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Thread: Dating a 1821 Royal Artillery sword.

  1. #1

    Dating a 1821 Royal Artillery sword.

    Hello all and thank you for this excellent forum. Perhaps you all can assist me with some sword questions.

    I recently purchased a 1821 Royal Artillery sword. It came from the equivalent of a sword yardsale...not a dealer.

    The blade is 34 1/2" long, 1 1/8" wide, with no obvious markings as to manufacture- the back of the sword is slightly rounded, and marked with a CoP arrow, but no serial number or manufacturer stamp. The blade etching is very well done, with smooth curves and no ragged edges, and there is evidence of hand engraving to enhance areas of the etching. The edge has a small bevel of what looks like factory sharpening, very cleanly done, from a hands width from the ricasso to 1/2" on the back side of the point. No trace of blue or gilt, except a tiny trace next to the guard.

    The blade has the usual foliate etching, and on one side, in descending order, there is a Crown (female) , the Royal Arms, surrounded by "Honi.Soit.....Pense". and under that a V. (looks more like a V than a VR, lets say if there is an R , it is minimal in the cypher. This is not a highly embellished cypher) Under this the" ubiuqe" motto and a cannon with ramrod. From this I conclude it was made pre 1877, as then it would likely have a VRI cypher?

    The other side of the blade has "Royal Artillery" surrounding a sheaf of arrowhead lightning bolts and a set of wings.

    The proof slug says "proved", in an arc surrounding a tiny six point star in the center of the slug. This is centered in a star or sunburst pattern etched on the ricasso.

    The other side of the ricasso has a foliate etching with a small 1/2" diameter ring in the center, surrounding what appears to be two standing figures, one with a spear and the other with a flag, with a ribbon banner going across the bottom of the ring. This is the only thing I can see that might be a manufacturers mark.

    Does anyone have an idea of date on this sword? Or perhaps the manufacturer? When did proof slugs come into use? Most of the 1821 pattern swords shown on this site seem to be in the later 1800's, with a the proof slug and a clearly etched double triangle and makers name, as well as a serial.

    Another question- as I understand from reading here, there were three branch's of the artillery?, Horse, Foot, and something else that escapes me at the moment? Is there any way to determine what branch of artillery a "Royal Artillery" sword came from?

    I will post pictures when I figure out how to do so. ... Thank you!

  2. #2
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    If the proof slug has a little star inside the word 'proved' then the sword was made by Thurkle. Is the backstrap of the grip fully chequered or only partly chequered? Or not at all? It's difficult to say a lot for certain without photos.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Edward C. View Post
    . From this I conclude it was made pre 1877, as then it would likely have a VRI cypher?
    Edward
    I'm not sure this can be used to date the sword. I think the VRI cypher was only used on Indian Army Swords (perhaps other Empire territories as well?). British Army just used VR throughout Victoria's reign. Other forum members will chime in if I'm wrong... I often am
    The journey not the destination

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Easton View Post
    If the proof slug has a little star inside the word 'proved' then the sword was made by Thurkle. Is the backstrap of the grip fully chequered or only partly chequered? Or not at all? It's difficult to say a lot for certain without photos.
    The original hilt is gone, replaced by some Afghan. Pulwar type. Could have been done in Kabul a year ago, or by by some kludge in the US, or by some hill tribesman 150 years ago-no clue. That is one of the reasons I am so interested in the blade date- If it dated from the early or mid 1800's, it could possibly be a captured blade.

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    Last edited by Edward C.; 11-03-2015 at 02:07 PM.

  5. #5
    Any other ideas about the the age of this sword? Any other photo's that might be helpful? Matt, you mentioned the proof slug with a small star shows it is a "Thurkle"- is there a way to establish the date of manufacture? ? Are there clues on the tang? The blade is a bit loose, it could be pulled out. That might also give some insight as to when the Pulwar hilt was applied.
    Thank you all!

  6. #6
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    Hi Edward, yes that's a Thurkle blade. There is no definitive way to date it, other than saying it's Victorian and post-1845. In my observation blades which have decoration on the ricasso flat, instead of the more normal manufacturer or retailer name, tend to be earlier - 1840's and 50's. So based on educated guessing, I'd say probably 1845-1860 based on those photos (and therefore Benjamin Thurkle).

  7. #7
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    p.s. I have no idea what that logo with two figures is - I've never seen anything like it before and it's a strange location for such a thing. Identifying that would probably tell you a lot more about the blade's history because it is a very unusual feature.

  8. #8
    I will very gently clean up the ricasso and take a better photo of the little logo or seal or whatever it is. Any idea where to start a search or a search term to use? I was wondering if it was a family crest or manufacturer mark or something- but I think if it were a swordmakers mark you guys would instantly recognize it.

