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Jonathan Hopkins




PostPosted: Mon 19 Oct, 2009 10:28 am    Post subject: British P1892/95 Infantry Officer's Sword         Reply with quote

Every once in a while a deal comes along, and in spite of ambiguous provenance, I cannot resist the desire to acquire. Happy Just such a deal came along a few weeks ago. A dealer listed a nice British P1892/95 infantry officer's sword. The serial number dates the blade to 1892, however the hilt is that of the 1895 pattern. I was quite excited at the prospect of getting such an early P1892 blade and another P1895 hilt (I like it better than the P1897 hilt--its larger piercings make it a bit more elegant in my mind). Upon receiving the sword I noted that it had been cleaned with some sort of abrasive, and was a bit scratched, but still in quite acceptable condition. The blade has all the standard etchings of the time including the VRI cypher and scrolling foliage. The etching is a bit worn, but is still visible. The hilt was probably added by Wilkinson in 1896 as it is stamped "STEEL HILT". All in all I think it is a great example of an early late-pattern officer's sword.







In addition, it is a Wilkinson and therefore numbered and researchable. The owner was even kind enough to have his initials put on the blade! And what a fortuitous thing he did, too, since the proof book entry is blank for this blade. Undaunted, I combed through the index of the 1893 Hart's List (accurate through December, 1892) and found all matches for the initials "H.G.B.". There were several matches for these initials, many of which could be excluded from the shortlist of candidates due to their branches of service. In the end two possibilities emerged; Henry Gerard Burton and Henry G. Browne, the only infantry officers in my list, and both serving in the Indian Army. I researched each man to see if I could discover if one was more likely than the other. I did not find anything terribly conclusive. However, Burton seemed like a stronger candidate as he was the only one of the two men to see active service, and in my mind such an officer would be more likely to jump on the bandwagon when the new blade was introduced in 1892. Additionally, the sword was re-hilted in 1896, the year in which Browne died. I was probably a bit biased because I would have preferred that Burton be the original owner since he saw a good amount of action, but I feel that my hunch is given more strength since the blade was sharpened for service. So for now I am satisfied that this sword was purchased by the eager Lt. Burton in 1892, several months before being promoted captain and while seconded for service with the Burma Military Police.







Henry Gerard Burton was born April 22nd, 1863 in the "East Indies", the third son (of nine!) of Colonel Edmond Francis Burton, Madras Staff Corps, and Georgiana Burton. Burton attended King William's College from 1874-80, and thereafter the Royal Military College. Upon completing his education in 1881 he was commissioned as 2nd lieutenant in the Bedfordshire Regiment (22 October). Soon thereafter, on 24 March 1882, Burton transferred as a lieutenant to Prince Albert's (Somerset Light Infantry). He joined the 2nd Battalion in India, where he would remain for the balance of his career. 21 May 1885 he was attached to the 16th Madras Infantry as a wing officer. He had a very brief period of service with the 33rd Madras Infantry before being attached (i16 September 1886) as an officiating wing officer with the 4th Sikh Infantry, Punjab Frontier Force. In 1887 Burton left Prince Albert's (Somerset Light Infantry) and transferred to the Staff Corps in India, serving as Officiating Quarter Master with the 4th Sikh Infantry. Thus began his career with the Indian Army.

Burton continued to serve with the 4th Sikh Infantry as a Wing Officer and Quarter Master until 1890. It was in that year that he was attached to the Burma Military Police as Assistant Commandant. He continued to serve with the BMP through the Burmese conflicts of 1891-93 (Medal with Clasp). During his service in Burma he was promoted captain (22 October 1892). he served with the BMP until 1894 when he went on furlough. Upon returning to the 4th Sikh Infantry he was whisked away to help relieve the besieged Chitral (Medal with Clasp). In 1896 he was attached to the 1st Sikh Infantry. On 30 August 1897, Burton was 2nd in command of the 4th Sikhs and was granted the local rank of major. 10 July 1901 he was promoted to full major, 3 February 1903 he was made a temporary lieutenant-colonel, and 1 June 1904 he was promoted to full lieutenant-colonel (53rd Sikhs [Frontier Force]). Burton died of unknown causes in the Parish of St. Thomas, Exeter.

