Regulation and native hybrids in Colonial context

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Jim McDougall
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Joined: Thu Feb 21, 2019 4:50 pm

Regulation and native hybrids in Colonial context

Post by Jim McDougall » Tue Feb 26, 2019 7:25 pm

One of the most exciting types of swords I have found while collecting regulation pattern military swords, are those which are comprised of either native style hilts on military blades or vice versa, especially prevalent in the British Raj in India.

In references I recall years ago reading that during the Sikh Wars, the British were horrified and amazed at the deadly use of sabres by the Sikhs. They were even more astounded when they found that the Sikhs were using the hatchet point blades of M796 sabres which had been ground razor sharp and kept oiled and in wood lined scabbards. The M1796 blades were in fact so popular end effective to Indian warriors that later equipping the Native forces the M1796 hatchet type point blades were retained on the colonial three bar hilts of 1880s+ and even stirrip hilt examples of the M1796 light cavalry sabre were made in late 19th c for Bengal Cavalry units( I have one by Bourne & Son, subcontract for Wilkinson).

I once visited Brig. Francis Ingall, who wrote "Last of the Bengal Lancers" about his time attached to 13th Bengal Lancers in Khyber Agency in 1930s. He had one of these exact sabres marked 13th. I also held the M1912 officers sword he carried in a mounted cavalry charge there.


I have seen tulwar hilts on Osborne blades, and I think Richard years ago (in his many articles in "Classic Arms & Militaria" ) may have written on a khanda type blade in a British military hilt.


Lets put together a grouping of these kinds of amalgamations and references to known cases of these kinds of pairings.

Will
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Re: Regulation and native hybrids in Colonial context

Post by Will » Tue Feb 26, 2019 11:22 pm

In India they did like the superior quality of British steel. I've read and have the book Last of the Bengal Lancers, must have been fabulous to meet Ingall and see his swords.

Jim McDougall
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Re: Regulation and native hybrids in Colonial context

Post by Jim McDougall » Thu Feb 28, 2019 6:15 am

Actually it was not until 19th c that British blades were acceptable in India, prior to that they were pretty much despised. The prime blades favored were German, and honestly most British swords until mid 18th c. had German blades anyway.
Meeting Brigadier Ingall at his home in Sonoma, Calif. was something I will never forget. I had read about him, and his book, in "People" magazine, and through networking finally made contact with him. In his home there were a number of swords and knives from India displayed, and it was fascinating as he recalled events he had spoken of in the book.

All the while he kept glancing over at a huge portrait of his faithful charger, "Eagerheart", wistfully. It was incredible talking with this man, who as a young cavalry officer had led one of the last mounted cavalry charges in India in the 1930s, and I held the M1912 officers sword he used in it. He was thrilled at my interest (passion) for the Bengal Lancers, and pleased as I described details as I asked questions. He noted this in the inscription he placed in my copy of the book. A few years later he passed.

Will
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Re: Regulation and native hybrids in Colonial context

Post by Will » Thu Feb 28, 2019 6:43 am

Jim it makes you wonder where his 1912 sword went. Did his sword have his name etched on it? So much history is lost with nameless swords.

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Richard
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Re: Regulation and native hybrids in Colonial context

Post by Richard » Thu Feb 28, 2019 7:10 am

Still in India, I was travelling south between Agra and Ramthambore yesterday and stopped for lunch at the former residence of a local maharajah when I spotted the portrait below. Seems to be an 1821 pattern light cavalry officer’s sword but with a straight blade (sorry, no more info)
Richard
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Jim McDougall
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Re: Regulation and native hybrids in Colonial context

Post by Jim McDougall » Thu Feb 28, 2019 8:00 pm

When he passed I know a good deal of his 'kit' was auctioned I think Butterfield&Butterfield in San Francisco, but a friend who was am antique dealer in San Diego had some things of his some years later. I think the sword went to his son.
Great portrait of the Rajah!
It is indeed the 1822 light cav officers sword.
I recall in much of my British military research back in the 90s working on study of the 'Khyber Rifles' , In younger years I had seen "King of the Khyber Rifles" (1953) with Tyrone Power. I thought 'what was a Khyber rifle'? Naturally it was based on the Talbot Mundy book of 1916, and based loosely on an actual British officer who was indeed of part Indian ancestry.
It turned out the 'Khyber Rifles' were a police type levy in those regions in 1890s so I wanted to learn more.
From the National Army Museum in London as well as contacts with a former commandant of the unit ….in photos of the troopers as well as some Indian officers, I was amazed to see them with known British military swords....one even a Scottish basket hilt!!

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