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Old 16th October 2020, 04:41 PM   #1
Norman McCormick
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Default Unmarked P1796 L.C. Troopers Sabre

Hi,
Got this a while ago and nearly finished a little restoration. The scabbard and hilt were rather neglected as you can see by the image of the scabbard half finished. The blade however was in really good condition with a thin film of some sort of light grease/oil. The sword has no makers or acceptance marks so I'm thinking possibly Yeomanry. Btw the pillbox hat is Victorian era Ayrshire Yeomanry. The scabbard and blade have file marks presumably to assign i.d to both should they get separated. The grip has signs of wear in the right places and the leather hilt washer is still in place. The scabbard throat does have two punch marks and I would be keen to know if anyone has any idea what this may mean.
Regards,
Norman.
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Last edited by Norman McCormick : 16th October 2020 at 05:48 PM.
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Old 17th October 2020, 06:53 PM   #2
Jim McDougall
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That is a great example of one of the most stellar (in my opinion) of British cavalry sabers. The M1796 was of course the first 'official' pattern sword for the British army, though there had been certain degrees of standardization controlled by regimental commanders etc.

It became one of the most popular cavalry sabers with remarkably wide spread use and remained in service the longest of any British pattern, virtually even into the early 20th century among native Indian forces. These were produced in such volume that many were dispersed to other countries (the Germans took to producing their own version, the M1811 Blucher sabel), most notably Portugal during the Peninsular campaigns.
I believe that Portugal may have made their own versions as well (need to check with Fernando on this as he has such particulars).

When the new M1821 cavalry saber was introduced (with three bar hilt and cut and thrust blade) there were so many 1796's on hand that production of the new swords was withheld for several years (also issues with design).

Considering the huge volume of these M1796 sabers produced and distributed, it is amazing the scarcity of them today, probably because they became so collectible as one of the mainstays of the Napoleonic period campaigns. To find one with scabbard and intact is remarkable, and nice conservative restoration!!!

Great to see the pillbox cap also!!! very seldom seen and great example, especially with accompanying case.

Curious chop marks on this one, and anyones guess of significance, many of these had long working lives in many auxiliary military venues.
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Old 20th October 2020, 12:02 AM   #3
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G'day Norman,
I haven't come across punch marks on a scabbard throat like these before. Are they just round or do they have a symbol inside? I agree that the lack of British acceptance stamps rules out regular army use.
Cheers,
Bryce
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Old 20th October 2020, 02:17 PM   #4
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This is my example of M1796, also entirely unmarked. There may be the stamped crown mid blade but too dark too see and needs cleaning, but there is no makers stamp at blade back near hilt either.
It was always a good solid example though so served its purpose for me.

The absence of regimental or rack numbers is a bit puzzling with these, but given the huge quantities of them on hand, and by 1821 the new pattern with three bar hilt was introduced, Robson (1985, p.29) notes that many of these could be used to equip the yeomanry.

I am unclear on those 1796 swords on hand, presumably in the Tower, would these have had acceptance stamps before issuance to regiments? or would they have remained 'blank' until then?
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Old 20th October 2020, 05:28 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
... I believe that Portugal may have made their own versions as well (need to check with Fernando on this as he has such particulars)...

I haven't any solid evience at hand; although this should have happened *. The versions that abund over here are both HV and lC originals. Remember the Brits sent the (then disarmed) Portuguese forces massive numbers of armament, including 7 000 cavalry swords. Actually the HC version was adopted after the war for the Regiment of Chaves Dragoons.

*
What do you think of this one ?


.
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Old 20th October 2020, 08:12 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
I haven't any solid evience at hand; although this should have happened *. The versions that abund over here are both HV and lC originals. Remember the Brits sent the (then disarmed) Portuguese forces massive numbers of armament, including 7 000 cavalry swords. Actually the HC version was adopted after the war for the Regiment of Chaves Dragoons.

*
What do you think of this one ?


.



That is an outstanding saber! I've always liked the canted hilt style for some reason, and this one is really attractive. Now that you mention it, it was the heavy cavalry disc hilt that saw some Portuguese production.

It seems odd that ironically by the 1820's, the British had somewhere around 30,000 or more as the 1821/29 patterns were being introduced.. While the light versions filtered into yeomanry units, the heavies had no apparent further use.
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Old 20th October 2020, 09:11 PM   #7
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Quote:
I am unclear on those 1796 swords on hand, presumably in the Tower, would these have had acceptance stamps before issuance to regiments? or would they have remained 'blank' until then?


