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Thread: 1796 LC sabre - French complaints

  1. #51
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    Then there is the myth that Japanese sword steel has some great metallurgical quality.
    hc3

  2. #52
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    Originally posted by Paul Digard
    Hi Manouchehr

    Here's a pic I have to hand of the officers version (the P1912 cavalry sabre). It differs from the P1908 troopers model in that the bowl guard is decorated and the grip is fishskin rather than a form of plasticised rubber. Not in the best condition but you can see the design features Jonathon lists above. A lance with a bowl guard and a pistol grip instead of a back end to tuck under your arm.



    As to "why" I chose to add this to Richard's list - a lot of the text books trot out the line about this being the successful culmination of the cavalry sword design debate that ran on and on during the 19th century as to whether the cut was superior to the thrust or if a compromise weapon capable of both was the best solution. So you're not hijacking the thread at all - it's a direct follow on in many ways to the question that started this thread.

    I'm sceptical about the assertion that the P1908 is the best cavalry sword ever because it's so inflexibly single-minded, because it's relatively heavy (compared to the P1796 LC for example), and because I'm not at all convinced that there's the evidence of effective use to back the claim up. I've read at least one unenthusiastic account of its performance in a WWI cavalry action, in direct comparison to the previous style of blade.

    I have to admit I've never sat on a horse and tried to slash or poke holes in anything with a cavalry sabre so I don't speak with any authority - just my opinion on what I've read from Robson and Wilkinson-Latham amongst others.

    Paul
    Thank you very much Paul.

    I really appreciate it.

    Regards

    Manocuhehr

  3. #53
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    Originally posted by WBranner
    I think the ears don't matter much as there's a lot of variation in Brits.
    i have to agree with this i have 2 1796 both with different ears

    as to differences another is weight

    with scabbards

    my 1796's (the 2 i have here at the mo) weigh 1 kilo 850g in scabbards (both are within 100gms of each other)

    the 2 Blucher's i have here weigh in (within 150gms of each other) at 2 kilos 300gms
    without scabbards

    1796/s weigh in at 920gms

    prussian at 1 kilos 220gms

    just from my handling and observations of the Blucher it seems to be of a more robust build thicker steel to the gaurd and spine
    and as stated elsewhere in the thread a more pronounced knucklebow
    “Do you know what astonished me most in the world? The inability of force to create anything. In the long run, the sword is always beaten by the spirit.” Napoleon Bonaparte

  4. #54
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    Originally posted by Paul Digard
    I'm sceptical about the assertion that the P1908 is the best cavalry sword ever because it's so inflexibly single-minded, because it's relatively heavy (compared to the P1796 LC for example), and because I'm not at all convinced that there's the evidence of effective use to back the claim up. I've read at least one unenthusiastic account of its performance in a WWI cavalry action, in direct comparison to the previous style of blade.
    Indeed, Paul - I think there's a good argument for saying that the last model P1821 Cavalry Officer's sword has the edge (pardon the pun!) - the examples I've seen have a nearly straight blade, are lighter, still give good hand protection, and of course you can cut or thrust with them.

    The quote I remember is from Richard Holmes, in Riding the Retreat (1995), quoting the Adjutant of 12th Lancers, fighting at Cérizy in August 1914: Captain Bryant recorded cheerfully that he eschewed the new-fangled 1912 pattern, but was using “the old cutting sword, well sharpened, which went in and out of the Germans like a pat of butter”.

    This is one of my latest acquisitions, a sword of 1821 pattern to 6th Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers), dating from 1893. As you can see, the blade is virtually straight and very strong in the thrust:
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    "If I can't be a good example to others, at least let me be a horrible warning".

  5. #55
    [QUOTE]Originally posted by John Hart
    [B]
    The quote I remember is from Richard Holmes, in Riding the Retreat (1995), quoting the Adjutant of 12th Lancers, fighting at Cérizy in August 1914: Captain Bryant recorded cheerfully that he eschewed the new-fangled 1912 pattern, but was using “the old cutting sword, well sharpened, which went in and out of the Germans like a pat of butter”.

