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Thread: 1796 LC sabre - French complaints

  1. #26
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    I know demand drives the Civil War phenomenon, but it's still an odd thing to me.

    And I think the safest way to "break" would be to lay down and play dead.
    hc3

  2. #27
    Originally posted by Ruel A. Macaraeg
    Just wanted to compliment the principals of this thread on their skepticism about the French complaint "fact." This level of critical reflection is generally lacking in sword studies, so it's nice to see us as a community questioning and evaluating our sources in order to improve the foundation of our knowledge.
    I'm new to the "game", but I increasingly try to apply scepticism to every aspect of my life; there's just so much snake oil, folklore, and downright BS in the world, it pays to demand evidence. You might like to check out James Randi's site and forum if this sort of approach/philosophy appeals:

    forums.randi.org

    Very little edged weapon-related as yet! But returning to topic, you do have to wonder how many stories and sword provenances have been built upon hearsay. And museum pieces shouldn't be immune to some retrospective fact-checking; it's nice when you don't have to write "said to have been used by" on a caption...

  3. #28
    There are a number of myths about swords which seem to get recycled over and over again. Two of the most popular (that's an opinion, not a fact!) are:

    1 That the fuller of a blade is a "blood groove"

    2 That langets are for snagging and breaking an opponents blade

    Comments?

    Richard
    Celeriter nil crede

  4. #29
    The "blood groove" thing may simply have come from a casual observation by a layman as to why the groove should be there. Or, it could have originated from C20th warfare, as folklore spread amongst soldiers being trained to use bayonets. The armed forces are a wonderful source of tall stories; a microcosm of the function of myth in wider society, i.e. to exercise forms of social control over others. In this case, explaining the groove as a means to allow blood to flow and prevent suction, encourages both confidence in the weapon, and shall we say, a martial enthusiasm(!). Goes with the instruction to twist and withdraw quite well. In the wider picture, this works as a marketing tool of sorts, just as "wide bloodgroove, battle-ready" is used by sellers of "swords" today, or as a "grossout" factoid (similar to a campfire ghost-story). Humans revel in the idea of gore. It also could have an anti-war angle; many point out features of weapons that are "needlessly" cruel or damaging, and sometimes these are wrongly interpreted. Finally, any factoid like that is useful to someone simply to dole out to friends or whoever, to acquire some sort of social capital ("I know something you don't know, and I'm allowing you to know it too!")

    Needless (?) to say, I understand that fullers are in fact an "engineering" technique to make for a strong, stiff, light blade.

    As to langets, I can only think that the blade-trapping/snapping idea is another "home-grown" myth, perhaps coming from some of the classic fencing-style duels of the 1930s-1950s Errol Flynn type action films. As I understand them, they are an attempt at a secure blade/scabbard interface.
    Last edited by Jonathan S Ferguson; 06-21-2006 at 05:17 AM.

  5. #30
    Originally posted by Jonathan S Ferguson


    Needless (?) to say, I understand that fullers are in fact an "engineering" technique to make for a strong, stiff, light blade.
    Exactly Jonathan, working on the same principle as the H-beam. Simply reduces the weight without lessening strength. However, some fullers were also used to enhance decoration, I am thinking here of some examples of the Persian shamshir I have seen (want to comment Manoucher?)

    As to langets, I can only think that the blade-trapping/snapping idea is another "home-grown" myth, perhaps coming from some of the classic fencing-style duels of the 1930s-1950s Errol Flynn type action films. As I understand them, they are an attempt at a secure blade/scabbard interface.
    Agreed again, Jonathan. I think the purpose is to position the sword in the scabbard and stop it rattling around. Later pipe back bladed swords had a shaped mouthpiece which essentially did the same job. I recall we had a long discussion on the SF some time ago about the purpose of langets which produced some interesting ideas including the bizarre theory that they were intended to prevent rainwater running into the scabbard!

