Although I first got interested in collecting Wilkinson blades because of the Fairbairn-Sykes dagger, I have branched out over the years to others of the company’s historic weapons. Periodically, I would hear that Wilkinson had made a kukri—a snippet of information that always intrigued me since I like kukris. I had always assumed that the reason Wilkinson kukris were so scarce is that only a limited number were made for sale to British officers serving with the Gurkhas. Recently, however, after many years of searching, I acquired a Wilkinson kukri and discovered that it was actually produced as an issue blade for the Gurkha troops.
The official designation is “Kukri, Wilkinson, MK IV,” though it was eventually given the NSN 1095-99-962-0535 in 1968, long after production ceased. The Wilkinson kukri was designed circa 1949/50 and reportedly was purchased in an attempt to give business to a British company rather than the factory in India that normally produced kukris for the Gurkhas. There also seem to have been problems with the Indian-made kukris made from soft steel, which wore very quickly under the heavy use in the counterinsurgency campaign in Malaya. The number produced by Wilkinson is normally given as 1,400, which was only enough to supply a small portion of Gurkhas in British service at the time. These high-quality kukris showed typical Wilkinson quality and were far more expensive to the government than those produced in India. As a result, a cost-conscious government went back to the Indian-produced kukris.
The Wilkinson-made kukris show precise-fitting, chromed-metal grip parts and scabbard chape, and hand-ground blades. The scabbards are of extremely high quality compared to the typical Indian-made kukri. Other than its obvious higher quality, it looks very similar to the standard issue Indian-made MK III kukri. According to documents in the possession of Robert Wilkinson-Latham, the composition of the steel specified by Wilkinson for the MK IV kukri was very close to that of “Silver Steel” BS1407. The same steel was also used in the two small knives/sharpening steels that accompany the MK IV kukri. Wilkinson kukris are marked on the blade “51/WSC” as are the small sharpening steels. I assume the “51” designates the year of production.