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Thread: The 20th Century British Military Pattern Gurkha Issue Kukri.

  1. #1

    The 20th Century British Military Pattern Gurkha Issue Kukri. Part I

    The 20th Century British Military Pattern Gurkha Issue Kukri

    Perhaps this little article will help answear some of the most frequant questians I see & hear about the main British Gurkha military pattern kukri.

    Here are the 5 patterns. In number order Mk.1 at top.




    Regimental Marked Kukris

    Many kukris have of course been used by the Nepali Gurkhas of the British army, with many purchased by various, companys, battalion, regiments, from many different Indian contractors & in times of shortage due to economics,transport,number of recruits in wartime conditions even manufacture by Battalion kami or armourers. & of course there were many,many private purchases by individual officers & men.

    Many traditional kukris are seen in photos from WW1 & WW2 and these can be either early or more unofficial Battalion{non Official pattern.} purchased or made kukri, private purchase or even family heirloom kukri on occasion, as according to the Brigade of Gurkhas website most Gurkhas returned from thir first leave with a traditional kukri rather than a military issue variant. Judging from photos many still carried issue pattern kukri though. Of course at that time their leave was more often in India rather than Nepal so many private purchase Indian made kukri were also aquired & carried, then as today solders often prefer private & individual kit, Historical Family hierloom kukris from Gurkha forebears were sometimes even brought along by the new recruits, but according to various testimonies from WW2 veterans, those that did bring there hierloom kukri would often only use those as their weapons while using the issue kukri for utility work.

    Here are two regimentaly marked kukri to the 2/8 th Gurkha rifles from WW1 era. The top one was favoured by many Gurkhas & it was still carried in ww2 by many of them. I have seen authenticated versions carried by the 6th,8th & 10 Gurkha regiments. Many individual specimiens do not carry unit markings.







    But careful x10 magnification by an experienced researcher is needed to authenticate these marks as original as over the last couple of years fakes of these "Regimental" kukri have been coming onto the market on occasion from 2 main sources, most sadly the new marks have been added on some occasions to genuine old kukri.

    But there have still only ever been 5 Officially military pattern number kukris in official British Gurkha issue.


    The MKI Pattern Kukri

    The First official numbered British Indian Gurkha military kukri the mk.1 was in production by 1903 up until 1915.

    It was a break from the traditional hidden partial tangs to a full length rat tail tang culminating in turn nut similar in design to a rifle stock fitting recessed into the walnut butt. This system is also seen in 19th century Afghan army kukri & many historical swords.

    The identifying mk.1 nuts.




    Many of them are unmarked although some later 1915 models carry the manufactures armoury stamp Co. For Cossipore Armoury. Often FW marks on the spine occur which are the inspection & or issue marks from Fort William in Calcutta, The rarer QA & RP inspection marks also show up for Rawlpindi & Queta respectivly. Some pieces carry more than one inspection or issue mark. Many of these kukri were subcontracted to local civilian workshops. One of which was E.Boota Singh &sons, based at Rawlpindi.

    The Co 1915 models seem to be heavy, badly balanced & clumsy in hand although well made, I have often wondered if that last batch of Co. kukris was the nail in the coffin for that design as a military piece.

    There weights vary from 24oz to 33 oz {On those I have examined.} Blade lengths typically in the 13 1/4 to 14 inch range.

    Although all mk.1s are rare most are short handled. As always with kukri variants do occur the lighter weight longer handled one is a one of the rarer variants. It may be a private purchase or regimentaly produced piece as it bears no inspection marks but it still comes with the rarest Official issue mk.I scabbard, equipped with pockets loops & buttons.





    The MKII Pattern Kukri

    The mk.2 was in production by 1915 & was to stay in manufacture for the British army until at least 1944 so certainly they ran into production figures of many thousands.

    All the issue pieces have steel bolster & buttcap, brass was a restricted metal only to be used wear superior. {Such as arguably rivet surrounds & chapes.} Private purchase pieces may have brass fittings as do the many fake Co. 1917 35 marked kukri,with 2 brass rings round the grip.

    The issue mk.II kukri has been produced by many manufactures & armories over the years.
    Commercial private purchase version production continued after the war & fakes & replicas are still made today.

    There weights can vary from 21oz to 28oz .{On those I have examined.} WW2 era issue ones tend to be heavier most of the time than WW1 era pieces.

    The 3 WW1 manufactures most often seen are {with years of production runs that I know off so far.} :

    - CO. 1915,1916, 1917, 1918, 1919, The predominant maker by far, made at Cossipore arsenal more famous for its artilary pieces.
    - DHW 1918, 1919
    - GDB & Co. 1917, 1918

    Rarer manufactures include,

    - E.Boota Singh &sons, {Rawlpindi} 1917
    - AS & Sons Ltd. A model of which only one very high quality piece is known dating from 1916.
    - RFI {Rifle Factory Ishapore.} are also known to have made a small high quality batch in 1927.

