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Thread: Scottish field officer's sword

  1. #1
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    Scottish field officer's sword

    Hi all,

    Most of these patterns I see with the steel scroll hilt seem to have broadsword blades.

    I have one with a standard 1845 blade. Is this an uncommon arrangement? I can only find one other in searches online. Unfortunately I don't have access to my books right now.

    It also has a stepped pommel.

  2. #2
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    The hilt is also used on British Indian cavalry swords. Robsons only lists a handful of Scottish regiments to use the broadsword blade but no mention of other regiments and other blades. Of course some used the 3 bar hilt and regular fullered blade. I have the Gordon Highlanders sword of Maj. Miller-Walnut with a heavy 1892p blade with minimal etching. Normally would have the claymore/broadsword blade.

  3. #3
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    Thanks Will,

    I was a little worried it may have been a frankensword but some cleaning of the blade has revealed a faint battle honour of "Egypt" along with a regimental crest with the motto "NEMO M............". So Blackwatch perhaps.

    I'll compete the clean up to be sure.

  4. #4
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    As I understand it the steel scroll hilt originated with/for Officers in India and was then adopted widely by all who wanted a good practical sword in the field, including Scottish officers. If you search the forum you will find a lot of information on the subject, including (if my memory serves) the original drawings from Wilkinson.

  5. #5
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    Black Watch Royal Highlanders confirmed by the etching after a clean up. St Andrew is presumably the figure with the cross.

    Dated pre1892 presumably (a 45 rather than 92 blade) but definitely pre 1895 due to an older style backstrap.

    There is no honour for Suakin so possibly pre 1885?

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    Last edited by james.elstob; 11-03-2021 at 01:40 PM.

  6. #6
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    James that is a great find. I have a Blackwatch (5th Royal Scots Canada) sword with the regulation claymore blade circ 1885.
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  7. #7
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    Thanks Will,

    I'm often willing to gamble on swords not in tip-top condition. I'm quite happy to own poorer condition swords with a decent history. I also think if it had a Claymore blade then it would attracted that much more attention at auction.

    I hope to get it back to something closer to its best and I'll post some more pictures.

    It came with a Sam Browne ball foot scabbard although there is some constriction causing the blade to jam, perhaps it simply the effect of trying to jam a curved blade into a straight scabbard!
    Last edited by james.elstob; 11-04-2021 at 05:23 PM.

  8. #8
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    I agree condition not as important as the provenance. Taking a gamble has paid off for me more than a few times. If the scabbard is incorrect for the blade then you have a good scabbard for the next Scottish sword with straight blade less scabbard. These scabbards are difficult to find, it's a waiting game.
    I like the blade on your sword as the etching is easier to see without the narrow fullers. That it's a Black Watch sword only adds to it, seems everyone has heard that name.

  9. #9
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    Very happy with the cleanup progress.

    1. How it arrived
    2. After oil and copper wool
    3. After 24 hours in Evaporust
    4. Brush with a soft bristled copper wire wheel.

    I'll buff it with some polishing compound before I put the sword back together.
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  10. #10
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    I love these before and after pictures. Good work!
    "You can't please everyone, so you have to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

  11. #11
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    Looking good. Somewhat difficult to decide how far to go with worn etching because some will come out well like this one and others it makes the etching difficult to see.
    On very worn etching to bring it up I use 1000 to 1500 paper lightly to hopefully just highlight the etched portion and leaving the browned background as it is.
    The 5th Royal Scots Canada I pictured earlier has had its blade plated which makes etching difficult to see and photograph.
    Looking forward to seeing the sword all together!

  12. #12
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    Thanks George, Im happy that I've rescued this from further deterioration, at least until a future owner sticks it in the garage and forgets about it for 30 years!

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    I think I may have made a mistake in dating this post 1882 because of the Egypt Battle honour. I was thinking this honour related to the 1882-84 Egypt campaign but I now find Egypt was the regiment's first battle honour granted in 1802.

    However I think it can still be confidently dated post 1881 from the name 'The Royal Highlanders' introduced in the Childers reforms. It is also pre-1895 from the old style back strap.

    The sword came with a ball foot Sam Browne scabbard so was likely still in service in 1899.

    It has been service sharpened so may well have seen service in Egypt, Sudan, the 2nd Boer War or even all three!
    Last edited by james.elstob; 11-27-2021 at 11:41 AM.

  14. #14
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    Most I've seen tend to date mid 1880's. Possibly they became popular at that time? Having more hand protection at a time small wars were happening may have something to do with it?

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    Quite possibly Will. I'm on a steep learning curve with this pattern if I'm honest

    It's just occurred to me that this is known as the 'field officer's' pattern. I wonder many actual officers of field rank served in black watch in these 15 years. To the lists...

  16. #16
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    Can't be that many officers being Maj and above. Many had long military careers.

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    Oh, there were 11 majors of black watch in 1882 alone!

  18. #18
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    Not too many and you only have one Col for a regiment. Most likely at strength so the regiment would not grow. Find any regimental photos of officers?

  19. #19
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    There are 39 fields officers serving with BW during 1881-95 inclusive. The only ones I can probably rule out are 4 who had already held field rank in the BW prior to the 1881 name change. They probably wouldn't be replacing their swords for the name change alone although they may have wanted/needed a new sword for various other reasons.

    4 other officers spent only 1 year with the BW likely as a temporary exchange linked to their promotion. If they were going to buy a regimentally marked sword it would more likely be to their parent regiment but it can't entirely be ruled out that one of them was 'flash' enough to buy a sword for a temporary exchange.

    Even so 31 candidates is a lot.

    This does seem to be quite an unusual blade/hilt combo so I could perhaps narrow this down further using contemporary photos.

  20. #20
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    Wonderful sword. And awesome job of returning it to life. I have so much to learn about that. In researching my Black Watch Spadroon, I was amazed at the variety of blades that apparently were used by the officers. Below is photo of mine.
    Best, Charlie
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  21. #21
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    Charlie that sword is worthy of its own post. I'm sure many would like to see all of this sword.

  22. #22
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    Thank you Will. Not wanting to further intrude on this thread. I posted the Officers Spadroon here on 7-15-21, received several responses.
    Best, Charlie

  23. #23
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    Charlie can you post a link to your post? I do not find the search on this forum the best.

  24. #24
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    Some images of the sword before and after cleaning.

    Such a beautiful sword to be neglected!
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  25. #25
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    James your efforts resulted in a very presentable sword!

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