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Thread: Atlanta Cutlery/IMA Spine Inscriptions

  1. #1

    Atlanta Cutlery/IMA Spine Inscriptions

    There has been a lot of discussion of the meaning and significance of the various inscriptions seen on the spines of the larger Gurkha Army kukris sold by both IMA and Atlanta Cutlery. We know for instance that the first part of the inscription seems to always read “Three Shrii Chandra”, which is an honorific reference to Prime Minister Chandra Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana who ruled Nepal from 1901-1929. Apparently he had his name inscribed on a wide variety of arms that were manufactured or processed during his reign. The last two to four characters in the inscription are usually numbers, and seem to be part of an inventory system. Separating these sections of the inscription are two other letters that do not seem to correspond to any known word. A few theories have been advanced as to what they were, either a nickname, or some sort of abbreviation.

    While discussing these inscription with Christian Cranmer earlier this summer, he suggested that I check out the book Guns of the Gurkhas by John Walter. In the back of the volume there is an appendix that analyzes the various types of inscriptions found on Nepalese military rifles.

    The method of marking military material in Nepal was apparently very similar to the system used in the UK. After 1856 the British army went to a system in which first a unit designation was given, followed by a weapon number. Previously a soldier’s identification number had been used. So for instance, Walter states that "13 L D 153" should be read 13th Light Dragoons, 153rd weapon.

    The same approach seems to have been adopted in Nepal and many rifles have been positively identified using these principals. It has been used on the kukris as well. The appendix lists the names of about 150 Nepalese battalions, and it gives two letter abbreviations for some of these names that have been employed on rifles. The list of identified abbreviations is very short and a lot of work remains to be done in that area. Nevertheless, many of the larger and more common units have been identified, and when I checked these against the examples in my collection, I found a number of matches. It is now possible to give a more complete translation of some inscriptions that I have posted in the past. See bellow:



    I was quite interested in learning more about these classic Gurkha Army kukris as they were both stamped with English language numbers. Note that both of the top two knives also belonged to the same unit. The two-letter abbreviation stands for “Rajdal Battalion,” founded in 1844 (according to Walter). So the top inscription is “Three Shrii Chandra Rajdal [battalion]: [weapon number] 4126” and the lower reads “Three Shrii Chandra Rajdal [battalion]: [weapon number] 7176.”

    The Nepalese army website says that in 1901 Rajdal became the first official field artillery unit. If anyone remembers anything about this unit and has a guess as to why it might have been working with the British (or Indians) I would be very grateful.



    In this group the top inscription reads: “Three Shrii Chandra: Naya Gorakh [battalion]: [weapon number] 9143.” Apparently the Naya Gorakh were established in 1783 (again according to Walter). I know that this unit was mobilized as part of Nepal’s agreement with Great Brittan during WWII, but I’m unsure about their prior history.

    I haven’t been able to make out the second inscription, which still requires more research. The third blade reads “Three Shrii Chandra: Shree Nath [battalion]: [weapon number] 9172.” This battalion was raised in 1762 and it was deployed in WWI.



    While spine inscriptions are most frequently seen on the long classic Gurkha Army models, they also occasionally show up in other places. For instance, a few of the very large Budhume blades with the reverse “B” mark that I found at the AC warehouse either had these inscriptions, or showed evidence of having had them before they were removed at some point in the past. I have previously provided pictures of two Budhume spines. I have yet to translate the first. However, the example above can be deciphered. It reads: “Three Shree Chandra First Rifles [battalion] 2138 [weapon number].” The First Rifles were raised in 1850 and saw action in WWI and on the northwest frontier during the 1917 Wazirsthan war.



    Lastly, I would like to revisit a mystery from the past. The above inscription was found on the base of the handle of a “WWI era” kukri from Atlanta Cutlery (note that these are a different model from the “WWI dated” knives that we have been discussing recently). Beoram at IKRHS translated the inscription as:

    [...]:35: Gajan Bahadur

    At first, we thought that “Gajan Bahadur” was an individual soldier. Now I would be more inclined to guess that this was the 35th kukri assigned to a small battalion by that name. This knife was stamped with the full unit designation rather than just an abbreviation as we saw before. Evidently, this type of marking was seen on some rifles as well.