G'day Jim,
I think they were stamped prior to being issued to a regiment. Royal Armouries examples are stamped as are the British examples recently sold from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
Cheers,
Bryce
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Old 21st October 2020, 01:34 AM   #8
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One of mines.
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Old 21st October 2020, 11:57 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
... Now that you mention it, it was the heavy cavalry disc hilt that saw some Portuguese production...
... Although the version that became famous to equip the Dragons of Chaves was the British spear pointed (Waterloo) version.
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Old 21st October 2020, 01:52 PM   #10
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Hi Guys,
Thanks for the continued interest.

Hi Bryce,
I cannot find any other detail in the punch marks although it looks like the punch had a hollow centre as the centre of the indentations are raised. There is a possible punch mark on the hilt although it is a bit vague, there may be another under the leather washer but it is too fragile to remove. I have attached a photograph of the relevant hilt area.

Hi Bviera,
Nice sword, have you found out the meaning of the lettering on the hilt?

Hi Fernando,
Do you have an image of the whole sword? Would be interesting to see it.

Hi Jim,
Thanks as usual for your interest, Your sword looks well used and it would be interesting to see if there was more info on the blade i.e acceptance marks, under the patina.

Regards,
Norman.
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Old 21st October 2020, 02:27 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Norman McCormick
...Hi Fernando,
Do you have an image of the whole sword? Would be interesting to see it.


.


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Old 21st October 2020, 03:04 PM   #12
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Hi Fernando,
Does the fullering go all the way to the tip? I can't make it out from the photograph.
My Regards,
Norman.
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Old 21st October 2020, 03:29 PM   #13
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Can't do any better Norman ... but i think: yes.
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Old 21st October 2020, 04:08 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Norman McCormick
... The scabbard and blade have file marks presumably to assign i.d to both should they get separated...

Rather crude marks, visibly made by a soldier in an ambiance of having to handle his sword back to the depot, between action episodes, to prevent the depot keeper to neglect its setup integrity ... right ? .
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Old 21st October 2020, 04:38 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
Rather crude marks, visibly made by a soldier in an ambiance of having to handle his sword back to the depot, between action episodes, to prevent the depot keeper to neglect its setup integrity ... right ? .


Hi Fernando,
Could be, I had a flintlock pistol with all the parts scratched with a file
III if I remember correctly. I guess so that all parts so marked would stay together but whether it was done by the maker or owner I don't know.
My Regards,
Norman.
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Old 21st October 2020, 05:22 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
Can't do any better Norman ... but i think: yes.



Hi Fernando,
I'm not sure the example you show conforms to a P1796. It looks, to me, more like a Georgian flank officer's sword. I have looked through Richard Dellar's book, The British Cavalry Sword 1788-1912, and I can't find any example of a P1796 officer's or trooper's sabre with a full length or almost full length fuller, some variants but not like the one in your photograph. Maybe it is a particular Portuguese variation but you would know about that better than me.
My Regards,
Norman.
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Old 21st October 2020, 05:28 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Norman McCormick
Hi Fernando,
I'm not sure the example you show conforms to a P1796. It looks, to me, more like a Georgian flank officer's sword. I have looked through Richard Dellar's book, The British Cavalry Sword 1788-1912, and I can't find any example of a P1796 officer's or trooper's sabre with a full length or almost full length fuller, some variants but not like the one in your photograph. Maybe it is a particular Portuguese variation but you would know about that better than me.
My Regards,
Norman.

I admit i originaly posted this example to be subject of your people better recognition. Only when i went back to the source looking for a picture of the entire blade, i too raised my own doubts.
So Norman, just drop it .
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Old 21st October 2020, 05:30 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Norman McCormick
... Could be, I had a flintlock pistol with all the parts scratched with a file III if I remember correctly. I guess so that all parts so marked would stay together but whether it was done by the maker or owner I don't know...

I have read that, one strong argument used by Samuel Colt (a sharp dealer) to convince contract committees to prefer his revolver was that, as all every little parts were numbered, when troopers gathered on the field to clean their weapons, even if they were not so focused (read drunk) they would discern which parts to mount together.
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Old 21st October 2020, 08:25 PM   #19
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Nice sword, have you found out the meaning of the lettering on the hilt?


Hi Bviera, in case you are unaware, that 'R7/F/31 is a Portuguese marking & represents Regiment 7, Troop F, no. 31.
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Old 22nd October 2020, 02:46 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryce
G'day Jim,
I think they were stamped prior to being issued to a regiment. Royal Armouries examples are stamped as are the British examples recently sold from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
Cheers,
Bryce


Thanks Bryce,
Here's what I found in Robson, p.190:
"...from 1796 onwards, swords from whatever source had to be inspected for quality at the Tower and thus view marks began to appear -initially in the form of a crown over a single number. On many cavalry pattern 1796 swords, the view marks are not readily discernible, but whether this is because they were never stamped on or because they have disappeared with cleaning or refurbishing is not east to determine".

