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Thread: Wilkinson ledger confusion

  1. #1
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    Wilkinson ledger confusion

    Hi all.

    This is a recent acquisition. Standard 1822 infantry officer's sword.

    Best quality "HW" proof disc

    Blade length: 29 3/4" so lost a little over an inch from the tip but has been reground and service sharpened so presumably this was a historical loss

    Blade width: slightly under 1 1/8"

    Total length: 35 1/2"

    Rather frustratingly the Wilkinson ledger records the buyer only as "Cook" with no initial.

    Considering it is such a common name it seems unlikely that further research would identify the officer, although I wouldn't rule out with the expertise available here, that it might be narrowed down.

    Certainly not by me anyway, I'm not knowledgeable enough about research into army lists etc and other source material to get far.

    So the ledger specifies 31 inch Regular Infantry [blade] but I can't make out the words below, which follow after "36 in". No doubt it will seem obvious to others but I'm just not seeing it.

    My confusion is about the dates in the ledger. The serial number 6096 clearly falls within the known year of issue of 1858.

    However the "screwed together" date is clearly April 11th 1855" with the "finished" date being April 21st 1855.

    The "proved" and "Retd" dates appear to have been overwritten.

    Anyone have any idea about the reason for the apparent 3 year gap between production and sale of this sword?

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    Last edited by james.elstob; 09-10-2016 at 04:27 AM.

  2. #2
    As you suspected, there are numerous Cooks who would fit the time frame, presumably purchasing the sword upon or before promotion to ensign; so, without further info, it would be impossible to pin one down. Anyway, here are most if not all of them:
    Arthur Cook, 16 Mar. 58, 5th Regt.
    Alfred Cook, 5 June 55, 40th Regt.
    Alfred Cook, 15 Dec. 54, 40th Regt.
    Henry Cook, 15 June 55, 32nd Regt.
    Robert Cook. 4 Apr. 55, 21st Regt.
    William Cook, 15 Apr. 56, 7th Regt.
    Henry Cook, 15 June 55, 100th Regt.
    George Henry Cook, 7 Feb. 57, 2nd Somerset Militia

  3. #3
    P.S. Haven't checked the East India Registers, which would be equally futile!

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by L. Braden View Post
    P.S. Haven't checked the East India Registers, which would be equally futile!
    No, quite! Thanks for the info anyway. It's about the number of possibilities I expected.

    I suppose it could also be a more senior officer purchasing a beefier sword for use in the field before posting abroad.

    I hope the Wilkinson employee used the time wisely, that he saved by not writing the initial!

  5. #5
    Alexander Cook, 26 June 56, 32nd Madras N.I.

  6. #6
    Re a more senior officer, I thought of that myself; but the search would have been equally futile, given the number of Cooks. Too bad there are no initials on the sword, which may or may not be uncommon; but given the awful calligraphy in use, that might have posed another ID problem!
    Best Regards!

  7. #7
    P.S. What if "Cook" was a mistake for "Cooke"? Horrors!

  8. #8
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    The dates of April 1855 are correct for 6096 so I think what looks like an 8 in the upper right date is actually a poorly written 5. The "36 in" part is probably referring to the overall length of sword and scabbard as the last two words look like "to shoe." I can't figure out the middle words, or why the overall length of the sword would be important enough for entry into the ledger. Maybe Mr.Cook was adamant that the overall length could not exceed 36 inches for some reason? Is there a scabbard with the sword? I think finding the original owner would be a monumental task even for someone as talented and determined as L.Braden
    Cheers,
    Mike
    Last edited by MikeShowers; 09-10-2016 at 02:26 PM.

  9. #9
    You are absolutely right, Mike: in a case like this, talent and determination (to say nothing of patience) have a definite limit.
    Thanks indeed for your valuable input, and Best Wishes Always!

  10. #10
    P.S. On second thought, dare we narrow it down to Robert Cook? June '55 seems late, and Dec. '54 seems early, but I know nothing of when swords were ordered and how long it generally took to supply them - though, in this case, without special or custom engraving, it was evidently readily supplied.
    Last edited by L. Braden; 09-10-2016 at 04:32 PM.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeShowers View Post
    The dates of April 1855 are correct for 6096 so I think what looks like an 8 in the upper right date is actually a poorly written 5. The "36 in" part is probably referring to the overall length of sword and scabbard as the last two words look like "to shoe." I can't figure out the middle words, or why the overall length of the sword would be important enough for entry into the ledger. Maybe Mr.Cook was adamant that the overall length could not exceed 36 inches for some reason? Is there a scabbard with the sword? I think finding the original owner would be a monumental task even for someone as talented and determined as L.Braden
    Cheers,
    Mike
    Hi Mike,

    You are correct, 6096 was correct for 1855. Problem solved.

    There is no scabbard unfortunately.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by L. Braden View Post
    P.S. On second thought, dare we narrow it down to Robert Cook? June '55 seems late, and Dec. '54 seems early, but I know nothing of when swords were ordered and how long it generally took to supply them - though, in this case, without special or custom engraving, it was evidently readily supplied.
    It's a perfectly logical piece of speculation and probably the closest it's possible to get without more information.

    It's certainly closer than I thought could be achieved when I first read the ledger. It's awesome to be able to call on such expertise offered simply for the passion of doing it!

    Thanks all

  13. #13
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    On further reading into 21st regt of foot it seems they suffered heavy losses in the battles of Alma and Inkerman in 1854.

    Would it be likely that they recruited from home rather than field promotions? It seems reasonable that they might do both which generates the need for new ensigns to equip themselves around that time.

