letter opener

My “stiletto.”



After I passed the 22 SAS Regiment selection course in the mid 1970s, we were issued our personal ops kit and sent over to our squadrons to begin our new careers as SAS troopers.

It was an amazing time for me, coming from the RAF Regiment and being one of only 6 passes. 

At that time, the Dhofar War in Oman was still ongoing, and my kit preparation was very much centered around that conflict. Much of the kit, albeit classed as special forces, was from the second world war, and had been handed down through the various conflicts since, for over 30 years. 

One of my prized items was the stiletto…or commando dagger…or as it’s known correctly, the Fairbairn Sykes fighting knife.

I was lucky enough to have gone to the RQMS stores alone and at the right time. I was tied up with some laborious admin to do at RHQ first. Changing over paperwork from the RAF to the Army (something that kept haunting me for the next 4 years until I decided to leave the RAF altogether. Switch arms to the Army by becoming a member of the Parachute Regiment as my parent unit on paper, while still remaining in the SAS). While I was drawing up my personal kit, the RQMS’s storeman said that he had found an old box of stilettos along with other old gear as they’re getting ready for a store’s audit. He said that although he’ll issue me with the required stiletto, there are some older ones in the box if I wanted one.

I looked into the box, there must have been 20 to 30 knives in there. Some in their leather sheathes, some just lying without a sheath. Some had markings on the blades, some just had the MOD arrow marked onto the cross guard above the blade.

I chose one with a Wilkinson Sword etching on one side of the blade, and The FS Fighting Knife etched on the other side…as I thought it looked cool. The stiletto that I was issued with was black with no markings. For the rest of my career, I’d carry the etched one…as again I thought it looked cool. Actually it felt different. Maybe the older etched one was way better made, compared to the then present day made by the thousands issued one?

I spent years during my down time on deployments, just sitting and cleaning the knife, wondering who had been issued it before me. Did one of Stirling’s originals have it? Did it see service in Malaya, Borneo, the Radfan? Did one of the lads have it up on the jebel in Dhofar? Although it was in very good shape, it still looked well used.

If only it could speak…however, it’s mine now and I’ll treasure it forever.

Over the years it would become a lucky charm more than a tool to rip out throats. With me, it seen service in Dhofar, the Falklands War, the First Gulf War and Bosnia, along with some not so well known operations. Like me though, it’s now retired.

And now I’m retired, I’ve come to treasure my few remaining military trinkets gathered together over those special years. Little did I know though, just how sought after this particular knife is around the world. I see them going on the internet for extortionate prices now…and people paying it!

After 23 years of military service, and almost 20 of those in 22 SAS Regiment along with my stiletto, I can now say that during one of my many deployments on operations, that I did actually use it…to open my mail.

One of the most awesome and treasured letter openers of all time. It may be worth  money to some, but to me…it’s absolutely priceless.

Published by: bobshepherdauthor

Bestselling author Bob Shepherd has spent nearly forty years operating in conflict areas around the world. A twenty year veteran of Britain’s elite 22 SAS Regiment with nearly two decades of private security work to his credit, Bob has successfully negotiated some of the most dangerous places on earth as a special forces soldier and a private citizen. Bob comments regularly on security issues and has appeared on CNN International, BBC, SKY News, and BBC Radio. He has also authored numerous articles and books including the Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller The Circuit. In addition to writing and lecturing, Bob continues to advise individuals operating in hostile environments. For more of his insights on security and geopolitics visit

Categories Uncategorized9 Comments


  1. Hello Bob,

    Love the history of the weapon and share your fondness on those special mementos of a warrior’s past.

    Best to you, Patty and Robbie.


    *Timothy Suprise* *ARCADIA BREWING COMPANY* *Founder & CEO* o: 269.276.0440 x20 9 | c: 269.207.1908701 E Michigan Ave. Kalamazoo, MI 49007 Follow The Röad Crew : @MotorheadBeerUS on Facebook / Twitter /Instagram The contents of this email message and any attachments are intended solely for the addressee(s) and may contain confidential and/or privileged information and may be legally protected from disclosure.

  2. Great story went to a charity store and saw your book and for the next three days it was my companion . Great story and I learnt a lot about what to do in a war torn environment

  3. Just enjoying your crack again Bob about you Fairbairn Sykes Fighting knife . Just as a matter of interest and as you will probably know Both William Fairbairn and Eric Sykes ( not the comedy one) were both former Police Officers in the Shanghai Municipal Police Force back in the 1920s and 30s . Fairbairn especially fought many a back street brawl with Chinese Gangsters in the notorious red light districts of Shanghai which at that particular time was known as the Worlds most dangerous city . My own Grandfather had lived and worked in Shanghai for 13 years during those times before becoming a civilian prisoner of war with the Imperial Japanese Forces . He did not tell me a great deal as he was such a complicated man but one thing he did tell me was that he was personally acquainted with both Fairbairn and Sykes before they were both offered a commision in the British Army as Captains to come over to England in 1939 / 40 to train the newly formed SOE Agents in the deadly arts of unarmed / armed hand to hand combat . Sykes stayed on in England training our Agents while Fairbairn went over to Camp X in Canada to train the US OSS agents (Office of Strategic Services ) the forerunner of the CIA .
    Ex 23

  4. Thanks for sharing Bob.
    That model is a definite family keeper, being an early pattern 2, before they were official issue. I have a pattern 3 from “the Indian order”, that was gifted to me early in my career and has been carried discretely with me in 5 Mission areas now. It’s kind of a good luck charm to me. I’m more worried now about having some customs officer seize it then using it for life extension.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s