Type C Chains & SA Gruppe Crossguards
In the early days of collecting, 3rd Reich enthusiasts were quick to notice that the M36 SS Dagger was found containing 2 different chain varieties. The term Type I & Type II was adopted, and that is the way that it remained for over 50 some years. Since that time, collectors studying SS chain daggers realized that not only was the nomenclature confusing for the terms of the 2 different varieties of chains, but discovered there were at least 2 additional chain assemblies that hadn’t been addressed in the past. Finally in 2010, German SS dagger enthusiast and author Ralf Siegert, differentiated the chain configurations, and categorized them into characteristics, composition, and a chronological time-line of when they were manufactured. Although the edged weapon community is slow to adapt to Ralf’s new terms for the different types of chain assemblies, I hope that this will change over the next several years. As it is certainly easier to understand and comprehend when a particular variety of SS Chain Dagger is being discussed. As many collectors now know, Ralf used the terms Type A, Type B1, Type B2 & Type C, to make it easier for collectors to more clearly understand the different chain assemblies and their applications.
Now the Type A and B1’s, are always nickel composition, with slight differences in the details and characteristics of the shape of the skull, runes, and connectors. Although the Type A had a relatively short production run time, the Type B’s continued until the end of edged weapon production. The main difference between the B1’s and the B2’s, is that the former is solid nickel construction, and the later steel composition. Pretty straight forward. As edged weapon companies were no longer afforded nickel to use in the production of components, steel, zinc and other alloys became the norm. Again, the Type B1 and B2 chain assemblies for all intent and purposes, are nearly identical. With the one exception of either of being manufactured out of nickel, or out of steel.
Now we come to the Type C’s. It’s not so much with the production time frame of 1939 and later of these Type C’s that presents the problem. It is the years of 1937-38, that collectors blow all up on militaria forums, and all hell breaks loose in arguments.
You first have to look at the time period that the Type C chains were first introduced. The last of the nickel for dagger manufacturing was going away, and edged weapon firms were recycling and using up the last of their early components. As edged weapon collectors we clearly see this. It is shown in both SA and SS edged weapon production, where these mid period daggers will be found with mostly plated fittings, but grips still being used which have nickel eagles and runes. Thus began the era of plated parts, and using up the last of the nickel. This practice did not shut off fast, hard, and definitive, overnight, and all in one day. And most likely by 1939, nearly all fittings within an SS or SA dagger, were now plated.
In reference to the chain assemblies, they were most likely sold by vendors in kit form. Contained in these sets were the top fitting of the scabbard, the middle fitting, and the 2 spans of links, all connected to the Wotan’s knot clip. For edged weapon manufactures this certainly facilitated the installation of the chain assembly onto their scabbards. For some of the initial Type C chain scabbard that are encountered, this was not the case. These early Type C chains are unmistakable when you are familiar with them. They are so thick and heavily plated, that they look like an expensive piece of jewelry at a downtown mall. When some of these early Type C’s are encountered, the top and bottom fittings on the scabbard are NICKEL, and not steel like the chain itself, and center fitting. It couldn’t have been any fun for the manufactures to now have to solder the top ramp an upper scabbard fitting, to suspend the chain assembly. But with these early heavy Type C chain assemblies, that is exactly what we see. More times than not, whenever an early Type C Chain dagger is encountered, it will be matched to a dagger that has a maker marked blade. This gives way to the thought, that some lowly EM or NCO who was qualified to wear and carry the chain scabbard, to have purchased only the chain separately, and had it installed to their existing M33 scabbard. At the price of an SS Chain Dagger being double what an SS soldier paid for his M33, this certainly made economic sense. And that is the reason that we see those early Type C’s, with killer plated chains, matched to maker marked M33 daggers. These introductory Type C chain assemblies, most likely made their appearance in late 1936 or early 1937. To further reinforce that, once again look at the construction of these first Type C‘s, that are found . Blued scabbard, nickel top fitting, and nickel bottom fitting. It’s an M33 shell, with just the center band, and chain links fitted to it. Collectors have always complained that there was no provision for an SS chain scabbard listed separately, on edged weapon manufacturers common parts lists. Certainly what I describe above can explain the link between some maker marked M33 daggers, matched with chain scabbards. And in particular, the early Type Cs.
SS Chain Daggers found with SA Gruppe marked cross guards, have caused more of a ruckus and argument on 3rd Reich edged weapons, than any other topic I can remember. Those against this combination complain that ill fit grips and mismatched parts composition, as their argument that these are parts daggers put together by veterans. Those in the collecting community that accept these non-conforming edged weapons, cite that far too many of them have been veteran purchased untouched, as proof of their existence. Coupled with the fact that they have been found in veteran’s souvenirs not only in the US, but in Canada, the UK, and many other European countries. Several years back there was one such an example that surfaced hidden inside a wall of a building, that was being torn down in Germany. The sheer number of these vet found chain daggers with SA Gruppe stamped cross guards, can not be dismissed as some global conspiracy involving the switching of parts on these edged weapons. Let’s look at the common denominators with these daggers.
