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Old 19th November 2023, 06:21 PM   #1
sabertasche
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Default Flank or Yeomanry Officers Sword with Shamshir Blade

Reaching out to the Hive mind on a sword I picked up this yesterday. I have posted this on the FB page but thought that there are many who do not use social media.

At the gun show, initially I saw a British Yeomanry or Flank officers’ sword, circa 1780 – 1800. The guard is white metal (nickel-silver), brass pommel & strap, ivory handle but the blade is an indo-persian shamshir! The blade has a definite pattern too it, the picture I've posted just hints at the pattern. I plan to very gently clean off the dried oil, nicotine and gunk to get a better idea as to the pattern.

I’m now thinking a composite sword, note how the guard fits the pommel and how the hilt has been peened to make it tight to the blade. Note that the ivory handle does quite fit the ferrule. Clearly, this sword was put together over 200 years ago but is this normal for Yeomanry/Flank swords to be non-standard or bespoke? There have been some interesting ideas on-line that this is a trophy sword but what does the Forum think?
Regards,
Greg
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Last edited by sabertasche; 19th November 2023 at 07:53 PM. Reason: adding photos, more context
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Old 19th November 2023, 09:02 PM   #2
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I love these stirrup-hilted lion pommels with the sidebar. At first glance, I'd say British militia/volunteer officers sword rather than yeomanry.

As a rule of thumb, cavalry used steel hilts. But there are always exceptions in this period.

However, it is a concern that the metal between the guard and the pommel doesn't match. They should be the same and match the buttons of the officers' uniform. Also, I am concerned with how the tail of the knuckle bar fits in the lion's mouth. That is quite a broad gap, almost like it should be for a wider bar.

So my opinion is this is made from parts. It looks well done and like it was assembled a while ago, as the peen looks old but I suspect not 'in period'.
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Old 19th November 2023, 09:20 PM   #3
Jim McDougall
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In looking at Robson,(1975,p.124) an image of a grenadier officers sword of the 78th Highlanders ( in text noting Capt. Duncan MacRae) 1793-98 is remarkably similar to this example. Its blade is described as 32" curved and similar to M1796 but shorter. In cites the original reference to this is by AVB Norman, "Notes on Some Scottish Infantry Swords in the United Scottish Services Museum"( JAAS Vo. V, p.1).

The ivory grip, gilt brass, lionhead, and volute guard bars are similar.

"...there is clear evidence that from about 1796, in common with line regiments, officers of flank companies of Highland regiments carried curved sabers in certain forms of dress".

Also noted, 'a number of different patterns are known to exist covering the 42nd, 71st and 78th regiments between 1793 and 1817'. (p.125).

The flank companies were 'elite' units of the line infantry, with grenadiers on the right flank, the tallest men and for assault; with the light infantry on the left, smaller, faster men for skirmishing.

That the officers of these elite units were drawn inherently to flamboyance in these times of high military fashion and prestige is clear, and IMO there is no doubt that they would embellish their swords with variously elaborate blades. While the pragmatic use of the saber in combat is undeniable, the element of swagger in a more pronounced curve in a parabolic blade is clear.

Scottish units already had a degree of elitism and carte blanche as they chose their own, sometimes unique patterns.

I have an 18th century munition grade military basket hilt (probably by Drury, London) which has been remounted with a M1788 light cavalry blade. I have seen two others like this. When the infantry ceased carrying swords after 1783, these were placed in stores.
It seems possible, that officers in Scottish units in the 1790s, as noted to carry sabers, several of these might have been remounted with these blades as fighting sabers. Admittedly speculative, but possible.
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Old 20th November 2023, 12:05 AM   #4
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Thanks Jim and Radboud for your thoughts. I agree that the sword appears to be a composite, assembled maybe 1800ish. The guard appears to be of the Grenadier/Flank company type, pre-1800, the pommel and backstrap from a British naval officers sword, and the blade from a indo-persian shamshir.