    John,

    that's exactly the quote I was thinking of. I came across it reprinted in the old Wilkinson Sword mag (remember that?). From the number of GR V P1821 HC/LC swords around I don't think Captain Bryant was in a small minority.

    To be fair, the quote doesn't quite back up what I wrote earlier - it doesn't say the P1912 wasn't effective, just that the P1821 was.

    Paul
    Last edited by Paul Digard; 06-25-2006 at 05:39 AM.

  6. #56
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    to whom would one complain?

    As Britain and France were at war, to whom would the complaint have been lodged? Was there such an animal as the ineffective UN at that time? I have heard/read that story before and even though it appears a good sabre design to me I can't reconcile who would have heard the French complaint.

  7. #57
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    The characteristic the French officers, and I believe that it was probably captured French officers (perhaps General Desnoettes?) from the Peninsular War who expressed a dislike for the 1796, objected to was the widening of the sword towards the tip. This feature was relatively unusual in European swords, though was found (usually as a quill-back) further East. I don't think that any formal complaint from the French government was ever made. Charles Parquin of the Imperial Guard certainly didn't like the swords which he claimed were about 3 inches wide, a slight exaggeration, though he didn't mention the tip as such. Virtually any soldier confronted by a new and unusual aspect to the weaponry of an enemy will react with cries of foul. The Argentinians did the same when they realised they might be facing Ghurkas armed with their Khukri's, as though a knife would have any serious effect on modern warfare.

    As to the langets, many were used to create a secure seat for the sword in the scabbard throat. This wasn't the case for the 1796 LC, I have never seen an example of this sword where the langets gripped the scabbard to any extent. Indeed the majority do not even touch the scabbard at all. For the 1796 LC this theory can be dismissed.

    Left-hand daggers were made with projections for trapping a blade, and blade trapping was an established part of fencing in the rapier era. Indeed some weapons were made with projections ostensibly for snapping an opponent's blade. Whether this was a practical approach is another matter. Later langets may be remnants of this tradition, like a "sword appendix" - left behind by evolution.

    The rain deflector was my idea, I think. Rain must have been a problem on campaign and the steel scabbard was not self-draining. Personally I think that the broad langets seen on the 1796 LC would have acted as effective drip-channellers, just as the groove on the underside of the outer sills of windows does for buildings. A good leather washer would also be helpful. Please remember the British officer who found himself alone on the wrong side of a hedge with a full brigade column of French infantry rapidly approaching him at Waterloo. He tried drawing his sword but the previous day and night's heavy rain had welded it fast in his scabbard. He was only saved by the sudden appearance of the Household Brigade of British heavy cavalry in full charge.
    Sweord ora ond sweordes ecg.

  8. #58
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    Originally posted by Martin Read

    Left-hand daggers were made with projections for trapping a blade, and blade trapping was an established part of fencing in the rapier era. Indeed some weapons were made with projections ostensibly for snapping an opponent's blade. Whether this was a practical approach is another matter. Later langets may be remnants of this tradition, like a "sword appendix" - left behind by evolution.
    and here is a C1680 Left handed fighting dagger
    as you can see from the size and thickness of these, they would only be effective to trap a blade momentarily or to quickly deflect and hold away whilst bringing the primary weapon in to effective use, which considering the speed in combat is highly possible
    must have taken some skill though
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    “Do you know what astonished me most in the world? The inability of force to create anything. In the long run, the sword is always beaten by the spirit.” Napoleon Bonaparte

  9. #59
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    I don't think blade "trappers" is what they were meant for, but blade stoppers or deflectors perhaps. It seems that an opponent's blade sliding down one's own would just bounce off the flat guard and on to the wrist or knuckles. The languet might prevent that without any effort on the 1796 user's part. That of course doesn't explain the languets on the 1796 heavy, does it?

