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Thread: 1796 LC sabre - French complaints

  1. #101
    "Not being funny", as they say in England, but now that I'm back on the thread I see that your very source (Graham) is mentioned not two posts up. I realise the first page goes off topic, but if you'd read the other few pages you'd have realised - a 4 page thread is not long by SFI standards! Admittedly the actual sources are a bit buried further back.

    Anyway, a re-cap of the sources for this myth (with my emphasis);

    “Sword, Lance and Bayonet”, Charles ffoulkes and E.C. Hopkinson, Arco Publishing second edition 1967. p50

    “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.
    posted here - http://www.swordforum.com/forums/sho...2&postcount=67

    Which reference takes us to;

    "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."

    That's the evidence. There is little to no prospect of anyone finding an earlier reference, nor a named individual (French or British) to be quoted in support of the idea. The fact that no-one can find such support strongly suggests that it never happened, or that some comment was made by someone, somewhere (probably on my side of the Channel) and, suitably embellished, it entered into mythology as something said by an enemy afeared of the mighty British weapon (no sniggers, please).
    Last edited by Jonathan S Ferguson; 03-14-2009 at 06:30 AM.

  2. #102
    Arne

  3. #103
    CS 1796 in action ( both cutting and thrusting):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZWcyga9-Ag
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  4. #104
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    Lav, the Cold Steel replica 1796 LC is not actually incredibly similar to the original 1796 LC.

  5. #105
    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Easton View Post
    Lav, the Cold Steel replica 1796 LC is not actually incredibly similar to the original 1796 LC.
    Well, it is similar enough for judging the cut/thrust ability of the sword. I, personaly, found the video quite informative.

    And here is an interesting comparsion - orignal 1796 vs Cold Steel 1796:
    http://www.leesarmoury.com/cold_stee...r%20review.htm

  6. #106
    Quote Originally Posted by Lev B. View Post
    Well, it is similar enough for judging the cut/thrust ability of the sword. I, personaly, found the video quite informative.
    Touché
    Niall Dignan

  7. #107
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  8. #108
    I can see no similarity between an historic sabre and a bent piece of metal called a replica. You might as well compare it to a carrot.

    And that nutcase chopping up a hunk of meat must have a deeply disturbing psychological profile.

    This used to be a serious thread.
    Celeriter nil crede

  9. #109
    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Dellar View Post
    I can see no similarity between an historic sabre and a bent piece of metal called a replica. You might as well compare it to a carrot.

    And that nutcase chopping up a hunk of meat must have a deeply disturbing psychological profile.

    This used to be a serious thread.
    Touché

    -------------------------------------------------

    Unfortunately I haven't been able to locate a more informative and serious video. (British 19th century dragoons in close combat using their 1796 swords)

    And while a replica sword is not a perfect copy of the original 1796, it is a close enough copy, so we can see what kind of wounds a scimitar-styled blade can cause and how it handles in auction. (However, I must admit, that I prefer to watch the video with the sound turned off)

    >"And that nutcase chopping up a hunk of meat"
    I was under the impression that combat swords (at least some of them) where manufactured exactly for that purpose - to chop up a hunk of meat (human body) and inflict terrible wounds.

    (You can always ask the mod to remove my posts from your thread to keep it in a more "serious" mood. In future, I will try very hard not to clutter your threads with my nonsense)
    Last edited by Lev B.; 12-11-2009 at 08:53 AM.

  10. #110
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    http://ejmas.com/jnc/jncart_burtonnewsword_0200.htm
    This link shows that the guy in the video, whilst looking, well, let's say quite ridiculous on the screen, may have studied a little bit,though.
    By the way, i don't think this post is about superiority of the british sword, but about the uggliness of the wounds inflicted.
    I read as many stories in french about troopers killing many british with his latte that you did in english about the opposite.
    If i remember well, the original houssars had a straight sword for the charge and a curved one for the melee.
    G.A.

  11. #111
    Quote Originally Posted by Gilles Alligard View Post
    http://ejmas.com/jnc/jncart_burtonnewsword_0200.htm
    This link shows that the guy in the video, whilst looking, well, let's say quite ridiculous on the screen, may have studied a little bit,though.
    By the way, i don't think this post is about superiority of the british sword, but about the uggliness of the wounds inflicted.
    I read as many stories in french about troopers killing many british with his latte that you did in english about the opposite.
    If i remember well, the original houssars had a straight sword for the charge and a curved one for the melee.
    G.A.
    Yes Polish "winged hussars" wore a sabre and carried an estoc or tuck under the saddle strap

  12. #112
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Critchley View Post
    Yes Polish "winged hussars" wore a sabre and carried an estoc or tuck under the saddle strap
    As did the early Hungarian hussars. The habit seems to have had a very long history, the Byzantine cataphracts (heavily armoured shock cavalry) of the 10th century were armed with a straight "spathion" broadsword and a curved "paramerion" sabre.
    Sweord ora ond sweordes ecg.

