Austro-Hungarian WW1 M1917 Fighting / Trench Knife by Wiener Waffenfabrik
Straight unfullered spear pointed single edged knife blade, flat oval hilt, wood slab grips held to the exposed tang with three steel rivets. Sheet steel scabbard with riveted loops. This would originally have held a leather hanging strap for suspension from the belt but these proved to be fragile: some were replaced with leather frogs while others were left bare and the knife stuffed into the soldier’s tall boots rather than hung from the belt.
The underside of the hilt is stamped on the grip side with an Austrian double eagle inspection stamp, showing that it was made in the Austrian portion of the empire – Hungarian examples have the crest of Hungary in the same position. The ricasso of the blade is stamped on one side with the maker’s mark of Wiener Waffenfabrik (Vienna Arms Factory), the interlocking letters ‘WWF’. The scabbard is stamped near the throat with the maker’s mark ‘V & N’ for Vogel und Noot, an Austrian firm.
The Austrian M1917 fighting knife, sometimes called the Sturmmesser (attack knife) or Dolchmesser (dagger knife), was a sturdy and simple standard tool for hand to hand combat. It was popular with the stormtroopers, specialized assault units for raiding and capturing enemy trenches. Many were also captured by Italian forces in their successful offensives of 1918.
Wiener Waffenfabrik was founded in 1908 by the Czech gunsmith Alois Tomiska and his partner Camillo Frank. It was founded to put into production Tomiska’s own innovative design for a pistol: the ‘Little Tom’, a pocket pistol chambered in .25 and .35 ACP which was the world’s first double action automatic handgun. Released in 1914 and produced until 1929, the Little Tom was not a roaring commercial success, but directly inspired other double action designs such as the Walther PP. Tomiska moved to his newly independent homeland in 1918 and helped design Czech military handguns for what became CZ. Evidently WWF branched out to producing trench knives during the First World War – one of at least 14 known makers of the M1917.
The blade has been sharpened, with some visible grinding marks. The sharpened edge is undamaged, and the tip is intact. The wood grips have some dents. The scabbard is free of dents and has some light patination in places.