Carter Rila's

Carter's Cutlery Commentaries

January 2006

MILITARY MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS 7

The Model 1905 Hospital Corps Knife

The myth: "There is a Model 1904 Hospital Corps knife and it was carried into the trenches in France to chop up the Boche..."

Dreamers and fantasists have pushed this guff for years. It has also been perpetuated for years by those who should know better.

Simply put, all of the official manuals, (which are not hard to find if you are seriously looking), list this item as Model of 1905. Why then, do collectors persist in using Model of 1904? Probably because they cannot reconcile the fact that some are stamped with 1904 and thus, the manuals must be wrong. That is, assuming they even looked at the manuals instead of parroting Peterson's American Knives, which useful as it once was, is quite general, was written thirty years ago, and is long overdue for revision. Even the Holy Bible is revised once in awhile due to new discoveries of new manuscripts. Being a professional historian and an honest man, Pete was the first to admit the book had errors and needed revising. He just never got around to doing it.

The answer is simple enough. The Model was adopted in Fiscal Year 1905. At that time Fiscal Years ran from June to May. The blades were stamped with the Calendar Year. Thus, no inconsistency at all.

Another persistent fantasy is that these were carried into the trenches in World War 1. They were obsoleted in 1916 by the adoption of a new set of equipment for the medical soldier. However, there was not enough of the 1916 equipment for all the newly units so the stateside and training camps had to make do with the old pattern Hospital Corps equipment which included the knives. The old pattern pouch was brought back into production with the contents of the new 1916 pattern Medical Corps Enlisted Man's Belt. The new medical materiel was used in France. There is no reason to believe these even went to France.

As further proof consider the new condition of most of those in collections. In every other war I know of, all the old materiel of whatever pattern that could be of any use at all is gotten out and issued out so that prewar items are exceedingly scarce. This is true of the Hospital Corps pouches, which saw service on the border. Some few went to France with rear area units. I have a pouch with markings indicating border service and overseas service. There are huge numbers of Indian War and later haversacks marked with AERO SERVICE unit numbers still around. I have tons of them that came out of Bannermanís in the 1950s.

So do not insist on telling me that Medical soldiers fought hand to hand in the trenches with these. The only cutting implement visible on their belts is the much more useful hand axe.

 

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