British Pattern 1896 Mountain Artillery Sword (variant)
The British had maintained permanent mountain artillery batteries in its Indian armies since the 1850s. The Indian gunners of these units were issued swords which were very similar to the famous Pattern 1796 Light Cavalry Sword. The curved blades were nearly identical to that of the P1796, and they had brass stirrup guards with or without langets, and ribbed iron grips which were painted black. The scabbards were mounted with a frog stud which resulted in the swords being worn with the blade facing backwards rather than forwards.
When the British Army formed its own mountain artillery batteries it adopted a new sword very similar to the Indian pattern, but with a steel D-shaped guard. The frog stud on the scabbard was mounted in the Indian fashion as can be seen in the magnified photo above. This sword was the Pattern 1896 Mountain Artillery Sword, and given the small number of mountain batteries, it is one of the rarest of the British regulation pattern swords. This pattern was still in use in 1910, but was phased out some time before the beginning of World War One.
My sword, pictured above, varies from the regulation pattern illustrated in the schematic drawing in that it has a small quillon rather than a rounded lobe, and it is identical to two other swords in the collections of the Royal Armouries in Leeds, IX.1298 and IX.1297.
The dimensions of these P1896 Mountain Artillery Sword variants are as follows:
- Overall length: approx. 902 mm (35 ½ in.)
- Blade length: 755 mm (29 ¾ in.)
- Blade width, by hilt: 38 mm (1 ½ in.)
- Weight: 1.130 kg (2 lb. 8 oz.)
Although the sword is almost 2.5 lbs., it it quite nimble . The blade has a nice amount of distal taper and is quite thin for the last 8″ or 9″, with most of the weight in the hilt from the iron grip and steel guard.
My example is stamped F.W.A. 10.00, for Fort William Arsenal (Kolkata, India), October 1900. It is stamped ROBT MOLE & SONS / BIRMINGHAM on the spine of the blade, and RBG on the ricasso.
This sword came to me completely covered in black paint. I stripped the paint from the blade and the guard, but I left it on the grip as that was an original feature (I included before and after photos). The blade has a lot of dark staining, and someone must have done some backyard swashbuckling with it as the blade is chewed up at the foible. The sword is in stable condition–all dirt and grime is gone and there is no active rust. However, the sword is still rather decrepit. I find that this condition is acceptable given the rarity of the sword and the fact that it was inexpensive.
Photo of Mountain Artillery trooper © King’s College London