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Helge B.





Joined: 06 Mar 2008

Posts: 73

PostPosted: Wed 02 Jul, 2008 2:48 am    Post subject: Ideal cavalry sword - curved or straight?         Reply with quote

The debate if a curved or straight sword makes the better cavalry weapon is pretty old. The more I read about it the more I get confused.

Le Marchant (the inventor of the famous 1796 Pattern LC sabre) states that in the melee a curved sword works better and in the initial charge its the quality of the horse which matters. Patton on the other hand favored a purely thrusting sword. In his view a sword which is sufficiently curved to offer a cutting advantage is useless in thrusting. Anything in the middle would not do any good in both usages. In an article from ARMA (http://www.thearma.org/spotlight/GTA/motions_and_impacts3.htm) the author says that the cutting advantage on a realistic target is only minor.

Since my approach to this topic is purely theoretical I would like to know what you think about this.

I would like to narrow this discussion to the following questions:

- Which sword is more suitable for cavalry against enemy infantry/cavalry wearing soft or no armour?
- Which would do better in the initial charge/later melee?
- How big is the chance that you loose your weapon/break your wrist if you do charge la Patton?
- How strong does the curvature of a sabre needs to be to offer a cutting advantage? Could such a weapon still be useable for thrusting?
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Colin F.




Location: Bradford, UK
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PostPosted: Wed 02 Jul, 2008 5:35 am    Post subject: Re: Ideal cavalry sword - curved or straight?         Reply with quote

Helge B. wrote:
The debate if a curved or straight sword makes the better cavalry weapon is pretty old. The more I read about it the more I get confused.

Le Marchant (the inventor of the famous 1796 Pattern LC sabre) states that in the melee a curved sword works better and in the initial charge its the quality of the horse which matters. Patton on the other hand favored a purely thrusting sword. In his view a sword which is sufficiently curved to offer a cutting advantage is useless in thrusting. Anything in the middle would not do any good in both usages. In an article from ARMA (http://www.thearma.org/spotlight/GTA/motions_and_impacts3.htm) the author says that the cutting advantage on a realistic target is only minor.

Since my approach to this topic is purely theoretical I would like to know what you think about this.

I would like to narrow this discussion to the following questions:

- Which sword is more suitable for cavalry against enemy infantry/cavalry wearing soft or no armour?
- Which would do better in the initial charge/later melee?
- How big is the chance that you loose your weapon/break your wrist if you do charge la Patton?
- How strong does the curvature of a sabre needs to be to offer a cutting advantage? Could such a weapon still be useable for thrusting?


Ok, I will try to answer the questions to the best of my knowledge. Personally, you have to have one weapon dedicated to one purpose (either the cut or the thrust) to gain the most from that weapon, and also just as importantly, the troopers who use them MUST be trained to use the inherent advantages of the weapon. Just look at the two, IMHO, most revered swords from the British cavalry, the 1796 LC and the 1908 patterns. They are both completely different and yet were very successful in their roles.

Now as to what Patton said about to be sufficiently curved to produce a better would negate the thrust potential of the sword, he is right. However, there is a flip side to that coin, in order for a sword to be good enough for thrusting, it needs to have a cross section that will take away some of it's ability to cut.

Hmmmmm, lovely being between a rock and a hard place isn't it!

However, to get around to your first question, I would say that any sword of the two would be most effective against an enemy wearing little or no armour, as long as they were used in the correct manner. Against armour (like a breastplate) I would take a firearm to discharge first then a straight thrusting sword as back up to try to get to any weak spots. Wink

Onto the second point. I'll take a charge against musket/bayonet infantry first. Neither will be great, because no matter what you do, the ground pounder effectively has a long spear to take your horse out with and your sword, either a dedicated cutter or thruster, isn't going to reach him before his bayonet either enters your horse or has a nice guard to deflect your sabre and enter you. After the initial charge (on the presumption that you broke the infantry and it's now a melee), either sword would do fine as long as you are using them properly. Even the 1796 had a pointy part, and as long as that is delivered to some part of a target, it is going to hurt. During the Board meetings for the design of the 1908 it was advised they could sharpen the last 10 inches of the blade so it could cut. How well either would do at this is debatable, but the point is, against an unarmoured enemy, anything sharp, point and made of steel could hurt if not kill. For the most part, I would say this would all apply to a cavalry engagement too, although the thrusting swords would obviously have a reach advantage.

The third point, I really have no knowledge of, but if you train hard enough, you should have enough experience to know how to keep your sword in your hand whilst charging.

I'll use the 1796 LC as my example for the second part of your fourth point. Is it sharp? Yes. Does it have a pointy bit? Yes. Will it do damage if thrust into someone? Yes. But will it do as good a job as rigid straight thrusting sword. Nope, mainly because the 1796 LC will flex A LOT, where as a sword designed purely for thrusting will be rigid and will drive straight through, where as with the 1796 it will have a far greater chance of flexing. This means it will not transfer as much force into the target as a thrusting sword.

As I said before, I am of the opinion that if you have a sword, you train to use its advantages, know its weakness' and do your up most of steer clear of situations where that part of your armament is useless.

