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PostPosted: Sun Feb 01, 2015 8:58 pm 
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The 20th Century British Military Gurkha Issue Kukri. Including Official Pattern approved, unit & unknown issue types.


Within the fascinating history of the kukri, there are many interesting & indeed fascinating types, both civilian & military but the ones that brought them there fame were mostly those that were carried by the British army Gurkha's {Originating from Nepal}throughout the 20th century, particularly those used in WW1 & WW2 which they used with such devastating effect & bravery, winning many gallantry medals in the process..

With this current updating of the article. {Which I first published nearly 10 years ago. Bringing much previously then unknown information to light} I will cover the particular models that bought the kukri to fame & indeed for its enemy, infamy & fear.
Hopefully the article will help continue to answer some of the most frequent questions I see & hear about the main British Gurkha military pattern kukri & those used by various, units, regiments, & of course on occasion private purchases by many individual officers & men.

In all there have been 5 official military pattern kukri.

In number order Mk.1 at top.

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The MKI Pattern Kukri, sometimes referred to as the Great War 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. The raised nut system is also seen in 19th century Afghan army kukri & many historical swords, But the sunken circular nut is a clear identifying feature for these kukri..

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The mk.1 nuts.

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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 35 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 rare Official issue mk.I scabbard, equipped with pockets loops & buttons. The only rarer Official issue scabbard known is that made by. A cooper of Birmingham in 1915,1916 & 1917, which features a rigid leather body with internal flat springs riveted into place to hold the kukri in position. {Illustrated below.} Mk.1,Mk2 & English made kukri of WW1 dates have all been found in these, although the scabbard seems designed for the Cossipore made mk.1 or fit all amalgamation of styles or perhaps an as yet unknown possibly indeed probably English made large bladed kukri variant.{My personal conjecture.}

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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 pattern issue pieces have steel bolster & buttcap, brass was a restricted metal only to be used if superior to other metals for the job in question. {Such as arguably rivet surrounds & scabbard chapes.}

Those issue marked mk.2 kukri found with brass bolsters are sadly fakes that have been marketed in the west for several decades.. Although some late & post WW2 Private purchase pieces in the style of mk.2 kukri do have brass bolsters, buttcaps & often have buffalo horn or ivory hilts.Those marked tempered steel made in India seem to be from the time of Indian independence {1947.}

The mk.2 design was unusual for the era in being a riveted hilt design on to a full width & length tang, with a buttcap, both presumably to hopefully protect the wooden hilt from coming loose or being chipped & broken in use.

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.

Blade lengths are usually 13 1/4 to 13 3/4 inches.There weights can vary from 20oz to 28oz .{On those I have examined.} On average WW2 era issue ones tend to be heavier most of the time than the 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, 1920 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 3 very high quality piece are known all dating from 1916.

- RFI {Rifle Factory Ishapore.} are also known to have made a small high quality batch batches in 1926 & 1927.

- WW2 well known manufactures include:

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

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

There has been suggestions by some 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}

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.

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Heres typical WW1 Cossipore & WW2 era m.43 stamps.

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RFI stamp.{Rifle Factory Ishapore.}

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GBD stamp.

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And an exceptionally high quality A.S & Sons piece in a traditional scabbard, , as was often worn by the 5th Gurkha Rifles as opposed to the usual Official pattern Cawnpore Armoury scabbard's usually found with mk.2 kukri. Complete with an with Officers Sam Browne style Frog.

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Next we have 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 including there Gorkha regiments into at least the 1980s and is still issued today for use, although many other kukri styles are also used, particularly for parades..

Thousands or probably 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,
K.1944, 1945,
CMW {Calcutta}, produced very high quality specimens that have many easily recognizable manufacturer & army inspection stamps.1944, 1945

Many MK.III were sadley rather 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.

There are vast Numbers of other makers of these kukri in both WW2 & ever since. Once again those marked Allied Steel or Tempered Steel , Made in India are from around or after Indian independence in 1947.