Burton's personal life--rather his family--is quite interesting. Burton was married at Cheltenham, Gloustershire in 1900. I am not sure if he and his wife (name unknown) has children. However, I do know that Burton is one of 9 sons of General Edmond Francis Burton of the Madras Staff Corps, all of whom served in the military and mostly in the Indian Army! General E.F. Burton was a keen hunter and avid writer, and authored several books including Reminiscences of Sport in India, An Indian Olio, and Trouting in Norway. By my count I have nine more swords to find in order to have the complete Burton collection! Wink





Sources:
Various editions of Hart's Annual Army List
History of the 1st Sikh Infantry
King William's College Register
Various issues of the London Gazette
Ancestry.com

My thanks to John Hart for his research assistance!


Last edited by Jonathan Hopkins on Mon 19 Oct, 2009 2:48 pm; edited 1 time in total
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William Goodwin




Location: Roanoke,Va
Joined: 17 Nov 2003
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Reading list: 20 books

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PostPosted: Mon 19 Oct, 2009 11:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

very nice Jonathan...congrats.

cheers,

Bill

Roanoke Sword Guilde

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"I was born for this" - Joan of Arc
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Jonathan Hopkins




PostPosted: Mon 19 Oct, 2009 11:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you, Bill! Happy

I have yet to take any measurements. The blade is probably around 31"-32" in length, and the sword is probably just under 2lbs. I am not sure if the VR cypher commands a premium. Some folks might expect to see this with a brown leather field service scabbard, but I am not sure it would have had one. When the sword was made (1892), steel was still standard for officers below field rank. It is possible that when Burton had the sword re-hilted in 1896 he may have bought a leather scabbard, but even at that point they were not universal (not even in India). I believe that the steel scabbard that came with the sword is the only one it has ever known. Happy It does not appear to have been plated, so it is not specifically a dress scabbard.

Thank you for your interest!

Jonathan
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William Goodwin




Location: Roanoke,Va
Joined: 17 Nov 2003
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Reading list: 20 books

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PostPosted: Mon 19 Oct, 2009 4:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That's grand info. about the scabbard. Like the facts you dig up on your collection. Even though I haven't spent much time with the antique side of things,

this pattern is still one of my favorites along with the M1902's. My P1897 Thresher / Glenny is still the best of my vintage pieces.

cheers,

Bill

Roanoke Sword Guilde

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"I was born for this" - Joan of Arc
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Nicholas A. Gaese




Location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Joined: 06 Aug 2007

Posts: 100

PostPosted: Mon 19 Oct, 2009 5:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

good day everyone!

that's indeed a very nice sword you found there mr. Hopkins, I very much like the etchings. It actually reminds me of a saber I acquired a year or so back, as it actually shares very similar details, such as the etchings and the star of david at the base of the blade. Unfortunately the insert is gone and it seems that the initials that were on the other side were actually ground off.

don't mean to derail the subject, just that your new treasure happened to resemble my sword and was also curios if these details are common amongst these swords or if they are particular to someone of interest. Im a poor student so unfortunately I don't have access to a camera for pictures but when I do, I'll post them on a separate thread as I want to know more about it.

again a wonderful looking sword you found and if you plan on looking for the other 9 weapons than best of luck Happy
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Jonathan Hopkins




PostPosted: Mon 19 Oct, 2009 6:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nicholas,
Thank you for your response. The brass (or sometimes copper) proof slug is thought to have been introduced by Wilkinson in the mid-1840s. This feature was quickly copied by other makers and was a common feature on most British officers' swords of the 19th century. Proof slugs can fall out over time, and I have several swords that are missing theirs. However, makers tended to use specific proof slugs to indicate their work, and can be researched by browsing forums or visiting the database at oldswords.com. As you can see, Henry Wilkinson used a proof slug with the initials "HW".