  13. #113
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    If we accept some level of reality behind the "French complaint" then there is one French general who would be the most likely to have said it. Lefebvre-Desnouettes was the commander of the Imperial Guard light cavalry at Waterloo. During the Corunna campaign of 1808-09 he commanded the Chasseurs a Cheval of the Imperial guard. He was captured by a British or KGL hussar at the Battle of Benavente. At the battle an eyewitness (A KGL officer - see Hibbert, C. (1961) Corunna, Batsford. p. 78.) recorded that he saw the arms of French troopers cut off cleanly "like Berlin sausages." Other French soldiers were killed by blows to the head, blows which divided the head down to the chin. Desnouettes, therefore, had seen the British swords in action and on an occasion where they seem to have been kept unusually sharp and effective. He also spent a number of years in captivity in England where he had a good deal of freedom, and he would have held many conversations with British officers. He eventually broke his parole and escaped back to France, a terrible crime according to the mores of the time.
    Desnouettes is therefore a leading contender in the "who said it stakes."

    It is far more likely, whoever may have said it, that it was a passing comment made in conversation, than it being part of any formal communication from a French commander engaged in active campaigning.
    Last edited by Martin Read; 12-14-2009 at 06:18 AM.
    Sweord ora ond sweordes ecg.

  14. #114
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    Revisiting the question of the purpose of the langets, is it feasible that they offered some protection of the user's hand and arm, preventing the opposing trooper's blade from sliding off the guard?

    Ian

  15. #115
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    My opinion is: not really, except maybe occasionally by freak occurence.

    Angelo, Taylor and various other fencing instructors of the time make it clear than parries should be received directly on the forte edge - this would result in opposing blades sliding down to the front quillon (which is why it is there ). If you parried wrongly then it is more likely that the opposing blade will slide down and clip the edge of your index finger or top knuckle (only a langet which was wider than the blade could prevent this!) - this really hurts (as I can attest), and should be avoided. It is of course the reason that extra 'arms' were added to swords on the right hand side - and a loop on the left hand side to protect the thumb (at danger from being hit when incorrectly parrying in Quarte). Simple one-bar knucklebows give adequate protection, if you parry correctly.

    In my opinion the langets serve no further purpose than to engage with the scabbard and form a rain guard - just as with medieval and renaissance swords that had rain guards of leather (and sometimes metal).

    Regards,
    Matt

  16. #116
    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan S Ferguson View Post
    The "blood groove" thing may simply have come from a casual observation by a layman as to why the groove should be there. Or, it could have originated from C20th warfare, as folklore spread amongst soldiers being trained to use bayonets. The armed forces are a wonderful source of tall stories; a microcosm of the function of myth in wider society, i.e. to exercise forms of social control over others. In this case, explaining the groove as a means to allow blood to flow and prevent suction, encourages both confidence in the weapon, and shall we say, a martial enthusiasm(!). Goes with the instruction to twist and withdraw quite well. In the wider picture, this works as a marketing tool of sorts, just as "wide bloodgroove, battle-ready" is used by sellers of "swords" today, or as a "grossout" factoid (similar to a campfire ghost-story). Humans revel in the idea of gore. It also could have an anti-war angle; many point out features of weapons that are "needlessly" cruel or damaging, and sometimes these are wrongly interpreted. Finally, any factoid like that is useful to someone simply to dole out to friends or whoever, to acquire some sort of social capital ("I know something you don't know, and I'm allowing you to know it too!")

    Needless (?) to say, I understand that fullers are in fact an "engineering" technique to make for a strong, stiff, light blade.

    As to langets, I can only think that the blade-trapping/snapping idea is another "home-grown" myth, perhaps coming from some of the classic fencing-style duels of the 1930s-1950s Errol Flynn type action films. As I understand them, they are an attempt at a secure blade/scabbard interface.
    I have had the pleasure of owning three p96 and if one is allowed a `favourite`it would be mine.I visited the museum of the 16/5th lancers some time ago(our local cavalry regiment)and in the case displaying a mint 96 was the statement that the French had complained about its efficiency.

    Regarding the fuller on a blade even our much respected antique TV programmes continue this myth.Yesterday on`Flog It`a prime time antiques show auctioned a 1897 WW1 blade and told millions of viewers about the blood groove and its purpose as freeing the blade after insertion!

  17. #117
    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan S Ferguson View Post
    The "blood groove" thing may simply have come from a casual observation by a layman as to why the groove should be there. Or, it could have originated from C20th warfare, as folklore spread amongst soldiers being trained to use bayonets. The armed forces are a wonderful source of tall stories; a microcosm of the function of myth in wider society, i.e. to exercise forms of social control over others. In this case, explaining the groove as a means to allow blood to flow and prevent suction, encourages both confidence in the weapon, and shall we say, a martial enthusiasm(!). Goes with the instruction to twist and withdraw quite well. In the wider picture, this works as a marketing tool of sorts, just as "wide bloodgroove, battle-ready" is used by sellers of "swords" today, or as a "grossout" factoid (similar to a campfire ghost-story). Humans revel in the idea of gore. It also could have an anti-war angle; many point out features of weapons that are "needlessly" cruel or damaging, and sometimes these are wrongly interpreted. Finally, any factoid like that is useful to someone simply to dole out to friends or whoever, to acquire some sort of social capital ("I know something you don't know, and I'm allowing you to know it too!")

