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Old 8th May 2007, 06:51 PM   #1
Vikingsword Staff
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Cool Interesting Dha with Provenance

Here's an interesting sword from the National Maritime Museum, London.

Burmese dha, which belonged to Captain James Samuel Watts (died 1908). The hilt of the dha consists of a two-handed, slightly curved grip, made of bamboo or a similar wood. The grip is circular in section and made in one piece, the blade having been hammered into it. The grip is bound in an ornamental fashion at the top with eight strands of plaited plant fibre, at the mid-point with four strands and there are traces of binding at the pommel end. The steel blade is a slightly curved and shaped like a falchion (a short curved sword). The scabbard is made from two pieces of wood bound together near the bottom and the top with a single strand of woven or plaited plant fibre similar to that used on the grip.

Captain James Samuel Watts probably obtained the dha during his service in the East Indies and Chinese waters from 1859 to 1862. The dha was acquired by the National Maritime Museum with other personal effects which belonged to Captain James Samuel Watts (died 1908) see also WPN1378 and WPN1379. Captain James Samuel Watts became a Master's Assistant about 1848; he was promoted to the rank of 2nd Master in 1854; to Master in 1859; to Staff Commander in 1870; to Staff Captain in 1882; he retired as a Captain in 1890 and died in 1908.

As Master's Assistant he served in the 'Dee' on the East Coast of Africa for the suppression of the slave trade and was present at the Angoxa River in 1849. He also served in the 'Antelope' for the suppression of the slave trade on the West Africa Coast. He was Master of the 'Ringdove' during the China War and Master of the 'Bombay' and is mentioned in despatches when that ship was destroyed by fire in 1864. He was Staff Commander of the Royal Yacht 'Victoria and Albert' between 1877-1882. He was also a Nautical Assessor to the Lords of Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

I love well-provenanced weapons. A fair number of dha are presentation pieces. Even more were, like this one, taken back to England following military service in the far east.
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Old 8th May 2007, 06:51 PM   #2
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Any UK members been to the NMM? If so, how's the weapons collection?
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Old 14th May 2007, 11:04 AM   #3
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Hi Andrew ,

Interestingly enough I have been to the NMM on a few occasions in recent years but did not notice this ( presumably because I did not have any interest in edged weopans until recently ) . From what I remember the collection was made up mainly of "Nautical" ceremonial blades ( I think there was a short Japanese sword as well ) . I 'll try to go there again next time I'm in London .

Britain is littered with war spoils from Burma especially cannons ( I think almost every castle I've been to has a Burmese cannon in its collection - perhaps an exaggeration I know but I've seen at least 6 in 6 different places ) and bells .

The dha in your picture is a working man's all purpose dha ( in Burmese it would be in the Dha-ma or chopper category despite its length ) which would have been used for splitting wood as well as splitting other things . I used to have a picture of the common ( non uniformed and not part of the standing army ) Burmese soldier circa 18th century carrying one of these .

If it came without scabbard and sometimes common soldiery may well have had to do without it would be termed dha-hlut literally meaning loose dha ( dha-lwe means dha worn over shoulder ).
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