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Old 25th September 2021, 03:22 PM   #1
Victrix
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Default Austro-Hungarian cavalry sword M1869

I recently acquired an Austro-Hungarian Imperial and Royal (k.k.) cavalry sabre M1869 for officers. It’s a nickelplated version with scabbard. There’s a fuller down one side of the 83.5cm long blade with a false edge. The 2.8cm wide forte is marked ”L. Zeitler Wien VIII”. The edges have not been sharpened, so I think it might be a parade version/staff officer’s sword? The symmetric hand guard (8.2cm wide at the grip) is decorated with floral openwork and the Habsburg double-headed eagle. The grip is covered in grey fish skin bound with silver wire. The pommel button is decorated with the owner’s monogram, which looks like a S and a H. The sword has a snug fit in the scabbard with no rattle.

As the dimensions are not that impressive, I wonder if there’s a battle version of this sword? How do I best care for the nickel plated surfaces; is it OK to wipe down the surfaces with a damp sponge, rub dry with a soft cloth, and then apply a layer of renaissance wax? Not sure it’s a good idea to apply mineral oil to the steel which I usually do with older swords (not nickelplated). Comments welcomed.
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Old 1st October 2021, 12:40 AM   #2
Jim McDougall
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Austro Hungarian stuff gets confusing because the weapons are rather interpolated, and Austrian patterns seem to prevail for most as far as military. Wagner "Cut and Thrust Weapons", Prague ,1967 is the best source for these kinds of weapons. It seems this reference is not widely held here, though it does appear to be available. I got my copy (which is huge, not easily managed in this RV!) in about 1969, and have about worn it out!

The first is the M1869 cavalry troopers saber (p.356, pl. 54).

The second M1877, (p.358., pl.56) which is marked Joh. Zelinka Wien
and is described as 'leichter gattung' (=lighter edition).

It seems these sabers were used in the Austro-Hungarian cavalry which of course remained active through WWI. There were occasions too of their being mounted police, so these swords were certainly actively worn, at least the troopers versions.
The officers of course had more dress type sabers, and the lighter version M1877 was probably a parade weapon as well with lighter blade.

Resources cited:
"Adjustierungs und Ausrustungsvor schrift fur das K.K. Heer"
-Vienna, 1878 p.185
"Instruktransbuchfur die Einjahrig Freiwillen",
-Vienna, 1912 Vol.II, pl. X\
These are presumably both by Dolleczek.

These names listed at the forte are not makers, but outfitter/cutler/suppliers in Vienna, so do not appear in the listings for makers.
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Old 2nd October 2021, 04:25 PM   #3
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Hi Jim,

Many thanks for your comments. This is the officers’ version of the M1869 and a private purchase. The cavalry trooper’s sabre has a 3.6cm wide blade and a simpler guard perforated with holes (made it lighter). What’s common for both versions are the elegant double slits for the wrist cord with tassel. The officer version has a more elaborate decorated guard, sometimes with an added optional St.George or the Habsburg eagle as in this case. The dimensions of the officers’ sabres vary based on the preferences of the owners, and whether they were intended for dress wear or field service. This sabre for dress wear was manufactured by Ludwig Zeitler Wien VIII, who also made daggers and bayonets (est. in 1840?).

The photo below shows Austro-Hungarian hussars in Budapest.
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Old 2nd October 2021, 06:47 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Victrix View Post
... What’s common for both versions are the elegant double slits for the wrist cord with tassel. ...
I have an Austrian artillery officer's sabre with the double slits in the upper portion of the narrow-ish guard. I've always been told they were for a sword knot. I also have a Swiss officer's sword with a highly decorated bowl guard that also has the Austrian style double slit. I have however never seen any Austrian or Swiss officers in illustrations/photos with a sword knot/portapee through those slits. I must assume they are there for another purpose.

