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A History of the World in a Dozen Objects: Number 8 - My Small Knife

  • Posted May 24, 2011 by Jon Laysell Viewed 3527 times

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This used to be my nan's knife. She used to use it for minor household tasks like opening letters and peeling oranges. As a child I was absolutely fascinated with it. Fascinated to the point where I was given it, probably just to shut me up. You see there was something that to a small boy was absolutely mesmerising ?? even more than a normal knife would mesmerise a small boy.

The story of my knife could be the story of George Butler's cutlery company. It could be the story of how Sheffield supplied the world with knives. The story of iron and coal and steel. But it isn't, it's the story of something far bigger and far more horrific.

Unusually, what attracted me to the knife was not the blade but the handle. It's not the original handle. This is a replacement handle made out of a bullet. Someone (I believe my granddad) had welded the bullet and the blade together to make one.

I can't say for certain, but I believe the bullet is from WWI as my granddad served in the navy then. That is a war that started with a single bullet when on 28th June 1914, Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot in the neck; the bullet severed his jugular vein. Within minutes the Archduke lay dead in the Sarajevo street where his driver had taken a wrong turn. Within a month Austria declared war on Serbia. By 1st August Germany declared war on Russia and two days later on France and Belgium. The next day Britain declared war on Germany. Over the next four years some 39* countries joined in. Over 35 million died.

That war was triggered by a single bullet. Though it is true to say that the war might not have happened when it did without that shot, it would have probably have happened at sometime as tensions were already high anyway. One thing is for sure, bullets aren't really something to get excited about.

Baldrick's Bullet [youtube.com]

*Actually this is a big underestimate as it includes the British, French and German empires as one country each. Also all of the colonies of Belgium, Italy and Portugal are counted as one.

(better enlarged)

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    There are 11 comments, add yours!

    • # Sadhya Rippon

      I just love the way this series makes huge leaps, from a history of the world and the history of Everyman, to small details of The Life of Jon.
      I also like how your posts provoke memories and anecdotes for other PBs.

      2011.05.28 Edited Reply Cancel

    • # Gregg Maretka

      As a small boy, i also was fascinated with knives. Probably because they were considered dangerous and i wasn't allowed to play with them. When my father gave me my first knife and taught me the dangers and also the postives that knives can bring...i thought i was the #1 shit on the block. Look Greggs dad gave him a knife...thats so cool !!! Until i almost cut the tip of my finger off in front of my friends, probably showing off....and thay were probaly thinking what ind of dad gives there son a knife....and what a dumb ass Gregg was being trying to show off what he could do with his new knife...cut the tip of his figer off.....thanks for the memories though !!!!

      2011.05.28 Edited Reply Cancel

    • # Gillian

      Every boy should have a knife! I had a pen made out of a bullet when I was younger - at least recycling them into knife handles and pens is a better use for them.

      2011.05.26 Edited Reply Cancel

    • # Paul

      Great story telling Jon.....I remember my first pocket knife...it was given to me by my Grandfather.....

      2011.05.24 Edited Reply Cancel

    • # Helen

      What an unusual family heirloom - I can see why it would have been so fascinating to you as a boy!

      2011.05.24 Edited Reply Cancel