SMP Armory

A pair of the daggers fabricated in the SMP Armory. Note that each was fabricated individually and shows differences, such as the brass band near the crossguard on the one at left—reportedly to catch a blade. Note also the difference in width of the crossguards, different hilt material and different pommel cap material. However, the blades and hilt shape remain fairly standard.

In his book, The First Commando Knives, Kelly Yeaton does an excellent job of covering what went on in Shanghai between his brother, Sam Yeaton, his fellow Marine officers Sam Taxis and Sam Moore, and W. E. Fairbairn as they experimented with fighting-knife techniques and fighting knives. Kelly Yeaton tells much of the story, but I believe there are a few other aspects. I recently wrote a book on the F-S Dagger, which came out a couple of weeks ago, and I also recently completed a book on the SMP (Shanghai Municipal Police) Reserve Unit. During my research for the two books, I looked at interviews and documents I had acquired 20 or more years ago and found quite a bit of information I had forgotten.

Some related to what I call the SMP Armory daggers or the “street daggers” of similar design to those knives discussed in Yeaton’s book. Kelly Yeaton stated that Fairbairn, who was in charge of the SMP Armory at the time, gave Sam Yeaton the run of the Armory to work on knife designs. I found an interview in my files conducted with “Pat” O’Neill before he died that confirmed this. O’Neill was Fairbairn’s protégé at the Reserve Unit and acted as a hand-to-hand combat instructor for the unit. Later, he was the close-combat instructor for the First Special Service Force. O’Neill mentions that when he was free of his tasks as a Marine officer, Sam Yeaton was often working on knife prototypes in the SMP Armory.

Reportedly Nicholas Solnsteff, a former White Russian colonel who was Chief Armorer, had some involvement in the experimental knives with which Yeaton was tinkering. My research indicates that Fairbairn was interested in the development of these Shanghai fighting knives and probably had a look at them from time to time, but they were primarily Sam Yeaton’s project. E. A. Sykes was often at the Armory and knew Yeaton from shooting against him in pistol competitions, so he quite likely saw them as well.

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A pair of the daggers fabricated in the SMP Armory. Note that each was fabricated…