The Austrian Artillery sword has a blade forte with a lot of floral engraving for about 6 inches, otherwise like the above one and is also plated and unsharpened, tho the edge is a dull 1mm or less and I would not want to be hit with it. The Swiss one is a rather nice pipe-backed and quill pointed patinated steel blade with a field sharp edge.
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Old 2nd October 2021, 07:39 PM   #5
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[QUOTE=Victrix;266599]Hi Jim,

Many thanks for your comments. This is the officers’ version of the M1869 and a private purchase. The cavalry trooper’s sabre has a 3.6cm wide blade and a simpler guard perforated with holes (made it lighter). What’s common for both versions are the elegant double slits for the wrist cord with tassel. The officer version has a more elaborate decorated guard, sometimes with an added optional St.George or the Habsburg eagle as in this case. The dimensions of the officers’ sabres vary based on the preferences of the owners, and whether they were intended for dress wear or field service. This sabre for dress wear was manufactured by Ludwig Zeitler Wien VIII, who also made daggers and bayonets (est. in 1840?).










Hi Victrix,

I'm glad I could offer these references. I have always thought these Austro-Hungarian swords were pretty intriguing, and always liked the troopers versions for their very 'business like' look. It seems strange in a way that cavalry and swords were used well into the 20th century.....and cavalry was still an integral battle order component despite machine guns etc.

The stories of Polish cavalry charging German tanks in WWII was of course German propaganda, but these forces were vital in many functions. I knew a man whose father was in the Polish cavalry then, and he always spoke of his fathers saber, which to him as a child, was huge.

I am not sure about those slits, and I always thought they were for sword knots.
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Old 2nd October 2021, 07:52 PM   #6
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Oops! Forget to add this picture of an Austrian officer's sword with it's knot.
p.s.- The Poles used cavalry but left their lances home for parades. Not being fools, they usually parked their horses and fought on foot with machine guns and rifles. They did do a sabre charge on a German encampment and were very effective, coming out the other side they heard armoured vehicles approaching and wisely left.
The Germans widely used horse for transport of personnel and supplies, wounded, etc.. They were forbidden to film them in action tho, as hitler wanted everyone on the allies side to think they were all fully mechanized. They actually used almost twice the number of horses they'd used in WW1. especially when they started running out of gasoline and diesel. The Italian Cavalry also made a number of successful cavalry charges against the Russians.
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Last edited by kronckew; 2nd October 2021 at 08:16 PM.
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Old 3rd October 2021, 09:50 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by kronckew View Post
… I have however never seen any Austrian or Swiss officers in illustrations/photos with a sword knot/portapee through those slits. I must assume they are there for another purpose…
The slits are for the wrist cord/portapee. Looks rather smart in my opinion. It’s not easy to see properly, but it seems most of the soldiers in the photos wear the cord in the prescribed manner.
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Old 3rd October 2021, 10:10 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Jim McDougall View Post

Hi Victrix,

I'm glad I could offer these references. I have always thought these Austro-Hungarian swords were pretty intriguing, and always liked the troopers versions for their very 'business like' look. It seems strange in a way that cavalry and swords were used well into the 20th century.....and cavalry was still an integral battle order component despite machine guns etc.

The stories of Polish cavalry charging German tanks in WWII was of course German propaganda, but these forces were vital in many functions. I knew a man whose father was in the Polish cavalry then, and he always spoke of his fathers saber, which to him as a child, was huge.

I am not sure about those slits, and I always thought they were for sword knots.
Jim, I share your sentiment completely, and like the wider and more businesslike blades. But in this particular case I fell for the eagle decoration on the guard. I believe Austro-Hungarian cavalry units were used more on the Eastern front in WWI against Russia. The casualty rates were substantial so efforts were made to make uniforms and horses less conspicuous, so to provide less clear targets. Kaiser Franz Joseph was said to dislike tanks because they frightened the cavalry horses!
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Old 3rd October 2021, 11:35 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Victrix View Post
The slits are for the wrist cord/portapee. Looks rather smart in my opinion. It’s not easy to see properly, but it seems most of the soldiers in the photos wear the cord in the prescribed manner.

OK, thanks for the info, I like it when I can learn something new each day. I stand corrected & have adjusted my knots to suit.