Myths about British Swords!

Moderators: Richard, antiquesword

Myths about British Swords!

Postby Brimage » Sun Jun 24, 2018 4:09 am

Hi Guys

While we are debunking myths, i.e. GG on the blade = does not mean Grenadier Guard, when I first started collecting, more experienced collectors told me the following:

Ivory Grips = Staff Officers?
The length of Blue and Gilt on the blade indicates rank i.e 1/4 = lieutenant etc?
Brass Scabbards are for major and above rank?

I have always taken these comments with a pinch of salt as I found no written references to back them up, but would be interested if there is in fact any truth in them.

Cheers Cathey
User avatar
Brimage
 
Posts: 135
Joined: Fri Feb 24, 2012 2:30 am
Location: Australia

Re: Myths about British Swords!

Postby Matt Easton » Sun Jun 24, 2018 10:32 am

Brass scabbards are generally for Majors and above in the Victorian era until the 1890s in my opinion.
________________
Schola Gladiatoria - Historical Swordsmanship in London
Easton Antique Arms
User avatar
Matt Easton
 
Posts: 385
Joined: Thu Feb 23, 2012 5:28 pm
Location: Guildford, Surrey, UK

Re: Myths about British Swords!

Postby Will Mathieson » Sun Jun 24, 2018 3:43 pm

Robsons revised edition page 159 has brass scabbards coming into effect in 1832.
Ivory grips and the level of blue and gilt may be regimental orders? With the distinction in rank being so important they may very well have allowed more blue and gilt for higher ranking officers.
A young officer with family money may afford more as in a fancy sword but not be allowed to wear one until a particular rank is held. It would not look very good on parade with swords drawn to have junior ranks outdo senior ranks. Now to find references to this!
User avatar
Will Mathieson
 
Posts: 488
Joined: Mon Aug 06, 2012 11:00 pm

Re: Myths about British Swords!

Postby Bryce » Mon Jun 25, 2018 3:39 am

G'day Guys,

As we have established in the past, there are very few hard and fast rules when it comes to this sort of thing. I think it was all about how wealthy and influential the individual officer was and their personal taste.

Regarding blue and gilt, most swords seem to be around the 1/2 to 2/3 range. There doesn't seem to be that much variation. Given that most officers got their swords when they first joined as junior officers, and junior officers are more numerous than senior officers, you would expect the vast majority of surviving swords to have < 1/2 blue and gilt. This doesn't seem to be the case.


Brass scabbards in Georgian times tend to be relatively uncommon, which would support the theory. On the other hand, all officers of the 10th Hussars had brass scabbards.

During Georgian times the most commonly encountered swords with ivory grips are mamelukes, 1805 Naval swords and 1803's. I don't think there is any correlation with staff officers.

Cheers,
Bryce
User avatar
Bryce
 
Posts: 295
Joined: Thu Dec 03, 2015 2:36 am
Location: Australia

Re: Myths about British Swords!

Postby sword335 » Mon Jun 25, 2018 10:40 am

I agree with all that Bryce said.
As far as ivory grips are concerned, the only time they indicated rank was on the 1805 Naval sword. Ivory grips were supposed to be for Commanders and above. In other words all Lieutenants should have carried swords with fish skin grips. However, as swords like this are comparatively rare either grips were changed upon promotion or this regulation was largely ignored.

Chris.
User avatar
sword335
 
Posts: 308
Joined: Thu Feb 23, 2012 7:17 pm
Location: Surrey

Re: Myths about British Swords!

Postby Matt Easton » Mon Jun 25, 2018 12:40 pm

Bryce wrote:Brass scabbards in Georgian times tend to be relatively uncommon, which would support the theory. On the other hand, all officers of the 10th Hussars had brass scabbards.


Not the case in Victorian times though - I've had a couple of 10th Hussars officer's swords and both had steel scabbards, as normal.

Every Victorian brass infantry officer's scabbard I have had was for a Major or above.
________________
Schola Gladiatoria - Historical Swordsmanship in London
Easton Antique Arms
User avatar
Matt Easton
 
Posts: 385
Joined: Thu Feb 23, 2012 5:28 pm
Location: Guildford, Surrey, UK

Re: Myths about British Swords!

