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Old 1st August 2021, 11:36 PM   #1
Jim McDougall
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Default British military practice sword

This is an extremely esoteric topic, and while this is not 'ethnographic' it is most likely 'miscellaneous'. While it is 'associated' with the 'use' of swords, it is not permitted in that venue for discussion as not officially a weapon, also it exceeds the 1900 year cut off for arms permitted to be discussed on the European forum.

As an item of interest, I hope it will be permitted here.
In about 1856, the British army began using old M1821 heavy cavalry swords with unfullered, rounded point blades mounted in them for practice.
By about 1869 there was a practice of selecting the worst 30 swords in the unit and these were rebated for practice. By about 1889 specific 'gymnasia' swords were created.

This example is described in "Swords of the British Army" (Robson, 1975) but no photo was available, presumably as these are remarkably rarely found.
Note the aluminum bowl with the M1908 cavalry sword grip. The blade is a thin, fencing foil type blade,
These are known (per Robson) as Practice Sword Gymnasia, Pattern 1911,
MK1,

I cannot recall the exact circumstances of acquiring this, probably about 45 years ago, but it was so weird, I could not resist.
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Old 2nd August 2021, 03:41 PM   #2
Will M
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Jim I have not seen one like yours, with the wooden grip it could suggest use in India. I have P11 made in May of 1915 which is odd because the 1908p sword is not a duelling sword but basically a spear and gives the same reach as the 1868p lance. The blade on it is curved and fullered and flimsy.
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Old 2nd August 2021, 09:36 PM   #3
Jim McDougall
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Hi Will,
Thanks very much! I had not been aware of these being made as with your example, and very good point that the wood grip may well indicate India provenance. There was of course an Indian M1908 with wood grips as you note.

It is indeed curious that these practice swords have a fencing type blade as it does not seem these were ever intended for any sort of sword to sword combat, and were simply a thrusting weapon.

As far as I have known the M1908 was indeed used in combat, mostly in Mesopotamia in WWI (as described in "Charge to Glory" James Lunt) where they were colloquially termed 'Allenby swords' (Gen. Allenby in command).
The American 'cousin' , the M1913 Patton sword with the same concept and overall gestalt was however never used in combat.

I really appreciate seeing your example, thank you again!

Jim
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Old 3rd August 2021, 02:06 AM   #4
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Jim over the years I've seen less than five of the sword I have and none of the one you have. Possibly Gordon Byrne may know something about your sword?
The black and white striped bowl must have some reason for this particular design. It does give us something to look for in period photos.
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Old 3rd August 2021, 02:23 AM   #5
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Jim here is a good article by Matt Easton regarding several British practice swords. Unfortunately it does not include your rare pattern. https://www.antique-swords.co.uk/bri...fencing-swords
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Old 3rd August 2021, 05:33 PM   #6
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Thanks again so much Will!
I really appreciate this information, and as I mentioned, I bought this because it was so weird, but thinking it must have been some form of training sword.
When I saw the blade marking '11, and read about it in Robson, I figured since he didnt have a photo they must have been rare.

Since these are sort of mundane as opposed to the regular issue swords it is not surprising such a limited number survive, and with mine it seems to be more one off. I think your India suggestion is most plausible, and I had not thought of that.

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 23rd August 2021, 01:42 AM   #7
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Hello Jim, and how interesting to see The Foil being discussed..I believe it was used often in France as a duelling weapon in the 19thC.(Perhaps therefor it is allowable in Forum and it appears that it predates that by a few hundred years as Foils are noted by William Shakespeare...) The foil is looked at closely by Matt Easton and I believe some of the stamps shown across this thread contain the E sign for Enfield as swords like these were very much part of the Army Gymnasium sword stores in the British Army.. in the late 19th /early 20thC. Please see Matt Easton THE Foil. On the web.
Regards Peter Hudson

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Old 23rd August 2021, 03:03 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Will M View Post
Jim here is a good article by Matt Easton regarding several British practice swords. Unfortunately it does not include your rare pattern. https://www.antique-swords.co.uk/bri...fencing-swords
That was a very well placed web address and Matt Easton showed some blades marked with an E which must be Enfield marks .. However whereas late 19th C puts a squeeze on inclusion of Foils agewise, it may be noted that they were used as training swords in the 18thC and as Duelling swords especially by the French in the late 19thC and that was copied by German students..thus I believe they can be represented on these pages.

Regards, Peter Hudson.
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Old 24th August 2021, 05:00 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Hudson View Post
That was a very well placed web address and Matt Easton showed some blades marked with an E which must be Enfield marks .. However whereas late 19th C puts a squeeze on inclusion of Foils agewise, it may be noted that they were used as training swords in the 18thC and as Duelling swords especially by the French in the late 19thC and that was copied by German students..thus I believe they can be represented on these pages.

Regards, Peter Hudson.
Hi Peter,
Thank you for coming in on this, and its great to see you writing here!
Matt Easton's information was outstanding and the E I do believe stood for Enfield.
Well noted on the use of foils in the military in training exercises. It is most interesting that while the sword was in every sense technically obsolete, it was considered viable in training in the way fencing teaches not only dexterity, discipline but self confidence as required in combative situations.

Gen. George Patton, one of the strongest general's of this country, was a champion and world class fencer, and designed one of the finest swords this country had.......the 1913 'Patton' cavalry sword.
How ironic that it arrived in the 20th century, this took place.
Clearly the story of the sword cannot be defined within a chronology or confined to certain time frames.

The Spaniards were known for their venerable fencing (outdated) techniques and using equally older cuphilt rapiers well into the 19th century, but it was a matter of tradition and honor.....the key to the character of the sword.

