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Thread: Latest Acquisition - P1821 LC Sword of Capt. G.E. Bellville

  1. #1
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    Latest Acquisition - P1821 LC Sword of Capt. G.E. Bellville

    It is generally accepted in British sword collecting circles that the 1896 Dress Regulations ordered that officers of Light Cavalry regiments were to adopt the "honeysuckle" hilt hitherto only carried by Heavy Cavalry officers. However, this sword proves that not all officers or regiments adhered to this policy, since it dates from 1900 but still uses the "old" 3-bar light cavalry hilt. It was purchased by the brother of a young officer named George Ernest Bellville as a gift on his being gazetted to the 16th Lancers, and was carried by him during that regiment's service in the Boer War.

    The sword has another slightly unusual feature in that it has the "Wyatt's registered scabbard attachment" (registered design no. 20052). At this time the leather field service scabbard was still a relatively new introduction, and manufacturers seem to have adopted different approaches when deciding how the scabbard was to be secured in the "Sam Browne" sword frog. Wyatt's idea was to use a combination of leather straps and a pronounced side ring on the steel top scabbard mount; other manufacturers went for the simpler all-leather arrangement which is more commonly found on surviving swords of the period.

    George Ernest Bellville was born around 1879 and educated at Eton and Cambridge University. While at Cambridge he joined the 4th (Cambridge University) Volunteer Battalion, the Suffolk Regiment, as a 2nd Lieutenant (September 1899), and only four months later was Gazetted to the regular army (16th Lancers) at the same rank. The Wilkinson proof book register for the sword gives the purchaser's name as "H. A. Bellville, Leicester Regt.", which caused me a bit of head-scratching until I researched this officer's family tree and discovered his younger brother George, whose dates of gazetting into the 16th Lancers are a perfect fit with the purchase of the sword (which was proved in March 1900).

    Bellville sailed for South Africa from Southampton aboard the Mahratta on 10 May 1900, having already been promoted to Lieutenant a month earlier. I suspect that one reason for his "getting on" so well and so quickly was his ability as a polo player - he played variously for his regiment, for the British Army and also for England over the next decade and a half. During the Boer War he served in actions in the Transvaal, the Orange River and the Cape Colony, receiving the Queen's South Africa medal with three clasps. In 1904 Bellville was promoted to Captain, and in 1907 was seconded as Adjutant to the 2nd County of London (Westminster Dragoons) Imperial Yeomanry. When war broke out in 1914 the 16th Lancers were sent to France, and it was here that Bellville was severely wounded in the right arm, an injury that was to cost him his polo career. The History of the Sixteenth, the Queen's Light Dragoons (Lancers), 1912 to 1925 relates how "…Captain Bellville was dangerously wounded on the 25th August in the combat at Haspres, when the regiment rescued a French Convoy, losing the machine gun, smashed by a direct hit, and Captain Bellville and four men. He could not be removed as the surgeon considered so doing would be fatal. He was therefore left in the village and made prisoner. Bellville kept a diary while a prisoner of war, and I have managed to obtain a copy of this from the National Archives. It is a fascinating little document; Bellville is quite even-handed in his description of the treatment he received while a German prisoner, and notes the good professional care he received from doctors and nurses (all of whom he names) as well as some of the less savoury treatment from certain camp guards and their seniors. One quote I particularly liked from his 5-month stay at Osnabrück shows that the behaviour of his fellow inmates caused Bellville almost as much concern as that of his captors:

    "Rooms uncomfortable but sanitary (if one could persuade others to open a window). Water-closet arrangements disgusting through want of supervision and the curious habits of Allies…"

    Bellville spent two years as a guest of the German government until he was repatriated via Switzerland on medical grounds in August 1916. Despite his injury, returning to Britain did not signal the end of his military career, and he was promoted to Staff Captain, commanding a squadron at an Officers’ Cadet School, from December 1917 until the end of the War.

    George Bellville retired from the Army in 1920, and though his military and polo-playing days were now at an end, he was still a keen rider, and was Master of Fox Hounds for the Woodland Pytchley Hunt from 1920 to 1932. He was later made Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Northampton (1946), and lived to the ripe old age of 88, dying in Northamptonshire in 1967.

    John
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    "If I can't be a good example to others, at least let me be a horrible warning".

  2. #2
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    John
    Superb Sword and what a History!!!! Congratulations!

    Regarding the use of the Light Cavalry pattern sword after 1896, (Army Order 1st June 1896) ,I have always thought that the Light Cavalry regiments fought hard to retain their sword and in the early days, the '96 would stick out like a sore thumb with 'New' officers with the 'Heavies' sword!