    The charts and figures in the appendix of “Guns of the Gurkas” are very helpful and I would recommend anyone trying to decipher their spine inscriptions take a look at them. I have not scanned them here as I don’t want to violate anyone’s copyright. Nevertheless, people will appreciate these knives more once they can identify the units that they served with, and the unique history they embody.

  2. #2
    Thankyou Benjamin for getting to the bottom of these inscriptions. {With the help of Christian Crammer of course. }

    Thats one of the most valuable insights into the meaning of these marks on longleaf kukris Ive seen to date.

    Jonathan

  3. #3
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    Thumbs up

    Excellent detective work. Thank you for the very interesting information.

  4. #4
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    Thanks so much

    Benjamin,
    Since the existence of this site we have pondered what the inscriptions do mean exactly. While the Three Shree Chandra became clear quite soon, as well as the number none of us really knew what "the rest" would refer to - but you solved that mystery.

    Thank you so much for this great work - it is a real pleasure to read your findings on the AC/IMA kukris - and your work has now proofed to be most through research on the "kukri side" of it.

    We are all indebeted to you !

    Andreas
    As lo, the boy looked upon the beauty of the forward curved blade, and beauty stayed his hands
    and from that day forward, he was financially doomed.

    King Kukri, 2005

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    Superb!

    I've had great pleasure reading these postings, and am very envious that you've been able to rot around in the cutlery and find such excellent specimens!

    Many thanks for your posts, and your detective work-highly valuable insights into the world of the Kukri!

    Kind regards,

    Chris

  6. #6
    Gentlemen,

    Thanks so much for your kind words. I was very excited to be able to identify the units that these knives served with and hope that this helps people appreciate the blades in their collections a little more. With a little luck, this may add another dimension, and more depth, to the collection of Nepalese military kukris.

  7. #7
    Benjamin I cant find any record of the artillary unit you mention serving with the British, but that doesnt proove they didnt.

    To aid other longleaf intial research heres a list of a few old Royal Nepalese army units, that I published before {on IKRHS linky... http://www.ikrhs.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=308} when we were looking at the meaning of these marks once before.

    The intial shree can usualy be dropped as an honorific except for Shree Jung battalion etc.

    Shree Batuk Dal Battalion
    Shree Pashupati Prashad Battalion
    Shree Kali Buksh Battalion
    Shree Sabuj Battalion
    Shree Purano Gorakh Battalion
    Shree Naya Gorakh Battalion
    Shree Naya Shree Nath Battalion
    Shree Ranabhim Battalion
    Shree Shreejung Battalion
    Shree Singh Nath Battalion
    Shree Kalidal Battalion
    Shree Bhairavi Dal Battalion
    Shree Naya Gorakh Battalion
    Shree Durga Buksh Battalion
    Shree Raj Dal Battalion
    Shree Barakh Battalion
    Shree Bhawani Buksh Battalion
    Shree Bardabahadur Battalion
    Shree Jwala Dal Battalion
    Shree Gorakh Buksh Battalion
    Shree Chandan Nath Company
    Shree Shardul Jung Company
    Shree Sri jung Battalion {sri & shree is same meaning!}
    Shee Jwaladal Battalion
    Shee Bhairabnath Battalion
    Shree Bhagvati Prasad Company
    Shree Vajradal Company
    Shree Jagdal Battalion
    Shree Narsingh Battalion
    Shree King's Household Cavalry
    Shree Shreenath Battalion
    Shree Indradhoj Battalion
    Shree Samar Jung Company
    Shree Jabar Jung Battalion
    Shree Rana Sher Battalion
    Shree Barda Bahadur Battalion
    Shree Rana Shardul Battalion
    Shree Bhairavnath Battalion
    Shree Kalidhoj Company
    Shree Ganeshdal Battalion
    Shree Devidutta Battalion
    Shree Devi Dal Battalion
    Shree Surya Dal Company
    Shree Kali Jung Battalion
    Shree Bhairav Nath Battalion
    Shree Narsimha Dal Company
    Shree Durga Bhanjan Company
    Shree Kali Prasad Battalion
    Shree Vajra Dal Company
    Shree Keval Jung Company
    Shree Nanda Buksh Company
    Shree Chandi Dal Company
    Shree Bhimkali Company
    Shree Sher Battalion
    Shree Tara Dal Battalion
    Shree Mahabir Battalion
    Shree Bhawani Dal Battalion

    Heres a close up photo of my favorite regimentali inscribed longleaf I picked up in Nepal 3 or 4 years back.




