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Rivkin 24th March 2005 06:10 PM

why sabre ?
 
Dear All,

Over the past few years, reading books on medieval weaponry I could not help but notice that when it comes to the question "why sabres are better than straight swords", the answer is:

1. With the same force, pressure produced by a sabre is far greater, because the contact is initiated through a small area, while for straight weapons, a bigger sword's portion is used.
2. While using sabre you are supposed to move it down and towards you, therefore not only chopping, but also slicing the enemy.
3. Sabres are much easier to use when on a horseback.

etc. etc. etc.

It seems to me that number one has some merit to it, but what about other explanations ?

Sincerely yours,

K.Rivkin

Tim Simmons 24th March 2005 06:36 PM

Hello, The last generation of working cavalry sabres used in ww1 by the western allies were of the striaght thrusting kind.A penatration wound is less survivable as a rule.The arguement as to which is the most efficient has been raging for hundreds of years.How your cavalry is usually deployed may influence an armies choice.Tim

Bill 24th March 2005 06:46 PM

My guess is that a straight blade may bounce & inflict little damage or tend to get stuck in bone or anything solid, striking from horseback. The curved blade gives the impact a place to go, down more of the blade, sliceing as it goes.

ariel 24th March 2005 08:06 PM

The second one is also correct: a single vertical hit of a curved blade combines both hit and a backward draw of a straight one. Thus, the penetration is deeper. Richard Burton (not Liz Taylor's husband!) dedicated several pages of elementary geometry and physics to it in his "The book of the Sword".
The third one.... The main advantage of the thrust is it's speed: the distance is shorter (see Burton again) and pinpointing is more precise. Neither are relevant or even possible while riding a horse.
The thrust is indeed more fatal: there is a vital organ everywhere at the torso at 2.5 inches depth. If you stick your sword in and it is jerked out of your grip by the movement of the horse, you become effectively disarmed and vulnerable or even are thrown out of the saddle. Importantly, there are two main objectives of any swordfight: 1. to stay alive; b. to disable (not necessarily kill outright) the opponent. Scott Rodell beautifully stressed this basic fencing wisdom in Timonium. The undesirability of thrusts was very much stressed in the rounded tips and flexibility of Pata and Qattara, the quintessential straight cavalry swords.
As to the kind of sabers used most recently, by definition a saber is a curved blade. A straight single-edged is a palash, a straight double-edged is a sword (where do Krises, parang latoks and recurved blades fit into this classification, Buddha only knows!). Well, during WWI, the military with the strongest (or, at least, the biggest!) cavalry was Russian and they used only curved (shashkas, 1891 pattern, and the like) blades; during WWII, the Poles were still attacking German tanks with their 1921 pattern (also curved).
This issue comes all the way to the Mongols who practically invented cavalry, proper cavalry equipment and modern military tactics.
Get a book by Michael Prawdin " The Mongol Empire" and enjoy...

wolviex 24th March 2005 09:07 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
during WWII, the Poles were still attacking German tanks with their 1921 pattern (also curved).


Dear Ariel, unfortunately just what you have wrote above is just a historical mistake, still repeating by worlds historians (by some Polish also). Polish soldiers attacking German tanks with lances and sabres is just an effect of Nazist's propaganda. And the history is: in the september 1939 the 18. Pomorski Uhlans Regiment attacked at Krojatany German infantry. They charged with sabres of course on foot soldiers. Unfortunately for them infantry was covered by tanks and armour vehicles which came out of forest and break the Polish attack. Germans during the attack made the film, and the Italian journalist (present on place) made a story about Polish, backward, old-fashioned army, and stupid soldiers thinking that tanks are made of cardboard. Then it was used by soviets and nomen omen by Polish allies to justify some political movements. Today it's sometimes quote as a symbol of Polish bravery, but anyway in Poland it's somehow sound negatively (I mean Polish historians, average peoples doesn't know anything or very little about history, thought :( ).

