharp. The wood grips are undamaged with only a few light surface dents and scratches. The brass rivets have a dark patina. The scabbard is very good, with no damage to the leather, only a few light dents and impressions. Its brass fittings also have a dark patina, with light verdigris in places. The webbing hook swings freely.