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Matthew G.M. Korenkiewicz




Location: Michigan, USA
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PostPosted: Wed 02 Jul, 2008 7:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Being I'm still on a quest for replicating a Polish Hussar Saber ( with thumb-ring and L-hilt ) -- I
know, I know, sounding like a broken record, aren't I B-) -- I still find my initial thought about the saber in
general as this :

How easily is the curve of a saber managed by a sword-smith ?

Take the famous Hussars for instance, at one time or another -- again I've no great weight of
knowledge here -- it appears a soldier would carry two swordsl; a straighter / stiffer blade for " spear-
like " thrusting work ( perhaps in the initial charge after one's lance was gone ? ); and a curved blade
for the scrum of the battle ...

Quote:

- Which sword is more suitable for cavalry against enemy infantry/cavalry wearing soft or no armour?
- Which would do better in the initial charge/later melee?
- How big is the chance that you loose your weapon/break your wrist if you do charge la Patton?
- How strong does the curvature of a sabre needs to be to offer a cutting advantage? Could such a weapon still be useable for thrusting?


1. I'd think either blade, actually.
2. I'd still think either blade.
3. Sorry, but what the heck are we talking about Patton for ? B-) Other than to mention the Patton-style
saber which -- and again, forgive my take on the point -- looks MORE like a fencing saber than, say, a
Blucher saber.
4. I'm thinking it might be the width of the blade instead of the curve that could decide how well it cuts. A
Patton style saber, at least to me, doesn't look like a " cutting / chopping " sword. And yet I've seen some
replicas and antiques of straight heavy-cavalry swords that appear quite wide, and I guess it would be to
enhance their " cutting / chopping " abilities ....

Curved...


Straight...


Patton-esque
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Wed 02 Jul, 2008 9:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Quote:
How strong does the curvature of a sabre needs to be to offer a cutting advantage?


I'm thinking it might be the width of the blade instead of the curve that could decide how well it cuts.


Of course the blade width and thickness are very important parameters, but blade curvature also has an effect... With a curved blade, the edge naturally passes through the target at an angle, giving an automatic slicing action that can make some difference on soft targets. This is exactly the reason why a guillotine blade is angled and not square or even in crescent.

It has been said that it was the actual curvature at the point of impact that was important, and George Turner was quite good in his article to underline the flaws of this line of reasoning. However saying that there is no effect from the curvature is going a bit too far in my opinion.

It is possible to slice with a straight blade as well, obviously, but this is not quite as easy as taking advantage of the curvature of the blade. I also doubt it can be made as efficiently, though I lack extensive practical experience on this topic.

On the other hand the exact same effect of the curvature can be detrimental on harder targets because the sword will tend to slide over the surface, rather than cut into the material or at least give a good blunt shock. For this a straight blade might be more appropriate. And of course the straighter the blade, the more intuitive and efficient the thrust becomes.

In the end it's a continuous trade-off and I doubt there is any universal optimal answer. It would have been found by now Happy

--
Vincent
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Shahril Dzulkifli




Location: Malaysia
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PostPosted: Thu 03 Jul, 2008 9:36 am    Post subject: Ideal cavalry sword - curved or straight?         Reply with quote

To me straight swords are quite difficult to be used in mounted warfare but not for curved swords. Cavalrymen prefer curved swords because they are ideal for slashing through enemy ranks even on horseback.
The sword below was used by the Russian cavalry back in the 19th century. I think it is ideal for mounted warfare at that time.

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Grayson C.




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PostPosted: Thu 03 Jul, 2008 2:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think it matters a lot on what the target is. On lightly armoured targets, a curved sword should do well, but what about heavy targets? I seem the recall knights using straight swords in the age of maille even though curved swords were available.
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
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PostPosted: Sat 05 Jul, 2008 8:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm with Colin in that, even from a theoretical perspective, I don't see much to universally recommend either curved or straight swords above the other. Just determine what kind of sword you want, build a workable design based on the parameters you've set, and train your men adequately in its use according to the parameters--and you'll have a battle-winning sword.

But when we get to the realm of personal preference, I've always been in favor of a blade that can handle both the thrust and the cut adequately, even if it has to sacrifice some cutting or thrusting power in order to achieve this versatility. Since the swords that fit my parameter include a very wide range of both straight and curved blades, I find it a bit pointless to argue that the curved sword is better than the straight or vice-versa because the true conditions on the battlefield simply don't lend themselves to such simplistic generalizations.