Sorry for this digression, but as a historian it is my duty to clear some things, no matter I'm Polish or not :)

Best regards!

ariel 25th March 2005 12:06 AM

Never meant it to be a slur on "backward Poles".
I know, of course, that the circumstances of this battle are in dispute. No matter what, whether it was a true story or a legend, for me it was always a touching example of gallantry.
Not much different from Colonel Michal Wolodyjowski, the battle of Monte Cassino, the Warsaw rebellion or, in a different time and place, The Charge of the Light Brigade or... "damn the torpedoes!"
My hat is off to these people.

fearn 25th March 2005 02:34 AM

I have to agree with Ariel, about the chance of losing your weapon upon impaling your foe.

I'm trying to find the reference at the moment, but I'd also point out that there was a thrusting cavalry sword of the 19th Century nicknamed "The Wrist Breaker" for the other problem it had--fighters using it were likely to break their wrists either as the sword hit, or when trying to get their blades unstuck. There are worse problems than losing one's weapon....

That said, I think some regiments carried both a straight thrusting sword and a curved slashing one, the thrusting sword taking the place of a lance.

OTOH, there is that interesting enigma known as the estoc. It was obviously for thrusting, but so far as I know, its use is pretty unclear. Was it essentially a pry bar for taking the armor off of knights, or something?

Fearn

Rick 25th March 2005 03:48 AM

Fearn , here's a little about the Patton Sabre comparing it to the 'Wrist Breaker' .
I think it may have been nicknamed more for it's weight . :)

http://www.classicalfencing.com/articles/Patton.shtml

tom hyle 25th March 2005 07:16 AM

Haven't read all the replies cause I'm about to go to sleep (or try), and it's been a while since I've answered this question. First, a curved blade cuts better, because it starts the cut at a single point, and also because if backleaning (true or Tartaric sabre if you will) it draws itself through the cut as a natural effect of its shape moving thru flesh; sorry, my linguistic ability is down at the moment. This automatically gives you the increased cutting power and greater ease in withdrawal of a sliding cut; this especially helps you keep holding the sword when you cut someone your horse is running past. Also, when backleaning, it has the strength of the edge bevel angle it has, but the cutting power of a finer angle (Burton explains this well). Try to flex a highly curved blade over your knee (one sharp on the convex edge, if at all; don't cut your knee or hands! :eek: ); what happens? It tries to turn to make the force distribute across the width, rather than the thickness; this makes it stronger against this kind of force, encountered primarily in parrying and in withdrawing the blade from wounds, and also tends to help turn its spine into a parry; a usually favoured method popularly known from Japan, but actually seen in Europe, PI, N Africa, etc. Also, when backleaning, the around the shield backhand thrust; this is often a neglected point; the "West" seems to have come to think of the shield as a fashion accessory or something. Give me a sheild and a machete and a smallsword is a joke. BTW, those straight things are not sabres. I know they called them that; that's military/beaurocratic organization for ya; put it in a category we already have :rolleyes: they're really more a type of smallsword, or to put it differently, a spear built like a sword. A real sabre is for cutting. Top of the head for youse, anyway; maybe more later when I come back and read yours. One other thing no-one's brought up now, but contradicts a popular misconception that we've discussed before, and that seems somewhat related; serated swords do cut better, and have at least one other advantage, as well. yes, I can tell you why, but I'm tired right now; search the old forum; I've explained it there. As for straight double-edged sword? It is Jack of all trades, master of none. A compromise weapon; a backcurved sword slashes and back-hand-thrusts better, a forward curved sword chops and for-hand-hrusts better, but the straight double-edger can do it all to some degree, and though it's certainly not much at the backhand thrust, it does pack a nasty backhand cut that can be used around behind the opponant's shield. Also, you get a spare sharp edge you can flip the sword to (if it hasn't a knucklebow) for those long battles where it gets dull; seriously, one reads this in old European accounts, and it makes good sense.