    P.S. Just out of interest, Ensign Robert Cook purchased into Lieutenant in Feb 1857, Captain in April 1863 then gained his Majority in Oct 1877. All with the 21st.
    Last edited by james.elstob; 09-10-2016 at 06:14 PM.

  14. #14
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    Weel to shoe? Spelt wheel incorrectly if it is wheel? Some scabbards had a wheel attached to the shoe to avoid wear. Possibly a senior officer? The blade is a medium, 1" to 1 1/8", a regular blade is 1 1/4" wide.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Will Mathieson View Post
    Weel to shoe? Spelt wheel incorrectly if it is wheel? Some scabbards had a wheel attached to the shoe to avoid wear. Possibly a senior officer? The blade is a medium, 1" to 1 1/8", a regular blade is 1 1/4" wide.
    Not sure about "wheel", they've put an "i" in that word as you can see its been dotted.

    Perhaps an officer of longer standing replacing a sword after some hard field service. Or perhaps he sat on his old one. I've come to terms with the not knowing very quickly after taking up collecting!

  16. #16
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    Looking again they have the blade as regular "rg inf" Possibly wiel? Possibly comparing the writing to other proof pages with the same details you may be able to know what it says?

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Will Mathieson View Post
    Looking again they have the blade as regular "rg inf" Possibly wiel? Possibly comparing the writing to other proof pages with the same details you may be able to know what it says?
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    "??? laid to shoe" perhaps? What would be laid to the shoe?

  18. #18
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    Possibly describing overall length? Odd that it's recorded since the hilts were standard size and yours appears to be.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Will Mathieson View Post
    Possibly describing overall length? Odd that it's recorded since the hilts were standard size and yours appears to be.
    Yep seems a strange measurement to mention.

    Could it say "paid to shoe"? although what other options would there be than to shoe a scabbard

  20. #20
    Have checked the army lists again re senior officers and promotions to seniority in 1855, and here are the results:
    Alfred Cook, 40th, lieut. 25 April.
    Henry Cook, 32nd & 100th, lieut. 31 August.
    Capt. & Adjt. William Surtees Cook, capt. h.p., unatt., lst Somerset Militia.
    Capt. John Cook, 3rd Royal Westminster Middlesex Light Infantry.
    Take your pick! (Or revert to an ensign.)

  21. #21
    CORRECTION: As I suspected, but had to confirm, in the British Army, senior or field officers were not company officers (e.g., lieutenants and captains) except for captains holding an adjutant appointment, which limits the list to Wm Surtees Cook. In other words, lieutenants and captains were considered to be junior officers, even when they sometimes, perforce, performed the duties of senior officers, as in emergency situations in warfare or some other exigency in the absence or incapacity of a senior officer.

  22. #22
    P.S. What threw me off was that Lt. & Adjt. Henry M. Havelock referred to captains (and perhaps lieutenants) as "field officers" in a letter written in 1857. Now, either he was mistaken or the term was loosely used in the mid-19th century for company officers. I'm in no mood to try to find out, having spent enough time on this subject, so I hope that someone else knows the answer offhand or is willing to research it.

  23. #23
    Been pondering on the question of the difficult abbreviations of the proof docket, and as the overall length of the sword in scabbard could easily be 36 " inches, my guess on the wording is

    36 " from rivet to shoe. The rivet being the end of the tang riveted over at the top of the pommel, and the end of the shoe being the extremity of the scabbard.

  24. #24
    "In no mood"
    "Colonels, Lieutenant-Colonels, and Majors, are called Field Officers. ... Subaltern Officers are Lieutenants, Cornets, Second Lieutenants, and Ensigns." (Lt. E. S. N. Campbell, A Dictionary of the Military Science, London 1844.)
    "Field Officer -- An officer above the rank of captain and below that of general." (Maj. Gen. G. E. Voyle, A Military Dictionary, London 1876.)
    Ditto many more 19th-century British sources. Can't account for Havelock's evident mistake in assuming that company officers other than adjutants like himself were senior officers. But evidently only captains (not lieutenants) as adjutants were considered senior! Phew!!
    Last edited by L. Braden; 09-11-2016 at 01:59 PM.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by gordon byrne View Post
    Been pondering on the question of the difficult abbreviations of the proof docket, and as the overall length of the sword in scabbard could easily be 36 " inches, my guess on the wording is

    36 " from rivet to shoe. The rivet being the end of the tang riveted over at the top of the pommel, and the end of the shoe being the extremity of the scabbard.
    Hi Gordon, yes it does look like it could be rivet, but... oh dear... when i had a sit down and think I suddenly realised I have been a little.... foolish!

    This sword did in fact arrive with a scabbard, which I had put immediately away when hanging the sword and forgotten all about.

    Below are images with sword and scabbard in comparison. The first measured from the base of the blade, the second from the tang button.

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    The length of the handle is exactly 6" BTW, matching my other circa 1857 HW 1822p.

    So if it was originally a 31" blade, it wouldn't fit in this scabbard, which is only 30 1/2" plus 1/2 inch to the tip of the drag.

    Is this therefore possibly a new scabbard to account for a shorter blade after a loss of tip or did they simply start with a 31" regulation blade then reduce it to suit the officer's requirements?

    Perhaps someone with knowledge of the manufacturing process could chip in. Would Wilkinsons grind down a regulation blade by over an inch or would they forge a shorter blade?

    This could be one reason why the 36" measurement was specified on the proof docket although as you can see the whole sword and scabbard in its current state are 37" total length.

    Apologies to all for the oversight about owning the scabbard.
    Last edited by james.elstob; 09-11-2016 at 06:31 PM.

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