It was in 1916 that one of the longest lasting pieces of British Army equipment was introduced; the Mk I Cutters, Wire, Folding. This was a design of wire cutter that had folding legs to make it easy to carry on the belt, but which could be extended to give the user the strength necessary to cut through barbed wire:
The two legs are pulled apart, folding back to extend them out:
This design continued in service from 1916 right through to the present day with MTP pouches produced! This particular set of cutters is (faintly) dated 1917:
Variations can be found depending on the manufacturers, this pair have handles with areas cut away to clear the jaws, other examples can be found with full handles:
Again, minor variations can be found for the cutting jaws, this pair being rather more curved than some others that can be found:
Some of these wire cutters saw service with the Australians into the 1970s, although they were showing their age by then:
They were still in service in the Australian army in the 1970’s-1980’s and they were rubbish. I broke two sets of wire cutters both had one of the blades snap off and the metal had large crystals showing. Age had finally caught up with them.
William Coggy was a tank crewman in World War II and used wirecutters, probably Mk Is, to free his tank:
We moved off following the line ordered, when in the gloom, I noticed we were dragging a mile or two of barbed wire with us and found ourselves in a minefield. Whether it was a dummy minefield or not, we had no way of knowing. I shall never know whether it was or not, but the only thing I could think of was not to risk any new ground, so I had the driver reverse in our own tracks for a few feet, then I jumped down actually on to the track marks, to make sure I didn’t stand on any mines. I used wire cutters to free the wire, then walked in the tracks guiding the driver as he reversed out of the danger zone.