    Richard.
    Celeriter nil crede

  6. #31
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    Hello All

    I'm afraid I've been rushed off my feet in the last few weeks, so have had a very quick catch up read of all the threads i've missed, there have been some great discussions recently, and hopefully I'll get the chance to contribute a little more in the coming months. But for now, and just because I have the pictures to hand, here are some comparison shots of the British 1796 LC and its cousin, the 1811 "Blucher" sabre.
    The 1796 (made by Osborn) is on the top, the 1811 below.
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  7. #32
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    Here are the hilts, note the shield shaped "ears" on the 1796 (left) I know all our regular forumites will already know the difference, but I thought our newer members and friends from other forums may like a comparison...

  8. #33
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    Of course, it always helps if you attache the picture...
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  9. #34
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    and finally

    the blades and hatchet points, 1811 (top) 1796 (below)
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  10. #35
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    Some of us who have been here for a while, too...

    Originally posted by Christopher J G Scott
    Here are the hilts, note the shield shaped "ears" on the 1796 (left) I know all our regular forumites will already know the difference, but I thought our newer members and friends from other forums may like a comparison...
    So am I correct in understanding that, bearing in mind that there are few hard-and-fast guidelines in an area of study like this, the easiest way to tell a British 1796 Light Cavalry saber from a Prussian 1811 "Blucher" saber is to examine the ears of the backstrap?

    Frankly, aside from the slightly different shapes of the langets (and the "ears" of the backstrap), I'm not seeing much in the way of recognizable differences between the two examples. Obviously, engravings and makers' marks will probably be the most useful indicators of origin, but is this the "acid test" for differentiating British 1796s from Prussian 1811s? I know that there is a great deal of variety in the "ears" and langets simply between different British manufacturers, so I'm a bit surprised to hear this detail identified as a good way of determing nationality.

    Please, enquiring minds want to know!
    Cicatrices Virgines Placent.

  11. #36
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    I think the ears don't matter much as there's a lot of variation in Brits. That's actually the 1st "shield" shaped ones I've seen. The other variation I've seen is kind of a small tear drop. Languets can be rounded, shield shaped or squared. Another modification is to remove the languets altogether.

    The photos don't show it, but the variations I've notices are a deeper, more curved knucklebow on the Prussian. I've also seen a series of letters/numbers which are regimental numbers on the side of the hilt. Samples of regimental marks on Brit sabers are the regiment over a rack number or just a rack number on the flat of the crosspiece. (There are a couple of good examples of this on the June 18th post). Also, sometimes the 96 has a proof mark in he form of a crown over a number stamped into the upper part of the blade.

    The scabbard drag is another indicator, if present, A 96 has a flat drag which looks like an extra wrap around the bottom(again, see the post on June 18) while the Prussian is more decorative and pronounced.

  12. #37
    Added to which, I've seen several examples without any ears at all! A list of diagnostic features would be great, if it's possible to provide.

  13. #38
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    I'd forgotten about the scabbard drag!

    That's right, the scabbard drag is a dead giveaway, in that the Prussians actually put a drag on the scabbard, while the British seem to have spent all their time and energy designing the sword and let the scabbard drag take care of itself.

    Now, let's get the experts in here to explain to us how to identify a scabbardless 1796/1811!

    And next up, I'm going to attempt to get one of our Prussian experts to explain the differences between a Model 1811 Blucher saber and a Model 1848 Mounted Artillery saber (because they sure look alike to me, except for the flared blade). That will have to wait, I suppose...
    Cicatrices Virgines Placent.

  14. #39
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    Prussian 1811
    Note the curve on the knucklebow & the Regimental markings.

    I stole these pics from OldSwords.com
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  15. #40
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    Prussian 1811

    Scabbard Drag

    Stolen from OldSwords.com
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  16. #41
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    Brit 1796 Proofmark

    Stolen from OldSwords.com

  17. #42
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    Let's try it with a picture.