sirupate 25th March 2005 07:54 AM

The sabre when used in recorded duels against the premier thrusting sword the epee, came out on top. The attributed reason for this was that the sabre had the ability to do a greater variety of ripostes.
The British cavalry opted for a thrusting sword in 1903, which was finally approved by King EdwardVII in 1908 (who would have preferred the British cavalry to be using a Sabre).
The idea behind it was sound in principle and when practising against melons (the traditional British Cavalry method) it worked very well, however when charging and thrusting with the 1908 pattern against a real opponent the stress on the shoulder on retraction was immense, and led to people being dragged of their horses and doing untold damage to their shoulders.
Give me a sabre or katana any day :D

Cheers Simon

tom hyle 25th March 2005 02:05 PM

I read 'em
 
Ariel, Why do we ever disagree? :) very salient point, too, vis a vis the deadliness of thrusts that death is not the idea; disabling can be as good or better.

ariel 25th March 2005 08:59 PM

Tom,
Not a trace of disagreement here: disable the opponent and move forward.
That is, BTW, why the Japanese used small caliber firearms : wounded soldier attracts help (they are wounded in turn) and for each wounded soldier the military has to use another 3 people in the back (transporting, medical, rehab etc)

sirupate 26th March 2005 07:56 AM

Another great theory, but a wounded enemy can still kill you, easilly :(

Rivkin 26th March 2005 04:07 PM

Actually the same theory is behind M16 and 220 caliber - it's not a weapon to kill, but to wound.

The problem rises when you are confronted by fanatics or someone on drugs - even wounded they'll just keep fighting.

sirupate 26th March 2005 04:22 PM

Hello Rivkin,

That is the theory indeed along with the fleshets that were used, and as you say a wounded enemy can still fight :(

Cheers Simon

Jens Nordlunde 26th March 2005 04:33 PM

I think the discussion it very interesting, and it keeps coming up with different intervals.

What makes me wonder is, why the generals, or whoever decided to change the blade types did so, at the time they were in use, they knew the strength and the weakness in both types of blade. Are there not notes somewhere from the time, in which the problem is discussed, so that we, from the notes, can learn which arguments were used for the change?

I agree that a curves sword sounds more logic for the cavalry, but as the costs, changing the swords must have been rather high, there must have been a good reason for the change.



Jens

tom hyle 26th March 2005 05:01 PM

The documents probably do still exist somewhere. I remember seeing a reprint of the US Army memo on why they were discontinuing swords; they had an ideal weight for a soldier to carry, and it was sword or shovel; so that wasn't a directly fighting reason at all! My impression concerning the matter is that the idea of the superiority of the thrust and of what they called "scientific fencing" was a heavily dogmatized idea with the European over-culture (still is, too); I do not feel it was accurate/true, but it was a cultural level belief. One imagines lightness to be a consideration as well, but that's just a guess.
A wounded enemy can still be dangerous, but as I've said previously, primarily if he has a puncture wound; a good slash will often/usually sever muscles and actually mechanically disable someone. We've had this discussion at length before; slash vs. thrust; won't someone who can please link it?

Jens Nordlunde 26th March 2005 05:12 PM

I have no doubt that the documents discussing this subject excists in bothe America and in Europe - so, why does someone not go out and find them, so we have the evidence for the change, instead the guessing?

Jens

tom hyle 26th March 2005 05:43 PM

Go ahead. But the reasons stated by experts may not be entirely in line with the real superiorities/capabilities of the swords, of course; it is important to factor in the forces of cultural dogmatism concerning "scientific fencing"/thrusting superiority. It is important to remember that by the time in which European soldiers were criticising cutting they had evidently forgotten how to cut well (and this is quite noticeable in reading one of their famed swordsmen; Richard burton, whose understanding of the cut was, and I hope the English don't come after me, quite rudimentary.), so any experiments they did might only prove that cutting poorly doesn't equal thrusting well....they were routinely shocked by the cutting power of Tartars, Arabs, etc. (and you can read of this in period accounts) who knew how to cut; maybe they should've gotten carpenters and butchers to train the soldiers to cut; the common working folk in Europe never forgot this, much as they kept using the old style laminated/differentially hardened blades. They seem to have somewhat given up proper sword-cutting when the armour reached its best, and never readopted after guns alleged to make armour obsolete (it's back now, and it's for bullets).
I find that the circularity of the (pardon me) proper cutting motion makes a nice combination with a curved blade, too.....

