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Thread: Help identifying a Wilkinson 1884 military sword

  1. #1

    Help identifying a Wilkinson 1884 military sword

    Hello - first time visitor to these forums. I know nothing about swords apart the fact you hold one end....
    I've been given a sword by an uncle who collected all sorts of things but didn't necessarily know much about them! A search on the Internet and through this excellent forum has given me some information but I've got some questions. I hope you're able to help me

    I'm thinking this is a 'generic' military sword, something an officer had to have to complete their uniform rather that a serious weapon they'd use to ride against the Russian guns at Balaclava!

    It has a number of marks (see photos). It's by Henry Wilkinson, Pall Mall, London and has a name C G Watson in a scroll on the blade. The serial number is 26162 which I've identified as 1884. There is a lot of 'scroll work' on the blade including what looks like the Royal Arms with "Honi soit qui mal y pense" and the word "Ubique" below it. On the blade, just below the hilt is a 'star of David' with a hole in the middle. It looks like something should have been inset in the hole.

    My questions:
    What branch of the military is it and can a particular regiment be identified?
    What is the hilt/basket made of? It's not in the best of condition and looks either plated or of a base metal.
    What would have been inset in the hole in the star engraving.
    The blade has at some point been heavily varnished and is now rather discoloured with blotches of varnish in places that haven't rubbed off. I guess paint stripper isn't a good idea to remove this so is there a way to get it off?

    In anticipation of your answers... Thank you! Chris

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    Last edited by Chris Dale; 11-09-2015 at 10:52 AM.

  2. #2
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    Chris:

    It's a Royal Artillery sword and your estimate of the date is about correct. The hilt furniture is steel. The recess in the center of the Star of Damascus is called a "proof slug" and was made of brass stamped with the manufacturer's mark. They often fall out over time. For advice on removal of varnish, etc., refer to the sticky on the main page that addresses care and conservation of military swords.

    If you enter the phrase: "C.G. Watson" Royal Artillery (with the quotation marks) in the Google search engine, you will find information about the owner and will be able to trace his career via editions of Hart's Army List. Also, you can likely confirm the owner by contacting Richard Milner, who hold the Wilkinson proof records and will, for a small fee, provide the entry related to your sword (http://www.armsresearch.co.uk/Wilkin...%20Request.pdf).

  3. #3
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    Christopher Godfrey Watson became a Lt. in the RA December 9, 1884. He probably acquired the sword at that time, so it seems to fit with your weapon. If you expand the Google search term to "Christopher Godfrey Watson" Royal Artillery, you should get even more-detailed info, like the following:

    "Major Christopher Godfrey Watson served in the Royal Artillery and saw action in the Mivanzai Expeditions of 1891."

    C. G. Watson died in January, 1912. His son, Godfrey,". . . followed his father into the Royal Artillery, and eventually became lieutenant-colonel of the Sixth Indian Field Regiment. A Christian Scientist, in February 1943 he declined medical treatment when suffering from pneumonia and died as the result. His son David Christopher Knight Watson, after service as an officer in the Royal Horse Artillery and study at St John's College, Cambridge, was ordained into the Church of England. He went on to lead a famous charismatic ministry at St Michael-le-Belfrey, York, and ultimately to found the Belfrey Trust, whose work still continues. He died in February 1984."
    Last edited by Mark Cain; 11-09-2015 at 01:41 PM.

  4. #4
    Wow... thanks guys. That's a huge amount of information! I shall dig deeper into C G Watson's history. The star of Damascus engraving. Is that part of the manufacturers mark or for the owner of the sword?

  5. #5
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    Part of the manufacturer's mark.

  6. #6
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    According to Wilkinson's this is not a Star of David mark but two interlocking triangles signifying strength.
    The journey not the destination

  7. #7
    Just wanted to say thank-you again for the help identifying the sword. With the help of Ancestry.co.uk I've now got Christopher Godfrey Watson's entire family history going back to 1550, military records from Sandhurst, London Gazette entries which detail his promotions and transfers and his award of the India medal (1854) with Samana star. Census returns as well give me quite unique picture of this gentleman. His will indicates he left some £48,000 when he died in 1912. The sword has now taken on a personality and looking at it conjures up images of the mountains of the North West Frontier... but I'm just an old romantic

  8. #8
    Just bumping this as I have a couple more questions which I'm sure you'll be able to help me with. See the original post at the top for photos of the sword.
    I've now researched the owner, C G Watson and have pretty much his entire family and military history. Is this sort of sword purely for ceremonial purpose to go with the uniform or would it have been used 'in anger'? I ask because there is no sharp edge to the blade which looks very 'decorative' with the RA crest etc. I'm not familiar with how swords should look by the way, this is the only one I've been able to examine in detail. I guess the edge could have been blunted in battle or used for chopping firewood! I've found out that C G Watson served in India on the North West Frontier and was at the battle of Samana in 1891 getting the Samana clasp to his India Medal. Would the sword have likely been used? He was also presented to Edward Prince of Wales at a levee in St James's Palace in 1885. The sword has a leather scabbard; would this have been normal for a young well to do officer particularly being presented to the future King? I would have expected something with a bit more 'bling'.
    Thanks.

  9. #9
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    Chris, it could well have been used in anger as Wilkinson maintained a high standard of manufacturing and the blade was tested prior to being dispatched. That said, the first line of defense for an officer in the 1880s would have been a firearm, with other weapons, like the sword, being a fall back. Had the owner expected to use it for its intended purpose, he would likely have had an armorer put an edge on it. You have one of two scabbards used to house the sword: the leather field service scabbard would have been worn on routine duty as needed, but when the circumstances called for full dress, the sword would have been worn in a nickel-plated steel scabbard (a bit more bling).

  10. #10
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    Chris, Sometimes the sharpening can be hard to spot if it was edged with a tiny bevel. Here is a photo of one of mine where you can see the beginning of the sharpened edge that is only the width of the etched border. If yours was sharpened in a similar way you may have to look really close to check. They used a stone for sharpening so there will be fine lines.
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    Last edited by MikeShowers; 10-13-2019 at 01:55 PM.

  11. #11
    Thank you once again for helping. Having two scabbards makes sense. I shall check the sword edge with a magnifying glass to check for sharpening.
    Chris

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Cain View Post
    That said, the first line of defense for an officer in the 1880s would have been a firearm, with other weapons, like the sword, being a fall back.
    Strictly speaking the first line of defence for an artilleryman is his whacking great cannon - if he has to use his fallback weapons then something has probably gone wrong!

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

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