The side arms of the Kaiserliche Aero flyers are many and varied just as with the Kaiserliche Automobile Corps.
The Aero daggers pictured in this article were worn by members of the Kaiserliche Freiwilliges Automobil-Corps who had dual status both as KFAC members and volunteer flyers. It is essentially the same standard production dagger in all respects with the substitution of a propeller on the crossguard instead of the standard horn.
The Aero daggers followed the Automobile Corps pattern exactly. Therefore, the dagger retained exactly the same dimensions as the Automobile Corps dagger. The early daggers of the period 1910-11 have turned ivory grips with a single steel wire wrap. A closed crown pommel completed the hilt. One of these early closed crown daggers is pictured here being worn by a decorated wartime aero officer complete with knot. These initial production daggers were mounted in nickel silver or silver plated brass. The scabbards were produced in brown leather, either dyed or painted. The scabbard fittings were also nickel silver or brass and the top mount was fitted with either a frog stud or a combination of frog stud and a horizontal wear ring configuration. Blades on these early daggers could be ordered either plain or etched. Blades could also be ordered with or with-out nickel plating.
As yet, no record of an official Aero portepee has been discovered. The picture of the Aero Officer above does show him wearing a standard Prussian sword portepee with his dagger. This same portepee wear has been observed on Automobile Corps daggers. This writer has observed that every aero dagger he has seen shows portepee wear on the crossguard arms.
Immediately preceding the war a newer model of the aero dagger could be privately ordered. This dagger was similar to the earlier model but featured a double wire wrapped grip and was offered only with an open Prussian crown pommel. The dagger remained nickel silver or brass mounted with a brown scabbard. During this exciting pre-war period the `esprit de corps” of the early airmen was at an all time high and private purchase daggers with embellished blades were in fashion. The etched bladed dagger featured in this article is an outstanding example of one of these coveted dirks.
At the beginning of the war, we begin to see nickel plated iron mounts. All other features of the pre-war dagger remained the same. During the late war period 1916-1917 the iron mounted wartime daggers went through another change. During this period, aero daggers were ordered with a coating of black enamel on both the dagger and scabbard mounts. This darkened dagger was more fitting of the wartime conditions as well as the uniform that was adopted after 1915.
The reader will note the blackened wartime dagger pictured here is an entirely different model of the aero dagger presented above. . This dagger does contain a blackened iron, horizontally worn, lightning bolt scabbard more in keeping with naval tradition. Regular naval flying officers of this same period wore the steel late war dagger as well, except the crossguard contained the typical fouled anchor and the entire dagger remained gilded. The scabbard suspension bands of the blackened scabbard have been decorated with a gold wash. This identical gold wash embellishment has been observed on blackened war time Automobile Corps daggers.
Who wore this black dagger? We hypothesize that this dagger may have been worn by KFAC members, such as Walter Schmidt, who volunteered as a member of the navy flyers or other civilian volunteers aviators as presented earlier. There is a third possibility for this dagger as advanced by the Head of the edged weapons department of the Bundewswehr Museum in Dresden. The department head postulates that the dagger was worn by a member of a very small ship borne navy observer pilot group. No period documentation exists supporting any of these ideas. In any case this is one of the rarest German military daggers in existence.
At the end of the war all versions of the KFAC dagger ceased to be worn.