Jens Nordlunde 26th March 2005 09:38 PM

Sorry Tom, we must have misunderstood each other, what I meant was to get the papers from when this was decided, and to see what arguments the commities/generals had for changing the blade types.
Jens

Jim McDougall 27th March 2005 06:14 AM

This is a very interesting thread, and I wanted to add some various material in old notes etc. as the subject of cut vs. thrust is one that has come up constantly in many studies of edged weapons. Probably the most prevalent discussions and controversies that record such discussions would be with British attention to this topic beginning in the latter 18th century in studies to find the ideal cavalry sword. Ironically these debates would continue into the 20th century.
Although detailed attention was directed to strategy, tactics etc. in most European armies, "...contemporary military manuals illustrate how little attention had been given to the actual use of the edged sidearm in combat situations for centuries" ("Secret History of the Sword" J.C.Amberger, 1996, p.31, referring to Prussian cavalry regulations c.1747).

In various observations reviewed in a number of resources, it seems that the thrust categorically won favor for its deadly effect, however it must be also noted that the slashing cut of the sabre in properly trained hands was most certainly effective. In fact, at Waterloo, Napoleon complained of the barbarous use of the huge M1796 British light cavalry sabres. Another narrative does qualify this somewhat, noting that "...it is worthy of remark that scarcely one Frenchman died of his wounds although dreadfully chopped, whereas 12 English dragoons were killed on the spot and others dangerously wounded by thrusts" ("Swords of the British Army", B.Robson, p.26, citing Capt. Bragge 3rd Dragoons, Peninsula, 1812).

In latter studies on cut vs, thrust, in 1913, then Lt. George Patton is noted in that "...his thesis was that the thrust with the point of a sword is deadlier than a blow from its edge. He cited Marshal Maurice de Saxe and Napoleon on the value of thrusting with the point". ("The Patton Mind" , Roger H.Nye, 1993, pp.33-34).

In "Sword, Lance and Bayonet" (Ffoulkes & Hopkinson, N.Y.1938, p.18) "...all authorities consider that thrusting with the sword is more effectual and that the wounds thus produced are more difficult to heal than those from a cut, and all agree that a thrusting sword is better for the cavalry". This taken from comments by Gen. Sir C. Beauchamp Walker, Journal of the Royal United Services Institution, Vo.XXXIII, 766. However, he comments further, "...though the use of the point is essential in the charge, it cannot be used in close quarters melee and that a man must cut his way out".

The next comments are key;
"...the main objection to the cutting weapon is that except in the case of the expert swordsman the tendancy in moments of excitement is to cut wildly, more often with the flat than the edge leading". (John Latham, "The Shape of Sword Blades", Ffoulkes op.cit. p.18).
Robson notes (p.34), "...very often the troopers were not well trained in the difficult art of mounted swordsmanship" (Cavalry Journal , III pp.470-4).

Therefore it would seem that the debate is actually more a question of dynamics vs. pathology and qualified use of both cut and thrust depending on situation. The thrust certainly would typically prove fatal, though not
necessarily instantaneously. In a study on this particular aspect in 1996, Frank Lurz, Military Master of Arms at San Jose State University noted that "...exsanguination is the principle mechanism of death caused by stabbing and incising wounds and death by this means is seldom instantaneous", and notes further that the combatant may continue for varying periods of time. This seems to make sense as in the stress of combat with massive adrenaline, and near frenzy , many thus wounded combatants have been known to continue fighting for even extended periods of time.

As I have noted , this controversy carried on for well over a century and as far as I know there was never really an empirically conducted 'study' that offered conclusive results. These references are but a few that occur in many resources concerning edged weapons, so to gather recorded data on this subject would be quite an undertaking. Hopefully these will illustrate the general consensus though.

