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Old 24th February 2007, 02:52 PM   #1
Pukka Bundook
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Default Tulwar Vs sabre.

I became interested in tulwars after reading Richard Holmes book, "Sahib".
Before this, I thought that tulwars were more or less cheap rubbish!.........Probably because when I was a kid they could be bought for three pounds ten, or 2 for 5 quid...complete with gold or silver on hilt!

In Richard Holmes book another Tulwar emerged, one that appeared to outclass the British regulation blades as issued to infantry officers and cavalry.
This was a great surprize to me, and I had to find a Tulwar to inspect!
I will paraphrase the odd excerpt from "Sahib"
and ask for comments.
When the 93rg Highlanders stormed Lucknow, two of three brothers were killed by an Indian with a single cut each. The third brother bayoneted this man, took his tulwar and used it (according to eye-witness Sgt. Forbes-Mitchell) with: "terrible effect.......cutting heads off as though they were heads of cabbages".
When the fight was over the Sgt, examined the sword, and found it was of "ordinary weight, well balanced, curved about a quarter circle, as sharp as any razor, and as rigid as cast iron"
He goes on to say that in his experience none of the very best English swords would have cut like this one, and that a sword of this quality would cut through a man's skull or thigh bone, "Without the least shiver....as easily as an ordinary Birmingham blade would have cut through a willow"
(Page 350, "Sahib")
Another young officer had a sword made especially by Wilkinson to regulation pattern, and honed it like a razor, and bright as a mirror, yet found he was surprized that he could not cut hard with it. (P 351)
Many more examples in this book.

Comments anyone?
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Old 24th February 2007, 07:58 PM   #2
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Most weapons come in many qualties, tulwars, & kukris are great examples of this.

Some are junk , some can also be great pieces of weaponary or art. True masterpieces.

As for tulwars they can have blades of any origin or type of steel in them, although I must say quarter curved to a circle sounds rather nice to me!

Thats sounds rather like a shamshir blade in a tulwar hilt.

After all generaly its the shape of the hilt that decides the name tulwar.


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Old 24th February 2007, 08:22 PM   #3
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Hi Richard,
this is Jim McDougal's, Jens', Lew's (to name a few) 'territory'. But I'll have a bash.....
As is known,.. the quality of Tulwars varies from the beautifully forged Wootz blades to the 'munitions' grade. I feel one of the problems for the British Army's sabres was the fact of the regulation sword 'pattern'. It seems that swords were not 'customised' to the individual user, which I feel would have been a disadvantage.(soldiers of differing stature, build etc would not all be suited to the same sized, similarly weight sword)
AFAIK There were large numbers of 'munition' grade Tulwars in Armouries...but a good number of Indo-Perian soldiers owned their Tulwars privately or could at least have a Tulwar built/adapted to their specification (meaning ,blade curveature, thickness, weight, balance point etc). I am no expert on Military patterns, but I think the 'pattern' sabres progressively became less acute in their curveature, making 'slashing' type cuts less effective.... to the point that around the mid 19c all new patterns were relatively straight. (Definately Jim's or Paul's input needed to ensure I've got this right )
Obviously, firearms were now the primary weapon with the sword secondary. So it is likely that 'costs' aided the 'War office pen pushers' decision to provide cheaper alternatives to a decent Sabre.

The Tulwar described in the quoted passages seems to have a blade of excellent quality ...........

As we're talking Tulwars this may be of interest...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OddtPds_sbA
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Old 24th February 2007, 11:53 PM   #4
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Good video Katana, all the chat passes me by in my ignorance unfortuanatly though...

A good site to watch Gatka vids with less talk is..

http://www.warriorsaints.com/media/

My favorite tulwar video is the first one listed, these videos are always good to show when you meet westerners who finds the handles of tulwar restrictive of movement, or who think their hands are much larger than the average sikh warrier, Generaly the main restriction is in the mind not the sword from my observations.

Their forte is horizontal & circular motions in which they come alive {like most Indo/Persian swords,} rather than the primitive, inexpierienced or untrained, non warrior, semi vertical linear chop that they clearly were never designed for, thats when they feel awkward I find.

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Old 25th February 2007, 03:17 AM   #5
Pukka Bundook
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Katana,
What percentage of Indian soldiers do you think would actually own their swords?
It is interesting to me, as tulwars appear to come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, as though made for specific individuals.
Would the majority be handed out by the local Newab or whatever, in times of extreme uproar?
Spiral,
Quarter circle does sound like a shamshir doesn't it?

