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Roger Hooper




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PostPosted: Wed 24 Jun, 2009 5:07 pm    Post subject: British Pattern 1821 Saber         Reply with quote

Through the posts and pictures provided by Jonathon Hopkins, I have become interested in the British Pattern 1821 saber, specifically the light cavalry version. This design, introduced in 1821 (accepted in 1822, which is why it is often called the Pattern 1822) lasted more that 80 years into the early 20th century. There are a number of variations, depending on what kind of soldier was using it, and some evolution during its life. It had some critics who said, of certain of those variations at least, that it was badly made and not functional.

There are differing versions for light cavalry, heavy cavalry, infantry officers, artillery officers, maybe more. Oddly, trooper’s swords are worth more now than fancier officer’s swords, because there are more surviving versions of the latter. Around 1845 Wilkinson did a redesign which pretty much carried the Pattern 1821 for the rest of its life.

I know I have to do some more reading, but will write down what I have found out so far. I hope other forumites will lend their expertise and also correct any errors that I make.

Below are photographs of a very early officer’s light cavalry version dating from the reign of George IV, the former Prince of “Whales.” One of the distinctive features of the pre-Wilkinson saber is the “Pipe back” or “Reed back” tube that runs along the back of the blade all the way to the sharp false edge. Also, there is no fuller. This photo shows a very attractive saber, one of the most beautiful I have come across. It has a 34.5 inch blade with a clipped point.



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Last edited by Roger Hooper on Wed 24 Jun, 2009 5:33 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Roger Hooper




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PostPosted: Wed 24 Jun, 2009 5:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pictured below is another early version from the time of George IV, the infantry officer version, sometimes called a Gothic hilt because the brass hilt bars looked like gothic arches. It has a 32 inch blade. Note the Pipe back and lack of a fuller. It also has a flap on the inboard side so that it could ride closer to the hip.

This version at least, received some criticism. It is likely that this is the type that John Latham of Wilkinson was deriding when he wrote that it was,

…the worst possible arrangement of hilt, blade and shape that could possibly be contrived. It is crooked but has no regular curve: it is wrongly mounted for thrusting and wrongly shaped for cutting. The hilt is so flimsy as to be no protection to the hand and is made of bad metal poorly tempered.

It is ironic that Wilkinson redesigned this saber shortly after. They did make some changes, but it stayed pretty much the same sword.

There are other critics of the pattern 1821. I ran across a footnote that said that Brian Robson called it a mediocre sword in his Swords of the British Army. George Macdonald Fraser said through his Flashman character that the current cavalry saber was hated by the troopers because it had a greasy metal grip that would turn in your hand. I believe he was referring to the pattern 1821.

So what do you folks think? Are all pre-Wilkinson pattern 1821’s (and maybe later versions too) pretty, but badly functional swords? If it was so mediocre, why did it last so long?



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Roger Hooper




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PostPosted: Wed 24 Jun, 2009 5:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is a Wilkinson-made light cavalry saber dating from 1879. Note that the pipe is gone from the back of the blade and that it now has a fuller. The blade is 34.75 inches long.


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Roger Hooper




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PostPosted: Wed 24 Jun, 2009 5:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is an officer's heavy cavalry pattern 1821, made by a company called Johnstones somewhere between 1861 and 1897. It has a 36 inch blade. Another really beautiful sword


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Glen A Cleeton




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PostPosted: Wed 24 Jun, 2009 6:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If nothing else, the 19th century British military swords come in a variety that can suit one 's looks better than others. I am very fond of the aesthetic offered with the simpler guards. A look that was adopted in America as well with their 1833 type swords. Then, I have never beeen really fond of the gothic hilts but some very interesting American Civil War swords imported from Germany share the basic gothic hilts with suitable spread wing eagles laced in the basket and E Plurubus Unum etchings with some nice blade decoration. Most of all I like the artillery swords which Jonathan has recently posted of. Overall, they are a bit later in history regarding my own thoughts of acqusition but I could easily list half a dozen I watch and do consider all the varieties somewhat attractive. There are an incredible number of period British swords out there and any might make a good way to get into collecting 19th century swords.

