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Thread: New Acquisition - Wilkinson Patent Hilt to 10th Jats

  1. #1
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    New Acquisition - Wilkinson Patent Hilt to 10th Jats

    Hi All,

    This is a recent addition to what I like to call the Hart Collection but what Mrs. Hart insists on calling "that stuff" . It's a typical fighting sword of the Edwardian period, and was carried by a young officer in the 10th Jats during service in India and in Mesopotamia during WW1. It's a Wilkinson "patent solid hilt", which British sword collectors will know differed from traditional patterns in having a full-width tang continuing into the handle (as opposed to a more slender "rat tail" tang running through a hole in the grip). This innovation gave the blade additional strength and reduced the likelihood of the blade parting company with the grip at a critical moment. You can see the construction in one of the photos where the grip scale has chipped, revealing the tang beneath.

    This sword also has an unusual scabbard chape, almost certainly of Indian manufacture rather than original Wilkinson, which is rather gracefully shaped with a decorative nibbled edge. This may have been an in-life replacement, or the whole scabbard may be a local pattern specific to the regiment (I'd be interested if anyone else has ever come across an example like this).

    The sword has been sharpened for active service and has the owner's family crest of a hound and the motto "J'ai d'Esperance" (I have hope). Research into the Wilkinson proof book records has revealed that this sword was carried by Lieutenant Ralph Ashenhurst Mackean, who was born in July 1888 and graduated from the Royal Military College in 1908, being briefly attached to the 1st Royal Irish Regt. before his transfer to the Indian Army. His first official posting was to the Indian Staff Corps in December 1909, and he was formally gazetted into the 10th Jats a year later. During his time with the regiment they seem to have been mainly based in the Calcutta area, as befitting an old regiment of the Bengal Army which had its recruiting base in the province. When the First World War broke out, however, the 10th Jats were mobilised and eventually saw service in Mesopotamia, becoming part of the 18th Indian Division. The "Mespot" campaign had its fair share of disasters, not all military, and disease and sickness took as heavy a toll on the troops as actual combat. Such may well have been the case with Ralph Mackean, since he was permitted to retire from the Army in September 1917 on the grounds of ill health, and his death in 1936 at the early age of 48 may also have been attributable to the privations of his service life.

    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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    Great sword, John. Interesting background & its always nice to see a Patent Hilt!
    mark@swordforum.com

    ~ Hostem Hastarum Cuspidibus Salutemus ~

    "Those who beat their swords into plowshares usually end up plowing for those who don't."
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  3. #3
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    Great sword, the scabbard chape appears to be silver or silver plate in the photo, is this correct? A very tasteful addition to any scabbard. A Wilkinson patent hilt with owners history, what more can one want!

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Will Mathieson View Post
    Great sword, the scabbard chape appears to be silver or silver plate in the photo, is this correct?
    Thanks Will,

    It's actually plain (ie un-gilt) brass, but the camera flash has made it look a lot lighter than it is. It's also fairly thin, which lends weight to the "local manufacture" theory. I don't know if you noticed the scabbard throat is missing - this means the blade sits further into the scabbard than would normally be the case if the throat was there to act as a spacer, and the tip has actually punched a small hole through the chape where it's come into contact!

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

  5. #5
    John,
    Congratulations on an excellent sword. Wilkinson were still busy making fighting swords in the Edwardian period. I recall that there was an entire page of them (if not more) when I received the results of my query last year. I wonder why Wilkinson swapped the places of the proof disc and "Henry Wilkinson..." etching. My Victorian P1897 solid hilt has the disc on the opposite side of the blade when compared to my Edwardian P1897 solid hilt. I see the same holds true for yours.

    All the best,
    Jonathan

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    Quote Originally Posted by J.G. Hopkins View Post
    I wonder why Wilkinson swapped the places of the proof disc and "Henry Wilkinson..." etching. My Victorian P1897 solid hilt has the disc on the opposite side of the blade when compared to my Edwardian P1897 solid hilt. I see the same holds true for yours.
    Hi Jonathan,

    Interesting observation! My other patent hilts date from 1860, 1866 and 1878, and all three have the proof disk on the opposite side from the one on this latest piece. Some obscure Edwardian convention or a change in the way the sword was held at the "present" (to ensure the monarch's cypher was facing right way round)?

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

  7. #7
    Hi John,

    I think many of us have our own cross to bear when we are faced with various descriptions placed on our treasured items by the lady of the house; at least you have "that stuff" whereas I am to often told to move my junk. All I would say is more strength to the Hart collection and congratulations on picking up an interesting new sword with provenance to match.

    As far as the question on the scabbard is concerned, locally (India) produced scabbards or fittings was not unusual and owing to the particular shape, it may well be a regimental pattern; having said that, I have no particular information to prove such a theory however, a close study of some period photos (if they can be found) might reveal some detail on scabbards carried by officers of the same regiment.

    Gordon

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    Doesn't matter what the Missus might say... it's a very, very nice sword. Her collection of tea towels from the Cotswolds will never see her through retirement.

    (But don't tell her I said that.)

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    John
    What date does the Proof Book give for this sword please?

    It may be helpful in letting you have a bit more information re scabbard!!!!!!!
    Robert

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Wilkinson-Latham View Post
    What date does the Proof Book give for this sword please? It may be helpful in letting you have a bit more information re scabbard!!!!!!!
    Hi Robert,

    It was proved on 22 September 1908 - serial number is 41952.

    Cheers,

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

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Cain View Post
    Doesn't matter what the Missus might say... it's a very, very nice sword. Her collection of tea towels from the Cotswolds will never see her through retirement.
    LOL - fortunately I have some leverage as she has expensive collecting tastes too so we can usually come to a compromise!

