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Thread: Wilkinson Show & Tell

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2016

    Wilkinson Show & Tell

    Hi all,

    I landed myself a slight mystery when I bought this Wilkinson online, taking a punt with only one low resolution photo to go on. I thought it was a 1895/97 pattern due to a steel coloured hilt and straight profile grip but was surprised to find that it was actually an 1845/56 pattern which has been chrome plated. It is numbered for 1878.

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    The sword has been service sharpened and has some edge nicks all under the chrome which is worn, corroded and certainly not recent.

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    The usual profile grip found on 1878 examples seems to have been replaced by a much straighter one in keeping with the post 1895/7 pattern and I speculate that a straighter grip was fitted when the sword was chromed in an effort to match the appearance of the steel hilted 95/97 pattern.

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    The sword feels substantial.

    Weight: 1lb 14oz
    Blade length: 33"
    Width: 1 1/8"

    Scabbard is 12.1oz, has been repaired prior to the chrome plating and initially the blade wouldn't go home although this was just the remains of a rotten leather lining which had blocked up the shoe.

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    On the blade is the motto "Si Je Puis" and crest which is described exactly in Fairbairn's as: A demi savage the head wreathed in laurel, holding in his dexter hand a baton erect, and in his sinister, a serpent entwined round the arm. All ppr.

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    According to Fairbairn's this relates to the Livingstone family.

    A search of Hart's finds the only Livingstone commissioned 2 years either side of 1878 was J.N.E.F Livingstone commissioned into the Militia in 1877. Case closed I thought. Not quite!

    J.N.E.F Livingstone had a colourful career (and personal life) fighting in the 2nd Boer war then later rejoining the army and being present in both France and Salonika during WW1. However he served his entire career in Highland Regiments so would not usually carry this pattern sword.

    Sure enough when the Wilkinson ledger arrived it shows the original owner to be Philip Holman Saulez. He served with 16th N.I. in Afghanistan in 1880 joining his regiment just after the battle of Kach which would explain the service sharpening.

    His father William Henry Saulez R.A. served during the Indian mutiny and may be also be the 'Mr Saulez' who in 1845 survived a lethal attack by a fanatic on a group of officers enjoying a shooting trip in Aden. Either would give son Philip further motivation to carry a sharp, solid sword.

    Philip Saulez then served in India with the Bombay Staff Corp until his death at the rank of Major on 24th May 1899 in a Marseilles hospital although I've yet to discover what he was doing there. Possibly en route home from India?

    I can't find any connection between Saulez and the Livingstone family so it seems likely that some time after Saulez's death the sword passed to a Livingstone who had the crest etched, chromed and refitted.

    What I find confusing is if Saulez owned the sword until his death in 1899 why a Livingstone would buy this sword at all. It was already 4 years out of date superceded by the 1895 pattern hilt and the cut and thrust blade was superceded in 1892 making it 7 years out of date.

    It could have been a money saving decision but I wonder whether an officer who demanded his crest on his blade would put up with an outdated sword?

    Conversely is a penny pinching officer who is not bothered by an outmoded sword going to go the expense of having a crest etched?

    Well, perhaps he would if he carried it through one or even two wars.

    Coincidentally, I noted that the death of Major Saulez in May 1899 coincides with J.N.E.F Livingstone heading to South Africa. Although I don't know exactly when he left Scotland I believe he arrived in Cape Town on the Arcana in November 1899 with the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders.

    J.N.E.F.L started out as a Militia officer and although he joined the Black Watch he retired his commission in 1884 and doesn't show up again until serving during the 2nd Boer war.

    If he had been 'out of commission' for 15 years and suddenly expects to serve in a war zone I wonder if he may have needed to acquire a solid fighting sword at short notice. This heavy weight second hand Wilkinson would be an excellent choice despite not being a Highland broad sword.

    Why wouldn't he already own or purchase the correct pattern Highland Broad sword you may wonder? Well he is mentioned in several matters of litigation which might have impacted on his financial position. Short notice could also have been a factor in acquiring a correct pattern sword.

    The fact that it isn't the right pattern doesn't matter so much if you're in need of something 'big and stabby' for self defence in a war zone.

    All this is just the wildest speculation of course, there are 3 or 4 other branches of Livingstone who use the same crest and motto. The sword could have simply lain about after Saulez's death for 15 years until WW1 when the numbers of newly commissioned officers exploded, some perhaps more willing to pick up a bargain sword and fit it out to look like the pattern of the day. Perhaps there is another Livingstone hiding in the army lists who I haven't found. Even JNEFL had two sons who served during WW1 one of whom would I think would have carried an infantry pattern.

    So the mystery remains and any observations welcome.
    Last edited by james.elstob; 11-24-2017 at 06:10 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Kingston area, Ontario Canada
    Does the Wilkinson proof page say it's a 1854p sword? Some Wilkinsons I've seen about this age have straight grips but I'd have to check to be positive on dates.
    Possibly someone here has a 1878 Wilkinson infantry sword or slightly later to compare grips?
    A 33 inch blade is on the long side for infantry officer, most likely a mounted infantry officer.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    The ledger just says 'regulation infantry' 33 x 1 1/8.

    I called it the 45/56 pattern just to denote that it has the 45 Wilkinson blade with a the solid (non folding) guard.

    I never considered he might be a mounted officer!
    Last edited by james.elstob; 11-24-2017 at 06:22 PM.

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