According to "Sahib" it appears that most indian swords (and Afghan too)were of very good quality,.....at least they were in the 1850's
Another loose quote;
Concerning Afghans,.....a Major quotes, "...From the nature of their clothing and headdress, it is difficult to make any impression on them with a sword", Afghan swords, however, "were af native manufacture, and were as sharp as steel should be" (P351)
Also of interest was the Sikh cavalry tactics observed again by Sgt. Forbes Mitchell.

He says they wore voluminous Puggries around their heads that "our blunt swords were unable to cut through"
It appears the Sikh cavalry line on this occasion remained still on their horses, and allowed the British charge to pass through, merely lying with their heads on the horses necks, their backs protected by buffalo-hide shields.
The instant the British soldiers passed through their ranks the Sikhs swooped around on them and struck them back-handed with "their sharp curved swords", In several instances "cutting our cavalrymen in two,...."
He goes on to describe how one officer in this engagement was, "Hewn in two with a back-handed stroke which cut through his ammunition pouch, cleaving the pistol bullets, pouch and belt, the officer's spine and cutting his heart in two."
also a surgeon relates how he saw a single cut go through the crupper of a trooper's saddle and sever the horses spine. (P.360)

This appears serious cutting ability!
I presume these were 'professional' warriors, and not local 'conscripts', but whatever,.. the swords they were using appeared to be of very good quality!
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Old 25th February 2007, 04:39 AM   #6
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"...Nolan was particularly interested in Nizams Irregular Horse. He had recently read a medical report of an engagement in which these troops had defeated a superior force of Rohillas, and had been astonished by the havoc created by thier swords: heads and arms completely severed, hands cut off at a single blow, and legs above the knee. Was this the 'work of giants' or of some peculiar quality in the sword blade or its use? The answer surprised him. The swords turned out to be merely old blades, discarded by British dragoons, cut to a razor edge and worn in wooden scabbards from which they were never drawn except in action. But Nolan may have given insufficient credit to these broad, curved, spear pointed * blades, the light cavalry sword of 1796, perhaps the finest sword ever used by the British cavalry. He inquired the secret of the cavalrymans skill, and was struck by the simplicity of the reply. "We never teach them any way sir, a sharp sword will cut in anyones hand", said one of the Nizams seasoned troopers. The lesson of sharp swords was one that Nolan never forgot."
- from "Nolan of Balaklava", H.Moyse-Bartlett, London, 1971,p.121
autobiography of Louis Edward Nolan, key figure in the
charge of the Light Brigade Oct.25,1854

*these were actually hatchet points, not spear points on the M1796

Clearly the British swords were not inadequate, however improper maintainance and servicability of the weapons by many of the troops led to reports of thier poor quality. It seems ironic that in so many cases the blades on native weapons used against British forces were thier own surplus or captured blades.

By the middle of the 19th century onward, the swords used by irregular cavalry units were typically surplus British military examples, and later even examples of tulwars made specifically for native troopers (Mole produced these in latter 1890's). The less dramatic curve of the tulwar blades was likely influenced by European and British sabres of the 19th century whose blades reflected the constant struggle to effectively combine the potential for both cut and thrust. It is important to note that the native troopers favor toward the hatchet pointed M1796 blades continued throughout the 19th century, and British makers produced these blades for India Stores as late as the 1880's, with the swords used into the 20th c. mounted in stirrup hilts.

Incidentally, the term tulwar is applied not only to the familiar disc hilted examples, but to the Persian hilt form which is similar to the shamshir hilt but typically all steel and with the same flueret shaped langets. I have seen these mounted with British M1788 sword blades as well.

Best regards,
Jim
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Old 25th February 2007, 08:13 AM   #7
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One has to wonder how much of the difference also had to do with the weapons drill as taught to the different soldiers. There is a world of difference in the penetrating power of a simple hack cut, basically using the sword like a long, thin axe, and a drawcut which makes the best use of a blade's razorsharp edge.

Think about carving a roast or a turkey. Do you chop away at it, or do you slide the blade across the meat? (Well, I've seen a few people use the cleaver method, but that neither here nor there...) Simple hacking will get through, but with ten times the effort; a drawcut, though, when done with a decent blade, will slide through like a hot knife through butter.

For the average British foot soldier the sword was definitely a secondary weapon, and I can't imagine that most of them had the chance to learn the fine art of the sword.
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Old 25th February 2007, 10:41 AM   #8
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Hi Katana,

This is a bit complicated. In the start, that is almost two thousand years ago, the Indian Sri Lankan steel was the one most sought after, and also the most expensive. It was exported to the west of the time,west Africa, Arabia, Egypt, Rome and so on, and later it was known as being better than even the Swedish steel which was very famous, but later again it seems as if the European steel was better sold, even in India, at least in the south and on the west coast. Part of this is may be due to the fact that the English forbade ingot making in big parts of Deccan due to deforesting or maybe the reason was, to be able to sell more blades to the Indians, it is hard to know which version is the right one.

