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Thread: British P1897 with WWI ANZAC connection

  1. #1

    British P1897 with WWI ANZAC connection

    My latest acquisition is yet another late period sword; a Pattern 1897 Infantry Officer's Sword. This example was made by Wilkinson 8 October 1906 for D.M. King of the King's Liverpool Regiment.

    What initially attracted me to this sword is that it is a rather late example of a Patent Solid Hilt, and I have been looking to add an Edwardian sword to my collection. The sword came to me with active rust, but with a little elbow grease (and by elbow grease I mean Nevr-Dull) the sword cleaned up nicely. The steel hilt with ERVII monogram has lost most of its plating, and the grip wire is completely gone. The missing wire shows that the grip slabs were riveted to the tang like the cavalry trooper's swords of the Victorian period.

    The steel scabbard has most of its plating still intact, but there is quite a lot of bubbling. The blade, while not in its original polish, is clean and in quite good condition considering the overall condition of the sword when it arrived. The blade has all the standard etchings as well as the owner's monogram DMK.

    The sword, while in need of some TLC, was enough in and of itself to get my attention. However the story of its owner is what convinced me that it was worth pursuing. Dennis Malcolm King, born in 1886, was commissioned 2nd lieutenant with the King's Liverpool Regiment 6 October, 1906. He was promoted lieutenant 4 November, 1908. In 1913 King was seconded for service with the Australian Imperial Forces with the Administrative & Instructional Staff. He was promoted captain 1 October, 1914, and was off to Egypt from December, 1914 to March, 1915. From April to December of 1915 he was at Gallipoli. He returned to Egypt from January (MiD 28 January, MC) to May, 1916, and then was off to Europe (France and Belgium) from June to November, 1918 (MiD 4 January, 1917, 11 December 1917, and 27 December 1918). During this period he was awarded the DSO (1 January, 1917) and a clasp to his DSO (7 November 1918). King was brevet major 3 June, 1919.

    There is a tremendous amount of information on King, which makes writing about him a bit intimidating. All of his movements and promotions throughout the war can get a bit hard to follow, especially when one considers temporary appointments. Instead of getting into the nitty-gritty detail of all of this, I thought I would provide some interesting vignettes of him as a soldier. After all, this is what is most compelling, at least to me!

    As a part of their "Mapping Our ANZACS" project, the Australian National Archives have published many service records which are available online. King's service records from his time with the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) are fortunately amongst these records, which are available HERE. There is quite a lot to go through, and much of it is repetitive, however it is worth noting that he did suffer a gun shot wound to the thigh--a wound from which he thankfully recovered.

    Much of his service during the Great War was as a staff officer, which means that there are a few accounts of him in the field. Below are a few examples:

    From The story of the Fifth Australian division, being an authoritative account of the division's doings in Egypt, France and Belgium by Capt. A.D. Ellis.

    "His first assistants on the General Staff were Major D. M. King (the King's Liverpool Regiment), who was appointed G.S.O. II, and Captain Boase, who was the Division's first G.S.O. III. Major King had the ardent and energetic temperament of so many men of Irish extraction, and his personal gallantry and his experience of staff and regimental work promised well for his success as G.S.O. II. Captain Boase was one of the earlier graduates of Duntroon. He was quiet and unassuming, capable and painstaking, and altogether efficient in everything that he undertook."

    "Early in December Major D. M. King, who had been G.S.O. II of the Division since its formation, left to
    fill a staff appointment in an English formation. He had rendered the Division good service for a long time, especially in its training activities, where his energetic personality and organising ability had ample scope. He was succeeded by Major G. Wootten, a Duntroon graduate of proved ability."

    From The Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research (Volume 77, Issues 309-312, 1999):

    I think his shaken nerves are quite understandable!

    This extract from Australia Under Arms by Philip F.E.Schuler shows that by August he had adjusted to the strains and stresses of the battlefield:

    Indeed, I wonder what sort of effect the sudden loss of the chain of command had on the young captain, for after this experience he was mentioned in despatches (MiD) several times, and he earned his gallantry awards. I think he took that horrifying experience to heart. His 1918 DSO clasp clearly shows him to be a brave and daring officer:

    "For conspicuous gallantry and good leadership in organising three successful raids and compelling the enemy to withdraw from an outpost line overlooking our front line. Valuable identifications were obtained, 22 prisoners were taken, and many of the enemy killed. He showed the greatest energy and ability in preparing these raids, and in the raids themselves set a splendid example of courage and determination."