    Brit 96 proof mark

    Stolen from OldSwords.com
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  18. #43
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    Brit 1796 Regimental marking to 14th Light Dragoons

    This one was mine.
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  19. #44
    Originally posted by Richard Dellar
    There are a number of myths about swords which seem to get recycled over and over again. Two of the most popular (that's an opinion, not a fact!) are:

    1 That the fuller of a blade is a "blood groove"

    2 That langets are for snagging and breaking an opponents blade

    Comments?

    Richard
    My own particular "favourite":

    3 The P1908 cavalry sabre is "the most perfect sword ever designed"

    Paul

  20. #45
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    Originally posted by Paul Digard
    My own particular "favourite":

    3 The P1908 cavalry sabre is "the most perfect sword ever designed"

    Paul
    Hi Paul

    Can I see a picture of that? May I ask why? I am sorry to hijack this thread. Maybe if you are so kind and open another thread I would really appreciate it.

    Regards

    Manouchehr

  21. #46
    Have a mooch through Google Images, first, then consider the features of the design;

    -a near "pistol" grip
    -broad sheet guard
    -straight tapering blade
    -pointy, erm...point.

    After decades of designs that compromised between cut and thrust roles, the 1908 was the first to go for a no-nonsense thrusting design that fitted actual cavalry tactics... just as cavalry as a unit type was about to become obsolete.

    Typical of the over-simplification applied to complex subjects, the 1796 gets labelled the "best" cutting sword in British Army history, and the 1908 the "best" thrusting design. Very subjective and about as useful in the bigger picture as any other "Top Trumps" type pub argument.

    That's my attempt at an explanation, anyway; hope you don't mind me sticking my oar in!

  22. #47
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    The photo links are particularly interesting here. www.enfieldcollector.com

  23. #48
    Originally posted by Manoucher M.
    Hi Paul

    Can I see a picture of that? May I ask why? I am sorry to hijack this thread. Maybe if you are so kind and open another thread I would really appreciate it.

    Regards

    Manouchehr
    Hi Manouchehr

    Here's a pic I have to hand of the officers version (the P1912 cavalry sabre). It differs from the P1908 troopers model in that the bowl guard is decorated and the grip is fishskin rather than a form of plasticised rubber. Not in the best condition but you can see the design features Jonathon lists above. A lance with a bowl guard and a pistol grip instead of a back end to tuck under your arm.



    As to "why" I chose to add this to Richard's list - a lot of the text books trot out the line about this being the successful culmination of the cavalry sword design debate that ran on and on during the 19th century as to whether the cut was superior to the thrust or if a compromise weapon capable of both was the best solution. So you're not hijacking the thread at all - it's a direct follow on in many ways to the question that started this thread.

    I'm sceptical about the assertion that the P1908 is the best cavalry sword ever because it's so inflexibly single-minded, because it's relatively heavy (compared to the P1796 LC for example), and because I'm not at all convinced that there's the evidence of effective use to back the claim up. I've read at least one unenthusiastic account of its performance in a WWI cavalry action, in direct comparison to the previous style of blade.

    I have to admit I've never sat on a horse and tried to slash or poke holes in anything with a cavalry sabre so I don't speak with any authority - just my opinion on what I've read from Robson and Wilkinson-Latham amongst others.

    Paul

  24. #49
    Originally posted by WBranner
    The photo links are particularly interesting here. www.enfieldcollector.com
    Reminds me of an earlier infamous thread! I wondered how you found the link until I saw it was Skennerton's site.

    Paul

  25. #50
    About 9 or 10 years ago, the magazine Military Illustrated published an article on the 1908 cavalry sword, and used the terminology to which Paul refers ("the most perfect sword ever designed"). I cannot remember, however, if the author was refering to how it was regarded now or by its users in the early 20th century. I am visiting my parents this weekend, so I'll try to dig up the article. If there is anything worth adding, I'll be sure to make a post.

    On a separate note, I will have access to my father's digital camera next week, and I hope to get some good pictures of the swords that still live with them. I'll share the photos if you all are interested (and even if you are not)!).

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