I think you are right, when you write that many, those who could afford it, had their own weapons made, to suite their size and ability, weapons that were treasured in the family, which were inherited from farther to son, but there were still a lot of swords made for the armories and they would be common size or whatever you would call it. Read Hindu Arms and Ritual by Robert Elgood, chapter one and you will see the different ways the Indians and the Europeans regarded swords.

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Old 25th February 2007, 02:47 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spiral
....westerners who finds the handles of tulwar restrictive of movement, or who think their hands are much larger than the average sikh warrier, Generaly the main restriction is in the mind not the sword from my observations.

Their forte is horizontal & circular motions in which they come alive {like most Indo/Persian swords,} rather than the primitive, inexpierienced or untrained, non warrior, semi vertical linear chop that they clearly were never designed for, thats when they feel awkward I find.

Spiral
Hi Spiral, good link
I have to agree with your comments. There is evidence that the 'smaller hand' theory is possible. I, myself found a reference to British 'pattern' swords that were supplied to the Indian conscripts with smaller hilts to accomodate their smaller hands.

I,personally, am not convinced, I feel the restrictive hilt with the disc pommel aids the technique of Tulwar horizontal and circular cuts. When holding a Tulwar I have found that it can be gripped 'lightly' without fear of losing the sword. This 'relaxed' grip allows more flexibility in the wrist and elbow allowing quicker and more 'fluid' movement. Anyone could try this out with a stick, if you grip it tightly it 'locks' your wrist.....if you slightly relax that grip you can make that stick 'dance'. ...At the point of 'contact' the grip can be tightened to 'accept' the 'shock' of the strike.
If you try this 'loose grip' technigue on later pattern sword,( I have never handled a M1796 sabre )the hilt slides through the fingers ....making it more likely you would lose the sword and control of the blade. When I referred to Gatka videos in an earlier thread...a number of formites suggested that this was no more than a 'sword dance' ...
I still disagree.

Hi Jim and Jens, thanks for the info....it seems I will have to invest in 'Hindu Arms and Ritual' by Robert Elgood

Pukka Bundook, that book is graphic Rudyard Kipling springs to mind...

"If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs ..........."
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Old 25th February 2007, 07:01 PM   #10
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Thats sounds rather like a shamshir blade in a tulwar hilt.

After all generaly its the shape of the hilt that decides the name tulwar.


Spiral[/QUOTE]


"...talwar, derived from the Persian 'pouluar', is the term used for 'sword' in the Islamic tongues of North-West India".
"The Indian Sword", P.S.Rawson, 1969, N.Y. p.86

In fig.3 (Rawson) a shamshir with the typical hilt, crossguard and blade is termed 'talwar'.
Fig. 48, another example captioned " talwar hilt of pure Persian form".

These references seem convincing, however issue is taken by G.N.Pant in his often referred to work "Indian Arms and Armour" (New Delhi, 1980) where on p.76 he notes and illustrates a shamshir (fig.160) specifically terming it as 'shamshir' (though its provenance is shown as Lahore). He notes further that Indo-Persian blades are frequently used in Turkey and in India where they are remounted in the styles characteristic of these countries.
"...when Indo-Persian blade is fitted into the usual Indian hilt it is called talwar".
On page 83 the author notes, regarding the term talwar, "...it is a class name for the Indian sabre and practically all the curved sabres in it. For a student of weaponry it stands for those curved swords which have the blade like that of a shamshir and the usual Indian hilt. P.S.Rawson has confused talwar with shamshir at many places".

On p.66, Pant discusses the hilt form familiarly called 'pulouar' which we all recognize and associate with Afghan regions. He notes that P.S.Rawson has wrongly called it a talwar (p.165, fig.72). Interestingly, nowhere does Pant suggest or mention that this hilt form is attributed to Afghan regions, but does suggest that the form may be derived from earlier Arab swords.

On p.77, Pant shows a smaller shamshir in size that he suggests were made for young princes, though noting they were at times also used by adults. In this classification he terms this item, 'nimcha shamshir'. One can only imagine what that description used in narrative would suggest if relying on the preconceived images of the reader who relied on stereotyped classifications based on pidgeonholed forms!

Pant continues other terminology issues, particularly an error he describes by the venerable Lord Egerton in describing the dagger we know collectively as 'katar'. He claims that these are correctly termed 'jemedhar' and that the term was misapplied in Egerton. This has been discussed numerous times over the years and it is generally agreed that since the term 'katar' is so solidly based within the arms and armour glossary and terminology, it would be fruitless to try to rectify the use of this term referring to these daggers.