    Needless (?) to say, I understand that fullers are in fact an "engineering" technique to make for a strong, stiff, light blade.

    As to langets, I can only think that the blade-trapping/snapping idea is another "home-grown" myth, perhaps coming from some of the classic fencing-style duels of the 1930s-1950s Errol Flynn type action films. As I understand them, they are an attempt at a secure blade/scabbard interface.
    I have had the pleasure of owning three p96 and if one is allowed a `favourite`it would be mine.I visited the museum of the 16/5th lancers some time ago(our local cavalry regiment)and in the case displaying a mint 96 was the statement that the French had complained about its efficiency.

    Regarding the fuller on a blade even our much respected antique TV programmes continue this myth.Yesterday`Flog It`a prime time antiques show auctioned a 1897 WW1 blade and told millions of viewers about the blood groove and its purpose as freeing the blade after insertion!

  18. #118
    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Read View Post
    If we accept some level of reality behind the "French complaint" then there is one French general who would be the most likely to have said it. Lefebvre-Desnouettes was the commander of the Imperial Guard light cavalry at Waterloo. During the Corunna campaign of 1808-09 he commanded the Chasseurs a Cheval of the Imperial guard. He was captured by a British or KGL hussar at the Battle of Benavente. At the battle an eyewitness (A KGL officer - see Hibbert, C. (1961) Corunna, Batsford. p. 78.) recorded that he saw the arms of French troopers cut off cleanly "like Berlin sausages." Other French soldiers were killed by blows to the head, blows which divided the head down to the chin. Desnouettes, therefore, had seen the British swords in action and on an occasion where they seem to have been kept unusually sharp and effective. He also spent a number of years in captivity in England where he had a good deal of freedom, and he would have held many conversations with British officers. He eventually broke his parole and escaped back to France, a terrible crime according to the mores of the time.
    Desnouettes is therefore a leading contender in the "who said it stakes."

    It is far more likely, whoever may have said it, that it was a passing comment made in conversation, than it being part of any formal communication from a French commander engaged in active campaigning.
    Nothing to do with swords but I live in Leek a small market town in North Staffordshire.During the Napoleonic wars Leek was a parole town and had a population of French officers living in an area of town still known as Petit France.Many are buried in our churchyard and names such as Deaville,Magnier and Briand are commonplace still.

  19. #119
    I can't shed any further light on the nature of French complaints against the P1796LC sabre, but the attached photo of a contemporary watercolour by Charles Bell, a surgeon and artist who tended the wounded of both sides, provides graphic illustration of the nature of the wounds the sabre could inflict. The watercolour is currently on display at the Tate Gallery, London.
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  20. #120
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    To me that looks like the result of a puncture in the abdominal muscle wall, which is usually caused by a thrust rather than a cut (especially through a jacket). Though I suppose it is possible that a draw cut done at speed (from horse) could have that effect, though not as often as a thrust.
    Nice bit of history though, thanks for posting it.

  21. #121
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    Probably a thrust with a good deal of lateral cutting on extraction. At the time such an abdominal wound almost guaranteed a painful and lingering death.
    Sweord ora ond sweordes ecg.

  22. #122
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    Cut

    I've been reading along this thread and was surprised that though the late great Nolan was mentioned the actual incident that surprised him was not described.
    A trooper was cut across the back and the sword sliced through his cartridge pouch, the bullets inside it, his spine and then opened up his heart. A few wounds like that in the penninsular would garner more than the odd comment.
    This with a blade described as a "cast" (sold as surplus) 1796 blade, well sharpened and kept in a wooden scabbard. Nolan also remarked that the blade was sharpened Indian style from heel to tip, as opposed to the western practice of the last third of the blade.

  23. #123
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    There were a couple of incidents in the Peninsula. Farmer of the 11th LD, when his picket was captured wholesale, saw a 1796 cut through a French dragoon's brass helmet and skull down to the nose. The cut through the brass was clean with no denting involved. At Benavente in 1809 French Chasseurs a Cheval of the Guard had their arms lopped off "as cleanly as Berlin sausages" by KGL hussars.
    Sweord ora ond sweordes ecg.

  24. #124
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    Steel

    It occurs to me that the vital factor here is not the geometry of the blade but the quality of the steel. The Industrial Revolution in the west started in Britain and effected every part of production. British "Iron Masters" were developing industrial methods of producing uniform quality steel from cast iron. Also crucible steels, Huntsmans process springs to mind here, using bottle glass as a flux. Double shear steel is another name that springs to mind. Pardon the rambling, I am just following a new train of thought here.
    This would explain why French sabres of the much the same design did not evoke similar comments, and why cast off 1796 blades were bought by Indian cavalrymen who had access to excellent blades of local manufacture.

  25. #125
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    I am amazed at the response to this M1796 saber thread. But let's boil it down. Richard Sharp carried one and that is why the French were afraid of it.

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