Postby Richard » Tue Jun 26, 2018 10:49 am

I would have thought that ivory grips for staff officers only and the extent of blade decoration to be entirely fanciful ideas (or myths as the thread title).

Matt, I had not realised that brass scabbards are only found on swords carried by the rank of Major and above as you have observed. I assume we are talking about the 1822 infantry officer sword only? and does that also mean that Major and above swords cannot be found with steel scabbards? or did officers have two scabbards - one for dress and one for service?

Richard
User avatar
Richard
 
Posts: 763
Joined: Tue Feb 21, 2012 4:18 pm
Location: Bath, Somerset, UK

Re: Myths about British Swords!

Postby Richard » Tue Jun 26, 2018 10:52 am

Mythical patterns also:

The '1814' Household Cavalry Officer pattern (so-called because of a painting by Denis Dighton dated 1814 in the Royal Collection)

The 1887 Heavy Cavalry Officers' sword (after a sword illustrated in Robson 1975 which was dated 1887)

Richard
User avatar
Richard
 
Posts: 763
Joined: Tue Feb 21, 2012 4:18 pm
Location: Bath, Somerset, UK

Re: Myths about British Swords!

Postby Matt Easton » Tue Jun 26, 2018 1:56 pm

Urgh.... The 1887 pattern... That drives me up the wall.

I have to say - and I know this might upset some people - the 1854 pattern infantry officer's sword. It doesn't exist. It's the 1845 pattern and by around 1860 makers just stopped doing the folding drop. Wilkinson were still making the folding drop as standard until 1859.
________________
Schola Gladiatoria - Historical Swordsmanship in London
Easton Antique Arms
User avatar
Matt Easton
 
Posts: 385
Joined: Thu Feb 23, 2012 5:28 pm
Location: Guildford, Surrey, UK

Re: Myths about British Swords!

Postby Matt Easton » Tue Jun 26, 2018 2:02 pm

Richard wrote:Matt, I had not realised that brass scabbards are only found on swords carried by the rank of Major and above as you have observed. I assume we are talking about the 1822 infantry officer sword only? and does that also mean that Major and above swords cannot be found with steel scabbards? or did officers have two scabbards - one for dress and one for service?


Good questions :)
The short answer is that it seems brass scabbards are almost always for a Field Officer (ie. Major or above). There may be exceptions, but I have never seen one personally.
Did Majors have to switch to brass scabbards from steel ones in the Victorian period? I don't know, but I doubt it. I have swords which were purchased by Lieutenants and Captains who became Majors and they have steel scabbards. But every sword that I have had that was purchased by a British infantry Major or above, has a brass scabbard.
This is only for infantry (and maybe Royal Engineers), yes. Royal Artillery and Cavalry seem to never have had brass scabbards in this period at all.
________________
Schola Gladiatoria - Historical Swordsmanship in London
Easton Antique Arms
User avatar
Matt Easton
 
Posts: 385
Joined: Thu Feb 23, 2012 5:28 pm
Location: Guildford, Surrey, UK

Re: Myths about British Swords!

Postby sword335 » Tue Jun 26, 2018 2:24 pm

Richard wrote:Mythical patterns also:

The '1814' Household Cavalry Officer pattern (so-called because of a painting by Denis Dighton dated 1814 in the Royal Collection

Richard


Quite right but as this is not a modified version of an existing pattern what do we call it ? We do like to give Pattern dates to swords so unless an earlier dated example appears I suppose “1814 Pattern” will stick. As long as people know that it’s a collectors term like Mortuary sword, pipe back blade or five ball hilt.

Chris
User avatar
sword335
 
Posts: 308
Joined: Thu Feb 23, 2012 7:17 pm
Location: Surrey

Re: Myths about British Swords!

Postby Jonathan » Tue Jun 26, 2018 4:24 pm

Matt Easton wrote:Urgh.... The 1887 pattern... That drives me up the wall.

I have to say - and I know this might upset some people - the 1854 pattern infantry officer's sword. It doesn't exist. It's the 1845 pattern and by around 1860 makers just stopped doing the folding drop. Wilkinson were still making the folding drop as standard until 1859.


Agreed. I have stopped identifying swords as 1854 patterns. Just P1822 and P1845. The only P1854 was for Guards regiments.
User avatar
Jonathan
 
Posts: 86
Joined: Tue Feb 21, 2012 5:22 pm

Re: Myths about British Swords!