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

  12. #12
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    John
    Found it (sort of!)

    Described in Pattern Notebook as:

    GRI infantry, SB scabbard wood and leather, brass chape - Bengal Pattern- 6 inches with shoe(Shoe are the flat pieces around chape.)

    Unfortunately no sketch of the 'Bengal Pattern' chape but suspect it is the design that your sword scabbard has fitted. No mention of mouthpiece. This could have been standard or like many Indian Inf patterns did not have one.
    Best I can do i am afraid.
    Robert

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Wilkinson-Latham View Post
    Described in Pattern Notebook as:

    GRI infantry, SB scabbard wood and leather, brass chape - Bengal Pattern- 6 inches with shoe(Shoe are the flat pieces around chape.)

    Unfortunately no sketch of the 'Bengal Pattern' chape but suspect it is the design that your sword scabbard has fitted. No mention of mouthpiece. This could have been standard or like many Indian Inf patterns did not have one.
    Best I can do i am afraid.
    Many thanks for taking the trouble to look, Robert. The chape on mine is around 8" in total, but the mere fact that there was such a thing as a "Bengal chape" is interesting. It just goes to show that British dress regulations were only there to be broken by the time theyd reached India!

    All the best,

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

  14. #14
    Hi John,

    I don't believe it is correct to say that the British dress regulations were broken, as we must always consider that there were British officers with the British Army in India under British dress regulations, and British officers with the the Indian Army who were subject to Indian Army dress regulations, or maybe Regimental dress regulations which were a little closer to the bone. Thus the importance of scabbards when one makes a study of Indian Army swords. It is very interesting to note in this case that the chape and shoe were brass as apposed to steel.

    Gordon

  15. #15
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    Just out of interest,
    The following Indian Army sword scabbards had BRASS chapes:
    25th Bombay Rifles -3 ins bottom mount (chape) Brass - No Shoe
    33rd Punjab Infantry -
    Also many of the various Indian Police orces had brass fitting to their scabbards.

  16. #16
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    Just a theory to brass fittings, the 1887 Wilkinson bayonets used in India/Nepal can be found with locally made brass scabbard mounts, the originals were iron. Could the use of brass been due to aid local economy, brass being easily produced vs iron?

  17. #17
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    OUTSTANDING THREAD!

    Keep it coming. I am learning a lot here....

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by john hart View Post
    many thanks for taking the trouble to look, robert. The chape on mine is around 8" in total, but the mere fact that there was such a thing as a "bengal chape" is interesting. It just goes to show that british dress regulations were only there to be broken by the time theyd reached india!

    All the best,

    john
    see new post 23 Below
    Last edited by Robert Wilkinson-Latham; 08-20-2011 at 01:00 AM. Reason: Wrong Information!

  19. #19
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    "It's a Wilkinson "patent solid hilt", which British sword collectors will know differed from traditional patterns in having a full-width tang continuing into the handle (as opposed to a more slender "rat tail" tang running through a hole in the grip). This innovation gave the blade additional strength and reduced the likelihood of the blade parting company with the grip at a critical moment. You can see the construction in one of the photos where the grip scale has chipped, revealing the tang beneath."

    Thank you John for this but honestly I was thinking this below...no offense to Mr. Wilkinson intended.

    I would have thought the makers would have emulated the Japanese and used the natural shape of the tang (rather making a thin one; a sure recipe for disaster) in the first place. However, I am not convinced that this new hilt was a satisfactory one for the new patent hilt comes right through the fishskin.......Now before anyone pounces on me, let me say that I fence professionally both in the Western style and Japanese one (Kendo) and I can tell you I would not be confident of this hilt; much less (learning from the above) of any western sword if made this way!

  20. #20
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    Patent tangs usually had a backstrap covering the tang edge and the lower edge of the tang was visible and inletted for the grip wire, quite strong as a one piece blade.

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Barry Rosenfeld View Post
    I would have thought the makers would have emulated the Japanese and used the natural shape of the tang (rather making a thin one; a sure recipe for disaster) in the first place. However, I am not convinced that this new hilt was a satisfactory one for the new patent hilt comes right through the fishskin.......Now before anyone pounces on me, let me say that I fence professionally both in the Western style and Japanese one (Kendo) and I can tell you I would not be confident of this hilt; much less (learning from the above) of any western sword if made this way!
    I don't understand why the exposed tang would be an issue.

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    Erased
    Last edited by Barry Rosenfeld; 08-19-2011 at 08:30 PM. Reason: none

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Wilkinson-Latham View Post
    I have looked again at the note book and it is NOT a 8 (the writer needed to dip his pen in the well!) but a 6
    So 6 inches it is,

    Apologies got the 8 and the 6 the wrong way round.in the original post The notebook does state 6
    John
    Completely messed this posting up on re reading!!!!!!!!!

    The Note Book states 8 inch shoe and NOT 6 for the Bengal pattern.
    I do apologies for the above which is completely the wrong way round!!!!!!!!

    Now I have new glasses for reading, I tend to get the information from the old records and their style of writing correct!!!! Apologies.

  24. #24
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    Hello Robert

    By a remarkable chance would you have the sales receipt for this sword? I should be very interested to see it if it exists please.

    Thank you

    Barry

  25. #25
    very nice sword, and some good info in this thread.

    Im afraid though John you will need to call your collection something else, as this forum isnt big enough for two 'the hart collections'

    I love the fact that thanks to Wilkinsons records you can trace the owner, and from there his service record. No doubt Lt Ralph Macklean would be pleased to know the sword he ordered is still being cared for and treasured and his name remembered. Thanks for posting.
    Last edited by Adam Hart; 08-29-2011 at 07:03 AM.

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