I look forward to seeing your sword and hope I can be of some assistance in identifying it and maybe a possible maker.

Regards,
Jonathan
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Norman McCormick





Joined: 17 Jan 2007

Posts: 120

PostPosted: Tue 20 Oct, 2009 3:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Jonathan,
Lovely sword and a fantastic story to go along with it. I think it is all too easy to forget that even in the 19th Century although the gun was 'king' it was still necessary, on occasion, to get in close with 'cold steel' and that these swords are as much combat weapons as their earlier cousins.
My Regards,
Norman.
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Jonathan Hopkins




PostPosted: Tue 20 Oct, 2009 3:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Norman,
I appreciate your comments. And an excellent point: swords were still viable weapons in the 19th century, and I think particularly suited to the colonial warfare in which Britain was engaged. I have focused my collection on fighting swords (as opposed to dress swords), which has naturally led me to buy swords belonging to officers of the Indian Army or who saw service in India and the North West Frontier.

I recently came across a specific reference to Burton fighting in Burma in 1890 and will add that little snippet as soon as I can. Happy

Jonathan

(Maybe a group shot of my P1892/95/97 swords is in order! Big Grin)
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Artis Aboltins




PostPosted: Tue 20 Oct, 2009 5:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jonathan Hopkins wrote:


(Maybe a group shot of my P1892/95/97 swords is in order! Big Grin)


By all means, sir, let us see them! And it is indeed fascinating to follow such investigations - your chosen period of interest allows one to learn a lot of details about thr weapon and it's owner/owners.
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Jonathan Hopkins




PostPosted: Tue 20 Oct, 2009 5:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Artis Aboltins wrote:
Jonathan Hopkins wrote:


(Maybe a group shot of my P1892/95/97 swords is in order! Big Grin)


By all means, sir, let us see them! And it is indeed fascinating to follow such investigations - your chosen period of interest allows one to learn a lot of details about thr weapon and it's owner/owners.


Then I will! Big Grin Just need some sunlight and some time.

Attached is an excerpt from The Gazetteer of Upper Burma vol. 1, pp.345-46, by J. George Scott and J.P. Hardiman, which gives a bit of detail regarding Burton's time in Burma.



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Nicholas A. Gaese




Location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Joined: 06 Aug 2007

Posts: 100

PostPosted: Wed 21 Oct, 2009 7:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

only a few days late but I've done worse before Big Grin

Thank you Mr. Hopkins for the information and for the future assistance Happy I'll look forward to your posts when I finally get my hands on a decent camera.

I look forward to seeing the other swords, will be an impressive sight to see!




All the best,

Nick
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Jonathan Hopkins




PostPosted: Sun 25 Oct, 2009 4:25 pm    Post subject: A few P1892/95/97s         Reply with quote

Here are the P1892/95/97s currently in my small collection of Victorian military swords. In order from top to bottom they are a P1854/95 infantry officer's sword which belonged to Maj.-Gen. A.J.F. Reid of the Indian Army, a P1854/95 infantry officer's Sword which belonged to Lt.-Col. G.H. Neale of the 3rd/Middlesex, late of the Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment, a P1892/95 infantry officer's sword which belonged to Lt.-Col. H.G. Burton of the 53rd Sikh Infantry, late of the 4th Sikh Infantry, and a P1897 infantry officer's sword which belonged to Maj. W.H. Wilkin of the Sherwood Foresters.









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James Hawes




Location: London UK
Joined: 07 Feb 2010

Posts: 1

PostPosted: Sun 07 Feb, 2010 10:06 am    Post subject: H G BURTON         Reply with quote

Hmmmm.
I may be able to help with your query. I am the great great grandson of H G Burton...
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Jonathan Hopkins




PostPosted: Sun 07 Feb, 2010 12:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you, that would be greatly appreciated! I have sent you a private message.
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