A STRANGE BRITISH SWORD

by Jean Binck

 

Have a look at this sword. It looks like the British Pattern 1898 Staff Sergeant sword, the stiff straight blade is not engraved and the ricasso bears the typical British "broad arrow" that confirms British government property.

There is one "golden rule" when trying to identify what appears to be a regulation sword: if the blade shows government property markings, then assume that this sword was used in this government's army unless other formal evidence are available.

Description:

Blade length and width:

825mm (32.5 in.) x 27mm (1.06 in.)

Thickness (shoulder): 8mm (0.31 in.)

Single fuller both sides starting about 42mm (1.65 in.) from the shoulder, finishing about 430mm (17 in.) from the spear point. The blade was sharpened as stated in British regulation.

Grip: wood covered with rayskin and bound with triple silver wire.

Side for bend test (X)

Enfield inspection mark

British government's property marking

(broad arrow)

Well…let's have a closer look at the hilt. Surprisingly, the steel bowl guard doesn't show the usual Victorian, Edwardian or Georgian cipher, but a cipher with the initials AR!

Though the design of this cipher is typically British, it cannot match any British sovereign's name.

So what?

I have found the solution of the mystery in reading a report of Lt. Leconte, Belgian officer during WW1, and later staff member of the Belgian Army Museum.

" After the battle of Yser (Flanders, Oct. 1914), refering to what I've been told in the Artillery Depot in Gravelines, the King of England offered to our army a large number of British pattern officer's swords. The steel bowl guard was enormous and bore the cipher AR for King Albert (Albert I of Belgium).

The scabbard was made of wood covered with brown leather and fit the British waistbelt and frog. Due to the circumstance, and the adoption of the khaki green dress, the British sword accoutrements became part of our officer's uniforms."

In referring myself to non-confirmed sources (research in progress), I found that 200 of these swords were issued to Belgian officers.

The legend tells us that George V, King of England, paid with his personal money for the etching of the hilts. It was his way to salute the gallantry of the small Belgian army during this hard campaign.

Any comment or complementary information regarding this sword is welcome.

 

Sources:

Les armes portatives de l'armée belge by L. Leconte

Swords of the British army by Brian Robson

British swords and lance patterns by Skennerton

(version 14/06/2000)

 

Contact the author: jeanbck@hotmail.com

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