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Crimean War Artillery Short Sword

Posted: 09/02/18 (14:50pm)

I always seem to begin my blogs by apologising for their intermittent nature and stating the reason for my tardiness as being down to my busy life. It's true, I am busy, and my blogs are intermittent, but hopefully, when I do get down to writing one it is because I have something interesting to share.

In the six or seven weeks since my last blog I have had a wonderful Christmas and New Year - I hope you all did too. I certainly wish you all the very best for 2018.
Sue and I went to Prague for Christmas and as a treat for her I bought tickets for the Nutcracker at the National ballet on Christmas day. It was my first ballet and I have to say I was impressed. Men in tights and desperately skinny women prancing around the stage is not generally my idea of a good night out but I have to acknowledge the fitness, skill and dedication of the dancers and the stage sets were fantastic. All in all, I rather enjoyed it although I'm not sure I will be hurrying to buy tickets for another performance.
Prague is a beautiful city. Probably the most beautiful city I have visited anywhere in the world and I whole heartedly recommend a visit. The Christmas markets filled every square and the smell of mulled wine, sugared almonds and barbecued meat filled the air. The architecture is impressive, the streets are spotless, the beer and food is great and the history and culture are not to be missed. Prague definitely has the "Wow" factor.
The one niggle for me was that the numerous "antique" shops all seemed intent on ripping off unwary buyers with their poor quality fake Russian Shashkas and other Indian made fakes. Shame on them.

In January, I spent a couple of days in the Manchester area at the much anticipated auction of the Reginald Cheetam collection. Inspecting the lots prior to the auction was like being in a museum that allowed visitors to handle the exhibits and where, if your pockets were deep enough it was possible to take home your favourites. Needless to say, I did. Some of my purchases are already listed for sale on the website and some have already been sold. There were a number of extremely rare bayonets in the collection and I was able o buy a few of them. My rarest purchase was of a Lee Metford M1888 Mk1 Type 1 bayonet with the iconic three brass rivets in the hilt. I also bought a scarce British P1903 bayonet in almost mint condition and a Royal Navy issued Lee Metford M1888 Mk1 Type II bayonet. My other purchases were mainly swords and included the Scottish Highland Infantry officer's basket hilt broadsword with Edward VII royal cypher, the Italian model 1833 artillery sabre, both of which are on the website, several sword canes and an early 19th century French naval cutlass.

Last week I bought an incredibly rare sword. In fact it is so rare that only a handful are known to exist and it doesn't appear in any of the books describing Victorian military sword patterns. The Royal Armouries do however own one, albeit without a scabbard and I know of two others in private collections.
The sword I am talking about is the British pattern 1821 artillery officer's short sword. At the beginning of the Crimean War, a small number of artillery officers decided to have 1821 pattern swords made with shortened blades. 
The standard artillery sabre was intended for use on horseback but once the guns were in place, a mounted officer presented an easy target. Sensible officers dismounted. On foot, the standard length P1821 proved unwieldy so commissioning one with a shorter blade made sense. Any fight to defend the guns would be a close quarters affair and as a fighting officer knew, it was good to have an advantage.
It is likely that these rare swords were only carried by officers below the rank of Major. Officers more likely to be involved in a desperate defence of the battery. The swords were bespoke orders and were produced in very low numbers and as such were not adopted as an official pattern making it very hard to find one today.