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French M1829 Artillery Sabre/WW1 Trench Clearance Weapon

Posted: 31/08/17 (14:16pm)

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French M1829 Artillery Sabre shortened for use as a WW1 trench clearance weapon.

This sword began as a French artillery officer's sabre, Model 1829, made by the Chatelherault armoury in 1843. It was issued in France, based on the stamps on the brass D-guard but what action it saw during the latter half of the 19th Century can only be guessed at.

The sword was reportedly brought back to the UK from France after World War 1, where it may have been used as a trench clearance and close combat weapon. Whether the blade was intentionally cut short to make it more suitable for trench warfare or whether the damaged sword was re-pointed for use we will never know. Either way, it would have been an effective close quarters weapon.

I purchased the sword in a catalogue auction as part of a job lot - which included a rare British hooked quillon bayonet, but as with all auctions, the vendor remained anonymous and the only information available was that the items were all believed to be from WW1. I have no reason to doubt this - the other items are beyond question of WW1 use/issue.
I would love to know more about this sword's history but unfortunately that's not going to happen. It makes it very hard to value because on one hand, it's a broken 19th Century sword. On the other, if it was a WW1 trench weapon it's a very interesting artefact and presumably, to the right people, highly collectable. As it's definitely the former and I can't prove the latter, I have decided to go with what I feel is a very reasonable price - £75. After all, it is a very interesting piece, whatever its story.
If only it could talk...

Italian Model 1900/09 Prototype Cavalry Sabre

Posted: 10/08/17 (12:22pm)

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It is not always easy thinking of what to blog about. Things have been slow lately, I guess everyone is planning what to do with the kids now that they are off school or are already away sunning themselves. Of course, my Southern Hemisphere friends will probably not be on holiday but I am sure they are having an equally busy time.
Anyway, this week I thought I would highlight a particularly interesting and rare cavalry sabre. A sword that was ahead of the curve (no pun intended) but behind the times. Ultimately, like the British P1908 and US Patton sabre, developed too late for its own good.

The sabre I'm talking about is the very rare Italian M1900/09 prototype Cavalry Trooper's sword made by the Serafino Gnutti Arsenal in Brescia, Northern Italy.

The sabre has a narrow 91cm pipe-back blade that tapers to a spear point. It is an ideal thrusting blade made at the turn of the century when the debate as to whether the point beats the edge had been debated to exhaustion.

Cavalry regiments across Europe were adopting thrusting blades over cutting blades and were experimenting with the hilt and blade designs of their existing cavalry sabres. The frequently encountered Italian M1871 sabre was re-worked in 1909, receiving the designation 1871/09 and is a good example of this.

The Model 1900 sword was a purpose built experimental cavalry sword with a ridiculously long thrusting blade which was shortened to 91cm in 1909 and this new sword was designated the Model 1900/09. As a prototype weapon, only a small number were made and issued to chosen regiments for field-testing. Most of them saw action in Italy's Ethiopian campaign. Despite the excellence of the design (similar to the British P1908 and USA Patton Sabre), this sword was developed at a time when the use of swords in combat was at an end and as such it never went into full production.

The ricasso of this example is marked with an oval cartouche containing the letters "SFG" for the Serafino Gnutti Arsenal and above that an Italian armoury acceptance stamp. The obverse ricasso bears the number "1552" The blade has an unusual fuller on the spine, which serves to reduce weight while retaining the blades strength and makes it incredibly nimble in the hand.

The two-strap steel bowl guard has a pronounced beak and is almost identical in design to the Italian M1860 Heavy Cavalry bowl guard, giving ample protection to the hand. Interestingly, the Italian use of an indented thumb recess on their guards from the latter part of the 19th Century onwards, was dropped on this design, harkening back to the earlier, non-indented style.

The shaped wooden hilt has a crosshatch pattern with a matching contoured and crosshatched steel back strap that gives the hilt a great aesthetic and feels great to use.

This very rare experimental Italian Cavalry Sword is in my opinion one of the best cavalry sabres ever developed. It incorporates all that is loved about the P1908 and Patton sabre with added Italian style. These swords are very hard to find and do not come on to the market often.

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New Friends and Old Swords

Posted: 19/07/17 (12:43pm)

As usual, life is rushing by. I've been busy forging new friendships and discussing old swords on the different Facebook groups that I have joined. I wish I had done it sooner. There is a wealth of knowledge out there held by great people who are happy to share. I hope my own contributions to the various discussions and requests for identifications and information have been useful and helpful too.
I was really heartened and grateful to the members who looked over my website, gave their approval and wished me luck. Thanks all! :-)