Returning to the reference to the "old wristbreaker" :
This was a colloquial term for the U.S. cavalry M1840 sabre, which was not a thrusting sword, but a heavy sabre with a blade nearly 36" long. The origin for this term remains folklore, however probably came from the weight and poor balance of the sabre itself. These were patterned after the French M1822, which had been carried temporarily by the U.S. 1st Dragoons and swords based on them were ordered from a Solingen maker. During the war with Mexico in 1846, the complaints began that it was too heavy and no comparison to its French prototype. Whether the 'wristbreaker' term developed then or during its continued use in the Civil War is uncertain. The soldiers disliked these cumbersome, heavy sabres and frankly had no idea how to use them. As the Civil War developed, the sabres were dutifully carried and seldom ever used, but as John William Turner notes ("The Last Bright Blades" , 1982)..." it took time to train a good cavalryman in the use of the sabre from horseback, and there was not enough time".

On the difficulty with 'straight sabres'. I think this gets into rather generic application of a term and in the latter 18th century the officers single edge sword typically with knucklebow was termed a 'spadroon' and considered a straight sabre. The most common of these were the 'five ball hilt' examples of c.1780-1810. In most cases it seems the term sabre is often loosely applied much in the same sense as sa'if can apply to a straight broadsword or an Arabian sabre, which incidentally also often have straight single edged blades.

And that is my thrust on these matters :)

Best regards,
Jim

tom hyle 27th March 2005 01:07 PM

Note the types of this evidence; the experts all agree, or experts refer to other experts; nothing empirical. Note their own citation that bad cutting was the problem with cutting.

Jens Nordlunde 27th March 2005 03:02 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by tom hyle
Note the types of this evidence; the experts all agree, or experts refer to other experts; nothing empirical. Note their own citation that bad cutting was the problem with cutting.

If this is so, it would be interesting to see which documentation/arguments the cavalry generals used to convince the different Ministries of War, that the blade types they were using should be changed.

Jim McDougall 27th March 2005 08:06 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by tom hyle
Note the types of this evidence; the experts all agree, or experts refer to other experts; nothing empirical. Note their own citation that bad cutting was the problem with cutting.


Tom,
Please note that the material I have presented here is not intended to be considered 'evidence'. The cited data consists of narratives of either participants or observers reflecting actual situations or events and their observations on the effectiveness of the swords in combat. I do not think that these are necessarily 'experts' especially not in 'empirical' study, but professionals stating opinions. As I noted, the data presented was anything but empirical as the results would have been seriously flawed by the qualification or lack of, with the participants using the weapons studied. This was the reason I mentioned the lack of training data.

We have been discussing the advantages of the cut vs. the thrust in either fatality or serious wounding of combatants. I think it would be extremely difficult to conduct traditional 'empirical' study on this particular topic as it would require human victims. I think the only instance I can think of with this type of rather horrific result would have been early Samurai who actually tested blades on human flesh.

The closest thing we have to empirical study on this subject would have been the evaluatory observations of various military or fencing proponents of developing more effective use of the different weapons. These consist of assorted papers and essays discussing mostly sword or blade dynamics and again, remain a matter of opinion and most certainly not empirical tests.

One of the best known instances of this may be seen with Maj Gen. Gaspard Le Marchant, a British cavalry officer who is credited with promoting and finally designing the famed pattern 1796 light cavalry sabre and installing it as one of the first official regulation patterns. He was considered a brilliant professional soldier, and died in a charge at Salamanca, Spain on 22 July, 1812. While a gallant and proficient cavalryman, he was considered a "Scientific Soldier" (title of his biography by R.H.Thoumaine, 1968).
He was clearly a proponent of the cutting sabre and based his theories and design on observations in actual combat, especially those of Austrian cavalry in Flanders 1793. The bulk of notes and memoirs are unpublished (most are in the National Army Museum in London).