In his post, Spiral has wisely qualified his comment that the term talwar is 'generally' based on the shape of the hilt.
The reason I wanted to address this topic specifically is to point out the inherent dangers in relying on terminology or commonly applied names in classifying weapons. While many forms of weapon adhere basically to a familiar and generally congruent group, there are constantly found examples which are clearly hybrids or crossover items, which are better classified descriptively.

Regarding the reference to the sword exercises in Gatka, while they do indeed seem theatrical, in my opinion such demonstrations do serve a purpose. While obviously unlikely in combat situations, they certainly appear to give the individual the general feel for the dynamics of the sword in use as well as familiarity and comfort in its use, which of course would generate much needed confidence.
As Fenris has noted, the drill in the use of a weapon is a key factor, and the British rank and file probably had limited attention given to the use of the sword. Sir Richard Burton is known to have observed the seemingly theatrical displays of Indian use of the sword with disdain, considering it more of a 'dance' than useful exercise. Certainly the strict regimental procedures of the British army toward the use of the sword was much more 'wooden' in categoric movements. I recall reading an instance from a British narrative of Balaklava where a British trooper was extremely upset when he encountered a Russian trooper, and when he attacked the Russian with a 'cut 5' or some numerically applied move, the Russian responded unexpectedly with an entirely out of sequence 'cut 7' or some number and 'knocked him off his horse!" Extremely ungentlemanly !!!

Excellent perspective on the production of steel Jens! I think that any restrictions applied by the British in India concerning such production would not likely have concerned deforestation or such environmental issues. Being an industrialized power would likely focus on economic rather than environmental driving factors, though it seems I have seen references suggesting the deforestation issue as a consideration.

As noted, the book by Robert Elgood, "Hindu Arms and Ritual" is an absolute must!! and not only wonderfully discusses the study of Hindu weaponry, but presents essential perspective in the study of ethnographic weapons in general.

All best regards,
Jim

Last edited by Jim McDougall; 25th February 2007 at 07:14 PM.
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Old 26th February 2007, 12:56 AM   #11
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Hi Folks,

Some very good points made earlier in this thread, especially by Jim.

For my part, I would like to add that we have more than one issue here:

a) Quality of the steel used;

b) Edge imparted;

c) Sword blade design; And

d) cutting skill of the swordsman.


Contrary to popular perceptions, cutting with a sword, as opposed to merely bashing with the blade, is very difficult to master. The cut, to be effective, has to be made with the blade's center of percussion (COP) and without any lateral movement. The tendency for most is to impart to the sword a lateral movement as well as cutting with parts of the blade other than the COP. This greatly negates the effect of the cut and imposes great stress on the blade, often damaging it.

For those not familiar with the importance of a sword's COP, it is the point at which the blade vibrates the least when hitting the target. On sabres it is usually around 10" from the point. The thicker the blade, as with Japanese swords, the greater the "sweet-spot" around the COP. With deeply fullered Euro sabres and the like, the said sweet-spot is smaller, rendering cutting a more exacting task.

Even with the Japanese sword, an excellent cutter by all accounts, a considerable amount of training has to be undertaken before the swordsman becomes proficient. It is noteworthy that after the Meiji restoration, the Japanese army adopted European sabres and many officers trained in their traditional swordsmanship reverted to their native wares because they found the sabres too springy and difficult to cut with.

Of course European sabres went through a number of changes, starting out as very curved weapons and ending up, by the 1850s as much straighter. Many military fencing masters considered that the later patterns were neither fish nor fowl, that is poor cutters and poor thrusters. It is for this reason that the debate of point vs edge has raged in military circles right into the 20th century, with the point gaining favour by the end of the 19th.

Notwithstanding Nolan's enthusiasm, Richard Burton, who served in India, had contempt for Indian swordsmanship because, according to him, they neglected the use of the point. As for Nolan's 2nd hand assertion that those native swordsmen who inflicted those terrible wounds received no special training, I find it very hard to believe, save that they could have been merely lucky cuts delivered in a battle in which many more were totally ineffective, as was so often observed during the cavalry battles of Napoleonic era.

As for the matter of edges, a very keen edge on a sword will deliver spectacular cuts on unarmoured human targets, but will also render it extremely vulnerable to damage if inadvertently cutting into hard objects, an all too common occurrence.

Cheers
Chris

Last edited by Chris Evans; 26th February 2007 at 01:49 AM.
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Old 26th February 2007, 03:33 PM   #12
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I thank you all for your contributions!
Though I still "see through a glass darkly" some of it is becoming a little clearer.

Spiral,
It was interesting what you said, Re. the Horizontal and circular motions favourable to the tulwar, as I had been 'playing' with mine, and found exactly the same thing!

