1897 pattern British infantry officer's sword
|1897 Pattern Sword|
1897 Pattern Sword
|Place of origin||United Kingdom|
|In service||1897 to World War 1 in combat; to the present day in ceremonial use|
|Used by||Officers of the British Army|
|Manufacturer||Various; currently made by Weyersberg, Kirschbaum & Co., Germany|
|Produced||1897 to present day|
|Variants||Light (picquet) weight, ceremonial version|
|Weight||790–820 g (1 lb 12 oz)|
|Length||83 cm (2 ft 9 in)|
|Width||25 mm (1 in)|
|Blade type||Steel, pointed, partially two-edged.|
|Hilt type||Basket hilt|
The 1897 pattern infantry officers’ sword is a straight-bladed, three-quarter basket hilted sword that has been the regulation sword for officers of the line infantry of the British Army from 1897 to the present day.
The curved, Gothic-hilted 1821 and 1845 pattern infantry swords, although elegant, had been widely criticized as fighting swords. In common with British cavalry swords of the era, they were compromised cut-and-thrust swords.
In 1892, a new, straight, blade was introduced, mated to the existing Gothic hilt. Presaging the introduction of the 1908 pattern cavalry sword, the curved blade was abandoned in favour of a straight, stiff blade optimized for the thrust. Credit for the design has been given to Colonel G.M. Fox, chief inspector of physical training at the board of education, who was also influential in the design of the pattern 1908 cavalry sword.
In 1895, a new pierced steel hilt pattern was introduced, replacing the earlier Gothic hilt with a three-quarter basket hilt. The new pattern was short-lived due to the edge of the guard fraying uniforms, and in 1897 the final pattern was settled on, being simply the 1895 pattern with the inner edge of the guard turned down, and the piercings becoming smaller.
The 1897 pattern has remained unchanged to the present day.
By the time of its introduction, the sword was of limited use on the battlefield against rapid-firing rifles, machine guns and long-range artillery. However, the new sword was regarded, when needed, as a very effective fighting weapon. Reports from the Sudan, where it was used in close-quarters fighting during the reconquest of the Sudan (1896-'99) were positive. Until 2004, they would be used in courts-martial by escorts of the accused and if the accused was an officer, he'd lay his sword on the table for judgement.
The sword remains in production for ceremonial use, manufactured by Weyersberg, Kirschbaum & Cie of Solingen, Germany. In 2005, WKC purchased the tooling from Wilkinson Sword when that company shut its sword factory in London.
The blade is described in the pattern as being 32 1⁄2 inches (830 mm) long and 1 inch (25 mm) wide at the shoulder, with the complete sword weighing between 1 lb 12oz and 1 lb 13 oz (794-822g).
The blade is straight and symmetrical in shape about both its longitudinal axes. The thick blade has a deep central fuller on each side and is rounded on both its edge and back towards the hilt, giving a “dumbbell” or “girder” cross section. Through a gradual transition, the blade becomes double edged towards the tip, and the last 17 inches (430 mm) were sharpened when on active service. The blade ends in a sharp spear point.
The blade is usually decoratively etched on both sides.
The guard is a three-quarter basket of pressed, plated steel. It is decorated with a pierced scroll-work pattern and (usually, see variation, below) has the royal cypher of the reigning monarch set over the lower knuckle bow.
The grip, between 5 and 5 ¾ inches (127-146mm) long to suit the hand of the owner, was generally covered in ray or sharkskin and wrapped with German-silver wire. The grip is straight, with no offset to the blade.
The sword shows a number of features that indicate its intent as a thrusting weapon. The spear point and double edge towards the point aids penetration and withdrawal by incising the wound edges. The blade, whilst quite narrow, is thick and its dumbbell section gives it good weak-axis buckling strength whilst maintaining robustness in bending for the parry. The blade tapers in both width and thickness and, with the substantial guard, has a hilt-biased balance, aiding agility at the expense of concussive force in a cut. The guard gives comprehensive protection to the hand, but does not restrict wrist movement. The length of the double edge, at 17 inches (430 mm), is quite significant, suggesting that some cutting capability was maintained.
In common with earlier patterns, the 1897 pattern was sometime produced in “picquet” weight, i.e., a lighter weapon with a narrower blade and correspondingly scaled-down guard for use in levées and other formal occasions when not on active service.
Some regiments carried variations on the standard pattern, generally consisting of variations of the royal cypher on the guard.
- Ffoulkes, Hopkinson, p.25
- wkc-solingen. "Warrant Officer Sword". pp. Infantry and Corps and Royal Marines Warrant Officer Sword. Retrieved 31 December 2011.
- Ffoulkes, Charles John; Hopkinson, Edward Campbell (1967). Sword, Lance & Bayonet. A record of the arms of the British Army & Navy.
- Robson, Brian: Swords of the British Army, The Regulation Patterns 1788 to 1914, Revised Edition 1996, National Army Museum ISBN 0-901721-33-6
- Withers, Harvey J.S: British Military Swords 1786-1912 The Regulation Patterns, First Edition 2003, Studio Jupiter Military Publishing ISBN 0-9545910-0-3
- Wilkinson Latham, John: British Military Swords From 1800 to the Present Day, 1966, Hutchinson ISBN 0-09-081201-8
- Modern British Infantry Sword - Also Canadian Pattern Good images of the modern markings on the 1897 Pattern Sword.
Weyersberg, Kirschbaum & Co.
- Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library 105 British military swords, dating from the 17th century to the early 20th century from the Cyril Mazansky Collection, on permanent display at the Annmary Brown Memorial.