|Austrian Trench Raiders
A knobkerrie is a form of wooden club, a short stick with a carved know at the top, used mainly in Southern and Eastern Africa. It is somewhat similar to the Irish shillelagh. In the First World War, enhanced versions, generically known as "trench clubs" found to be especially useful during in-close trench fighting and raiding.
Notes for bombing units, issued by the general staff, recommended that soldiers should be ready to use "a bayonet or special stabbing knife or weapon for hand-to-hand fighting, such as an axe or knobkerry (trench club)."
Siegfried Sassoon recalls in his memoirs his preparation for a raid on the enemy’s trenches: "It was time to be moving; I took off my tunic, slipped my old raincoat on over my leather waistcoat, dumped my tin hat on my head, and picked up my nail-studded knobkerrie."
|Samples Used by African Tribes
Reportedly, a medium-sized club worked best within the confined spaces typical of trench warfare. The average club was approximately a foot and a half long. (See photo at top.) Trench clubs weren’t standard issue, so troops would gather materials found in the trenches and either put them together themselves or have unit’s carpenter do it. Nails, the shell of a Mills bomb, and a variety metal components were affixed the clubs, usually in mass quantities, to increase lethality.
|Great War Designs
This excerpt from the war diary of the 18th King's Royal Rifle Corps, describes the equipment of a trench raiding party near Ypres on 12 July 1916.
The day passed quietly. At night the Bn carried out a raid upon the enemy’s trenches. The raiding party consisted of Lieuts G.H. Wingfield and T. J. H. Fryer with 28 other ranks. The starting point was trench 125 which was held by the 15th Bn Hampshire Regiment. The party left the PIGGERIES at 8.45 PM and moved up to trench 125 from which they were to advance. Zero hour was fixed at 10.40 PM. Ten minutes before this time the raiding party left the trench & crawled forward to within about 35 yards of the enemy line. The raid was carried out in three parties composed of the following: Party A Lieut Fryer & 9 O.R. of whom Lieut Fryer and 5 carried knobkerries & wire cutters & two men on each flank carried rifles. Party B 10 bombers, each carrying a knobkerrie & 10 bombs. Party C Lieut Wingfield & 9 men carrying knobkerries & hooks.
Sources: "Strange Hells: A new approach on the Western Front," Historical Research 80( 211) (150-166); Great War Forum, 12 February 2007