    It did always strike me odd that there isn't a little drain hole in the end of the scabbard of every sword and bayonet. Water gets EVERYWHERE after a day out in the rain.
    Last edited by hc bright; 07-04-2006 at 06:15 PM.
    hc3

  10. #60
    Originally posted by Martin Read

    As to the langets, many were used to create a secure seat for the sword in the scabbard throat. This wasn't the case for the 1796 LC, I have never seen an example of this sword where the langets gripped the scabbard to any extent. Indeed the majority do not even touch the scabbard at all. For the 1796 LC this theory can be dismissed.

    I disagree.
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    Celeriter nil crede

  11. #61
    I think it's pretty clear that the intention, at least, was to stop rattling in the scabbard and help minimise dirt and water ingress. That this was less than completely successful is clear from those examples which have had the langets removed, and perhaps from surviving examples where the langets do not remotely "grip". There is the question of post-service wear and damage to the langets and scabbard reducing this "seal", and of course some scabbards may not even be original to the sword.

    Trapping the blade successfully with sword (especially one designed to cut) seems very unlikely as a valid tactic, and snapping it off even more so. The stuff of Hollywood I think.

    Keeping up with the 1796 LC theme, (and assuming I've IDd it correctly otherwise!) how common is this hilt variation?
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  12. #62
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    I like that rounded style, that's a new one to me.

    Are there any contemporary languet reasons given? There must have been at one time, but I don't know what sources may refer to them. They seem pretty well confined to single bar guards, which reinforces the blade catching/deflecting theory. But then glaives don't seem to carry them.

    Could it just be fashion again?
    hc3

  13. #63
    Originally posted by Jonathan S Ferguson
    I think it's pretty clear that the intention, at least, was to stop rattling in the scabbard and help minimise dirt and water ingress. That this was less than completely successful is clear from those examples which have had the langets removed, and perhaps from surviving examples where the langets do not remotely "grip". There is the question of post-service wear and damage to the langets and scabbard reducing this "seal", and of course some scabbards may not even be original to the sword.

    Trapping the blade successfully with sword (especially one designed to cut) seems very unlikely as a valid tactic, and snapping it off even more so. The stuff of Hollywood I think.

    Keeping up with the 1796 LC theme, (and assuming I've IDd it correctly otherwise!) how common is this hilt variation?
    Jonathan,

    I don't think the langets were ever intended to grip the scabbard, just to provide sufficient restraint to prevent excessive lateral movement and hence rattling. The mouthpiece could not perform this function as too tight a mouthpiece would leave distress lines on the blade (disasterous for B&G decoration.

    Regarding your hilt variation, I have never seen another like it (but of course that does not mean they do not exist).

    Richard
    Celeriter nil crede

  14. #64
    Originally posted by Richard Dellar
    Jonathan,

    I don't think the langets were ever intended to grip the scabbard, just to provide sufficient restraint to prevent excessive lateral movement and hence rattling. The mouthpiece could not perform this function as too tight a mouthpiece would leave distress lines on the blade (disasterous for B&G decoration.

    Regarding your hilt variation, I have never seen another like it (but of course that does not mean they do not exist).

    Richard
    Thanks Richard. So removing them was just a personal preference then?

    I don't have any details on that hilt variation, sorry to say.

  15. #65
    Originally posted by Jonathan S Ferguson
    Thanks Richard. So removing them was just a personal preference then?

    I don't have any details on that hilt variation, sorry to say.
    Jonathan,

    The langets on the 1796 LC sabre are not particularly securely fixed (dovetailed and brazed to the crossguard). One hefty blow would surely loosen them and I'm sure many just worked loose because of service wear and tear. Those on one of my swords are loose. I think therefore it was more of a natural process than deliberate removal.

    Richard.
    Celeriter nil crede

  16. #66
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    Originally posted by Martin Read
    . The Argentinians did the same when they realised they might be facing Ghurkas armed with their Khukri's, as though a knife would have any serious effect on modern warfare.
    .

    Thats a myth.
    Argentinian soldiers knew nothing about gurkhas but what it was told to them by the argentine military dictatorship, i.e. that gurkhas were short oriental mercenaries hired by the british to fight for them.
    The control over information was very strong in those years just like today in the case of... well, forget it.