    In WW2 well known manufactures include:

    - ATD, {Army Traders Dharan} 1942, 1943, 1944,
    - M or MIL, {Military industries Ltd.} 1941, 1942,
    - Pioneer, {Calcutta} 1942,1943,1944
    - Queera Bros. 1942,1943, 1944
    - JNB 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944

    One variant mk.2 often called the M.43 after the manufactures stamp found on it is identifiable by the mark, & sunken rivets combined with an integrally welded tang , bolster join, but as these 2 later features can be found on other mk.2s the mark is the real key. {Although some occasionally appear to have escaped marking.}

    Some people refer to this as a separate model in my opinion it is just a particular manufacturers interpretation of the design as none of the differences sited only occur on m.43s other than the stamp.]

    I have an early m.43 which has the original style handle of the early mk.2s, which helps show its ancestry.

    There has been suggestions in the past that the M.43 mark proves manufacture by the English firm, Broadway Engineering Co. Ltd. who appear on lists as the user of the m.43 mark but to date research shows the company was just contracted to make small component parts for machine guns etc. & were not caple of all the manufacturing processes used in the manufacture of the m.43

    It seems most likley to me have examined many of them that M43 was the mk.2 as manufactured by Military industries Ltd possibly based in Lahore.

    Here 3 mk. 2s a typical Co. made 1917 , at top, a Queeta Bros. mk.2 in the middle, and a m.43 at the bottom.




    Here is typical Co. & m.43 stamps.

    Last edited by Andreas Volk; 03-20-2010 at 01:33 PM. Reason: Update

  2. #2

    The 20th Century British Military Pattern Gurkha Issue Kukri. Part II

    The MKIII Pattern Kukri

    The mk.3 kukri came into being in 1943 according to Indian sources & was certainly in mass production by 1944. It is sometimes mistakenly referred to as the K.45 design based on the date stamp present on some examples made in 1945.

    It was still the most commonly issued kukri to the Indian armed forces into at least the 1980s. Although many other kukri styles are also used.

    Thousands or even millions have been made, but the only Genuine military pieces are those that were actually purchased by the military forces. The others are just commercial copys even if made by the same companys.
    It was designed for easy & fast production & was made by many companies.

    Including. {With years of production runs that I have seen to date.}

    - Mil, 1945
    - WSC {Windlass steel Crafts} 1944, 1945,
    - CMW {Calcutta}, produced very high quality specimens that have many easily recognizable manufacturer & army inspection stamps.1944, 1945

    Many MK.III were not maker clearly marked, or were badly stamped.

    Other manufactures include Chowdri & DKW who both produced during 1945 at least but most likely for the Indian army after Independence as well.

    Many of these kukris have been made to the present day & it has been used by many Indian army Gorkha units as well as commercially exported in lower quality versions to the USA & Europe for over 50 years.

    It weights from 19 oz to 26 oz. {On those I have examined.}

    1944 & 45 versions of the CMW mk.III kukri & detail of manufacturers stamp & army inspection marks.








    The MKIV (also known as the "Wilkinson Kukri")

    Next we have the mk.4 was the rarest official kukri pattern model to ever exist, and the last 50+ years have made it virtually extinct.

    It was designed in 1949/50 by Wilkinson Sword Company. It appears the British army wanted to buy British despite the much higher cost rather than keep purchasing from The Indian kukri factories/ Government.

    In profile its looks nearly identical to the mk.3 which was obviously its design basis but when examined by hand their are many subtle differences.

    WSC confirmed to me that only 1400 were ever made, {possibly 1401 including the prototype pattern room model.}
    A very small number for an army production run. Less than 10/% of serving Gurkhas would have been issued with them.

    They where a very high quality hand forged production by some of the worlds leading sword smiths & cutlers. With some unusual minor features not seen on other models. } & presumably the cost of having them made by WSC resulted in no further orders for this know sought after model.

    They seem to have been mainly issued in the Far East, particularly Malaya & Borneo.

    What happened to them is sometimes regarded as a mystery , I have heard many unsubstantiated stories, mostly saying the Gurkhas threw them away, {Not very likely!} but it seems to me the simple truth is they most where never brought back out of Malaya ever again they were used to destruction in the longest jungle campaign fought by the Gurkha in there their long & bloody history.

    A couple of years never mind 10 or 15 years in the Malayan & Borneo jungles would rust & rot most equipment beyond recognition. According to army sources canvas jungle boots & webbing would be rotting within 2 weeks.
    Hence I think the rarity of the mk.4 Wilkinson sword kukri. Not many were made, Then in that extreme environment handles eventually warped, Loosened or even rotted & the unless cleaned & oiled every day the steel rusted.

