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Thread: Wilkinson hilt modification

  1. #1
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    Wilkinson hilt modification

    Hi all,

    Has anyone seen this hilt modification before? I imagine that it was to add strength to the brass hilt sufficient to stop it from being crushed onto the fingers which it certainly has done.

    This sword is numbered for 1878 and belonged to an infantry and later mounted infantry officer who served in Afghanistan, Baluchistan and Burma before being killed in combat at Magersfontein in December 1899 (shot 3 times).

    Presumably he would have carried this sword at the time of his death and indeed the hilt is crushed and cracked in two places as if someone had fallen while wearing it and landed with their weight on the hilt. (insert your own poo-pooing of 'battle damage' claim here)

    However the modification has done its job and has stopped the hilt from being crushed entirely.

    If what I suppose is correct, it's fantastic to see a clear justification for an officer's desire for a 'non-standard' sword, even if its only a small modification.

    I'm interested in whether anyone has seen this modification documented in the Wilkinson proof book suggesting it might have been like that from the start of its life. It's possible it might be an aftermarket modification either by Wilkinson or someone else.

    Considering his field experiences his desire to strengthen the hilt could well have been borne of first hand experience of a brass 1822 hilt being crushed.

    It's only just arrived so I haven't applied for the ledger entry yet.

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    Last edited by james.elstob; 02-13-2019 at 04:59 PM.

  2. #2
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    James I saw this infantry sword on an online auction, blade they said inscribed Percy Hilton 51st K.O.L.I and ser. no. 22533.
    I've seen other modifications (special order) such the guard lined with steel. The officer may have had a problem with it at the pommel and had this modification done.
    I do not think Wilkinson would have done this particular modification, I believe they would have lined the whole knuckle guard with steel. Wilkinson's did make complete infantry steel hilts that were or not gilt.
    I have a steel hilted infantry sword and the officer also was in Afghanistan. Some of these modifications or special order improvements were later done to swords owned by veterans of the Indian Mutiny since they used their swords and aware of their weak points.
    Your sword would look good with the black leather hilt liner it originally would have worn, the small holes in the guard are the attachment points for it.
    Your sword would look wonderful polished with its brass scabbard.
    Last edited by Will Mathieson; 02-13-2019 at 04:59 PM.

  3. #3
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    Thanks Will, well spotted. It's certainly an historically interesting piece and I'm just putting the final touches to his biog.

    It has lost its proof slug and the hilt is battered every way you look at it but I have to say, it doesn't bother me in the slightest!

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  4. #4
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    Hello James the hilt can be brought back to somewhat original shape being careful not to crack the brass. I have a sword that once looked like it was slammed into an old trunk but the brass guard I brought back to a presentable shape. I use a small hydraulic device, any hammering is fatal to brass hilts.
    I have seen swords less their proved disc, people think they are gold and pry them out. They are either plain brass or brass with gold gilt that makes them convincingly appear as gold.
    Gold gilt at a craft store would enhance your sword to make the disc depression appear to have a disc.

  5. #5
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    James,
    I always enjoy seeing these interesting era modifications. Puts the spotlight back to what they were before they became collectables.
    Quote Originally Posted by james.elstob View Post
    Presumably he would have carried this sword at the time of his death and indeed the hilt is crushed and cracked in two places as if someone had fallen while wearing it and landed with their weight on the hilt. (insert your own poo-pooing of 'battle damage' claim here)
    While there is no way to prove this, the "what if" injects some life and a sense of history into the hobby. As long as we all keep our enthusiasm in check and our imaginations from running wild
    Cheers,
    Mike

  6. #6
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    Major Percy William Albert Alfred Milton.

    Born Streatham, May 1860, Father: Sir John Milton C. B. Accountant General of the army. Mother: Blanche Matilda Elinor Field.

    He attended Great Yarmouth grammar then Royal Military College as a Gentleman Cadet. Succeeded to the 51st foot (2nd Yorkshire West Riding Regiment then King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry) in May 1878 as second lieutenant.

    Attended a Queens Levee in 1878 in the presence of Prince Albert.

    Promoted:

    Lieutenant: Dec 1878,
    Captain: Jan 1884
    Brevet-Major: Sept 1891
    Major: Mar 1894

    He served during the Afghan War of 1879-80 taking part in the fighting at Jagdalak; the Luhman and Hissarak expeditions and was present in the punitive action at Nargashai as orderly officer. Mentioned in despatches of Col. Charles Ball-Acton C.B. of 6th July 1880, medal.

    He served with the Burmese Expedition, 1886-87, with the 1st Batt, during the latter part of the time in command of the Mounted Infantry. Mentioned in despatches of Brigadier-General Farrington (G. G. O. No. 434, 1887) , medal with clasp.

    He served with the 2nd Batt. in the Zhob Field Force in 1890 during the Zhob and Kiderzai Expeditions and in the march to Vihowa. mentioned in Despatches of Gen. Sir George White.

    "He is one of the few officers I have met endowed equally with dash to lead an advance guard and patience to bring in a rear-guard."


    He served with 2nd Batt in South Africa arriving 12 October having volunteered as soon as war was declared and commanded the M.I. with the Kimberley Relief Force. He was present at Belmont (mentioned in despatches)the mounted infantry, having been caught in an ambush are described to have 'fled'; he "supplied a trooper whose horse had been killed with his own, and then walked away under heavy fire", an act of selfless courage which caught the attention of the press inspiring Canon H. D. Rawnsley to pen an ode entitled 'A Hero of Belmont' published in the press.

    "... and when in ambush fall n his men retired

    Gave up his horse to bear

    A trooper from the snare

    And calmly, though a hundred rifles fired

    Walked as a man walks whistling o'er the briars

    From forth the zone of bullets winged with death."

    He was present at the actions at Graspan, and Modder River before his death at Magersfontein on 11th December 1889 while protecting the right flank of the Highland Brigade.

    Lieut.-Gen. Lord Methuen, in his despatch of Feb. 15th, 1900, concerning the battle of Magersfontein, reported that Major Milton in that action "behaved gallantly, and was shot three times before he died. He was making a successful effort to rally some men of the Highland Brigade." A different source has him leading a group of coldstreamers to support his heavily pressed force.

    Maj. H. Shute of the 2nd Coldstream Guards explains that:

    "On arriving with my half company at foot of hill I found a lot of Highlanders retiring at full speed. I rallied them, and with Major Milton who had some mounted infantry and some dismounted 12/lancers, advanced about 1200yds. Got through a wire fence and laid down with the enemy about 400 yd. in front. Major Milton was hit... "

    A corporal Bartlett was commended for gallantry for unsuccessful efforts under fire to find a stretcher to evacuate the Major.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by james.elstob View Post
    He served during the Afghan War of 1879-80 taking part in the fighting at Jagdalak; the Luhman and Hissarak expeditions and was present in the punitive action at Nargashai as orderly officer. Mentioned in despatches of Col. Charles Ball-Acton C.B. of 6th July 1880, medal.

    He served with the Burmese Expedition, 1886-87, with the 1st Batt, during the latter part of the time in command of the Mounted Infantry. Mentioned in despatches of Brigadier-General Farrington (G. G. O. No. 434, 1887) , medal with clasp.
    I'm struggling to locate the 2 dispatches above if anyone can help?

    Also I cannot find a photo of the him unfortunately.
    Last edited by james.elstob; 02-16-2019 at 04:16 PM.

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