It has been suggested that this may be a trophy sword, where the blade being captured is incorporated into usable regimental sword. Sadly, there is no history attached to this sword but I'm sure there would be am amazing story if it could talk.

Greg
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Old 20th November 2023, 12:07 PM   #5
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On regulation v bespoke, the 1803 pattern came about partially at least because so many officers were already carrying curved blades. The 1803 effectively regulated existing fashion. I had an 1803 with a blade of similar curve to it. I also had a couple of non regulation bone/ ivory gripped lion headed swords.

How much a regiment stuck to regulation depended on the CO, any honourary appointments that were associated and the standing of the individual officers themselves. Regimental tradition also had a role eg the neo-classical hilts were distinctive.
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Old 20th November 2023, 03:32 PM   #6
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From what I have understood on these somewhat renditions of the basic hilts for officers of these flank companies from the 1790s into early 19th c. the military fashions of the time as well as personal flamboyance played a large role in these swords.
By analogy pertaining to the near obsession with military fashion and status, I think of the famed 'dandy' Beau Brummel, who was for a time with a cavalry regiment, and known for his preening and flamboyant dress.

As noted, these flank companies were the elite units of infantry regiments, and officers, characteristically of high station already in civilian life, were somewhat competitive and keenly aware of a certain 'swagger' in their fashion. This of course most certainly applied to their most notable element in that, the sword they wore.

The commanding officers of regiments in effect 'owned' them, and supplied the ranks with weaponry, with munitions grade swords typically following standard forms (even though 'regulation' was not until 1796). These swords were 'issued' while the officers were allowed a degree of carte blanche.
They were expected to adhere somewhat to the basic standard in form of the swords in use, but variations in decoration and elements were of course rather inevitable.

With the example we are discussing, it does seem as noted to be composite and of course the blade is other than standard in these forms. As only the officers of the flank companies were permitted sabers, it stands to reason they would take their elite status a step or two further, and go to excess in the blade. The 'hussar phenomenon' of European military fashion of the times relied heavily on the dashing sabers and pronounced curve which gave the officer formidable presence as a deadly swordsman.

These blades might have been heirloom or trophy, or simply acquired from other sources, but it was the curve that gave the 'swagger'.

With the 1803 examples of infantry officers saber, I once had one which had a lion head but instead of flowing mane, it was designed with the headdress of the sphinx, clearly signifying the campaigns in Egypt. This was apparently yet another example of rather subtle carte blanche in the hilt decoration, but possible a regimental design signifying battle honors from those campaigns.

With the 10th Hussars, again by analogy, the Prince of Wales Own, called 'the Princes Dolls' colloquially, and he was designing his own sabers for his officers, eventually having the rare 1809 stirrup hilt with POW feathers on langet.

The hilt elements on the OP example might be from naval sword. The blade could be from an Indian sword, as officers in India indeed often mixed and matched British hilts and Indian blades and vice versa. The guard resembles those I earlier noted from the Scottish regiments, as well as the ivory grip.

As Greg has said, this attractive example saber clearly has its secrets, and we wish it could talk, but the discussion on the context of the times from which it came offers a colorful context of those times and military fashion then.
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Old 20th November 2023, 10:27 PM   #7
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Don't discount the officers of the East India Company and the Volunteers raised and stationed in Great Britain during the Napoleonic wars.

Great Britain had a huge number of men under arms during this period who weren't restricted to the regular army supply chains or regulations. Many wealthy businessmen raised and self-funded volunteer or yeomanry companies that did little more than parade on the weekends to impress the girls. Looking at the period art, there is quite a variation from regulation in both the uniforms and swords carried.

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Light Cavalry Officers 1806

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London's Volunteer corps 1799
(note the sabres with steel and gilt hilts, and two of the soldiers look to have the 'flank company' shoulder boards.)

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Loyal Volunteers on Parade 1803
(the three officers carry spadroons that look like the 1796 Pattern while the fourth on the left has a sabre in a leather scabbard).
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