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Old 25th August 2009, 08:36 PM   #1
Jim McDougall
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Default Weapons of the Pandours, and Who Were They?

The first time I ever heard of 'pandours' was in Wagners "Cut and Thrust Weapons", where an illustration of a Hungarian form of sabre was attributed to a 'pandour' officer. The subsequent research led to learning more of the esoterica concerning these irregular troops, and probably the most notorious character associated with them, Baton Franz von Trenck.

These assembled forces of various ethnic groups under the command of von Trenck were essentially auxiliaries for the armies of Maria Theresa during the War of the Austrian Succession against Frederick II (The Great) of Prussia.

Von Trenck (1711-1749) though born in Palermo, the son of an Austrian officer, was actually Prussian with Austrian citizenship and estates in Croatia (Slovenia). He apparantly had a turbulent and complex 'career' in his military service, serving as a mercenary with Russia, later Austria,where despite imprisonments, death sentences and other disciplinary issues he was made a colonel in command of pandours in 1744.

These forces were essentially 'grenzer' (German= border guards) initially from Croatian mercenaries on Austro-Ottoman borders, presumably partially from a number of his estates, likely including other ethnic groups and some from Hungary and Poland.

Apparantly these irregular light troops operated well outside the fixtures of established warfare in skirmishing, raiding as well as outright plundering and mayhem. The notoriety became well known in Europe from these traits as well as thier fearsome appearance. They adopted exotic Turkish costume elaborately worn, and along with pistols, rifle and sword, they are known to have carried yataghans.

Their preoccupation with plundering and atrocities rather than participation in actual military objectives led eventually to the disbanding of Trencks unit and his imprisonment, this time the last. He died in prison of poisoning in 1749.

The 'exploits' of these irregular forces were duly noted by other European armies in establishing similar units, but it would seem that the concept was certainly well known prior to the dubious popularization by the depradations of Trenck's units.
A book titled "Portraits of the Hungarians, Pandours or Croats, Waradins or Sclavonians and Ulans" was published in London in 1742, technically ahead of the establishing, at least officially of Trenck in command of his units in 1744, though another reference suggests he had tried this as early as 1740.

The most notable reference to the pandours seems to be toward the cruelty and atrocities committed by them, thier fearsome and ruthless demeanor and entirely outlaw behaviour. In going through Wagner, one curious feature that appeared faithfully included in the line drawings was the distinctly placed 'notch' near the tip at the back of the blade. Initially I noticed this on the pandour sabre, but then discovered it appeared on a number of other Austrian swords as well, including straight swords, all cavalry.

Wagner notes that this was intended to worsen wounds, and in considerable follow up in researching this I encountered a number of other suggestions including ensnaring horsemens reins, the usual swordcatcher idea (patently absurd as the notches are far too small) and unable to recall others.
The idea of worsening the wounds seems technically unlikely, but in considering the brutal reputation of pandours, I have become convinced personally these field applied notches were probably more of a symbolic gesture.

With this opening introduction on the pandours, I'd like to open more discussion on the notorious Baron, the actual etymology of the term pandour, and what type weapons they would likely have used...maybe even examples ?

Also, the subsequent units of Frei Korps and Grenzers that followed through the Napoleonic Wars (SE Europe being one of the most least discussed theaters of these .

Best regards,
Jim


Illustration of Franz Freiherr von Trenck (1711-1749)
He couldnt have been all bad he popularized the really snappy 'cravat', a true fashion statement, as well as the first European military band.




Added the Capuchin Monastery in Brno, Czech Republic
von Trenck's mummified remains can be seen in the interesting catacombs under this church. It is noted that he was a notably small individual and is clothed in military uniform and hip boots. Apparantly the cool temperatures and low humidity naturally mummify and there are a number of monks and aristocrats remains here also.
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Last edited by Jim McDougall; 26th August 2009 at 05:03 AM.
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Old 26th August 2009, 05:27 AM   #2
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Interesting topic, of which I know almost nothing.
I believe the word pandour simply means a watchman, guardsman - a civilian, entrusted with the protection of something. I suspect this might actually be a Turkish word, though I am not sure.
Obviously, with time it became the name for Slavic irregulars from the Western Balkans, who served the Austrian Empire, much like the Christian counterpart of the Ottoman bashi-bazouks. As far as I know bashi bazouks were not salaried and their only payment was what they could plunder, and I guess the situation of the pandours was not much different. Trenck's men might have actually been given a fixed payment, since one of the charges against him was that he collected salary for fictitous men, but based on their actions, it seems that their involvement was motivated by loot.
In the 2008 Auctions Imperial catalogue, lot #292 is a curious sidearm with a karabela hilt and a yataghan blade. In the description, Charles Buttin is quoted to state that this is a rare model, issued to Baron Von Trenck's pandours. Whether this is true I do not know, but I know of at least one specimen in Bulgaria.
When I was in Vienna last year, in the hall dedicated to the wars of Austrian Succession, there were a few hirschfangers labeled as "Pandourenmesser" or Pandour knives. I remember that one of them had an inscription at the base of the blade, saying "Vivat Pandur". The quality of the picture is poor, but nevertheless, here it is.
Regards,
Teodor
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Old 26th August 2009, 07:26 AM   #3
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Absolutely excellent Teodor!!! Thank you.
Good note on the example with Imperial Auctions last year, and I had forgotten about it...I dont have the catalog, perhaps someone might have a photo of this yataghan #292 ?

The Charles Buttin catalog (1933) does show 4 yataghan type blade sabres attributed to von Trenck's pandours (pp.73-74, nos. 217-220) as well as a hanger type sabre so attributed but with standard sabre type blade.
I think the Imperial Auctions item was attributed to pandours via the Buttin references but I am not certain if this was actually one of these swords. I do know that sabres with heavy forward curved yataghan type blades such as seen in the Buttin examples did exist in somewhat hirschfanger form in the latter 18th century used in similar 'freikorps' type units, possibly latter units of pandours following von Trencks.

