British Pattern 1845 Infantry Officer’s Sword,…

British Pattern 1845 Infantry Officer’s Sword, c.1890

A lovely late-Victorian infantry officer’s sword by Wilkinson identified to a high-ranking officer holding the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and wounded in Gallipoli (WW1). This was the sword of Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Charles Philippi Bridges, who was born in April 1870 and was commissioned into the South Staffordshire Regiment in May 1890. This is the sword he purchased at that time. It is likely that at a later date he replaced this sword with one of the new pattern swords (1897 pattern) and that would explain the excellent condition of this one. Bridges, having been promoted to Captain, then served as an Adjutant in the Indian Volunteers [Nagpur Volunteer Rifles] from 1902-04 and was placed on the Reserve of Officers in December 1905. However, with the dawn of WW1 many officers who had retired from regular Army life returned to the service and Bridges was one of these.

Major E. C. P. Bridges, D.S.O. (South Staffordshire Regiment) commanded “C” Company. He was appointed Brigade M.G. Officer in March 1915. He took over command of battalion on 11/08/15 and was wounded while fighting at Gallipoli on 21/08/1915, being awarded the DSO for his actions.

SouthStaffordshire Regiment officers in 1917/18:

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Of his subsequent part in the Great War, the following statement of services was submitted by Bridges himself to the War Office in December 1920:

“In the Spring of 1914, being then a Captain on the Reserve of Officers, and hearing from my brother Lieutenant-Colonel T. Bridges, D.S.O., then Military Attache in Brussels, of the extreme probability of an immediate war with Germany, I at once sold my farm in Matthew County, Virginia, U.S.A., and returned to England. I reported myself to the War Office and was informed if wanted I should be notified. About 6 August 1914, I was instructed to report myself at the depot of my old regiment at Lichefield, and against the advice of my medical adviser, I at once did so.

In February 1915, I was appointed Brigade Machine-Gun Officer to the 33rd Brigade. In this appointment I served continuously at Cape Helles, attached to the Royal Naval Division, and, after the Brigade returned to the 11th Division, at the Suvla landing. On 10 August 1915, I was appointed to the command of the Regiment [7/South Staffordshires], vice Lieutenant-Colonel A. H. Daukes, killed in action on the 9th. I remained in command of until severely wounded in an attack on 21 August. I was evacuated to England and was admitted to the Royal Free Hospital, London, until March 1916, after which I was attached to various Staffs and to assist in training work.”

Only two officers from the 7th South Staffordshires emerged unscathed from the attack at Lala Baba in the afternoon of 21 August, the serious nature of Bridges’ wounds being summarised in the following report:

“At Suvla Bay on 21 August 1915, he [Bridges] was wounded by a rifle bullet in the right arm … At 2 a.m. on 22 August aboard a hospital ship, under anaesthetic, a tube was put in the wound. He was transferred straight to England, arriving on 9 September 1915, and was in the Royal Free Hospital … during which time he had an anaesthetic for the evacuation of pus … the limb is flexed at a right angle on a splint and there is great muscular wasting on both upper and forearm.”

Bridges was mentioned in General Sir Ian Hamilton’s despatch dated 11 December 1915 (London Gazette, 28 January 1916 refers), and was awarded the D.S.O. In May 1917, while serving as Commandant of the 5th Army School of Musketry at Warloy, Bridges was badly concussed when his horse bolted into some barbed wire entanglements – he was unable to pull the horse up on account of his disabled arm – and was admitted to hospital back in England. However, following a short spell of light duty on being discharged, he was found to be unfit for further military service in February 1918, “owing to wounds and disabilities contracted on service”, and was placed on the Reserve of Officers as a Lieutenant-Colonel in the same month.

This sword is probably not the one he took to the Great War, but it is certainly his first sword when he was a newly commissioned officer in 1890. It is a wonderful example of the type and shows the latest development of the 1845 pattern infantry officer’s sword, before the blade design was revised in 1892 and the hilt in 1895. It features the straighter blade and hilt of these later examples and is in fantastic condition. The craftsmanship is Wilkinson’s finest and the blade remains bright and with deep etching, solid in the hilt. The blade features Bridges’ initials, family crest and motto, leaving no doubt as to the original owner. The brass guard and backstrap are in very good condition and the shagreen and gilt grip wire are near to perfect.