  9. #9
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    I just have no idea. I've never seen any such motif and it's very unusual to have anything but a maker/retailer name or a blank space on that part of the blade.

  10. #10
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    trying to make photo larger but its not cooperating.
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    Last edited by Will Mathieson; 11-04-2015 at 04:13 PM.

  11. #11
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    It is reminiscent of some of our state seals.
    The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people." --- Tench Coxe

  12. #12
    Matt, thanks for the estimate on blade age.
    One of the reasons I purchased this sword was because of the unusual Pulwar hilt. In my fevered imagination it was taken from one of the ill fated members of Elphinstones retreat and rehilted by some Afghani (but not in 1845!)
    Of course the likely explanation is some guy in Kabul added it to sell to someone, or it was done here. Still, it seems unlikely someone would take off an original hilt for no good reason..? No doubt you collectors have all seen numerous examples of buggered up swords and illicit marriages-- any comments or ideas on this one?

    Here are a couple of better pictures of the "seal", if anyone has a idea on what this is, I would love to hear it!
    I used a business card with a tiny bit of jewelers rouge on the back , backed up with a flat piece of wood to gently clean the area. It worked pretty well without trashing the patina.

    It looks like two men , soldiers perhaps, holding different flags, shaking hands. Perhaps an alliance of families or political units? As Eric noted, the format, with a ring around the perimeter and a banner across the bottom, is very similar to a lot of "seals".


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    Last edited by Edward C.; 11-05-2015 at 11:41 AM.

  13. #13
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    Very curious. Certainly not like anything I recall seeing. In terms of dating, the Royal Artillery officers didn't start carrying the 1821 pattern until some time in the late 1840s or 50s. In any case, this blade type didn't come into service for officers until 1845 at the earliest. It's entirely possible that this blade was taken in the late 1870s and early 1880s campaigning. Though it might simply have got to Afghanistant through trading with India and Nepal. As for why replacing the hilt - that was fairly normal, we see the same with British and German blades on tulwar hilts in India. They preferred their hilt styles.

  14. #14
    Matt,
    Did the Horse Artillery use a different blade marking than "Royal Artillery"?

  15. #15
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    They both used the wings and lightning bolts. Sometimes RHA swords are marked Royal Horse Artillery. Sometimes not. Sometimes they used the longer blade and foot artillery the infantry length blade, sometimes not. So there is no sure way to tell, unless it is specifically marked to the RHA.

  16. #16
    This one has a long 34 1/2" blade.

    Anytime I find a new relic, it spurs thoughts of how and when it was used-

    It is interesting to think about the colonial wars , unlike today, those British troopers in Afghanistan did not have any great superiority of arms- no air cover, no long range artillery, no repeating arms, no radios, with minor exceptions, their arms seemed to be equivalent to the native opposition. The advantage would seem to be only in the organization and discipline of the troops. One thing to have the hordes howling down out of the hills and call in an air strike , quite another to be 100 miles from reinforcements, outnumbered and no ammo resupply. Fix bayonets indeed. The quality of the officers must have been very high, in general.

    My exposure to Western Military swords prior to this purchase were US cavalry and dress swords, unlikely to ever have been used in battle. These Victorian British swords seem to be made as a tool that was expected to be used in combat.

  17. #17
    I have been asking around on various forums and sending emails to possible sources but no results yet. Any ideas on locations to search for this seal or emblem would be appreciated. I am almost sure it is a "seal", as the general layout with a circle and motto around a motif seems to be a standard feature.

    Started reading "Retreat from Kabul", by Patrick Macrory- One of the most interesting aspects of collecting is the resulting spur to read more history.

  18. #18
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    Stumbled across this old thread which doesn't seem to have been answered at the time.

    If anyone is still interested, this is the symbol for the Army and Navy Cooperative Society. I assume that it's an image of a sailor and soldier shaking hands.

    I've seen a few examples while researching online, one on Oldswords (106030) with the wording included.

    See also Wikipedia

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File...27s_ticket.jpg

    P. S. According to RW-L: "Army & Navy Co-operative Society from 1873 to 1934 inVictoria Street, London SW. Then became Army and Navy."
    Last edited by james.elstob; 12-06-2019 at 01:42 AM.

  19. #19
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    That's great, thank you for the update!

  20. #20
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    James well done! It is rare to get some of these things answered.

  21. #21
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    Nice!
    Though that introduces a secondary question because I thought Edward Thurkle had switched to using the T Prooved slug by 1873.

  22. #22
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    I've noticed that Wikipedia suggests a slightly earlier date than Robert for incorporation of the company: 15 September 1871.

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