Cheers

GC
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Jonathan Hopkins




PostPosted: Wed 24 Jun, 2009 8:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Roger,
I am thrilled to see this thread. It isn't too often that someone here besides me starts a thread on British swords of the Victorian period. Happy You have done some good research so far!

Patterns of 1821
To clarify, there is no single 1821 pattern, but several: Pattern 1821 Light Cavalry Officer's Sword, Pattern 1821 Light Cavalry Trooper's Sword, Pattern 1821 Heavy Cavalry Officer's Sword, and Pattern 1821 Heavy Cavalry Trooper's Sword. The term "Pattern 1821" was introduced by Brian Robson based on surviving correspondence dating to 1821 which refers to the new pattern swords for the cavalry. However, the patterns were officially introduced until the 1822 Dress Regulations, so Pattern 1822 is not incorrect, but due to Robson's influence is less commonly used. Additionally, a new sword for infantry officers was introduced in 1822, and is known as the Pattern 1822 Infantry Officer's Sword. So based on Robson's use of 1821, and to avoid confusing the cavalry swords with the Pattern 1822 Infantry Officer's Sword, I prefer to use the year 1821 when discussing these patterns.

Since the Napoleonic Wars officers of the Royal Artillery carried the same regulation patterns that were required for infantry officers, while their counterparts in the Royal Horse Artillery carried the regulation patterns worn by light cavalry officers. Brian Robson (Swords of the British Army, 1996) states that at some undetermined point in the late 1840s, officers in RA gave up carrying the infantry pattern sword in favor of Pattern 1821 Light Cavalry officer's sword. Robson tries to pinpoint a date for this change by examining portraiture of the period, and determines that this change probably occurred in 1846-47. The Dress Regulations of 1857 describe the the sword for all artillery officers as "Regulation, Light Cavalry". The Pattern 1821 Royal Artillery Officer's Sword, as it is now known, is still the regulation pattern for officers of the Royal Artillery.

As Roger shows, the Pattern 1821 Light and Heavy Cavalry Officers' Swords, and the Pattern 1822 Infantry Officers' Swords of the late Georgian and early Victorian periods featured the pipe back blade which was apparently designed by George IV's favorite maker, Prosser. This blade type became popular during the Napoleonic period and can be seen on various officers' swords of the 1814-21 period, including variants of the well-known 1796 patterns. By the mid-1840s, Wilkinson's more robust single fullered blade became standard, and was officially adopted in 1845 for infantry officers (and apparently informally adopted by officers in other branches of service).

Criticisms
As for the criticism of the blade design, I think Henry Wilkinson was probably right, but some pipe backs are more robust than others, and some even opted for this blade as late as the 1850s (See Graeme Rimer's "The Swords of John Jacob", Royal Armouries Yearbook, 1997). But overall I think that the switch the "Wilkinson" blade was a good choice. It should be noted that the troopers' swords had blades similar to the "Wilkinson" blade, not pipe back blades.

The brass "Gothic" hilt of the P1822/45/54 Infantry Officers' Swords was much maligned during its lifetime, but was not officially replaced until 1895. Some versions of this guard were specially made in polished or gilt steel for the discerning swordsman, and steel versions of this hilt were officially adopted for officers of rifle regiments (Pattern 1827) and officers of Guards regiments (Pattern 1854).

The Flashman criticism does not reflect historical reality: no British cavalry swords were made with metal grips. The Pattern 1853 Cavalry Sword (the first universal pattern for both light and heavy cavalry) had a rather round grip which made edge alignment difficult as the sword apparently could turn in the hand at the wrong moment. This is the closest thing I can find to the Flashman criticism of cavalry swords.

------

I hope that all makes sense! and that it answers your questions and clarifies some points! Anyone interested in further reading on the subject of British military swords might be interested in the following thread I posted at the Victorian Wars Forum:

A VWF Guide to British Military Swords, 1837-1913

I would also suggest the following articles which address some specific swords that deviated from the regulations or were otherwise non-standard:

"The Swords of John Jacob" by Graeme Rimer (Royal Armouries Yearbook, 1997)
"Swords for the Crimea: Some Scottish Swords Manufactured for Britain's War with Russia, 1854-56" by Stephen Wood (Journal of the Arms and Armour Society, Vol XVIII No.3 March 2003)
"Fighting Sword of a British Officer" by Gordon Byrne (Caps & Flints, Vol. 20, No. 5, June 2008)

I hope that was helpful!

