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Old 24th March 2005, 05:10 PM   #1
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Default 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,

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Old 24th March 2005, 05:36 PM   #2
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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
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Old 24th March 2005, 05:46 PM   #3
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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.
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Old 24th March 2005, 07:06 PM   #4
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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...
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Old 24th March 2005, 08:07 PM   #5
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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!
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Old 24th March 2005, 11:06 PM   #6
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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.
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Old 25th March 2005, 01:34 AM   #7
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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?

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