Jens and Jim,
Re. the English forbidding ingot making, on account of de-forestation, this May have been for environmental reasons,.................Messing up the Tiger hunting!!??

Jim,
It does appear in "Sahib" that quality control for British swords was a bit loose in the mid 19th century, there are many examples given of swords failing in use, though as Chris stated, a badly directed blow can spoil a good blade.
Some bent "almost in two" on first strike, some broke on first strike, some good men died after cutting down an oponent or three, when the sword broke in the hilt and left them defenceless.
I'm sure these complaints would not have arisen with the old 1796 pattern.

Jens, and Katana,
I was most interested in what you had to say about swords made for individuals, and being handed down from father to son.
This would account to some degree for swords showing much age and wear, the koftgari on hilts nearly all worn away, and blades having lost much of their width through sharpening, Sharpening that was not done just for the sake of it!
I do wish Indian swords were easier to date. I get the feeling some are much older than we first think!

Chris,
Very interesting obsevations.
Richard Burton may have had contempt for Indian swordsmanship, (not understanding 'the point') but it must have been he never tried the point with a Tulwar,......It would be very hard to thrust straight with one!
Any thrust would appear to have to be "short and compass".....don't you think?
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Old 26th February 2007, 04:00 PM   #13
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Hi Richard,
Thank you so much for the individually and detailed responses! Very much appreciated. It seems too often that responses are keyed to a single thought or idea from a particular post while those of others get overlooked, and here you took the time to address all specifically.
Good point (no pun intended on the Burton perspective concerning his disregard for Indian swordsmanship and the absence of use of the thrust.

On the quality of the British blades, you're right, it seems as industrialization and mass producing advanced, the quality became worse. The battle on the quality of British blades vs. German of course prevailed from the 17th century well through the 19th. The British blades of c. 1796 were certainly of high quality, and the old light cavalry blades were initially quite deadly ( as observed by Napoleon and his marshals at Waterloo) while in later years thier servicability deteriorated from improper maintainance. Later it was discovered by the British when examining the blades taken from Indian warriors, that the razor honing of the blades was key, as well as regular oiling and wooden scabbards. There is less shock to a blade if it meets solid opposition by slicing through it (at least thats my physics perspective! .

Thanks again!
All the best,
Jim
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Old 26th February 2007, 04:33 PM   #14
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Hi Richard,

Thanks for the nice words, and like Jim wrote, that you took the time to address each of us.

When it comes to Indian swords and weapons in general, you must remember, that a sword was not only a weapon, it had a history and above all, it had a spirit of its own, so when you inherited a weapon, you did not only inherit a blade, you also inherited its history and its spirit, a thing which is very important to the Hindus. This is one of the reasons why it is important to read Robert Elgood's book Hindu Arms and Ritual, as he explains this, a thing, which most authors avoid to comment on.
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Old 26th February 2007, 05:49 PM   #15
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Beautifully said Jens!!!!!
Elgood has definitely and at last put the study of these weapons in the proper perspective.
All the best,
Jim
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Old 27th February 2007, 01:17 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by katana
Hi Spiral, good link
I have to agree with your comments. There is evidence that the 'smaller hand' theory is possible. I, myself found a reference to British 'pattern' swords that were supplied to the Indian conscripts with smaller hilts to accomodate their smaller hands.

. When I referred to Gatka videos in an earlier thread...a number of formites suggested that this was no more than a 'sword dance' ...
I still disagree.


"If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs ..........."

Thankyou Katana, Some Indians mays have small hands, most Sikhs dont.

Anyone who calls Gatka a sword dance is ignorant of its basis & judging from ther own limited expieriences.. Its based on flowing movement to fight multiple adversaries.

I worked in a iron Foundry with Sikh extremist militants,warriers & Wrestlers in my teens.. They wernt doing it just for show. Belive me. {I realy do know the differance as well.}
{Incidently They ranged from about 5ft6 to 6 ft 4 but were all sturdy & large boned.} i realise not all Sikhs are that full mentaly on as those of course. I guess manyToday many have lost thie warrier instinct.}

Nice one Pukka!... Pukka indeed!

Great resources as always Jim! Thankyou.

One assumes the ridiculous English {&_ many westerns nations} military habit of sheathing swords in steel instead of wood or leather also blunted them somewhat.

Always a military hazard that one, the men who buy the weapons on mass have never used one in thier life so often.

Spiral
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Old 27th February 2007, 03:50 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pukka Bundook
Chris,
Very interesting obsevations.
Richard Burton may have had contempt for Indian swordsmanship, (not understanding 'the point') but it must have been he never tried the point with a Tulwar,......It would be very hard to thrust straight with one!
Precisely!