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 60 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.

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Next we have the mk.4 was the rarest official kukri pattern model to ever exist, and the last 60+ years have made it extremely rare..

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 & indeed Wilkinson's appear to have deconstructed an Indian made mark 3 as an example to base their design upon, .but also when examined by hand their are many subtle differences. Including Chrome plating of the tang & buttcap to reduce corrosion & Patina.

Many years ago WSC confirmed to me that only 1400 were ever made, {possibly 1402 including the prototype pattern room & workshop models.}

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 & famous sword smiths & cutlers & presumably the cost of having them made by WSC was fairly high.

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 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.

For some reason the grip plates were made of English Beech a most unsuitable timber, prone to rot, warp & insect attack. Why such a bad choice was made one can only guess at, but thanks to Robert Wilkinson-Latham's invaluable help we know that Wilkinson got paid a second time round to rehilt 50 of them for the MOD within a very short time of their manufacture & then again to supply a further 400 replacement hilts & rivet fittings as well.

Interestingly the tang although distal tapered in the design specifications, was not actually made with any distal taper, which is also unfortunate, as it affects balance & feel. Which with the quality of workmanship that went into them & place in history seems rather a shame.

Why the Army purchasers & inspectors allowed this apparently unauthorised manufacturing shortcut to happen, once again one can only surmise.

Literally only a dozen or so of them are known to be in existence amongst collectors today. Those found are usually in excelent condition & were most likely examples bought & kept by Gurkha Officers who it seems often held the Wilkinson made kukri in high regard.

It is Often considered the holy Grail for many collectors of British Military pattern kukri.

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The MKV.

Some time during the late 1950s to early 1960s the ”new” mk.5 kukri was introduced.

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

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

One could argue they are unit pieces as they are currently bought from civilian contractors by the Gurkha regiment. But as, as late as 1969 The MOD was looking for more purchases of the mk.4 kukri , with time & money shortcuts, which implys MOD were still heavily involved in the purchase of kukri at that era.{Wilkinsons turned down the request.} So I regard the mk.5 as a pattern piece.


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 occasionly but generally its rare for Gurkhas to use kukris as weapons anymore. {Air support & fully automatic guns are the preference.}But by the same token, large numbers of Gurkha buy there own kukri for field & battle use as via private purchase they can obtain longer & higher quality pieces than those there issued with.

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. Many are no different in quality than the average modern tourist kukri one finds.

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.]

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Typical marks found on the Dharan Base made kukris.


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In truth many British Indian Army units were issued kukri, most famously the Gurkhas, but in reality, the Garhwalls ,The Kuamon & Dogra also carried them & many other units as well including some Sikh & Military police units.. By WW2 Some Chindits & Commando units in the Burma theartre were issued them & indeed most Indian based units were issued a few scabbardless ones as part of utility camp equipment throughout the first half of the 20th century..

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Then we have the Regimental or Battalion Marked Kukri.

Many collectors see this as very alluring kukri, which I can understand, those made in peacetime in particular are very well made & finished & are a well designed semi-traditional kukri usually at earlier dates{WW! & 1920s} an ergonomic grip.

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 occasional manufacture by Battalion kami or armourers,{The 10GR in WW1 & the 2/8t GR in WW2. Bieng to notable examples.} & 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 kukris from Gurkha forebears were sometimes even brought along by the new recruits, but according to some testimonies from WW2 veterans, those that did bring there family kukri would often only use those as their weapons while using the issue kukri for utility work.

Here are some unit marked kukri from WW1 & WW2 era.

The middle two were favoured by many Gurkhas & they were still carried in ww2 by some of them. I have seen authenticated versions carried by the 6th,8th & 10 Gurkha regiments.