Postby Richard » Tue Jun 26, 2018 6:32 pm

Hi Chris,
Well actually it is a derivation of an existing pattern - the Prussian M1797 Cuirassier Officer sword. British examples exist as early as 1805 (Laking 766) and it appears in the dress regs of 1822 but not the 1834 regs. I therefore call the Household Cavalry dress sword 1805 - 1832 but I think everybody else knows it as the 1814 pattern and no doubt that will continue as that is now common practice.

Here’s my latest example

Richard
Attachments
982A38D8-26CD-42FD-ADC0-A429C623717C.jpeg
User avatar
Richard
 
Posts: 763
Joined: Tue Feb 21, 2012 4:18 pm
Location: Bath, Somerset, UK

Re: Myths about British Swords!

Postby sword335 » Tue Jun 26, 2018 9:52 pm

Richard,
Agreed it’s based on the1797 Prussian sword but it’s quite new as a British sword. I agree it pre-dates 1814 but as you say, unless something like a sealed pattern turns up we will no doubt still be calling it the 1814 Pattern.
I notice the one you picture ( your recent acquisition I presume ) has got a G at the forte. Gives us a maker which is great as very few of this sword are signed.

Chris.
User avatar
sword335
 
Posts: 308
Joined: Thu Feb 23, 2012 7:17 pm
Location: Surrey

Re: Myths about British Swords!

Postby John Fair » Wed Jun 27, 2018 1:10 am

For Shame! :oops: Have people forgotten their Robson's ???

Concerning brass scabbards vis a vis Field Officer rank, I would like to draw your attention to Page 118, paragraph two in the 1st Edition of Robson's Book. This should answer Cathey's grain of salt and Matt's opinion ;) The answer was always under our noses guys, no need for perhaps and maybes 8-)

PS For the life of me, couldn't right this snapshot correctly (from my iphone) Sorry for the neck craning!
Attachments
Robson 1.jpg
John Fair
 
Posts: 18
Joined: Sun Jan 08, 2017 6:09 pm

Re: Myths about British Swords!

Postby sword335 » Wed Jun 27, 2018 12:44 pm

Another Myth.
All Georgian dirks are referred to as “Naval Officer’s “
First, Lieutanants and above carried swords. Dirks were worn by Midshipmen. Only an officer was allowed to carry a weapon on deck unless in action so they were very much a badge of rank and a midshipman would be eager to swop his Dirk for a sword when he became a Lieutenant. But are they all naval dirks ? O.K. if they are decorated with anchors or other naval motifs but many do not. It is recorded that Artillery officer’s often carried dirks in action and sometimes one comes across dirks with cannon-shaped quillons or other artillery motifs. Also, these dirks would have been on sale by fashionable outfitters and others and it is quite probable that the the small dirks which look like letter openers were bought exactly for that purpose.
And don’t get me started on so called Nile Club or Egyptian Club dirks. There are no such things !

Chris.
User avatar
sword335
 
Posts: 308
Joined: Thu Feb 23, 2012 7:17 pm
Location: Surrey

Re: Myths about British Swords!

Postby Richard » Wed Jun 27, 2018 2:16 pm

And another:

All 'boatshell' hilted swords are 1796 pattern heavy cavalry officers' dress swords - certainly not the case! This form of hilt was widely used on the continent and Britain before 1796
: see for example, Prussian sword in Cut & Thrust p.281, Swedish example in Wise plate 7.20 (dated 1729) and British example in Laking no. 860 described as 'of usual late 18th century infantry type'. This is why existing attributed 'examples' of the dress sword far outnumber existing examples of the undress sword.

Of course many are the 1796 pattern, but to be absolutely sure an example should have provenance or have GR + some cavalry iconography on the blade (eg a mounted dragoon). The examples below belonged to (top) Lt. Col. David Home of the 2nd Royal North British Dragoons and (bottom) Lt. Col. Fiennes Sanderson Miller of the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons.

Richard
Attachments
284-1s.jpg
271_1s.jpg
User avatar
Richard
 
Posts: 763
Joined: Tue Feb 21, 2012 4:18 pm
Location: Bath, Somerset, UK

Re: Myths about British Swords!

Postby Matt Easton » Sun Jul 01, 2018 6:15 pm

John Fair wrote:For Shame! :oops: Have people forgotten their Robson's ???


