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Thread: Early Victorian 9th Lancers Officer Sword....

  1. #1

    Early Victorian 9th Lancers Officer Sword....

    Well here I go with my first post on this Forum.

    I purchased this sword many moons ago from Wallis and Wallis, where it was erroneously described in the catalogue as being Georgian in date.

    My research into the name etched on the blade ( T J Francis) revealed a truly fascinating history of the Officer and his service during the bloody and hard fought 1st and 2nd Anglo Sikh Wars.

    Thomas John Francis originally purchased a commission as Cornet in the 4th(Queens Own) Regiment of Light Dragoons (Lancers) on 14 June 1839. At this time the 4th Lancers were based in the East Indies.

    On 1 July 1842 he purchased a commission as Lieutenant with the 9th (The Queens Royal) Regiment of Light Dragoons (Lancers).

    The 9th Lancers had embarked for India in May 1842 from England, and first saw action during the Scinde Campaign at the Battle of Punniar, near Gwalior, on 29th December 1843.

    In 1846, during the Sutlej Campaign, Lieutenant Francis was attached to the 16th Lancers, where he took part in the Battles of Aliwal and Buddiwal.
    During the Battle of Sobraon on 10th February 1846, which effectively ended the 1st Sikh War, Lieutenant Francis acted as Aide de Camp to Sir Joseph Thackwell who was Colonel of the 16th Lancers and Commander of the cavalry division. As a side note, Sir Joseph Thackwell had lost an arm during the Battle of Waterloo.

    Peace did not last long, as the 2nd Sikh War followed during 1848 and 1849.

    Lieutenant Francis saw action in the Punjab Campaign including the passage of the Chenab at Ramnuggar, and the fiercely contested Battles of Chillianwallah on 13th January 1849 and Goojerat on 21st February 1849.

    From the end of the Sikh Wars he had a varied but peaceful career in the Army, at home and abroad, retiring with the rank of Major by sale of his commission on 5th August 1874.

    Whilst it is impossible to be certain that this sword was carried during any of the battles mentioned above, it shows evidence of a weapon that has seen, or at least, been prepared, for action. The cutting edge has been sharpened for about two thirds of its length as well as around the point of the blade, and three edge nicks show evidence of hard contact. Certainly not a weapon one would want to be on the wrong side of. The long straight blade with its spear point must have made this sword very effective as a cutting as well as a thrusting weapon. The length of the blade is 38½ inches and the width is 1¼ inches. The weight of the sword is 2¼ lbs.

    The only possible date range for this sword is from July 1842, when T J Francis joined the 9th Lancers, to September 1855, when he purchased a Captaincy and transferred to the 16th Lancers. Leaving the wear to the blade aside , the etched decoration is certainly similar in style to that found on Georgian swords, leading, I believe, to the original incorrect description in the Wallis and Wallis catalogue. We now need to examine the Regulation Patterns for Light Cavalry swords, to see if this helps in arriving at a date.

    When the three bar hilt was introduced in 1821 for Light Cavalry officers it was to be fitted with a pipe backed blade. This pattern continued in use until the late 1840’s or early 1850’s. However, cavalry officers soon discovered that this blade was all but useless as a cutting weapon, as well as too flimsy for thrusting. Henry Wilkinson was particularly scathing about the effectiveness of this type of blade. It is known from surviving, datable swords, that regulations within certain cavalry regiments were not strictly adhered to as far as officer‘s swords were concerned, and certainly, by the time Lieutenant Francis joined the 9th Lancers in 1842, the uselessness of the pipe backed blade as an effective fighting weapon would have been well known to any officer purchasing a new sword.

    To me, it makes absolutely no sense, that with action against a strong, determined, and well armed enemy imminent at the time Lieutenant Francis joined the 9th Lancers, he would have chosen to arm himself with an inferior sword. I personally feel, therefore, that there is a strong possibility that this sword could date from 1842. One more feature to consider is the fact that the blade has no makers name or proof mark. In fact this is the only Victorian sword in my collection without these details, and leads me to consider an earlier, rather than later date of manufacture.

    In conclusion, however, I have to maintain an open mind regarding this attribution.

    Whatever the case, this is an interesting and rare sword whose original owner was a long serving, well decorated officer, who participated in a particularly tough and bloody series of campaigns in British military history.

    Naturally, I would welcome the comments and opinions of other members.

    Regards to all.

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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Sidmouth, in the South-West of the UK
    Hi Ray, and welcome to the Forum. It's obviously a variant on the P1821 Light Cavalry Officer sword (which would fit, as Lancers are classed as Light Cavalry), but with that nice straight blade. As you note, it's generally thought that the flat backed blade replaced the pipe-back in or after 1845 (since that's the date the same change was officially ordered in the Infantry sword), so if yours did date from 1842 that would be interesting. It's very hard to be precise, though, without the evidence usually provided by a maker's name.

    Whatever, it's a handsome sword - congratulations on a very nice regimentally-marked piece!

    "If I can't be a good example to others, at least let me be a horrible warning".

  3. #3
    Fantastic sword and biography of the original owner! I am glad you got the photos worked out, and welcome to the forum.


  4. #4
    Jonathan and John, thank you for your replies.
    Yes, it's nice to be able to trace the ownership of a sword to an individual, and occasionally there is the bonus of relating the owner and the weapon to a particular Historical event.
    I'll be posting another sword shortly, also with an Indian connection.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Roanoke,Va USA
    Just to echo the sentiments of others....

    Welcome and thnaks for posting photos & background of a very nice piece..indeed!



    "I was born for this" - Joan of Arc


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