Note that it seems like most cavalrymen in the field had a strong preference for cut-and-thrust blades over purely cutting or purely thrusting ones. The Australian and New Zealander light horsemen who used the 1908-pattern thrusting sword in the Middle East actually sharpened their swords and used them to cut with some effectiveness--the blades' design might not have allowed them to make really powerful shearing cuts, but at least they could cut well enough against the Turkish soldiers on the receiving end of their blows. Of course, as with every generalization, there are several important exceptions to this one, such as the Polish husars' koncerz, but note that the curved saber they carried alongside this tuck was a cut-and-thrust weapon!
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Joel Minturn





Joined: 10 Dec 2007

Posts: 232

PostPosted: Sat 05 Jul, 2008 12:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A friend of mine has a Patton 1908 and the training manual to go with it. According to him the Patton saber was design to be sharpened on both sides, the reverse side was sharped for crowd control. But Patton didn't put much emphasis on cutting. His theory was stab them and keep going. there wasn't much point in dallying around trying to cut the other person. I'll try to talk to again and get the details again he is a big saber fan.
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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
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PostPosted: Sun 06 Jul, 2008 12:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Joel Minturn wrote:
A friend of mine has a Patton 1908 and the training manual to go with it. According to him the Patton saber was design to be sharpened on both sides, the reverse side was sharped for crowd control. But Patton didn't put much emphasis on cutting. His theory was stab them and keep going. there wasn't much point in dallying around trying to cut the other person. I'll try to talk to again and get the details again he is a big saber fan.


Are you thinking of the British P08 when you say 1908? Patton's sword is generally known as the 1913. Some decades behind European trends, his take on the format was probably mostly inspired from his trip to Stockholm as a participant in the Olympic games. Perhaps it was one of these that helped his minds eye as to the perfect horse sword.
http://bjorn.foxtail.nu/h_svenska_armen.htm

Pretty much all of George Patton's musings regarding this sword can be found here
http://www.pattonhq.com/

The last official use by the Peking horse marines but there is one out there stenciled to an airbore Lt., go figure that one WTF?!

Virtually all the late pattern (1880s>) straight cavalry swords have some amount of sharpened back edge. It was not for crowd control. The Swedish bowl guards are the only Pattonesque European versions I am aware of that had symmetrical blade edges, hence my figuring he adapted those as his base and not the more commonly known/seen Britsh, or Spanish models (those having offset fullers and only a partial back edge).

Cheers

GC
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Russ Thomas
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PostPosted: Sun 06 Jul, 2008 3:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Folks,

Not really my thing this, but the following account is pertinent and may be of some interest here .

I have just been reading David Clammers 'The Zulu War' ( Jan - July 1879), in it there is an account of a fight between Captain Lord William Beresford, and a rather large Zulu warrior. Neither giving ground, and both very skilled in the use of their respective weapons. Archibald Forbes, one of the witnesses to the encounter described it thus:

" Bill steadied his horse a trifle, just as he was wont to do before the take off for a big fence; within striking distance he made him swerve a bit to the left - he had been riding straight at the Zulu as if to ride him down. The spear flashed out like the head of a Cobra as it strikes; the sabre carried at point, 'one' clashed with it and seemed to curl around it; the spearhead was struck aside; the horseman delivered 'point two'....and lo ! in the twinkling of an eye the sabre's point was through the shield and half its length buried in the Zulu's broad chest."

I believe that Beresford was using an 1822 pattern three bar hilt at this time. He would certainly have been at a great disadvantage had he been using , say for instance a curved 1796 pattern stirrup hilt. Probably the skilled Zulu would have killed him in an instant !? Possibly in this type of encounter, the pattern 1908, which is both longer and straighter would have been an even better choice of sword ( if it had been invented and available in June 1879 that is ! Happy ).

Hope that this is of some interest.

Regards,

Russ

Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero !


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Joel Minturn





Joined: 10 Dec 2007

Posts: 232

PostPosted: Sun 06 Jul, 2008 10:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Glen A Cleeton wrote:

Are you thinking of the British P08 when you say 1908? Patton's sword is generally known as the 1913.


Yeah i do believe that I was getting those two confused. Ok so the sharpened edge wasn't designed for crowd control but in the manual it say how to use it for crowd control.
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Russ Thomas
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Location: Telemark, Norway
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PostPosted: Sun 06 Jul, 2008 2:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have a British pattern 1908 cavalry sword, dated 1915. I checked to see how much of the blade had been sharpened ( for use during the First World War ), to my great surprise, a full three quarters of the blade have actually been sharpened, and very carefully sharpened too ! It was never very sharp, but quite sharp enough I am sure to inflict enough damage to put the enemy off . And the point on these swords is absolutely lethal ! The back edge of the blade and the ricasso are still in factory condition; quite unsharpened and almost rounded.

Regards,

Russ

Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero !


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Helge B.





Joined: 06 Mar 2008

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PostPosted: Wed 09 Jul, 2008 7:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I just had a look on a swiss sabre.

Would this weapon work as a cavalry sword? Looks quite similar to a japanese tachi except beeing a bit longer.

The two handed grip would make it quite versatile just as a longsword.

Were there any cavalry sabres with blades in the 1m range?
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Russ Thomas
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PostPosted: Wed 09 Jul, 2008 3:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Helge B. wrote:
Were there any cavalry sabres with blades in the 1m range?


The British Pattern 1908 cavalry sword that I have, has a 90cm blade. This is, as far as I know, the longest sword ever isued to British troops.

Regards,

Russ

Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero !


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Shahril Dzulkifli




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PostPosted: Thu 10 Jul, 2008 5:23 pm    Post subject: Ideal cavalry sword - curved or straight?         Reply with quote


Here is another sword that is suitable for mounted warfare - the British 1788 Pattern Cavalry Officer's Sword.
I am not sure when was this sword first used.
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