Hi John - Robson, unfortunately, has quite a lot of misinformation in, which has been corrected by more recent knowledge and research.

Concerning brass scabbards vis a vis Field Officer rank, I would like to draw your attention to Page 118, paragraph two in the 1st Edition of Robson's Book. This should answer Cathey's grain of salt and Matt's opinion ;) The answer was always under our noses guys, no need for perhaps and maybes 8-)


Could you please clarify what you believe it answers? :)
I can show you a whole bunch of Majors' scabbards in brass - they were not in the Foot Guards and not Adjutants. The Dress Regulations, unfortunately, often don't tell us very much about what was actually practiced. The '1854 pattern' is a great example of this. It is the 1854 Dress Regulations that led people to state that non-folding guards on the 1845 pattern infantry officer's sword was the '1854 pattern', that is incorrect and not even accurate to the reality of the swords being made and sold.
________________
Schola Gladiatoria - Historical Swordsmanship in London
Easton Antique Arms
User avatar
Matt Easton
 
Posts: 385
Joined: Thu Feb 23, 2012 5:28 pm
Location: Guildford, Surrey, UK

Re: Myths about British Swords!

Postby John Fair » Wed Jul 04, 2018 8:59 am

Hi John - Robson, unfortunately, has quite a lot of misinformation in, which has been corrected by more recent knowledge and research.

I don't have his second revised edition to compare, but were there so many mistakes or updated research in the latter to verify what you're saying? I am not trying to contradict you, but I am not convinced that his lifelong research of several decades was so off that we cannot trust his first edition. Speaking for my quote on the Horse Memm. of 1832, this is quoted faithfully by Robson which answers the original query by Cathey. I would suggest you look up the NA WO record for that which I do not have at hand at the moment.

Could you please clarify what you believe it answers? :)
I can show you a whole bunch of Majors' scabbards in brass - they were not in the Foot Guards and not Adjutants.

Did you read the 1832 order? Its specific in not confining brass scabbards to only the Foot Guards and Adjts. Look at the citation again please.
John Fair
 
Posts: 18
Joined: Sun Jan 08, 2017 6:09 pm

Re: Myths about British Swords!

Postby Matt Easton » Thu Jul 05, 2018 4:00 pm

My understanding is that Robson studied a lot of the documents, but not very many of the actual swords. Certainly the mistakes he made (and this is not a criticism, because he paved the way for further clarity and study) would have been eventually corrected, had he owned and researched more individual swords. That's what we are doing - adding to and where necessary correcting what he wrote.

Take for example his description of the 1827 pattern Rifles officer's sword, which you yourself posted a scan of above.
Blades were *officially* 32 1/2 inches long according to the orders, but if we measure a selection of originals then you can find everything from 31 1/2 to 33 1/2 inches commonly appearing. 32 1/2 inches is common, but so are blades of 33 1/2.
Equally, the blade width was usually 1 1/8 inch wide for infantry blades (and 1 1/4 inches for cavalry), but we can find plenty of examples of slightly wider and narrower blades. Plenty of cavalry officers' blades were 1 1/8 inches wide and plenty of infantry ones were 1 inch wide. That's not mentioning the levee weight blades, which he briefly addresses.
Also using this same example, Robson incorrectly specifies 'steel' grip wire - in fact I have only seen a tiny number of swords with steel grip wire. They are usually silver or copper wired, not steel. Steel wire would rust too easily.
And he neglected to mention (there at least) that the Rifles and Infantry officers' swords have completely different backstraps - the infantry one not only being brass, but also having leaf decoration on the back, which the steel Rifles backstrap lacks. The pommels, guards and other details are are also a different shape.

As stated above, the dress regulations and other releases from Horseguards are confused and in some cases contradictory with the actual equipment in service. I am sure that there are some brass scabbards which were made for swords other than those for Field Rank infantry and engineers officers, but as I stated previously, it is clear from the available evidence in the actual surviving swords that it was a strong tendency, if not a rule. I'm always happy to be pointed to a Victorian brass scabbard which is not attributed to a Major or above.

