Object Title

Modèle 1833 Naval Boarding Knife

Modèle 1833 Naval Boarding Knife


At the outbreak of war the French military, like most European armies, did not consider the dagger a weapon of war.  Colonial troops, notably the Senegalese Tirailleur's, carried their traditional coupe-coupe machete but this, despite subsequent German propaganda, was more intended as a tool than weapon.  However the close-up nature of trench warfare, where chance night-time encounters with the enemy could occur, meant silent, easy to use weapons were soon needed that could be used independently of the rifle.

The first type of knife issued to French troops was the traditional Spanish lock-knife, the navajas, and over 150,000 were ordered by the military.  However, supply could not keep up with demand and the hence the French military even resorted to issuing butcher's knives to troops.

Such was the need for trench weapons that the French military reissued weapons long thought redundant.  The Modèle 1833 Naval Boarding Knife was itself already a conversion of old technology.  Made of ground down, obsolete socket bayonet blades, these were once again given new life in October 1915 when 10,500 Modèle 1833 knives were brought out of storage and issued to units on active service.

Use and effect

Unlike the navajas knife, which with its locking blade could be classed as a utility rather than pure fighting knife, there was no doubt as to the purpose of the Modèle 1833.  With its fixed, hollow-ground triangular sectioned blade it could not hold an edge and hence was useless as a tool, but the thick, strong blade made an excellent stabbing weapon.

According to Alexandre Renaud in his account of the war, 'Cannon Fodder', carrying trench daggers was not popular with French troops:
'These knives were to be entrusted to the four most resolute men in each squad for cleaning up enemy trenches.  But nobody volunteered, and it was necessary to issue them compulsorily.  Favereau, one of those designated to clean up trenches, gave vent to his rage: "You won't do it, and I won't have this knife for long.  I'm not a murderer [if you get taken prisoner] you'll get yourself skewered by the Boches with this tool!"


Blade length 17 cm (6.7 in)
Country of manufacture France
Date entered service 1833
Manufacturer Manufacture d'armes de Châtellerault
Overall length 30.4 cm (11.9 in)
Primary operator France
Weight 155 g (5.5 oz) (without sheath)


Henry Yallop