The 'Vivat Pandur' inscription seems to have become popular as an inscription on sword, knife and bayonet blades about mid 18th century in recognition of the 'ferocity' of these notorious troops and in the sense of a slogan recalling this. According to Aylward ("Smallsword in England", London, 1945, p.42-43) the Solingen blade engravers in about mid 18th century began to abandon the well recognized image of a shock headed warrior brandishing a falchion with the famed 'Hannibal' name, and began using the Vivat Pandur theme.

R.D.C.Evans wrote on these blades somewhat in his "The Plug Bayonet" and in a number of articles.

Teodor thank you for the notes on the Bashi Bazouks, and it would seem that these Ottoman forces very much paralleled the pandours. In one reference it noted that the Turkish styles often used by the Croatian troops may have been due to the presence of the Turks there only 30 years prior to the Trenck formation of his troops.

The etymology I could find seems to have basically the same meaning of constable or guard, as they were in a sense much like security guards on large estates in many cases. Thier use as irregular, skirmishing troops grew out of these forces.

On a further note on the mummified remains of von Trenck, tonight I saw a documentary on the Capuchin Order in Sicily and thier practices of mummifying and venerating monks. One part mentioned similar Capuchine practice in Palermo, and I recalled that von Trenck had been born there.
Perhaps his established family ties and growing up there compelled the Capuchine monks in the monastery in Brno to include him with other aristocrats who were also mummified in the catacombs there.

Teodor, thank you for responding and for the great photo of these hirschfangers! For 'not knowing much' you sure added a lot!!! I really appreciate it. I hope we can draw some more interest on this and hopefully find more on the original pandours and subsequent troops.

All the best,
Jim


I just noticed the tips on the two swords on the left with 'clipped points' and recall that in blade typology illustrations in "Schwert Degen Sabel" (Gerhard Seifert, 1962)....this tip profile is termed 'pandour point'.
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Old 26th August 2009, 07:51 AM   #4
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Jim,

Here is a quick snapshot of the sidearm featured in the Auctions Imperial catalogue. The provenance is Charles Buttin's own collection.

Best regards,
Teodor
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Old 26th August 2009, 05:15 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TVV
Jim,

Here is a quick snapshot of the sidearm featured in the Auctions Imperial catalogue. The provenance is Charles Buttin's own collection.

Best regards,
Teodor

Thank you so much Teodor for posting this!! It is absolutely breathtaking to see this incredibly rare weapon, and indeed it is one of the actual examples in the Buttin catalog.
What a perfect addition to this thread, and my congratulations to whoever acquired this piece!

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 26th August 2009, 07:44 PM   #6
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Hi,
Here are two hunting hangers both with the motto 'Vivat Pandours' etched on the blades. Both photos are from an old Dutch auction catalogue.
Regards,
Norman.
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Old 26th August 2009, 11:02 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Norman McCormick
Hi,
Here are two hunting hangers both with the motto 'Vivat Pandours' etched on the blades. Both photos are from an old Dutch auction catalogue.
Regards,
Norman.
Hi Norman, and thank you for posting these! It does seem that later in the 18th century the hirschfangers and plug bayonets did bear these mottos and figures quite a lot. I have seen swords with the heavy yataghan type blade as seen in the Imperial Auctions example also mounted with hirschfanger hilts, although these are distinctly combat weapons.
We do know that in some degree, these 'hunting' weapons did find use in military context, especially in auxiliary units such as frei korps, which carried out foraging etc. in many cases.
The plug bayonet remained profoundly a hunting weapon throughout the 18th century and often into the 19th.

It is interesting that in the 17th century, hunting and various hangers often found thier way to sea, and through the 18th, again in military settings.

All best regards,
Jim

P.S. One of these renowned pandour units was led by a Scottish commander named Loudon, one of a number of Scots who had settled in regions around Slovenia, I'll have to look further for more.
The Scots were well known as professional soldiers who often fought in Eastern European armies as well as others. I have long felt that the curved blade basket hilt, the 'turcael', was brought back from thier exploits in these regions.
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Old 31st October 2010, 06:27 AM   #8
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The following yataghan was found recently in Bulgaria. Unfortunately, it is not mine, but the owner has been kind enough to provide plenty of pictures. The hilt is similar to the one from the Auctions Imperial catalogue. The guard is different, with down turned quillons. Interestingly enough, the blade is similar to a group of yataghans posted by Rumpel here.

While Buttin attributes this type to Von Trenck's troops, there are similarly hilted yataghans in Elgood's book, which have a confirmed provenance of belonging to Greek freedom fighters. I am starting to think that the form was spread throughout the Balkans in the 18th century. Certainly, not many have survived until today though.

Regards,
Teodor
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Old 1st November 2010, 04:12 PM   #9
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Absolutely outstanding Teodor!!! Thank you for posting this. It is indeed very much like the unusual tall, fingerstalled type hilt, and the heavy forward curved blade of the type used probably quite widely in these times. While the 'exploits' of von Trencks pandours were well known, the exact nature of the probably widely assorted weapons used by them cannot of course be determined with any certainty.
As many of the men in his units were recruited from Balkan regions and ethnic groups in contingent areas, all supplying thier own weapons, it would be impossible to do anything but speculate. I do recall vaguely the item from the auction, which was seemingly identical to one of Buttin's swords in the catalog, but cannot recall if it was the exact item, or simply one compared to it.

Thank you for posting this and for reviving this interesting topic! I hope we might get some more input on this, and I think your idea is very well placed.

All the best,
Jim
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