I have had my eye out for one of the early Portuguese "pick-shovel" entrenching tools for quite some time. They show up, here and there, but the prices are usually quite high, and they are rarely in the USA. While taking a break from some recent research, I decided to "kill some time" by doing some random searches on eBay. Apparently that was a very good idea because I spotted one of these tools for sale by a seller in Portugal. The price was right, and it was a "buy it now". I couldn't pass it up!
These Portuguese tools are quite unique in the field of military entrenching tools. They appear to be the first tool issued to a European army that could be used as a shovel, a hoe, and a pick, all with one metal head and a handle. No moveable, hinged, or articulating parts, just the head and handle. This is accomplished by having two handle mounting sockets in the handle mount.
The wood handle is tapered to slide down into the head from the top to use the tool as a hoe-pick.
To use as a shovel, the handle end is inserted into the horizontal mounting holes. The taper of the handle end locks it nicely in place.
The one unfortunate thing about this particular tool purchase, was that it was missing the original wooden handle. I did a little research, inspected quite a number of old photos, and deduced the proper shape and measurements for the original handle. I spent a couple of days in the shop, and the end results were more than satisfying. The handle turned out perfect (actually, the second handle turned out great). Perfect dimensions, shape and fit. (Handle wood is Hickory, in my reproduced version).
I finished off the handle with a "stamping" on the top end. I had recently purchased a couple of pre-WW1 letter stamps at our local "junk store", and I pulled them out to use on the new shovel handle.
The letters are random, and don't actually mean anything in particular. I have found that adding numbers and letter stampings, to reproduced items like this, give them a bit more of an "authentic" look.
I finished off the new wood handle with some stain, and a few coats of Danish Oil.
Information on the history of these tools is very limited. I relied on research and documentation that was forwarded to me from two other collectors in France, and some research of my own (Thank you Pavel and Pierre!). I'll try to give the most accurate telling of the history of these tools, and their leather carriers, that I can, but please understand that most of the "facts" are deductions, and observations, and were not pulled from published documents. Published information may exist, but it is most likely hidden somewhere in the Portuguese archives. If anyone knows were these documents can be found, please let me know!
Based on some uncovered patent information, it appears that these tools were first patented in 1909, and later again, in 1911. They were know as Theriaga tools. As far as I can tell, no documentation has been found regarding the leather covers. The earliest photos that show these tools being carried, are from the first years of Portugal's involvement in WW1, about 1916, when Germany declared war on them.
Portugal organized, and sent, about 55,000 soldiers to fight with Great Britain, in France. These troops were known as the Portuguese Expeditionary Force, or Corpo Expedicionário Português, (CEP). The CEP were outfitted in blue-gray, British styled uniforms and used the British Mills Web Gear. There was no carrier in the Mills gear inventory to carry these tools, so it appears that they were strapped to packs and belts using some sort of abbreviated strap or belt hanger. Whatever the method that was used to attach the tools to the CEP soldier's gear, is hidden behind the tool in all of the photos. Until more definitive information is discovered, we will just have to speculate. Since the CEP troops in France wore the canvas Mills gear, it is safe to say that the leather carriers were not used in that theater of the war.
Portugal did however have troops on duty inside Portugal, and in their colonies in Africa. From all of the photos that I have seen from the early 1900's through WW1, it appears that these troops wore leather gear. I have not located any photos of these tools being carried in any of the photos though. Based on the fact that the troops inside Portugal and in the Portuguese colonies of Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau, wore leather gear, it can be assumed that this is where these leather carriers were used.
It is interesting to note that the idea of a "multi-tool" type of entrenching tool was widely experimented with in the early 1900's, and up to WW1. There are a number of different patents, from different inventors, during that time. They all seem to have worked on the idea of a pick-shovel with removable handle. There are very similar versions of these "pick-hoe" tools that date back to the Roman era, so the concept has been around for quite some time.
By WW1, a number of countries had adopted this style, most notably the United Kingdom, and Portugal. The UK's version is significantly smaller, and does not convert into a shovel like the Portuguese tool does.
The head on this tool is very heavy, and unmarked. It is riveted to the pick-mounting piece using the same rivet style used on the spades used by most other countries at the time.
Here is a quick, side-by-side, comparison of the British tool and the Portuguese tool. You can see that the Portuguese tool is much larger.
Here is a side-by-side, comparison with a WW1 era, Imperial Russian, entrenching tool.
Here is a comparison of all three, side-by-side: British, Portuguese, Russian.
The leather carrier is constructed of heavy harness leather. The leather carrier is unmarked. It has a built-in bayonet frog on the left side, and two straps on the right hand side. I am not sure what the straps were meant to be used for, as they are too long and don't have the correct buckle hole positions to be used to carry the wood handle. The straps are permanently attached to the leather carrier. It appears that these straps are the same length on other examples that are owned by collectors (as observed in contemporary collection photos). I have tried to wrap the strap a full 360 degrees around the handle and then buckle it, but that does not work with that method either. For now, the straps are a mystery, and how the handle was officially carried is also a mystery. The research continues!
Well, this has been a LONG posting! Much longer than most of my postings, but I think it was worth it. There is so little information out on the internet right now, I can only hope that when someone is trying to find out what that "interesting tool" they have is, or when they are researching one of these tools, that they find this blog posting. I also hope that anyone who has additional information on these tools, will contact me so that I can include this additional information on the blog. Additional information, and corrections are always appreciated, and I often go back to older posts and update them accordingly.
Let's wrap things up, and take a closer look at this amazing tool.