Sir Richard Burton, an accomplished swordsman and professional soldier who is of course well known for his "Book of the Sword" (1884) among may other achievements, notes "...there is no question of superiority between the thrust and the cut". He uses fencing technique and diagrams to illustrate that the delivery of point has distinct advantage in time and distance over and opponent using the edge, which requires the distance of an arc rather than straight line (op.cit. p.127). He notes however that human nature instinctively will tend toward the cut or strike than the trained thrust. I think this was also mentioned in one of the items mentioned in my previous post which noted inclination to 'wild' cutting in excited situations.
Sir Richard also placed his thoughts and ideas in writing, matters of opinion and observation, clearly not 'empirical' study. It is interesting to note how by this time in the 19th century, various 'design' issues on cavalry swords and complaints had led the general opinion toward the thrust and away from the cut. The deadly results seen in the Napoleonic wars of the thrusting swords of the cuirassiers remained strongly considered, and in the Crimea, British cavalry attempts at slashing at the heavily bundled and greatcoated Russian troopers were useless. Again, hardly empirical study but extremely clear results brought to discussion by professionals considering practical application for weapons in critical situations.

It must be remembered also that the debate of cut vs. thrust had a great deal to do as well with a degree of social status. The officers were from families of rank and nobility and of course highly trained in the dexterity of fencing. This of course taught the thrust, considered artistic and proper, not to mention its mortality.
Conversely, Asiatic and Eastern European horsemen had quite a different perspective, "...the kindjhal was used slashingly. The 'cut' was 'de riguer'. To kill with the point lacked artistry. Weapons were a cult as dear as honour itself". ("The Sabres of Paradise" , Leslie Blanch, N.Y.1960, p.6, discussing the use of edged weapons in the Caucusus).
It would seem that even artistic or chivalrous merit must have had a degree of consideration in the many heated discussions concerning the design and style of the swords of the 19th century, and the stubborn adherence to such tradition would have made any serious empirical study impossible.

Thus, the merits of cut vs. thrust must be considered primarily subjective and a matter of professional opinions rather than empirically proven conclusion. The last official regulation cavalry swords were the British M1908, followed by the U.S. Patton M1913, both thrusting swords and considered the final and ultimate cavalry swords. While the British swords did see combat, the Patton swords never did, and production on them ceased in 1919 . I was once able to handle a British M1912 officers version of the 1908, in visiting a British Brigadier who had carried it in a cavalry charge in the Northwest Frontier in 1932. It was a beautifully balanced weapon, but seems not to have actually seen use as the charge was a bit of a rout. In retrospect I wish I could have asked more on 'how' it was to have been used.

As I have noted, as far as I know there have been no specifically designed studies or empirical tests to measure cut vs. thrust as applied to sword design. While uncertain of Eastern European or other countries attention to this topic, there are probably literally tons of papers concerning the never ending complaints on swords and other weapons in British records. Brian Robson in "Swords of the British Army" presents well referenced notes that cite many of these resources in discussions on the development of many of the official patterns. Most of these records are held in the National Army Museum in London and several other official offices, and Mr. Robson deserves high praise for his tenacity in the research he accomplished in these very intimidating archives.

Best regards,
Jim

Rivkin 27th March 2005 08:58 PM

Concerning the use of kindjals for cuts rather than thrusts:

Unfortunately I do not know of any english translation of any of the numerous georgian books and articles on caucasian ethics, so I'll have to use my words.

In theory (in real life more often than not people were not able or not willing to fully adher to the Code of Honor) the proper behavior during a duel included:

a. One should offer his opponent to strike first.
b. After parrying his attack (hopefully), one's own attack should be delievered with a hilt or a non-sharp side of one's sword (back side). The reason was to demonstrate one's courage, exceptional skill and mercy over the opponent.
c. If the attack was successful and there is a clear understand that the use of the sharp edge would result in the opponent's death, it was his duty to admit the defeat. Otherwise the duel continues, until he is knocked out or severely wounded.

In war the same custom prevailed - opponent should be disarmed or wounded, but delievering a known to be letal blow was considered to display one's cowardice or pathological brutality.

Exceptions were allowed - in case of revenge (this included all prolonged military conflicts, since over time incidents of cruelty on both sides would lead to the accumualtion of "blood debts") only lethal strikes should be delivered.
Another exception was a conflict where the military defeat would result in the destruction of the whole tribe.

It's interesting that the violators of the Code of Honor in the time of war would be referred to as "Mongols", no association with blood mongols, and not exactly a derogative term, but it was the mark that defined that this person does not abide by traditions.