With the example of training sword I posted here in the OP, as we have found (thanks to Will), this is quite likely an example from the British Raj in India, as the hilt resembles the character of the British M1908 grip on the Indian version.

Best regards
Jim
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Old 24th August 2021, 08:21 PM   #10
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Hello Jim, Foil swordplay goes back to the mid 17thC. tHE KEY WEBPAGE IN THIS REGARD IS https://www.leonpaul.com/blog/the-de...f-foil-part-1/

I recall seeing this black and white decoration on Foil target equipment but I cannot remember where.. I shall keep looking!

Regards, Peter Hudson.
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Old 24th August 2021, 08:56 PM   #11
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The web is a huge resource and here the history of the Italian foil is laid out in fine detail.. https://www.martinez-destreza.com/bl...y-italian-foil.

Peter Hudson.
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Old 25th August 2021, 12:02 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Hudson View Post
Hello Jim, Foil swordplay goes back to the mid 17thC. tHE KEY WEBPAGE IN THIS REGARD IS https://www.leonpaul.com/blog/the-de...f-foil-part-1/

I recall seeing this black and white decoration on Foil target equipment but I cannot remember where.. I shall keep looking!

Regards, Peter Hudson.

Thank you Peter,
You always find great online resources!
While I once took fencing a short while (about a zillion yrs ago) I thought there were far more aspects of the practice than just physical. The history of fencing of course goes back basically to 16th century with treatises and Fechtbuch's etc. but surely can be traced earlier.

Fencing foils and equipment are a unique field of collecting and these curious military examples fit well into it. As previously mentioned, writers such as Robson mention these 'practice swords' but there is really scant detail on them. Mine seems to be more 'one off' as no other examples are known, perhaps a bowl guard adapted to blade and grip as composite.

Best regards
Jim
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Old 25th August 2021, 03:01 PM   #13
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Jim, i am infinitely far from an authority in judging what your example would be, based on a Indian 1908 pattern grip and a 1911 Enfield blade but, my question is; could it be that the ‘hyper generous’ protective bowl it equips was of no established pattern but a whim of the owner or the unique style of some kind of association he was a member of … this given the colouring.
And if you allow me the irrelevance ...
Fencing techniques depending on their sense and purpose through time may have gone through an overlapping phenomenon. While fencing as a discipline for the training of combat have lasted for centuries (read millennia), another fencing attitude developing in the XVIII century made it become a 'sport'; was it Domenico Angelo, who established a fencing academy in Soho, London, for one ? So intentionaly selective that nowadays the interpreters of fencing, like those in an olyimpic sense, are called ‘players’, not ‘fighters’; they actually ‘play’ the fleuret (foil) in their escrime sessions. Naming the foil in French is also implicit, as the language used in this sport in many countries is obligatorily French; the referee uses therms like 'arrêt', 'pret' and 'allez'.


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Old 27th August 2021, 01:51 AM   #14
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I am inclined to agree Fernando, and while the use of the Indian style grip causes speculation toward the Raj, it could very well be one off with some private group as you suggest. These kinds of striping themes and brown and white for some reason recall military context, but perhaps that is from the striping on aircraft etc.

Well noted on the antiquity in fencing as necessary combat exercise with swords which indeed went into a sport oriented theme with Angelo, but I believe of course probably went further into Italian origins, as well as Spanish. Agrippa and other Spanish masters taught and wrote in the 16th c.

Many of the terms used in fencing are of course Italian, many from the Spanish treatises and their 'destreza', and as you note certain French terms.

The curiosity of my 'foil' lies in the composite nature as described, the use the the notably foil like 1911 blade and the 1908 grip. Like the M1908 British sword as well as the M1913 Patton, the thrust was the primary attack and this seems aligned to those large bowl guard swords. This was the basis for suggestions it may have military origin.
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Old 27th August 2021, 11:25 AM   #15
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Jim, i did not want to stuff the thread with longer diverting but, once you mention it and, as per book cover illustrated in above third picture, we have a 1685 treatise where we see that the Destreza was practiced both in Spain and Portugal during the period, each with their own version.


.http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showpo...92&postcount=8
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Old 27th August 2021, 11:42 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando View Post
Jim, i did not want to stuff the thread with longer diverting but, once you mention it and, as per book cover illustrated in above third picture, we have a 1685 treatise where we see that the Destreza was practiced both in Spain and Portugal during the period, each with their own version.


.http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showpo...92&postcount=8
That is excellent! Your command of memory is great, and that discussion definitely adds to this overview.
I don't think that the bringing in of salient material detracts from discussions even if it is a bit 'off course' as it adds to the wider perspectives.
Thank you Fernando.
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Old 28th August 2021, 08:47 AM   #17
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[QUOTE=Will M;264848]Jim over the years I've seen less than five of the sword I have and none of the one you have. Possibly Gordon Byrne may know something about your sword?
The black and white striped bowl must have some reason for this particular design. It does give us something to look for in period photos.[/QUOTE

The white painted band if painted around the handle of a British bayonet indicates 'Drill Purpose' so its possible that is the reason in the case of this sword .
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Old 28th August 2021, 05:58 PM   #18
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[QUOTE=thinreadline;265661]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Will M View Post
Jim over the years I've seen less than five of the sword I have and none of the one you have. Possibly Gordon Byrne may know something about your sword?
The black and white striped bowl must have some reason for this particular design. It does give us something to look for in period photos.[/QUOTE

The white painted band if painted around the handle of a British bayonet indicates 'Drill Purpose' so its possible that is the reason in the case of this sword .
Thank you so much for this information! That definitely would secure probable military use. Much appreciated
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