Ok, so I haven't just been surfing the chat rooms and skiving off. I've been working too. 
It gives me a lot of pleasure when items from the website are bought by collectors in the countries from which they originally came. There is a feeling of home-coming when a rare sword is repatriated. It just feels right. In the past I have also had the pleasure of reuniting families with ancestors' swords. Most recently, I was able to return the sword of  William Home-Robertson to Paxton House where it is now on display to the public below his life-size portrait in which he is wearing the sword.
In contrast, I feel great sadness when something historically significant is lost to any nation.
I recently acquired the sword of Commander Victor Lyndsey Arbuthnot Campbell RN, DSO and Bar, OBE, who was the First Officer on Scott's ill-fated 1910 Terra Nova expedition to the Antarctic. Victor Campbell led the Eastern party, and despite a year of hardship, lead his party of six men back to safety. Scott and all his party died, overshadowing Campbell's achievement. Scott's death made Campbell Britain's foremost Arctic explorer. He was also a naval hero, awarded two DSO's during WW1.
I offered the sword at cost to several museums including one run by the Royal Navy and to the Antarctic Exploration Museum and it was of no interest to any of them. I have now sold the sword for a considerable sum and it has left the country and gone into a private collection where I know it will be cherished and cared for, but how sad that no-one in the UK will ever get to see it. 

Last week I spent a really enjoyable day at the BBC Antiques Roadshow which was filmed at Floors Castle. It was fun seeing how the program is made (and Fiona Bruce looks just as good in real life!). I took along a couple of swords to see what the experts would say. It was heartening to hear them confirm my own opinions and identification of them.
One was an extremely rare British River Police hanger, dating between 1798 and 1840 which I have just added to the site.

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The other, a French hunting sword with a colichemarde blade, dating from around 1680 - 1730.

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The colichemarde blade was popular in France from the mid 1600's until early 1700's. 
The blade of this hunting hanger is engraved with the motto "Champion Qui Surmonte" meaning "The one who overcomes everything," and the initials (presumably of the owner), JCS. Despite missing its shell guard it is a great little sword, the brass D-guard and pommel cap are engraved with typical hunting scenes of hounds after stags and foxes (although one of the beasts being hunted is mythical) and the quillon is a beautifully detailed "dogs" head.

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This lovely little sword will be added to the website soon.

New Vs. Old

Posted: 07/07/17 (11:50am)

At the risk of putting the cat amongst the pigeons I want to talk about new versus old swords.
As you know, I have recently joined Facebook and have been looking at the numerous groups dedicated to swords and edged weapons. By far the most numerous are the groups dedicated to newly made swords. 
Not surprisingly, given the time and skill involved in forging a blade, newly forged (emphasis on "forged" as opposed to mass produced machined blades) swords cost as much (and in many cases more) than antique swords. My first thoughts are that I just don't get it. Why pay so much for something that has no history, no past, no soul and no story?
In the past, swords were made as a primary weapon and were used as such. Their story is often stamped upon them in the form of military unit and arsenal markings along with dates, inspection and repair stamps, issue numbers and maker's marks all of which can be researched, allowing the sword's story to be told.
In comparison, a newly forged sword has no history of its own, it has no real purpose, it has no past and no future other than to be a beautiful wall hanging or to be abused - as someone recently said, "I like to take mine outside and beat at the bushes."

Why then would someone choose to pay as much or more for a new sword?
Answer, because the skill and artistry of modern blade smiths is an homage to all that has been learned over thousands of years of heating, folding, hammering and shaping metal. It is ironic that when we no longer require swords for defence, we are able to make some of the most beautiful examples. But only because of all that has gone before.

I have given this a lot of thought and I totally appreciate the beauty and skill of modern sword smiths work and I am envious of their ability. On reflection, modern swords do have a history, it might not be the story of an illustrious battle blade or heroic regimental charge but they continue the story of mankind and edged weaponry and as such have a share of it. They also have a soul, they are the embodiment of the passion and dedication of the master craftsman who forged them.
As to their purpose? Well, there are classes of martial art dedicated to drawing and cutting but by and large I think that modern swords are beautiful works of art and can be collected and admired as such.

Me, I'll stick to my antique blades. They have had a long and often arduous working life and have earned their retirement as a much loved collectable and I love the research, history and romance of owning these beautiful weapons.

Thin pickings

Posted: 28/06/17 (11:32am)

I'm doubly frustrated this week. There are very few items of interest currently in the auctions and I'm literally laid up with my foot. I've spent the week so far stretched out on the couch with my foot propped up on pillows. The Sodium Diclofenac which the Doctor prescribed is helping with the pain but does nothing to help with the frustration of being immobilised. 
I guess I should count myself lucky that there is very little of interest in the auctions at present or I would be even more fed up.
I hope to be able to add some new items to the website by the end of the week or by early next week at the latest.

Bygone Blades on Facebook

Posted: 20/06/17 (17:19pm)

I've finally gotten around to setting up a Facebook page for the website. As something of a technophobe it took me quite a while and to be honest I'm not yet sure that I've done it properly. We'll see...
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Keywords

French M1777 an IX Socket Bayonet, 1680 English Dragoon Back Sword, Bygone Blades, Antique Swords, Edged Weapons, Iklwa, Zulu stabbing spear, Finnish M27, Finnish M28 Bayonet, Finnish M27 Bayonet, Finnish M29 Bayonet, Finnish M35 Bayonet, British 1803 Infantry Officer's Sabre, Thomas Lowe, WW1 Ottoman Cavalry Sabre. Turkish Cavalry Sword, British 1821 Artillery Short Sword