    I have had a quick trawl though the blade rubs for the period and have come up with the following which shows the rather 'slow' transition!

    April 1899 - "3 Bar cav - 16th Lancers" (This is in marked contrast to the description of the adjacent rub, March 1899 which states 'Scroll Hilt Cav) which shows that the two types were running side by side.

    By January 1903, the 3 bar seems to have finally disappeared from the Cavalry with the inscriptions under the rubs reading
    1903 - Jan- 13th Hussars - "Reg Cav"
    and for the same date
    1903-Jan- 5th Lancers - "Reg Cav."
    Army Vetinary dept - "96 Patt ordinary Cav Sword"

    Not of course conclusive proof but an indication of the length of time that the transition may have taken.

    As we know, many of the Yeomanry regiments ignored the Order altogether Examples are:-
    Staffordshire Yeomanry - 'Light Cav Sword SB scab. 1903
    Wiltshire Yeo and also Warwickshire Yeo - 3 bar cav swd
    Herts Yeo and also East Kent Yeo - 3 bar cav sword


    Other such as Sussex, Middlesex, Lanarkshire yeomanry are noted with 'Reg Cav Swd" and the Westmorland and Cumberland Yeo are noted as having 'New Patt Cav Sword.'

  3. #3
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    This is a question that's been puzzling me for a while, so thanks for the explanation, Robert! A couple of points:

    Does the March 1899 reference to "Scroll Hilt Cav" refer to the so-called "honeysuckle" pattern (ie the regulation one) or the RE-style scroll hilt which we know was favoured in India?

    And also, does your blade rub for the 16th Lancers for April 1899 show a purchaser's name? I have a group photo of the officers of the 16th taken in about 1914 which might just feature the buyer if he stayed with the regiment.

    John

    PS: G.E. Bellville is in this photo too!
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    Last edited by John Hart; 01-06-2011 at 03:26 AM.
    "If I can't be a good example to others, at least let me be a horrible warning".

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Hart View Post
    This is a question that's been puzzling me for a while, so thanks for the explanation, Robert! A couple of points:

    Does the March 1899 reference to "Scroll Hilt Cav" refer to the so-called "honeysuckle" pattern (ie the regulation one) or the RE-style scroll hilt which we know was favoured in India?

    And also, does your blade rub for the 16th Lancers for April 1899 show a purchaser's name? I have a group photo of the officers of the 16th taken in about 1914 which might just feature the buyer if he stayed with the regiment.

    John

    PS: G.E. Bellville is in this photo too!
    John
    I am afraid the etcher just wrote 'Scroll Hilt Cav' when he pasted the rub in the book. At this period, I am sure it refers to the 96 Cavalry.

    I will certainly have a look for 16th Lancers rubs with names or numbers and report back
    Robert

  5. #5
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    Have found 4 rubs for this period of 16th Lancers but alas no names or sword numbers by them.
    I'll keep looking!
    Robert

  6. #6
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    As expected, Wilkinsons 'catalogue' - Observations on Swords 1894 which was produced around the period of changeover (we do not have an exact date but 1894 has been attributed) shows the cavalry sword distinction.
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  7. #7
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    Thanks, Robert - much appreciated.

    John
    "If I can't be a good example to others, at least let me be a horrible warning".

  8. #8
    During a recent search of the Wilkinson Proof Records with respect to the 'Special' swords of the 7th (Queen's Own) Hussars, I noted the following entries with regard to the continued use of the 3-Bar hilt after the issue of the 1896 Dress Regulations (whereby they should have adopted the "honeysuckle"guard) by the 10th Hussars.
    Sword No. 39465 30th June 1902 Bvt. Lt. Colonel C J Kavanagh; Sword No. 39584 26 Sept. 1902 Lt. Colonel Hon. J H G Byng; 39733 02 Feb. 1903 Unnamed;
    40035, 40095, 40096, 40224 all unnamed 1904; 41264, 41276 unnamed 1907; 41713, 42046 unnamed 1908; 43126 14 Aug 1911.
    The 10th Hussars were placing orders on Wilkinsons right up to 1911 and held on to their beloved 1821 3-Bar hilt until they got their own approved 3-Bar 1912 Regulation Pattern sword. The first recorded 3-Bar hilt 1912 to the 10th Hussars was Sword No. 43546 on 03 May 1912. Unfortunately the officers name is illegible.

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