  17. #67
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    Possible Ground Zero

    Let me attempt to answer, from my meager reference library, a potential source of the “unsportsmanlike” wounding cultural memory.

    “Sword, Lance and Bayonet”, Charles ffoulkes and E.C. Hopkinson, Arco Publishing second edition 1967.

    Page 50 “As a cutting weapon (M1796) in the hands of a skilled swordsman its effect must have been terrific, indeed there is a legend that Napoleon’s generals protested in the Peninsular War against the ‘unsportsmanlike” behavior of Wellington’s Light Horse. As Napoleon’s Light cavalry were using the same sword we can but assume, if there is any truth in the legend, that the complaint was rather of the greater skill and more expert swordsmanship of the British cavalryman. (1). As a thrusting weapon it would be wellnigh impossible even for an expert fencer to achieve a satisfactory result.”

    Foot note (1) Graham, History of the 16th Light Dragoons, I, 245.


    Commentary: I envy those gentleman on the eastern side of the great pond, because you probably can find in your libraries dusty tomes about the History of the 16th Light Dragoons, and the 19th Century editions of the “Cavalry Journal” where the great debate of “cut versus thrust” were committed to paper. However, having read an immense amount of war related materials, I would say that legends about the enemy get bigger in the telling, and any doubtful importance it had, gets magnified the further one gets from the actual events. During war, rumors fly, and get treated as fact.

    Let me tell you an example: My father, a WWII vet, told me how the “treacherous” Japanese were very clever in planning for war against us. Apparently the Japs had built their rifles in 31 caliber, so they could fire captured US 30 caliber ammunition, but we could not fire Japanese ammunition in our rifles.

    One the face of it, it sounds good. And I heard this from several other WWII vets, none of whom understood the slightest about small arms. This wonderful story is 100% vintage urban legend. You cannot chamber a 30-06 round in a Type 97 7.7 mm Japanese service rifle. The round is too long for the chamber. And a 30-06 (7.62mm) certainly won’t fit in the 6.5 mm (about .264”) Type 38 rifle.

    Another example from my family history. I have an ancestor who in 6 June 1864, wrote a letter home from Altoona Pass Georgia. His unit had been involved in a sharp nasty skirmish: double timed to location, formed line, fixed bayonets, and charged emplaced Rebel positions. The charge had been stopped and it was not till nightfall that the unit was able to disengage, leaving a lot of dead on the field. Among other things, like complaints about the lack of rations, he stated, quite as fact, that some of the Rebels (Confederates) carried canteens filled with whiskey and gunpowder. Do you believe that the fierceness of Southern infantry was due to a fortified distilled drink?

    Researching this, what was interesting to me, this event, so traumatic and fatal to the participants, got less than one line in the history books.
    Last edited by Brian Hunter; 07-11-2006 at 09:22 AM.
    Brian Hunter

  18. #68
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    Brian,

    Welcome to the Forum, but please be careful with the ethnic descriptives (re: 'Japs'). Thanks...
    mark@swordforum.com

    ~ Hostem Hastarum Cuspidibus Salutemus ~

    "Those who beat their swords into plowshares usually end up plowing for those who don't."
    Benjamin Franklin

  19. #69
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    Sorry if I offended

    It is too easy to let the jargon from a past generation roll off ones keyboard, especially when you have heard it many times.
    Brian Hunter

  20. #70
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    Hi all,

    Brian - personally I *don't* see any problem at all with the word 'Japs'...

    My uncle was a prisoner of war of the Japs for approximately 3 years - some of that time spent as slave labour on the Burma railway (think of the movie "Bridge Over the River Kwai") and some of that time in Changi prison...

    If I even BEGAN to describe what he personally saw/went through it would probably take up 10 or 12 pages - and by the time you had read even *10%* of what I wrote you would find yourself using MUCH stronger words/expletives/adjectives than 'japs' to describe the individuals who committed these obscene and barbarous crimes against humanity...