    Literally only a couple of handfuls of them are known to be in existence today. Those found are usually in excelent condition & were most likely examples bought & kept by Gurkha Officers who held the Wilkinson made kukri in high regard.

    Which with the quality of workmanship that went into them & place in history seems rather a shame.

    It is the holy Grail for serious collectors of British Military pattern kukri.








    The MKV

    Some time during the late 1950s to early 1960s the ”new” mk.5 kukri was introduced. {Which of course, also has 12 digit NATO service number}

    Often called the BAS {British Army Standard} or BSI {British service issue.} By kukri aficionados These are manufacturer’s terms & seem to bear no relation to any British military designation.

    The issue model is generally made in Nepal rather than India.

    This shorter much lighter kukri was introduced a few years after every Gurkha had been issued with the British SLR copy of the Belgian FAL automatic rifle, or the Sterling submachine gun. One assumes that by which point the powers that be thought a smaller lighter camping style of kukri was acceptable .Rather than the earlier longer more sidearm/Utility style kukris. But in some ways that makes sense as it It does occur very occasionly but its extreemly rare for Gurkhas to use kukris as weapons anymore. {Air support & fully automatic guns are the preferance.}

    This model is made by several Nepali firms nearly all of which claim to supply The British Army & most have done on occasion..

    In a way it seems irrelevant which of them do as the current versions of it manufactured most seem to be low quality. No different than the average modern tourist kukri.

    The lowest bidder wins the army contract each year so for many years Lalit of khukri house has been one of the main supplies as the size of his business presumably allows him to undercut the competition. Of course he was also a Gurkha for many years & maintains his contacts within, the British army, the Gukhas & at the officer training school Sandhurst.

    Hundreds of thousands have been made, but the only Genuine military pieces are those that were actually purchased by the military forces. The others are just commercial copys even if made by the same company's.

    The higher quality versions of this kukri I have seen, were made by kami employed by the British army themselves working at Dharan army base. They are normally marked "Ordep Nepal" with a date stamp. {Generally from the mid 1980s.} With superior fit & finish, they have a superior feel to the ones marketed today that I have handled.

    They were made in 2 grades, the higher quality finish ceremonial parade, with plastic scabbard, & the rougher utility versions.

    Interestingly I've found most other Manufactures ceremonial models are lower quality chrome plaited blade items, But they should still be a useable kukri as its still worn for Guard duty at Buckingham palace & Windsor castle. Etc. {Should doesn't necessarily mean is, of course.]

    There have been many minor variations over the years due to the number of manufacturers & time span invloved.

    Blade Lengths of of 11 inchs are the norm on the 60s, 70s & 80s pieces, weights are usually in region off 14oz. to 17oz.

    In the 1990s a slightly shorter variation of the mark 5 came to be commonly issued with a 10 1/4 inch blade often weighing between 17 to 19oz.

    2 Dharan army base made mk.5 kukri, Both weigh between 16oz & 17oz

    Issue standard. left.
    Ceremonial. right, {with plastic sheath & belt.]





    Typical marks found on the Base made kukris.




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    I welcome any further information & photos to evidenced opinions emailed to me at spiraltwista@aol.com please include kukri in title. To enable further updating of this article in the years to come..

    Enjoy your kukris!

    Spiral.

    Photos & information on this page can be freely used elsewhere for discusian, other than written or commercial publication or websites as long as following statement included.

    “Text & photos copyright, Spiral JRS 22. Feb. 2010.”

    Alternative spellings include.. Khukri, Khukuri. Kookerie. Gurka. Goorkha. etc.etc.

    Regards,
    Jonathan AKA Spiral

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    editorial remark:

    I'd like to express my deepest and sincere thanks to Jonathan R. S. for supplying SFI with the latest version of his important article that I think to be the best and most concise documentation of the British Military Pattern Issue Kukris.
    Thanks you very much Jonathan for sharing this information with us. The effort spent into the research is often underestimated and it is highly appreciated. These are years of research and and hours writing, taking pictures, verification of information. And it can't be estimated highly enough when the results of such many hours of "life time" are shared.
    Thanks again.


    Articles in general will get locked to retain their readability. I kindly ask to post questions regarding the military pattern kukri as seperate threads and simply to refer to this article.
    Thanks a lot

    Andreas Volk

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Editing History:
    3-10-2007: 1st version covering MKI to MKV
    2-17-2009: Update version major additions:
    -Regimental Marked Kukri
    -Details on the Wilkonsson MKIII (former MKIV)
    -Former MKV now classified as MKIV - information reworked
    3-20-2010: Update version:
    - Former Wilkinson MKIII now the MKIV (again) using Infdormation
    provided by Robert Wilikinson-Latham
    - Former MKIV now re-classified as MKV
    Last edited by Andreas Volk; 03-20-2010 at 01:31 PM. Reason: MKIV Change

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