Cheers
Chris
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Old 27th February 2007, 03:05 PM   #18
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Jens,
Thank you for the explanation, re. what was inherited with these swords,
ie, Not only the weapon, but Also its history and Spirit.
This little statement has given me a Much better understanding of "how it was"
I feel so often, we can limit our understanding of an object by reducing it to a matter of bare bones, (ie, wood, metal or whatever) and limit our study to these 'bare bones', when really, the 'object' of our obsevation can be the key to passage into an incredibly rich "other world" that we may otherwise have never had opportunity to enter!.............. A place where real history can be fleshed out...
Thank you again!!
I must look for a copy of Elgood's book.

Jim,
Thank you for your input!
Re, British sword quality, I believe you are right about the slow decline in usefulness.
At Multan, in 1848, John Kennedy, in a letter home states; "Markham broke his sword in a Sikhs body,and then floored him with his fists....many officers and men were engaged in this way, and the number of blades broken testifies to the mediocrity of our sword cutlery. I could fill my paper twice over with minor events of this kind". (Sahib, p386)
It appears even prior to this, the Tulwar had certain appeal.
In this book It states Arthur Wellesley usually carried a plain but well proportioned Indian sword..(361)
Also states most of the problem with the British blades, was blunting through drill with metal scabbards....as you previously mentioned.

Spiral,
I must agree, Most Sikh gentlemen I have met are fine chaps! not small by any standards........with hands to match!

Chris,
An enchanting little memo from the same book, re. slicing rather than thrusting.
( paraphraed!)
In the action at Ramnagar, a certain Sgt Clifton and comrades ,14th light dragoons, was ordered to advance whilst resing in a field eating turnips.
The sgt. slipped a turnip into his shako for later consumption.
In the following action his horse was shot under him, he was surrounded and the top of his shako cut to shreds and his turnip to slices without touching his head!
Seems he escaped with a few light scratches to his shoulders....
I can just imagine his little sliced turnip, still sitting neatly on his head!....

All the best,
Richard.
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Old 27th February 2007, 04:07 PM   #19
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Hi Richard,

One very fundamental difference about the way the Westerners and the Indians look/looked on a sword is, that the Westerner regarded it as a sword only, maybe with a little bit of affection if someone in the family had used it, but to the Indians it was much more that that. The decoration also seems to have had a far deeper meaning that only the decoration but I an digging into that at the moment, so when I know more I will write about it, although the informations are far apart.

When looking for Elgood's book, try ABE Books on the net, I think you will find a good buy in India.
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Old 28th February 2007, 02:27 PM   #20
Pukka Bundook
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Thank you Jens,
I will look there for the book.
Re. the decoration, by the very small bit of information I have garnered,
it would appear that making the sword an attractive "home" for the right entity was very important!
I really look forward to your findings on this subject.

Best wishes, R.
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Old 28th February 2007, 04:30 PM   #21
Jens Nordlunde
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Wronge topic - sorry.
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Old 28th February 2007, 08:53 PM   #22
Pukka Bundook
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Don't worry Jens, I read your reply on the 'other' thread!
Jens,
Re. knowing which flower on the decoration represents which actual flower, I deduce this is of some importance in attracting the right entity?
Very fascinating!

Thank you for the tips re. Robert's book.

Found in the book "Sahib" another hint why the Tulwar cut so well.

In a fray with a Sikh warrior, a certain officer lost his hand to a cut delivered by his adversary, "with a hissing sound like an English pavier laying a slab"
(Paraphrased, don't have book with me at mo)
this would seem his adversary delivered the blow with all he had,....not holding back.
Interestingly, I've found myself emitting a similar sound when splitting stubborn fire-wood!...........You give it all you've got, right down to your socks!!
This I do find interesting, on account of the Indian practice of using a shield;
An English soldier had to use his sword for parrying as well as attack, So, probably would have to be more guarded in delivering his cuts, as a quick recovery of the sword hand would be nescessary.
With the Indian soldier, the shield would be used for parrying if needed in the much longer recovery time of a cut delivered with all his strength.

This is just a theory. any thoughts?

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Old 9th March 2007, 06:56 PM   #23
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Hi Jim, I must disagree with you on the alleged poor quality of British swords as I have had quite a few from various time periods and have found most of them to be excellent swords. In regards to scabbards, wooden and leather scabbards would usually be reserved for officers and the steel scabbards should have a wooden inner core, which is the norm. May I also ask why you believe that the British did not sharpen their swords and learned that sharpening and oling were good for a sword?


