All About The British Infantry Sword
The 1897 Pattern Infantry Officers’ Sword or more commonly called the Infantry Sword has been the regulation sword for infantry officers of the British Army from 1897 to the present day. More specifically, the Infantry Sword was used in a combative role fropm its design in 1897 only till the end of the first world war. Thereafter, the infantry sword continues to be used in ceremonial and presentation purposes to the present day.
Infantry Sword as a weapon
The sword was primarily designed as a thrusting weapon. The spear point and double edge towards the point aids penetration and withdrawal by incising the wound edges. The blade, whilst quite narrow, is thick and its dumbbell section gives it good weak-axis buckling strength whilst maintaining robustness in bending for the parry. The blade tapers in both width and thickness and, with the substantial guard, has a hilt-biased balance, aiding agility at the expense of concussive force in a cut. The guard would give comprehensive protection to the hand, but does not restrict wrist movement. The length of the double edge, is quite significant, suggesting that some cutting capability was maintained.
By the time it was finally inducted as a British Military Sword, it was no match against the firearms that were becoming more and more sophisticated. Rapid firing rifles, machine guns and artillery firepower was the main strength of the military. However, it was widely reported that whenever a situation of close combat arose the 1897 Infantry sword proved to be a very effective weapon. One of the examples where it was reported to be a good weapon was the war for 'Reconquest Of Sudan' 1896-99.
Bernard Montgomery advanced with his 1897 Pattern drawn during a counteroffensive in the First World War. The actual sword he carried is exhibited in the Imperial War Museum, London.
- The 1897 Design Infantry Sword can be traced back to the 1821 and 1845 patternswhich were both gothic hilted. Essentially, they were compromised cut and thrust swords and hence were not suitable for either task.
- In 1892, a new, straight, blade was introduced however the gothic hilt remained the same.
- In 1895, a new pierced steel hilt pattern was introduced, replacing the earlier Gothic hilt with a three-quarter basket hilt.
- The new Pattern was short-lived due to the edge of the guard fraying uniforms, and in 1897 the final pattern was settled on, being simply the 1895 Pattern with the inner edge of the guard turned down, and the piercings becoming smaller.
- The 1895 design was considered to be flawless except the fact that the edge of the guard was resulting in fraying uniforms. To overcome this problem in 1897 another design was settled on which was essentially the 1895 design with the inner edge of the guard turned down and piercings becoming smaller.
- The 1897 Pattern has remained unchanged to the present day.
Official Design Pattern
- Blade: 32 1⁄2 inches (830 mm) long and 1 inch (25 mm) wide at the shoulder The blade is straight and symmetrical in shape about both its longitudinal axes. The thick blade has a deep central fuller on each side and is rounded on both its edge and back towards the hilt, giving a “dumbbell” or “girder” cross section. Through a gradual transition, the blade becomes double edged towards the tip, and the last 17 inches (430 mm) were sharpened when on active service. The blade ends in a sharp spear point. The blade is decoratively etched on both sides.
- Guard: The guard is a three-quarter basket of pressed, plated steel. It is decorated with a pierced scroll-work pattern and (usually, see variation, below) had the royal cypher of the reigning monarch set over the lower knuckle bow.
- Grip: The grip, between 5 and 5 ¾ inches (127-146mm) long to suit the hand of the owner, was generally covered in ray or sharkskin and wrapped with German-silver wire. The grip is straight, with no offset to the blade.
- Weight (Complete Sword): Between 1 lb 12oz and 1 lb 13 oz (794-822g).
For ceremonial and presentation swords purpose a lighter weapon with a narrower blade and proportionately scaled down guard was used. Some regiments carried variations on the standard pattern, generally consisting of variations of the royal cypher on the guard. An unetched blade variant is available for warrant officers.