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Bennison N




Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Joined: 06 Feb 2008
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PostPosted: Sun 16 Oct, 2011 6:41 pm    Post subject: A New Zealand Sword Mystery.         Reply with quote

There is a real mystery surrounding the fate of the trusted blade of one of our earliest recorded war heroes, a Major Gustavus Ferdinand Von Tempsky. This guy is a New Zealand folk legend, mainly to his own efforts to make himself so.

A mercenary who fought against the extremely fearsome Maori warriors, he was respected and friends with both sides, both on and off (an understatement) throughout his whole life. The Maori called him "Many Birds", because he seemed to be everywhere in the forest at once. His blades were a large Bowie knife and a military sabre. Some background:

http://www.pukeariki.com/Research/TaranakiSto...rtune.aspx

And Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustavus_von_Tempsky

Now, after his death in 1868 at the skirmish at Te Ngutu O Te Manu ("The Birds Beak"), his famous sword vanished. Over the years, the actual fate of the sword is unknown, but swords have been sold as "Von Tempsky's Sword", it has been buried with him posthumously and it has remained as a near-sacred object with the Maori. But none of these things all at the same time, except an "official" account that the Maori exhumed Von Tempsky's bones (they are said to have eaten him to gain his strength) to place the sword with him.. It is thought that the sheath was returned to his wife by Maori warriors, and it sits in Hawkes Bay today with his descendants, but as for the sword itself...

In reality no-one actually knows what happened to it, but most likely it is still buried as a luck relic in the village near where he was killed. Numerous searches have been made for it... But no luck, it seems.

http://www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-Gov09_0...15-d3.html

http://www.pukeariki.com/Research/TaranakiSto...sword.aspx

OK... So the reason I've posted all this... I suspect the sword will never be found. But the real mystery to me is exactly what kind of sword it was. I've got two old photographs of Von Tempsky with his sword. Now my first impression, keeping in mind that I am very new to the study of military sabres, was that is was quite a strange sword for a German soldier-of-fortune in the employ of the British Crown to be using... It looks French, am I right? There is also the issue of period reports referring to his sword as his "trusty Mexican blade".

So I thought I'd ask you guys... What is it?



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"Never give a sword to a man who can't dance" - Confucius

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Shahril Dzulkifli




Location: Malaysia
Joined: 13 Dec 2007
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PostPosted: Mon 17 Oct, 2011 5:07 am    Post subject: A New Zealand Sword Mystery         Reply with quote

I don't recognize what type of sword used by von Tempsky in those photos.
After his death his sword was preserved as a Maori taumahatanga or sacred relic.
A sword believed to be von Tempsky's may still be kept in Puke Ariki's collection today but no photographic proof is shown.

“You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength”

- Marcus Aurelius
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Jimi Edmonds




Location: Dunedin, New Zealand
Joined: 25 May 2009
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PostPosted: Mon 17 Oct, 2011 9:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Awesome I never knew of the man, I may have to do a bit of research more into our history of the Land Wars..
cheers.
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Bennison N




Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Joined: 06 Feb 2008
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PostPosted: Mon 17 Oct, 2011 4:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Shahril,

I've looked into that Puke Ariki sword. It is very plain, with a simple wooden handle, a thicker blade and a weld on the blade where it was repaired. It doesn't look like the one in any of the photos.

So far there are about six people who say they might have Von Tempsky's sword. The sword was buried under the entrance to a whare or Maori house as a taumahatanga, and they say it was buried with it's owner in later years.

To be perfectly honest, it's really just the langets that make me think it's French.

Von Tempsky was Prussian born, the son of a Lieutenent Colonel in the Prussian Army, and commissioned at age sixteen in the Prussian Fusiliers. Is this sword anything like an early 1840s Prussian Fusilier would've used?

In the late 1840s, he was a Captain in the Mexican Confederation Army. I also don't know what swords they would've used. His sword has been called ' his trusty Mexican blade", so maybe he picked it up there?

After this he led a guerilla force in Nicaragua, and joined with some British forces as a mercenary during this time.

So the sword could've come from any one of these places. He even made it to Scotland and Australia before making it to New Zealand.

He's a great hero, despite having a chronic habit of blatant and shameless self-publicity. His Forest Ranger Irregulars Unit, whom it is said he bought equipment for with his own money, was possibly the greatest fighting force of the age. They received 84 medals while serving with the unit, and another 33 medals while serving on assignment to other units. They never numbered more than a hundred serving at any one time, and only suffered 9 dead and another 9 wounded in 6 long years of fighting the Maori.

Their trademark was the Bowie Knife, which Von Tempsky had picked up in Mexico, leading me to suspect that maybe this might actually be "his trusty Mexican blade". Of all the British Army in New Zealand fighting the Maori, only the Forest Rangers used the Bowie.

That last bit was just for some extra background, but I hope the bit of extra information about his military service helps make it easier to identify the type of sword he used.

"Never give a sword to a man who can't dance" - Confucius

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Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
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PostPosted: Mon 17 Oct, 2011 8:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sounds like one could make a very good movie based on this guy's life, assuming some Hollywood Producer/Director didn't try to " improve " the story as they always seem to do with unfortunate results. Wink Big Grin
You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Christopher Treichel




Location: Metro D.C.
Joined: 14 Jan 2010

Posts: 268

PostPosted: Mon 17 Oct, 2011 9:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

if he was picking up quantities of arms he probably was using war surplus... The sword is a bit hard to identify due to it being a common style of stirrup hilt with langets but the final curves down where many were straight... but is similar to a French Chasseur a Cheval de la Garde saber http://www.sabredefrance.eu/lng/viewItem.php?id=888463... but the scabbard looks all metal. There were also some Prussian and Polish hussar swords which had a similiar look to them...http://www.swordforum.com/forums/attachment.p...1112127657 stirrup hilt with langets the backstrap has a cap that looks a bit large here is a Prussian 1742[url]...http://www.swordforum.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=35539&d=1112049043[/url]
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