Regards,

William

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Later it was discovered by the British when examining the blades taken from Indian warriors, that the razor honing of the blades was key, as well as regular oiling and wooden scabbards.
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Old 10th March 2007, 06:11 AM   #24
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Hi William,
It's good to hear from you! Please note that I have not questioned the quality of British blades, only the proper use of them by British troopers, a thing not uncommon in other ranks of many armies in various circumstances.
While there were many debates, questions and scandals concerning British swords from the latter 18th through the end of the 19th centuries, it is commonly held that the British M1796 light cavalry sabre was the finest sword ever used by the British cavalry. Indeed it remained in use by yeomanry units throughout the 19th c. and in Indian regiments into the 20th.

I will share with you some excerpts on which I have based my comments.

British General Gaspard LeMarchant (1766-1812) was a brilliant cavalry officer who worked at advancing cavalry tactics and weapons, and was responsible for devising the M1796 sabre from his observations while detached on campaign in Flanders with Austrian forces in 1795. While there, he noted the brilliant swordsmansip of the Austrians, and regrettably noted that one Austrian officer had observed that while British swordplay was entertaining, he likened it to "somebody chopping wood".
("Scientific Soldier:A Life of General Le Marchant" , R.H.Thoumaine, 1968, p.41).

In "Swords of the British Army" (Brian Robson, London, 1975, p.34), it is noted that , "...the history of the British cavalry troopers sword in the 19th c. is largely one of complaints. How far these complaints genuinely arose from defects in the swords and how far they were due to deficiencies in the users is difficult to determine".
Further, "...there is however, evidence to suggest that the faults were not confined to the swords. Very often, the troopers were not well trained in the difficult art of mounted swordsmanship and
'little attention was paid to the care and sharpening of the swords".

In reviewing "British Cut and Thrust Weapons" (John Wilkinson-Latham,1971) on p.20, the author cites passages from Louis E.Nolan from his 1853 Treatise on cavalry, "Cavalry,Its History and Tactics", where it is noted,
"...at Rumnugger..the troopers of the light cavalry had no confidence in their swords. A regulation sword in his hand,
which must always be blunted by the steel scabbard in which it
is encased.
The native sword blades were chiefly old dragoon blades cast from our service..they all had an edge like a razor from heel to point, and were
worn in wooden scabbards".

Nolan made these observations in India in 1850, and it is interesting to note that he, like LeMarchant, approached all aspects of the cavalry with deep passion. Ironically both were killed in cavalry charges, LeMarchant at Salamanca in 1812 and Nolan at Balaklava in the immortal "Charge of the Light Brigade".

In "Nolan of Balaclava" (H.Moyse-Bartlett, London, 1971, p.121) the author describes Nolans observations concerning the terrifying effectiveness of the swords used by troopers of Nizams Irregular Horse against Rohilla tribesmen, where "...the swords turned out to be merely old blades discarded by British dragoons, cut to a razor edge and worn in wooden scabbards from which they were never drawn except in action".



Clearly, the blades did indeed have superior quality basically, however would not seem to have held in particularly high regard by the British troopers, if they were simply discarded. This may likely indicate that the men at this period and on campaign on India's frontiers had no special regard for swords because of more reliance on firearms with little consideration for the sword.

At the end of the 18th century, there were indeed wooden inserts in many of the M1788 sabres, in particular those by Gill, however it does not appear that wooden inserts were widely used in the subsequent issues of regulation swords for cavalry troopers. The concerns expressed by Nolan, noting the importance of wooden scabbards must have been considered in the ongoing struggle to improve the quality of British swords later in the 19th c. as seen in this excerpt from "Sword, Lance and Bayonet" , Ffoulkes & Hopkinson, 1938, p.22),
"...in considering convenience in use the scabbard must not be left out of consideration. Writing in 1869 Colonel Denison ("Modern Cavalry") urged the use of a wooden lining, as the sword edge coming in contact with the metal scabbard tended to become blunted, and he instances the universal use of the wooden scabbard by Oriental horsemen in support of his contention".

This would of course suggest that swords were typically sheathed in metal scabbards as late as 1869, although as you have noted, officers swords were often in leather covered wood cases. I have seen noted that later in the 19th c. swords sent to India were in wood scabbards that were covered there locally so as not to question the type of animal hide applied to cover it.

There can never be any question of the gallantry of the outstanding cavalry of Great Britain in these times, and my comments were not intended to question that in any way. In the years after the Napoleonic Wars there was a great deal of complacency in the military, and colonial campaigns were anything but ideal for parade ground discipline. The constant struggles in the neverending debate of cut vs. thrust typically negated any consistancy in sword design or exercise and certainly had profound bearing on the importance of the sword as a viable combat weapon with the growing emphasis on firearms as principle weapons.