    I have had the good fortune of finding two (small) photos of King, one of which he is with King George V himself!

    Group portrait of the staff of the 5th Australian Division. King is seated on the bottom right.

    His Majesty King George V, with General Sir Herbert Plumer and the staff of the new 5th Australian Division, inspects some practice trenches at an infantry school of the 5th Division. King is the young officer on the right gesturing towards the entrenchment. King George V is one of the fellows on the left who is obscured by damage to the photo.

    Colonel Dennis Malcolm King, DSO, MC survived World War One and continued to serve until 1944, when he was finally considered too old for the Reserve of Officers. I would love to learn more about his service during the 1940s. I am especially curious if he played any role with the Home Guard (meaning he may have qualified for a Home Defense medal). Colonel King died in 1960.

    For more WWI era swords, please see this thread.

    Many thanks to John Hart and Philip Wilson (from the Great War Forum) for their help researching Colonel King!
    Last edited by J.G. Hopkins; 05-27-2010 at 10:31 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Buckinghamshire, England

    A cracking sword and a wonderful story, you have done Colonel King a great honour by your thorough research.

  3. #3
    Thank you, Chris! I am very excited to have the sword in my collection and I have enjoyed researching Col. King. Hopefully I can find more information on him once the King's Liverpool Regiment Museum re-opens next year.

  4. #4


    Brilliant sword and story. Glad the information was able to be found for you!


  5. #5

    How fantastic!! this is what it's all about, researched and presented in your usual thorough and professional manner, bringing history to life and giving the sword a true place of honour for all of us to share. It shines in its own right!

    You have indeed set a benchmark in the historical content of your collection of patent hilt swords of a classic form, from an interesting period in our history.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Sidmouth, in the South-West of the UK
    Great write-up, Jonathan - I've been looking forward to this since you bought the sword, and it's good to see a service history that will be of interest to so many of the participating countries of this Forum!

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

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    The vast wasteland
    Nice, Jonathan, very nice. It's great to have the photos to help the story come alive.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Western Canada
    Excellent sword and research! If this is the same one I was following on that online auction site I'm glad it turned out to be such an interesting find. I was wondering if you'd snap it up.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Great sword and story,

    I am sure that one of our Military Museums in Australia would kill for a sword with this provenance and ANZAC history.

    hint hint!

    great find


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Kansas City Metro (USA)
    An outstanding sword and research project! Who says that material culture artifacts cannot tell a story and are simply dead relics of past times? Good job!
    "You can't please everyone, so you have to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

  11. #11
    Thank you all for your kind comments. I agree that it has a fantastic history and hope to bring more of it to light someday. One thing I forgot to mention is that the proof disk is on the opposite side of the blade when compared to all my other Wilkinson swords (the in-board side of the blade). I wonder if this was a deliberate change, or if it was just how my sword happened to turn out?

    Also, note the initials in the monogram; the middle name and surname initials are much larger than the initial for his first name. Again, is this deliberate and does it change how we approach deciphering monograms, or is it just how the etcher chose to depict the monogram?

    I have edited the original post to make a few small corrections and to provide context for the photos of King.

    Last edited by J.G. Hopkins; 05-27-2010 at 10:32 AM.

  12. #12
    I tried selling this sword for a while, and I am glad I was unsuccessful. Over the past year or so the Australian War Memorial website has added a number of items regarding DM King, including his whistle and a few photos. Here is his whistle and an excellent biography:


    And a few new pics of the sword:

    Last edited by J.G. Hopkins; 05-12-2015 at 02:28 PM.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Kingston area, Ontario Canada
    Hello Jonathan to comment on a couple of your questions, one the proof disc. I have a patent hilt 1897p Wilkinson in the 44,000 range and the disc is on the same side as your sword has it. Whether all their swords between your number and mine are on the same side of the blade only other examples will show.
    The officers initials on my sword are simple block capitals, difference in size of initials on yours most likely was done to make it aesthetically pleasing. Wilkinsons likely had a book with examples of different styles of fonts to choose from.
    A sword with your history I would think the Australian govt. would be interested in?


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