Also,"...from 1796 cavalry swords were often purchased in bulk by the Board of Ordnance and, in consequence, many pattern 1796 light and heavy cavalry swords bear no makers name".

It seems that in this period, and later, many swords purchased by the EIC were of course not inspected nor marked by the Tower. As far as I have known, swords were not marked by the Company, and as David Harding ("Small Arms of the East India Company") told me some years ago, 'swords were NOT marked in any way by the EIC'.

The only marks were the familiar 'bale marks' (the quartered heart with VEIC) as used on goods and firearms (incl. bayonets).

Even swords made for native cavalry units were not inspected by BO, and went directly to outfitters and arsenals in India. The only marks seen were ISD (india Stores Depot) but even that was inconsistent.


Perhaps these options might offer some solutions to these unmarked swords as being discussed.
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Old 22nd October 2020, 07:22 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
It seems that in this period, and later, many swords purchased by the EIC were of course not inspected nor marked by the Tower. As far as I have known, swords were not marked by the Company, and as David Harding ("Small Arms of the East India Company") told me some years ago, 'swords were NOT marked in any way by the EIC'.

The only marks were the familiar 'bale marks' (the quartered heart with VEIC) as used on goods and firearms (incl. bayonets). .



Hi Jim,
In Richard Dellar's book The British Cavalry Sword 1788-1912 plate 4.10
he shows a blade with an E.I.C. inspection stamp on the blade i.e. a G over the number 4. He also states that the letters A to R were used between 1837 and 1852 the letter G corresponding to 1843-44. This is an E.I.C. pattern 301 sword virtually identical to the P1796 except the fuller is somewhat shorter.
My Regards,
Norman.
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Old 22nd October 2020, 11:45 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Norman McCormick
Hi Jim,
In Richard Dellar's book The British Cavalry Sword 1788-1912 plate 4.10
he shows a blade with an E.I.C. inspection stamp on the blade i.e. a G over the number 4. He also states that the letters A to R were used between 1837 and 1852 the letter G corresponding to 1843-44. This is an E.I.C. pattern 301 sword virtually identical to the P1796 except the fuller is somewhat shorter.
My Regards,
Norman.


How the heck did I miss that!??? Thank you Norman!!!
I had not thought of 'those' markings for some time, though now I do recall seeing this detail. What I was thinking of was the familiar EIC balemark, which did indeed turn up on the socket bayonets.

Interesting that MOLE made the 1796 as the '301' pattern for quite some time, and I know that J Bourne& Son (a Wilkinson supplier) also made swords of 1796 'type' for Indian cavalry around 1880s. Obviously this was well after the EIC demise in late1850s so no such markings.

The thing is that the 1796 and these 'stirrup' hilts remained in favor in India into the early 20th century in places. This one is from a 13th Bengal lancers armory from 1930s.

In the 1820s as the new sabers of 1821 pattern were being produced there was a great deal of 'complaint' on them and about 1826 they ceased production, not effectively returning to production until mid 1830s.
There were apparently so many 1796s in stores, and the men preferred them anyway, so in many cases the 1796 remained in use a lot longer than we have realized.
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Old 23rd October 2020, 03:22 PM   #23
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Default The "other" 1796 ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
... Now that you mention it, it was the heavy cavalry disc hilt that saw some Portuguese production...

Anything to do with this portrait i posted here 11 years ago, a high end version held by Emperor of Brazil Dom Pedro I, (IV of Portugal), as painted by French artist Jean-Baptiste Debret in 1816. This one i wouldn't mind to have .


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Old 23rd October 2020, 10:07 PM   #24
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Excellent illustration Fernando! Interesting to see one of these in gold metal!

To the subject of the quantities, tenure and other uses of the M1796 sabers, in this case, the blades.

In india, there were mountain artillery units in c. 1840 which handled the 'screw guns' and light cannon. Apparently they issued the gunners a brass hilted short sword, but its description is unclear. These were disbanded but begun again 1851 and 1853 in Hazara and Peshawar , and active in the Northwest Frontier.

It is noted in Robson (1985) that a sword resembling the coast guard 'cutlasses' with cast iron ribbed grip and brass hilt, in fact many were possibly from stocks of these coast guard swords.

This brass hilt sword with ribbed grip seems to be mounted with a M1796 blade, but does not correspond to the swords issued to these mountain units but it seems likely this might be one.
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