Unusual British Sabre

Bryce
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Unusual British Sabre

Post by Bryce » Fri Mar 08, 2019 12:21 am

G'day Guys,

This sabre is such an unusual design that I thought it was worthwhile reposting it after the old forum was lost. The sabre has a pipe-back blade 80cm long and 3.5cm wide at the ricasso. The blade has been beautifully etched with a faux Damascus pattern, panel of mystical symbols, curling foliage and comet design. What makes this sabre unusual is the recurved form of the blade, similar to a Turkish yataghan or Indian sosun pattah. The blade initially curves downward from the hilt, before curving upward toward the point in a slight “S” shape. Unlike the yataghan and sosun pattah, the upward curve of the blade tip is extended to bring the point up slightly above the line of the hilt. The intention seems to be to provide a sword with a curved cutting edge, but with the point better aligned for the thrust than a traditional sabre.

The Stansted Park Foundation has the sword of Colonel Frederick Ponsonby who commanded the 12th Light Dragoons at Waterloo in 1815. Ponsonby’s sword has a similar recurved shape, but has a flat unfullered blade, rather than a pipe-back. The etched decoration on Ponsonby’s sword blade also shares some common design elements with this mameluke. These are the only two British swords of this period I have seen with recurved blades. The scabbards of these two swords also share some modifications necessary to accommodate a recurved blade.
The hilt of the mameluke sabre features an ivory grip, double langets and a chunky “S” shaped, steel guard, terminating in “acorn” quillons. It incorporates a chain running from the quillon to the pommel to provide some protection for the knuckles. It superficially resembles some mamelukes favoured by Dutch officers of the time.

Why do I think this sabre is British rather than Dutch or French? Several other pipe-back swords exist with the same style of etched blade decoration and marked to British sword cutlers such as George S Reddell and Richard Johnston. Several of these swords are marked to George S Reddell 47 Picadilly, London. The Post Office and Trade Directories of the time show he worked from this address between 1811 and 1813.

Where does the unusual blade decoration come from? While faux Damascus etching, mystical symbols and foliage are not unusual on British swords, the combination of these features with the curling comet design seems to have suddenly appeared around 1812 and then disappeared within 10 years. The answer may lie with the great comet of 1811. The great comet of 1811 was visible to the naked eye for 260 days between about August 1811 and January 1812. It was a conspicuous object in the night sky and appears to have made a great impact on people of the day. Comets were always thought to be powerful and mysterious objects. In addition, 1811 was a great year for wine production and this was thought to be mainly due to the influence of the comet. This may explain the combination of comet and curling foliage designs on this sword.

The sword of Major JP Bridger of the 12th Light Dragoons, which Richard has posted on another thread, features the same blade decoration as this sword. It is the only sword with this blade decoration that I have seen to date which can be positively attributed to a particular regiment.


Cheers,

Bryce
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Bryce
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Re: Unusual British Sabre

Post by Bryce » Fri Mar 08, 2019 12:22 am

Ponsonby's sword
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Bryce
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Re: Unusual British Sabre

Post by Bryce » Fri Mar 08, 2019 12:26 am

Artists' illustrations of the great comet of 1811.
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Bryce
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Re: Unusual British Sabre

Post by Bryce » Fri Mar 08, 2019 12:28 am

Comaparison with contemporary quillpoint.
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Bryce
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Re: Unusual British Sabre

Post by Bryce » Sat Mar 09, 2019 1:00 am

A sword with similar blade decoration sold on ebay recently. This one is a conventional pipe-back blade and 1821 style hilt.
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Bryce
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Re: Unusual British Sabre

Post by Bryce » Mon Mar 11, 2019 1:23 am

There are several swords which have a different form of this "comet" decoration. Ponsonby's sword above is one of them. Here is another marked to the 82nd Regiment of foot, by G S Reddell, 236 Picadilly. Reddell was at this address around 1814-1818. The 1796 stirrup-hilted quill-point pictured above also has this same decoration. It is signed Odell, 17 Old Bond Street, London. It may be that this form of decoration evolved from the slightly earlier "mystical symbol panel" form above, or perhaps may be "Masonic"?


Cheers,

Bryce
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Richard
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Re: Unusual British Sabre

Post by Richard » Wed Mar 13, 2019 8:17 am

Bryce

Thanks for resurrecting this post. Just to add to it, here is the sword of Lt. John Doyne McArthur which is also etched on both sides with swirls and geometric designs. However, rather than the comet of 1811, this has the Eye of Providence (or 'the all-seeing eye') on the blade.

Richard

PS, John Doyne McArthur has interesting provenance: he joined the 114th Foot in 1762 as adjutant at 6 years of age for which commission his father (also in the regiment) paid £100. When the 114th was disbanded in 1763, JDMcA effectively then had an annuity for life and he remained on the Army Half Pay list for the next 40 years! However, he rejoined the army in 1803 serving with the 36th Foot and seeing action in Buenos Aires and the Peninsula (Rolica, Vimiera and Corunna) before accompanying the regiment on the Walchern expedition where he was 'seized with the disease of that town' (probably malaria). Thereafter he was on sick leave until joining the Royal Veteran Battalion from 1810 to 1821. Its a somewhat sprauncy sword for someone of his rank.
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Bryce
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Re: Unusual British Sabre

Post by Bryce » Thu Mar 14, 2019 10:25 pm

G'day Guys,

Czerny's have another mameluke with a similar style of blade decoration for sale in their upcoming auction. This one is by GS Reddell, 236 Picadilly dating it to 1814-1818. It also appears to be dated on the blade, but can't quite make it out. Appears to be MDCCCXI? so perhaps 1812-1814? Also can't make out if it has a comet or just foliage on the blade.
Cheers,
Bryce
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Bryce
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Re: Unusual British Sabre

Post by Bryce » Sat Aug 03, 2019 6:32 am

A 1796 style light cavalry officer sword with pipe-back blade and the same style of blade decoration sold at auction recently. It is marked to the 7th (Queens Own) Hussars. So far I have seen swords with this style of decoration marked to the 12th LD, 82nd Foot and now 7th Hussars. This further confirms that this design doesn't have a regimental attribution, but was simply a popular, generic design of the day.

This sabre also has an uncommon ergonomic grip, similar to Ponsonby's sword above.

Cheers,
Bryce
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Bryce
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Re: Unusual British Sabre

Post by Bryce » Wed Aug 21, 2019 8:17 am

G'day Guys,
The 7th hussars sabre finally arrived today. Here are a couple of quick pics. The good news is it is regimentally marked, has the owner's initials, is maker marked to George S Reddell and has been service sharpened. The bad news is that all of the external metal work is covered in surface rust and it has lost the tang peen so the guard and grip are loose on the blade. The blade is in pretty good condition, although a little worn. The owners initials are complicated. It could be E something H. Any ideas?
Cheers,
Bryce
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