One of the problems with the 'circular memorandums' that Robson uses as a key source, is that they were widely ignored. Take for example the 1845 extract posted on this same page - it states that deviation from the new Wilkinson type 1845 pattern blade was 'positively prohibited'. Well, it was was often ignored. So whether it was prohibited or not, officers did as they liked in this specific regard. We know this because there were a whole range of blade types, sizes and weights which were offered by companies like Wilkinson, Pillin and Garden, which flew in the face of this 1845 regulation blade design. For example the Toledo, Percy, Russian and Biconvex blades. These were not incredibly rare and were offered for sale and used openly, by officers of all ranks. Wilkinson were making these non-regulation blade types openly in 1845 and 1846, at the same time as their new blade design had been made official regulation and deviation was 'prohibited'.

Robson's book is like any other history or scientific work. As more information comes to light, so it must be allowed to be updated.
________________
Schola Gladiatoria - Historical Swordsmanship in London
Easton Antique Arms
User avatar
Matt Easton
 
Posts: 385
Joined: Thu Feb 23, 2012 5:28 pm
Location: Guildford, Surrey, UK

Re: Myths about British Swords!

Postby Matt Easton » Thu Jul 05, 2018 4:03 pm

Incidentally, has anyone here seen a Foot Guards sword in a brass scabbard? I have owned quite a few over the years and all have had steel scabbards. They also seem to appear in steel in the available period art.
________________
Schola Gladiatoria - Historical Swordsmanship in London
Easton Antique Arms
User avatar
Matt Easton
 
Posts: 385
Joined: Thu Feb 23, 2012 5:28 pm
Location: Guildford, Surrey, UK

Re: Myths about British Swords!

Postby John Fair » Fri Jul 06, 2018 5:50 am

Hi Matt,

I must say concerning your last post that I cannot find anything to disagree with, moreover as I have been collecting over 35 years and have seen several types of variations which you have rightly pointed out, some of which I’ve owned in the past myself, indeed Robson has not mentioned, not even the oft seen patent hilt. I think this was due to space and didn’t want to make it as detailed as much as we would have liked. Wish I had asked him why back in 1975! His book we must remember was really intended as an introductory guide to instruct the collector in standard patterns. No doubt the latter has seen several of the patterns and like you, wished to heaven he would have included at least some of them in the book.

About brass scabbards I sadly cannot comment competently as I collect purely on provenance from 1880 to 1914 which post dates your query. However what I can say I had seen what you have and indeed it shows that the regulations were not followed to the letter at times. A fascinating subject of hence why I still collect enthusiastically!
John Fair
 
Posts: 18
Joined: Sun Jan 08, 2017 6:09 pm

Re: Myths about British Swords!

Postby Bryce » Wed Aug 01, 2018 2:40 am

G'day Guys,

MDL has an 1822 pattern infantry officer's sword for sale at the moment with a brass scabbard. The sword is marked R.G. Wale 33rd Regiment. Robert Gregory Wale was a Captain in the 33rd until he left the army in 1851. Looks like another one for the "there are no hard and fast rules" basket. I guess it is always possible the scabbard was added later.

Cheers,
Bryce
Attachments
s-l1600[21].jpg
s-l1600[22].jpg
s-l1600[11].jpg
User avatar
Bryce
 
Posts: 295
Joined: Thu Dec 03, 2015 2:36 am
Location: Australia

Re: Myths about British Swords!

Postby Will Mathieson » Wed Aug 01, 2018 4:45 am

Bryce that's a good sword, too bad the officer retired pre Crimea. I suppose another officer may have used it, possibly received as a gift?
I've seen brass scabbards on swords that did not fit perfectly, brass doesn't rust so survival rate may be better than steel ones. Some collector/dealers will shove a sword into just about any scabbard to raise its value.
User avatar
Will Mathieson
 
Posts: 488
Joined: Mon Aug 06, 2012 11:00 pm

Re: Myths about British Swords!

Postby MikeShowers » Thu Aug 02, 2018 8:23 pm

Robert G. Wale went on to join the Militia (Cambridge) as a Lt. Col. and later Colonel so maybe the brass scabbard came from that part of his career.
Cheers,

Mike
Last edited by MikeShowers on Fri Aug 03, 2018 2:52 am, edited 2 times in total.
MikeShowers
 
Posts: 17
Joined: Thu Nov 21, 2013 7:48 am

Next

Return to Antique Swords

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 8 guests

Fatal: Not able to open ./cache/data_global.php