    Its inscribed to the Sri jung battalion a unit that has specilised for a long time in prime minister,Goverment & indeed palace security at at the singha durbar in Kathmando.

    Looking at the numbers involved in these units & the actual inscribed,numbers it seems likley to me that rather than kukri numbers they are actualy the soldiers individual number? But of course that is supposition still.

    That was also British army custom with kukri, all though not with rifle & bayonet.

    jonathan

  8. #8
    Hi all,
    Beoram over at IKRHS has an interesting thought on the numbering system that might shed more light on these inscriptions. He notes that the numeral “1” is the second digit in almost all of these inscriptions. Further, it’s a little different in script from other “1”s seen in the same series. His hypothesis is that this is not a numeral at all, but instead is something like a slash or colon. So rather than a four digit number such as “2134” what we actually have is something like “2 / 34.”

    I went back and looked at the pictures of the inscribed rifles in Wilson’s book and this actually makes a lot of sense. If you have his book check out the picture of the inscribed Martini-Henry trigger guards on page 126. What we see there is that the company or battalion name is followed by a “sub-unit” number and then a two digit number on another line (presumably a rack number in the case of a post 1870 rifle).

    The same pattern is probably being used on the kukris, only the spine is so thin that they don’t have room for two separate lines and so the “sub unit” and “weapon number” are separated by a slash (which we have been interpreting as a numeral 1).

    So a more correct reading of the first translations I gave above might be something like:
    “Rajdal [battalion]: [sub-unit] 4 / [weapon number] 26.”

    We should also note that on page 123 Walter states that, “The repetitive pattern in these [rifle marks] was clearly a unit identified in Nagari characters, followed by a single-digit number signifying a company or sub-unit, and then by an individual man or weapon number.” So I guess it remains an open question as to whether this two digit number represents rack code or part of a soldiers ID number. Evidently both patterns are seen on various Nepalese weapons. As Jonathan suggested, these could be soldier ID numbers

    Does anyone have pictures of inscriptions on Nepalese swords or bayonets that we could compare and contrast our kukris with?

  9. #9
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    Inscription from bayonet for Nepalese Francotte Pattern Martini-Henry:
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Last edited by BerkleyB; 09-15-2009 at 06:32 PM. Reason: Add closeup

  10. #10

    summary of AC khukuri inscription findings

    A summary of our collective findings (on my new blog Stæfcræft & Vyākaraṇa):
    "Thrice Honoured Moon": The Mystery of the Nepalese Inscribed Khukuris concerning the AC khukuri inscriptions.

  11. #11
    Great write-up! I'm sure that many people are going to find that article very useful. I think our next step needs to be to assemble a database of photos and translations of as many classic gurkha army spine inscriptions as we can. That might yield some interesting data.

    Also, your new blog looks like it is going to be excellent. I'll be sure to check back often.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Benjamin Judkins View Post
    Great write-up! I'm sure that many people are going to find that article very useful. I think our next step needs to be to assemble a database of photos and translations of as many classic gurkha army spine inscriptions as we can. That might yield some interesting data.

    Also, your new blog looks like it is going to be excellent. I'll be sure to check back often.
    Hi Benjamin,

    Thanks.

    For the database of inscriptions: what about this: http://khukurilipi.blogspot.com Advantage of this setup, the page can have multiple authors, and indexing by keywords.

  13. #13
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    For the database of inscriptions: what about this: http://khukurilipi.blogspot.com Advantage of this setup, the page can have multiple authors, and indexing by keywords.
    Reply With Quote
    OK, I signed up. How do I post an image?

  14. #14
    if you want to post images, I'll need to add you as a "blog-author". Send me your email address and I'll add you.

  15. #15
    Great idea. I think we should also having a running spreadsheet going that lists each of the inscriptions, the unit the knife served with, what sort of kukri it was, and whatever other information we might be interested in.

    I'd be interested in posting a few of my own examples, and will shoot you an email.

    Best,
    Benjamin

  16. #16
    Excelent & concise work Beoram, many thanks indeed!

    Jonathan

  17. #17
    Hi Beoram, Heres a few more example I found in my picture libary, exact origin unknown but dating from our early research into these.

    Perhaps you could translate & use them on the database?

    Regards,

    spiral






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