    If you ever feel like a little bit of 'light' reading one night do a Google search on "Japanese Army" and "Unit 731" - most enlightening...

    Another uncle (British Army) was in Peking in the 1930s and saw what the Japanese Army of occupation got up to there first hand - I only wish we still had the pictures he came home with - streets lined with severed heads and random beheadings in the street so that 'the boys' could get their katanas broken in...

    BTW - I've lived and taught English in Japan at one of their universities - and know the people/their culture well - whatever WE call the Japanese (or don't call them) nowadays don't forget that THEY still use the EXACT SAME TERM they used back then for us: "Gaijin" - or in full: "Gaigokujin" (roughly translates as "long nose foreign devil"

    One of the great things with what is LEFT of Democracy (the little bit that today's political correctness INSANITY hasn't robbed us of ) is that we still (theoretically) have the right to express ourselves/our opinions...

    Okay - ALL totally off topic - perhaps - but then again I'm a great believer in the fact that a study of any/all types of weapons must necessarily involve looking at those who used/wielded them and the historical context surrounding their use...

    My two cents/pence worth

    John.

  21. #71
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    This has more to do with courtesy and respect than with justification. There are not many nationalities that haven't given good cause at one time or another to have a finger pointed them. We're in the process of doing that ourselves currently, but I can't think of many who are exempt.

  22. #72
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    No matter where you go, that is where you are

    Hi John: Most of what you have said has been at one time or another collaborated to me by actual eye witnesses. I have known Bataan Death march survivors, Japanese prison camp survivors, Philippine civilians, Marines, Army Grunts, Soldiers who were at every major amphibious landing in the Pacific, etc. Most of whom did not want to talk about it and did not. But when referring to the Japanese, along with the abbreviated name I used, they tended to roll off a string of descriptive adjectives.

    Understand it was my first posting, if one of the Moderators tells me that it is too harsh, well …..
    Brian Hunter

  23. #73
    Back on topic, I've checked Graham's history of the 16th Light Dragoons, written in 1912, and the footnote in question has no reference whatever. From the wording, it sounds to me as if it could be the originator (in print at least) of the myth:

    "The cuts...inflicted by the British cavalry with this weapon were terrific, and their severity was actually on one or two occasions formally complained of by French generals. They thought their wounded savagely and unnecessarily slashed."

    I doubt we can ever know the full truth, but I think the conclusions drawn here regarding the phenomenon of military/sword0related folklore are most valid.

  24. #74
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    Originally posted by John Oliver
    Brian - personally I *don't* see any problem at all with the word 'Japs'...

    ... we still (theoretically) have the right to express ourselves/our opinions...
    John,
    no, actually you do not. This is a moderated forum with rules to which you have agreed. An editor of this site has politely requested that the term "Japs" not be used here. This is not subject to debate. Another moderator has asked that your comments be reviewed. You are now receiving an official moderator warning. Three warnings will result in suspension of an account.
    This forum is not an appropriate place to discuss your forebears experience in war, your interpretation of Japanese terminology applied to foreigners, or the unfairness of the requirement to be 'politically correct'. No politics, warm and friendly, per agreement. Please feel free to PM me or one of the other mods if you have issue with this, but further discussion in this vein will be removed and held for moderator review.

    Thank you.

    And Brian, thanks for your understanding of this.

    All, please excuse the interruption.

    Dave
    Dave Drawdy
    "the artist formerly known as Sergeant Major"

  25. #75
    Originally posted by Richard Dellar

    Regarding your hilt variation, I have never seen another like it (but of course that does not mean they do not exist).

    Richard
    I've seen it once before, but in brass on a light sabre with the same semi circular langets.


    Richard, the picture you posted reminded me to ask, Is it unusual for the throat of a 1796 scabbard to have screws that hold it to the main part of the scabbard anywhere else than through the main part of the scabbard?

    My 1796 has a throat that is secured with screws that screw down from beside the opening at the top so that they are covered when the sword is sheathed.

    David

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