There is a connection between WW1 era British bayonets and Japanese samurai swords and knives that most people don’t know about. Here we look at the 1907 pattern British bayonet and its inspiration the Type 30 Arisaka.
Why an Obsolete Sword Design from 1845 was Reintroduced in 1915
This is a model 1845/55 French infantry officers sabre. It was produced in chatellerault in 1915.
Officially, the 1845/55 pattern was replaced by the 1882 pattern. However due to the war, the French decided to start producing the 45’s again as they already had tooling for that. As a result, some 30,000 of these were made during WWI.
The hilt is gilt Arco, an alloy of copper, charcoal and zinc, potentially also tin. It has a distinctive reddish appearance under the gilding. The 1882 used a “German silver” alloy for the guard – also a copper alloy.
The blade is plain steel (without a nickel coating) – unlike the 1882 which is nickel coated.
It features one broad fuller and one narrow fuller on each side. The 1882 has offset fullers.
British Pattern 1892 Infantry Officer’s Sword for an Officer of the Royal Army Medical Corps, c.WWI
This is an interesting example of the uncommon 1892 Pattern in that the blade has an attractive etched design not found on others of the period. Perhaps this is because it was made by a silversmith, Boynton & Son of Clerkenwell, London, who operated under this name from 1894 to 1919. These trading dates, and the royal cypher of King George V being on the hilt and blade, mean that this sword is very likely to have seen service in the First World War (likely with an officer of the RAMC). This makes sense because, whereas the blade is rare and handsome, the hilt, which should be gold-plated brass, has a silvery metal visible underneath its golden covering. During both World Wars shortcuts in the manufacturing processes of weapons were naturally sought as raw materials were in short supply—these have become known as ‘wartime expediency’ weapons and I think this explains the contrast between the eye-catching blade and less elegant hilt.
British Pattern 1897 Infantry Officer’s Sword and Pattern 1856 Pioneer’s Sword
This lot from Bonhams offers us a chance to visually compare the dimensions of an infantry officer’s sword and an other ranks sidearm.
On the left, a British Pattern 1897 Infantry officer’s Sword carried by Lieut. T.H.F. Roberts of the Cheshire Regiment. 22 inch blade etched with conventional motifs and inscribed THF Roberts/12 Batt. Cheshire Regt. Ricasso marked Hawksworth/Sheffield. Semi-basket hilt of standard pattern and retaining the brown leather sword knot. Brown leather-covered field scabbard. Lieut. T.H.F. Roberts served abroad during World War I with the Cheshire Regiment and is listed as such on the Great European War Memorial in Prenton, Cheshire.
On the right, a British Pattern 1856 Pioneer’s Sword
by Robert Mole with 22 ½ inch sawback blade bearing War Department marks. Brass hilt of standard pattern. Brass-mounted leather scabbard.
British Pattern 1912 Cavalry Officer’s Sword for an Officer of the 6th Dragoons (The Caribiniers)
89 cm blade by Wilkinson numbered 44031 for 1913 etched with regimental badge, GVR cypher, and Royal Arms and owners initials S.W.W., regulation steel hilt incorporating regimental badge, plated scabbard and complete with chamois covering and leather carrying case and field service scabbard.
There were two patterns of sword used by British cavalry officers during the Victorian era; one pattern for heavy cavalry officers and one pattern for light cavalry officers.
The Pattern 1821 Heavy Cavalry Officer’s Sword was the regulation sword for combat for officers of heavy cavalry regiments from 1821 to 1912. Heavy cavalry regiments included the three regiments of Household Cavalry, seven regiments of Dragoon Guards, and three regiments of Dragoons for a total of thirteen heavy cavalry regiments. The Household Cavalry regiments had their own unique patterns, but occasionally their officers opted for the standard P1821 Heavy Cavalry Officer’s Sword, so we could potentially narrow down the number of regiments using the P1821 Heavy Cavalry Sword to nine regiments.
Above: a Pattern 1821 Heavy Cavalry Officer’s Sword c.1850-1860
The Pattern 1821 Light Cavalry Officer’s Sword was the regulation sword for combat for officers of light cavalry regiments from 1821-1896. There were seventeen light cavalry regiments during our period. In addition to those seventeen regiments in the regular army, there were dozens (39 in 1880) of Yeomanry (essentially militia cavalry) regiments, the vast majority of which were light cavalry. Based on numbers of regiments alone, once can see that there were far more light cavalry officers than heavy cavalry officers, and therefore more P1821 Light Cavalry Officers’ Swords than P1821 Heavy Cavalry Officers’ Swords. Officers of the Royal Artillery and Royal Horse Artillery also carried the P1821 Light Cavalry Officer’s Sword, thereby adding to the already large numbers of P1821s manufactured in the 19th century.
Above: a Pattern 1821 Light Cavalry Officer’s Sword c.1850-1860
In 1896 the powers that be decided that the light cavalry officer’s sword had insufficient hand protection and decided that officers of light cavalry regiments should adopt the P1821 Heavy Cavalry hilt. At that point officers had a few options–they could re-hilt their current swords with the heavy cavalry pattern hilt, or they could buy completely new swords. It is likely some officers ignored the new regulation and kept their three-bar light cavalry hilts, but most officers would make sure their swords conformed to regulations. With the new regulations of 1896 requiring all cavalry officers to adopt the heavy cavalry hilt, heavy cavalry pattern swords became much more plentiful than they had been prior to 1896. For modern day collectors, this means that post-1896 heavy cavalry officers’ swords are much easier to find on the market than pre-1896 heavy cavalry officers’ swords. Post-1896 cavalry swords are often called the Pattern 1896 Cavalry Officer’s Sword or Pattern 1896 Universal Cavalry Officer’s Sword. Although this pattern was replaced by the Pattern 1912 Cavalry Officer’s Sword, a number of officers chose the P1896 which was still being made throughout the period of the Great War.
It is important to note that throughout the Victorian era, especially in last two or three decades, officers’ swords began to subtly change–most notably grips and blades became straighter. Below is an example of a World War One era Pattern 1896 Cavalry Officer’s Sword.
Above: a Pattern 1896 Cavalry Officer’s Sword c.1914
These images of Winston Churchill illustrate the change to the regulations. As a newly commissioned officer in 1895, young Winston is wearing a Pattern 1821 Light Cavalry Officer’s Sword. In 1896 Churchill is pictured wearing a Pattern 1896 Cavalry Officer’s Sword.