All the best,
Jonathan
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Jonathan Hopkins




PostPosted: Wed 24 Jun, 2009 8:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In case they are of interest, here are a few older threads of mine on some 1821 patterns in my collection:

British Pattern 1821 Light Cavalry Officer's Sword

British Pattern 1821 Artillery Officer's Sword
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Roger Hooper




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PostPosted: Wed 24 Jun, 2009 10:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Jonathan for your informative reply. it was your 2 artillery swords that really drew me in. One thing that stood out for me were their gutta percha grips ( a natural inelastic latex from SE Asia and Indonesia that had many uses, now pretty much replaced by synthetics) I've noticed that the fish-skin grips are the first things attacked by time - the gutta percha may be the last thing to go on those swords.

I'm sure I misspoke about what George Macdonald Fraser said, at least about the metal grips - it was a memory that popped out of my mind's basement. It was surely the 1853 version that he was talking about.

Many of the later pattern 1821's have a Star of David engraved on the ricasso with what looks like a copper disc inset into its center. What is the significance of that?

Speaking of artillery swords, here is a Wilkinson artillery officer's sword dating from 1860. With its 32.5 inch blade it is a short version of the light cavalry sword. If I was on foot, I would much rather have this one than a Gothic infantry saber. A very well preserved sword, though someone put a real ding in the scabbard



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Pauli Vennervirta





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PostPosted: Thu 25 Jun, 2009 12:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I am especially fond of this British saber. Of the ones on this thread the one in the first post is my favourite. Is the basket steel?

I am trying to make up my mind on two replicas of british military swords, which one to get, the 1822 cavalry or 1897 infantry officers sword. Both are beautifull, but different. The 1822 might be more of a true cut-and-thrust weapon. http://www.stromloswords.com/british_swords.html
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William Goodwin




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PostPosted: Thu 25 Jun, 2009 4:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

lots of good info. here.

a quick shot of the vintage British pieces in my collection:

P1822 heavy cavalry troopers - narrow , slightly curved, un-etched and blunt tip blade

P1821 Royal Artillery officers dress -Fenton Bros. maker marked Geo. V

P1897 infantry officers dress - Thresher-Glenny makers / retailer marked. Geo V.


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David Cooper




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PostPosted: Thu 25 Jun, 2009 7:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

[quote="Roger Hooper"]
Many of the later pattern 1821's have a Star of David engraved on the ricasso with what looks like a copper disc inset into its center. What is the significance of that?

The Star and brass disk is a proof mark. First introduced by Wilkinsons I believe but much copied. The double triangle is just that not a Star of David and it was meant to signify strength. Many examples of proof disks can be found on the www.Oldswords.com database.



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Proof mark on an 1895 Infantry sword

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Jonathan Hopkins




PostPosted: Thu 25 Jun, 2009 8:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

David is spot-on with the meaning of the double triangle.. Wilkinson used the proof mark to show that a sword had passed their proof test. Other companies copied Wilkinson whether or not they proved their blades, it was probably just good marketing.

Jonathan

Wilkinson, 1888:


Hobson, c.1898:
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Jonathan Hopkins




PostPosted: Thu 25 Jun, 2009 7:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pauli Vennervirta wrote:
I am especially fond of this British saber. Of the ones on this thread the one in the first post is my favourite. Is the basket steel?

I am trying to make up my mind on two replicas of british military swords, which one to get, the 1822 cavalry or 1897 infantry officers sword. Both are beautifull, but different. The 1822 might be more of a true cut-and-thrust weapon. http://www.stromloswords.com/british_swords.html


The P1897 has a thrust oriented blade with a dumbbell cross-section for ~2/3 of its length, whereas the P1822 has a blade that is also capable of more effective cuts, so keep that in mind while shopping! Happy
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