I hope this will better explain my comments
All the best,
Jim

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Old 10th March 2007, 01:42 PM   #25
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Hi Jim,
excellent infomation (as usual )
It backs up what I have previously read about the British regulation pattern swords of the 19c. Complacency amongst the ranks, with regards sword care seemed common, as the reliance on firearms came to the fore. This complacency must have been created within the higher ranking officers whom should have enforced orders to ensure swords were 'fit for battle',..but didn't.
It was unfortunate that the effects of this poor maintenance was not acted upon. As the accounts you state, and Richard's references to 'Sahib' have shown, that the sword still had a useful function in warfare during that period.
It seems strange to me that officer scabbards were wood (a cheaper, more easily worked material) and the 'others' metal ( a more expensive solution...although more robust ) Personally, (obviously) wood would be my preference.
I also think that an 'oiled' blade may have a slightly enhanced cutting performance over a similar 'un-oiled' blade......at least while the lubricated blade surface remained (cuts through clothing, for instance, would wipe this coating off.)
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Old 10th March 2007, 03:30 PM   #26
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Hi Katana,
Thanks very much !
There were dramatic improvements in firearms throughout the 19th century that focused attention toward these as principle weapons, especially repeating arms, while percussion caps and the use of cartridges had already paved the advance. The use of the sword became more of a stubbornly held tradition and a secondary weapon used when firearms failed, ammunition supply ran out or a position was overrun. In these times of change, there were of course those gallant individuals who maintained the importance of the sword in combat as primary. It is well known that many of the older generals strongly favored the sword above all, and the development of the British M1908 cavalry sword and American M1913 "Patton" sword illustrate the ongoing determination to design the ultimate cavalry sword.

Consider these statements;
"I consider that the sword has a great moral effect on both the man carrying it, and the enemy. One of the chief values of the sword is the spirit of progress it inspires in the carrier. He does not allow himself to be bluffed by slight opposition".
Brigadier General Wilson
3rd Australian Light Horse
Beersheba Palestine, October,1917

"The charge will always be, the thing in which it will be the cavalrymans pride to die....sword in hand".
"Cavalry Journal", 1909

The use of swords clearly remained profoundly favored by officers who were of course keenly driven by pride and adherence to military tradition, while troops in the rank and file did not necessarily have the same perspective. Even in the Civil War in the United States, it is well known that swords were constantly worn by troops on both sides, yet medical accounts of casualties revealed no significant number of sword inflicted wounds. Most of the instances of even those revealed only bruising or even broken bones from blunt force trauma, suggesting that the weapons were probably not sharpened or used improperly.

The use of oil on the blades seems well established in maintaining the servicability of sword blades, and this was emphatically noted by Nolan in India, as well as the use of wooden scabbards. As has been discussed many times here on the forum, the use of certain oils of varying botanical nature is prevalent with edged weapons in India and throughout that cultural sphere. We are learning more on the often religious and talismanic values in the application of these through outstanding references such as Robert Elgood's magnificent "Hindu Arms and Ritual", and it would seem that the use of such oils may have been observed in a simpler and practical sense by individuals from the west.

The wooden scabbards used in sheathing the swords carried by officers were of course designed structurally as support for the leather and varying types of covering used to enhance these typically more decorative swords. Most officers maintained a number of swords for varying occasions from the dress and parade swords to the combat weapons very similar to those of other ranks. Many of the officers swords used for actual combat were often referred to as 'fighting' swords and if I am not mistaken, these were most often sheathed in metal scabbards in the same manner as other ranks.

Thank you very much for responding, and giving me the chance to ramble on further on this topic, which remains fondly with me from my early collecting days which focused on British cavalry sabres. A nice trip down memory lane!!

All the best,
Jim
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Old 10th March 2007, 03:40 PM   #27
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Hi William,
In the book "Sahib" there are many first hand accounts of problems with dull swords, and those that broke, or bent "nearly double" on first strike, (Which may well indicate a badly executed cut!) but the point is, there does appear to have been a problem with quality at that time.
Re. your swords from this period being of very good quality, I am not surprized for two reasons:

1, Many would be of good quality, by no means would all be bad, and..

2, it is to be expected that more of the good ones will have survived than the bad ones!

I had an 1822 pattern with a lovely temper, but if it Had been a bad one, it may well have been dumped long ago....

All the very best,
Richard.
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Old 10th March 2007, 03:51 PM   #28
Jim McDougall
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[QUOTE=Pukka Bundook]

I had an 1822 pattern with a lovely temper, but if it Had been a bad one, it may well have been dumped long ago....

Richard, according to the fantastic job you have done with the tulwar you just saved....I doubt it!!!

All the best,
Jim
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