Entering the First World War, all countries were confident that the military conflict would be resolved quickly and end in victory on their side. However, it soon became clear that the war would not only drag on - it would be long, tense and very bloody. For four years, Europe was to be bogged down in the mud of the trenches. Trenches stretched along the fronts in labyrinths for hundreds of kilometers. Very quickly, the new form of war reminded of the old, already forgotten by "civilized" Europeans, the rules of warfare.
A pair of machine guns and several hundred meters of barbed wire stretched in front of the defensive line were able to stop the attack of an entire battalion, or even several battalions. Artillery fire and sniper fire also helped popularize trenching. For the first time in history, a soldier's best friend was not his weapon, or even good dry boots. Now it was a sapper shovel. By some evil irony, rifle weapons in such conditions turned out to be extremely ineffective. Very often the trenches were separated by a pitiful hundreds of meters (and sometimes even tens of meters).
Long-range precision fire from rifles often did not have the desired effect. The soldiers "buried" in the ground were extremely difficult to pick out with a simple shelling. I had to go to the assault. Once in the enemy trench, it quickly became clear that the "shooting spear" in the form of a rifle with a bayonet is an extremely bulky and inconvenient thing for hand-to-hand combat in such a confined space.
And then everything that was at hand went into action. Fists, stones, teeth, butts and bayonets removed. The infantry literally bit into each other in bloody battles for the trench. The soldiers who had been in such battles very quickly appreciated all the advantages of the entrenching tool - a small sapper shovel, not only as a "gadget" for digging trenches, but also as a device for killing their own kind. Even Erich Maria Remarque in his work "All Quiet on the Western Front" noted that the sapper shovel was much more effective than the "cultured" bayonet in a trench battle.
However, progress did not stand still. Over time, all the soldiers received helmets that protected not only from bullets, but, ironically, perfectly withstood the blow of that very scapula. Still no one wanted to die, and therefore the soldiers began to invent and experiment in pursuit of gaining hand-to-hand superiority over the enemy during the assault on positions. In the era of the heyday of firearms, people again returned to the Medieval school of warfare.
Instruments of war
Even if you sharpen the blade of a sapper shovel, then only because of its mass and shape, it will not be on a par with a full-fledged ax or club in its effectiveness. In addition to the helmet, the soldiers had many other equipment that could, by a lucky chance, save the victim from the most harmful effects of the entrenching tool as a result of the blow. The soldiers needed something really deadly, but very simple at the same time. The solution turned out to be as ingenious as it was primitive. It was an ordinary club.
The club was devoid of all the shortcomings of a sapper tool. Due to its mass, even a small mace could kill or at least seriously injure (in the end, concussion) the enemy. Neither leather belts, nor soldier's bags, nor even a helmet rescued from the club. Very quickly, the soldiers realized that the club should be turned into a full-fledged mace, adding metal weights and spikes to it. The most important thing is that a soldier could even make such a simple and effective instrument of war with his own hands. The main thing was to find a stick of medium weight, a metal tube and a dozen or two nails.
Interesting fact: the countries of the "Entente" in the middle of the war even started a real propaganda campaign against cold and crushing weapons at the front. Numerous "outbursts" were made to the press that the Austrian army was using batons exclusively for brutally finishing off wounded opponents. The campaign, however, had no serious effect on the masses.
Subsequently, batons began to be made for the soldiers in large quantities. First in the field workshops, and then in the factories of the belligerent countries. The weapon has been actively evolving, adopting the best medieval experience. In Great Britain, for example, the metal tip was mounted on a flexible cable that was attached to the handle.
"Feather" for the infantryman
It is noteworthy that, with the exception of the Russian and French armies, at the time of the outbreak of the First World War, things were not very bad for everyone with cold cutting and stabbing weapons. Almost all armies used dagger bayonets (needle bayonets were used in the Russian and French armies). In addition, officers of all armies had edged weapons in the form of daggers and sabers. However, all this was still not suitable for trench fighting. The sabers were very large, as well as the dagger bayonets were too long for tight trenches.
After the first battles in all armies of the world, soldiers began to literally beg the commanders to allow them to cut down part of the bayonet blade. Of course, the officers did not allow anything like that to the fighters. However, everyone wanted to live, and the soldiers often "violated discipline" and cut off their bayonets. Most often this was done in the French and Russian armies. Some approached the issue differently - they found a nail for barbed wire and made a small stylet out of it. This type of weapon was nicknamed the "French nail". Very quickly it became almost a symbol of trench warfare.
The simplest and most effective handicraft edged weapon, of course, had drawbacks. First of all, the soldiers' crafts were not very convenient. The war dictated its own cruel rules and over time, already specialized daggers, stilettos and knives for infantrymen began to be produced in factories. One of the first professional trench knives was the Avenger 1870. The DEMAG knife was made in Germany.
Interesting fact: "Avenger 1870" got its name in memory of the defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, in which Prussia won.
In America, they made a very peculiar Mark 1 knuckle knife for their soldiers, which was used by the US infantry also in World War II. However, it would be more correct to call such inventions not knuckle dusters, but knuckle dusters. They did not only "frightening exotic" things for soldiers in factories, but also quite ordinary things. For example, in Germany they made a grabendolch knife, which could be used both in battle and in everyday life. The farthest went to the Austrian army. For some time, its soldiers tried to use real cleavers in trench fighting. However, this idea never caught on.
Want to know even more interesting things about military affairs? Then read about what were the ramming fighters of the second world war and by whom they were created in the first place.