The version on the left is a WW2 model for the 9th Gurkha rifles, this & other similar pieces, sometimes with slightly varient blades are often, perhaps mistakenly called by collector's, "military sirupates" {Although In truth there not very Sirupate shaped} They were commonly carried by some regiments in WW2 & usually came from contractor's based around Dehradun. There scabbards are often covered with khaki canvas.{Example shown.}

The version on the right is WW1 era, Other styles of these kukri also exist, because so many different contractors were used over such a long period of time.
Some high quality versions come with buffalo horn hilts.

Sadly many individual specimiens do not carry unit markings. So its sometime impossible to know whether it was a Gurkha issue kukri or one bought from the same commercial kukri factors that usually made the kukri for the individual units.

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Sadly careful high lens magnification by an experienced researcher is needed to authenticate these marked examples as original as over the last decade many 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. The Garhwali Regiments were also known to number there kukris.

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There are 2 other very rare but clearly Official kukri types I feel must be mentioned.

The First is the very rare English made WW1 kukri often known as the Enfield kukri, In fact they appear to be made by commercial Sheffield firms including S&J Kitchen of which one known marked example has been seen. Some of them appear to have been made by another Sheffield or possibly Birmingham firm. They are known as Enfield kukri because they all carry Enfield inspection markings, dating from 1915 or 1916. They are quite light, very well made fighting kukri, although once again the choice of hilt timber, that of Birch seems not the best, due to lack of durability. They have rat tail tangs & the blades are usually 12 1/4 to 12 3/4 inches long. And the usually weigh around 15 to 17 oz. I assumed they were first made, as replacement kukri re supply to europe would have been quicker from the UK than from India. But perhaps the Gurkhas were also less than impressed with the feel of the heavy Cossipore 1915 mk.1s & some of the coarser full tang mk.2s? They are also unusual in often having a slightly stepped indeed recessed riccaso.. So far to date we don't know which units were issued these.They usually turn up in a variety of unusual often English made scabbards.

Here's an example.

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Typical Enfield mark.

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The other unusual kukri known to have been made & carried in WW2 that also carry's Official British Indian Army inspection marks, is the coarsely made kaudi less, slab hilted kukri that was probably an emergency issue, known to have been made by several firms including. SCW & Siraj. They are known to have been made in 1942 & 1943. At least 2 were property of a n Officer in a British Indian Army Paratroop unit, but whether they were issued, presented or picked up in theatre, we may never know.

According to P.A. Hayes of the Department of Weapons for the National Army Museum London It is known that Railway workshop's were contracted to produce kukris at this time & I think it quite likely these are from such a source.

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They sometimes occur in plain wooden scabbards screwed together without a leather covering, otherwise they have sometimes been put in the official mk.2 pattern scabbards.. Sadly for such a rare kukri, there seem to be a few as yet unmarked fakes out there made by an American knife maker in the early 21st century.
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This finally last but by no means least a British Indian army khukri used in the 20th century that some assume is always 19th century. It is the pattern colloquially known as the "Longleaf" It was common in military usage during the 19th century but was certainly often carried by some units in the first decade of the 20th century of the up to & in some cases even during WW1. It was the kukri that Goorkhas first became famous with for amazing cutting feats.

They had blades from 14 3/4 to 16 inches. & an overall length of around 19 to 20 inches with weights of 25 to 32 oz.

The British issue piece although very similar with the Nepalese Army Longleaf kukri, shouldn't be confused with it. It is generally a finer made weapon, often with an partial T spine. Generally more suitable for parade wear & inspection in the British Indian army fashion as well as being a very fitting & powerful weapon.

An example.

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I hope this article has been of interest & use,I welcome any further information & photos emailed to me at spiraltwista@aol.com please include kukri in title.


Enjoy your kukris!
Jai Kukri!

Spiral.


Photos & information on this page can be freely used elsewhere for discussion, as long as following statement is included.

“Text & photos copyright, Spiral JRS 1st Feb. 2015.” {& before.. :wink: }


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