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The “Stormdolk”: Dutch assault troops’ fighting knife

In 1917, after having observed how trenches fightings were carried out, Dutch military leaders decided to create the Stormschool, Stormtroepen and Stormsecties (schools, troops and assault sections). While their country was neutral but nonetheless threatened, they opted to create these in the image of what had been developed by their neighboring belligerents. These troops carried specific equipment adapted or created according to their needs: wraparound steel helmet, gas masks, new types of hand grenades, flamethrowers, and of course, fighting knifes!  The first prototypes were ordered on August 20th, 1917. The blade style was an adaptation of a bayonet model in service in India and several types of prototypes were tested. In particular, four types of carrying have been studied, both on the right and on the left side of the chest or along thighs… Finally, an officer whose name was lost to history, came up with a position that was retained: at the belt, inclined, handle forward on the right side. On October 1st, of the same year, a production order of thirty thousand copies (for an estimated need of 50,000) was launched. By December 10,500 Stormdolks were already being manufactured and the first copies were distributed in early March 1918.

The weapon was presented as a fighting knife with a straight blade, theoretically 210 mm long (203 and 206 for mine, one of which has been resharpened) with a rather voluminous ringed walnut handle 121 mm long for its apparent part, ending in the shape of a pommel 47 mm wide by 22 mm thick. Its total length reached 342.5 mm (338 and 339 for my copies) and it was equipped with a fairly small guard measuring 55.5 mm in its greatest width, while the blade reached 22.5 mm wide and 4.3 to 4.5 mm thick. The guard, itself, was 2.5 to 2.8 mm thick and it was separated from the wood by a 9 mm thick steel bolster. The two wooden half-hulls constituting the handle totally wrapped the tang of the blade that stopped at the base of the pommel, they were joined by two rivets of which only the one at the front crossed the tang. The blade was completely blued, unfortunately there is very little color left on mine.

The fighting knifes are numbered from A 0 to A 9999 and so on until E 9999, giving us a total production of 50,000 pieces. The copies illustrating this article bear the numbers A 7082 and B 2589, so they can be reasonably dated back to the beginning of the manufacture. On the contrary, the sheath illustrating this article, although in average condition, is of the fifth and last batch. We will also note that there are variants of manufactures that are the delight of Dutch collectors for whom this beautiful fighting knife is a real passion!

The markings consist mainly of different hallmarks, here are the ones I was able to discover:

  • At the ricasso, the letter Z surmounted by the crown.
  • On the bolster, exactly the same hallmark as before.
  • On the guard, the serial number.
  • On the wooden pommel, again the same hallmark as before, but larger and contained in an oval.

Note that the 3 hallmarks are perfectly aligned, all on the same side of the weapon.

The sheath (“schede” in Dutch “scheide” in German) is entirely made of leather assembled by copper rivets. It ends with a steel chape introduced into the leather end and held by an often-missing ligature. It also wears two thin tabs with snap buttons to secure the weapon. A frog is simply obtained by folding the end of the sheath held by three rivets. The number is on this folded part: 6919 E on the one in my possession. Often the sheaths found are modified or replaced by German models.

It should be noted that the Stormtroepen were dissolved in 1924 and that from that date the fighting knifes were partially withdrawn from service (the officers and servants of some pieces kept them). This accessory did not officially reappear until December 1939 following a request from the commander of the field army who was reassigned 25,000 of the 44,763 units still available in the warehouses.

Soon after, the German occupation troops were fond of this weapon which seemed to be more effective than the models normally in service. Denomination for the occupant: Dolch 115 (h)

A training fighting knife also existed. It had a similar handle, but with a walnut “blade” of which 500 copies were produced in 1918. This artifact had a simplified case without a sheath for the blade.

Finally, I recently discovered the existence of a totally extraordinary dagger, forged from meteorite iron and which would have been offered to Amenhotep III (-1411 to -1353 approximately BCE). This dagger, discovered in the tomb of Tutankhamun, is currently kept in the Cairo Museum, and since there is a certain resemblance between this ancient piece and the object of this article, I wanted to compare their lengths, and what was my surprise: the Egyptian dagger measures exactly 342 mm according to the museum sheet and the Dutch fighting knife, exactly 342.5 mm according to its construction sheet, but more generally from 339 mm to 342 mm according to the copies in circulation. This coincidence is really disturbing and leads to ask once again the eternal question that A. de Lamartine formulated so elegantly: “Inanimate objects, do you have a soul?”

Marc Barret

Note: Reproductions of the Stormdolk are currently available on the market; the greatest caution is therefore necessary in case of purchase!

Sources:

« Dutch firearms » by G. de Vries et BJ. Martens

National Military Museum Soesterberg: (consulted on July 12th, 2022)

https://www.nmm.nl/nl/

Picture 14 is from the Gunboard forum: (consulted on July 12th, 2022)

https://www.gunboards.com/threads/dutch-m1917-stormdolk-fighting-knife.406997/

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    Marc Barret

    Marc Barret is a weapons and history enthusiast. He is the author of numerous articles in French specialized magazines. His interest is mostly focused on 19th century’s weapons, John Moses Browning’s inventions and FN Herstal’s productions.

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