In analyzing them, let’s start with the scabbard. Invariably and with few exceptions, the scabbards are blued, have plated fittings, and equip with Type C chain assemblies. They are not the early Type C’s as I describe above which are so beautiful with heavy struck links, with thick bright plating. But instead they have thin plating comparable to the material that we see going into the RZM period, of 1938 on forward. The chains themselves are of thinner strike, with the plating which is often flaking, and rust developing on the surfaces. And we often see this same deteriorating effect on the upper and lower scabbard fittings too. Collectors are all too familiar with the era when the last of the nickel was going away, and plated components were what edged weapon manufactures were faced with. So, the scabbard and chain fits into this timeline quite easily. And now the actual dagger part of the equation. The profile of the grips on these Gruppe stamped daggers is early. They certainly are not typical RZM pattern handles, that follows the one size fits all theme, which edged weapon components generally evolved into. These grips are earlier style, that required precision alterations to enable them to fit early hardware fittings. We know this, because you can see that in the emblems that are inset within the wood. Both the eagle and the SS runes are nickel. We’ve already have accepted this fact, and know that this to be a mid period manufacturing practice, shown by a ton of SA’s in collections that demonstrate the same. Early left over components being used up, prior to giving away to RZM grips that we will see with later on production.
The grip to cross guard fit on these Type C chains with SA Gruppe stamped fittings is absolutely all over the place. It’s crazy ! Some fit fine, some have low shoulders, other have more spacing than you would expect, it’s truly all over the board. Duh, no kidding. They were early SA dagger cross guards, now paired to SS grips, which were never hand precision fit. So how could this come to be?
In early July of 1934 and shortly after the Rohm purge, a directive was sent out by SA Major General Obernitz. In this 4 step order, the General addressed first and foremost, all honor daggers bearing the Rohm dedication. He states that all honor daggers with the Rohm dedication are to be disposed of at once, and furthermore that they will be replaced with standard SA daggers. It was also permissible to have the dedication inscription removed from the blade, by grinding and then re-polishing, thereby the former honor dagger could then be worn as a standard dagger. In essence, if you didn’t want that scarred up gnarly blade with the ground Rohm dedication on it, you could get your dagger replaced with a standard M33 SA. I certainly imagine that out of the 125,800 daggers awarded with the Ernst Rohm dedication on the blade, that there was a fair amount of these that were traded in. In doing so, edged weapon manufactures would have the opportunity to recycle all of the parts in one fashion or another. The blades could be factory ground and more than likely reissued. Grips with eagle and SA runes emblems could possibly been refitted. But the one thing that would be problematic for the edged weapon firms would be the already Gruppe stamped lower cross guards. As these were marked at distribution centers after the daggers left the factory, it wouldn’t make sense to have a Gruppe stamp on them, not knowing where these daggers were going to be distributed. The cross guards, and in particular the lower cross guards, was most likely not reused on new sold SA daggers.
Unlike the M33 SA or SS daggers, the M36 Chain Dagger was an edged weapon that could be purchased individually by the soldier, by placing his order with the SS Administration offices located in either Munich or Berlin. Any requests to the RZM were strictly ignored. Since the M36 SS Chain Dagger was a direct private purchase edged weapon, not controlled by the RZM, that in itself may have lessened the tight quality control restrictions on these daggers. Being such, an enterprising edged weapon firm may have seen the opportunity to buy up these Gruppe stamped cross guards, and used them in their production of some M36 SS Chain dagger. Of course the contour and shape of these pre-used hardware fittings were only by chance going to fit the precut and shaped SS grips that they had in stock. But certainly the nickel components were going to be better than the plated parts which were coming all too soon. You have to remember, these daggers were not subject to the strict quality control that the RZM imparted on edged weapon companies, and this certainly could have resulted in the Gruppe stamped cross guards being utilized and fitted to these daggers. The edge weapon firm that was responsible for these M36 SS daggers may have even offered these edged weapons at a discount price, knowing that they lacked the precision fit of their counterparts being manufactured by other companies.
The common characteristics of the Gruppe cross guard M36 daggers, usually run the same in terms of construction. Nickel cross guards, nickel pommel nut, and nickel emblems set within early style grips. Yes, the grip in many cases doesn’t fit that great, but as described above, we can already see why that was the case. The scabbard for almost every example that I’ve seen, is a mid period Type C. These shells have plated fitting throughout, including all 3 scabbard fittings and the chain assembly. When sold new in this combination, these components would not clash in appearance as they do today. As collectors very well know, if nickel parts remained un-cleaned over ¾ of a century, they take on a gold / green patina that is observed evenly throughout. Of course the dagger / scabbard looks different today, than it did 70 years ago.
The Gruppe stamped cross guard M36 SS daggers have been found in far too many WWII veteran’s souvenirs, to be explained away as post war fabrications. Many collectors have come to realize and accept this. If a collector personally doesn’t like them, no big deal. They are an anomaly, and an exception to the norm but they truly are 3rd Reich period produced edged weapons. And that’s my take.
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