The same custom applied to ring-fighting and kindjal duels.

Since a kindjal was considered to be a thrust only weapon, it's sides were considered to be similar to a sabre's "back side" and therefore they could've been used in duels and wars, as far as there is no vengeance among the fighting. Traditional way to display one's intention to kill was to put some blood over kindjal's scabbard.

Afaik that's the explanation behind using kindjals for cuts.

tom hyle 27th March 2005 09:15 PM

Thanks for the elucidations, gentlemen.

Jim McDougall 27th March 2005 11:00 PM

Rivkin,
Thank you for the added material on the use of the kindjhal, especially in duelling which would emphasize the recognition of such codes. It seems the kindjhal occurs in a wide range of sizes and most carry the mail piercing point which of course suggests this is a thrusting weapon. It seems the slashing moves were restricted largely to duelling if I understand correctly.

"I know how to use a dagger-
I was born in the Caucusus."
-Alexander Pushkin

* Pushkin was killed in his passion for duelling.

While the discussion of cut vs. thrust in the sword remains clearly a subjective issue, it seems that the recognition of honor and codes is very much philosophical and would likely be overlooked in the heat of combat for obvious reasons. I recalled notes from many years ago in a narrative on the Crimean War where "...one trooper complained as he was having a severe head wound dressed, that in combat with a Russian he had just given him a 'cut five' (body cut) when the 'damned fool' had never guarded at all, but hit him on the head!". Clearly the Russian opponent had no regard whatsoever for the proper following of the British sword exercises :)

I think one of the best books for understanding the psychological and philosophical elements of battle would be John Keegans "Face of Battle" (1976) where many of these issues are dealt with most interestingly.

I think that the intensity of combat with sheer volume and variables in violent flux would all but negate any concept of controlled conduct in such respects, and human nature would prevail. A degree of decor would return as the intensity subsided, such as is noted after the charge at Balaklava and scattered survivors moved about, several wounded British survivors were approached by Cossack lancers, who simply halfheartedly poked at them, then rode away.

I really appreciate your adding the perspective on this. Thank you.
Best regards,
Jim

Rivkin 27th March 2005 11:47 PM

No combat is needed - to avoid any discussions on the board I'll not say anything, but to see the other side of caucasian "traditions" it's enough to google for "circassians armenians genocide". 1915 or 1916 can be added.

Most of the code of honor attributes were either entirely theoretical or were observed over a very short period of time (and usually by certain tribes). On the other hand many caucasian units had a nasty habit of practising cuts on local peasants.

To my original question I actually wondered more on advantages of palash vs. sabre, rather than epee vs. sabre.

The latter discussion I believe is well represented in the archives, the first one is almost untouched (taking in mind that palash is a thrust and cut weapon).

ariel 28th March 2005 12:34 AM

Sometimes in the beginning of the second milennium the European knights faced Central Asian warriors, Turks, Tatars etc.
The European chivalrous style of combat involved heavy lance and straight sword, both essentially thrusting weapons of heavy cavalry. The "Asians" used lightning attacks of the light cavalry, showers of arrows directed primarily against horses and quick slashes of the curved sabers against poorly defended and often retreating infantry.
I would guess that the khights were so impressed (or shocked!) that they have gradually adopted the "Asian" style of combat as well as their weapons. Polish and Hungarian hussars, with their closest contact withe the Turks and the Tatars, became the first and the best European light cavalrymen and the French even called their hussar sabers "a la hongroise" (Hungarian style). The very word Uhlan is Tatar in origin.
So, I do not think there were any scientific studies of the matter: the change in tactics determined the choice of a weapon.
And, Jim, despite Pushkin's bragging about Caucasian kinjals, he was killed by a pistol.... And by a Frenchman, to boot...

Jim McDougall 28th March 2005 01:03 AM

Ariel,
Pretty ironic huh!! :)
Whats that old saying about bringing a knife to a gunfight? I know ,I know , it was a pistol duel!
Interesting notes on the development of light cavalry. Always thought that subject was extremely fascinating and my earliest collecting focused on cavalry sabres.
Best regards,
Jim


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