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Remembered Today:

Discarding of Swords by Officers (All Regiments)


CambraiComrade
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Hello Chaps,

What was the attitude towards swords being carried at the front (particularly the 1892 Pattern for an Infantry officer) in each year? What is the earliest point soldiers began to swap them out.

Many thanks,

William

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Can't help you there but I would be interested to know if (and if so, when) British officers were ordered to leave their swords behind. The Germans issued such an order in, if I remember rightly, 1915.

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I would expect the order to do away with swords was made during the retreat from Mons. Infantry Officers certainly had them at Le Cateau but mention of them drops off very rapidly after September. The retreat ended on 6th Sep 1914 by which time the Army would have realised it was an impediment rather than an asset. If there is no traceable order I suspect dated photos will provide the best clues.

Edit: KOSB was still wearing theirs in mid 1915 (typo) late 1914 so my theory is wrong.:

15th Oct 1914. 2:30 am. Moved to BEUVRY. Said to be in Division Reserve.
2 Lt SANDISON joined, drew his sword, cut his hand and retired to hospital.
2nd Lt DEANS joined. They brought a draft. The Battalion had never been so absolutely done up as it was this morning.
Brig Gen HICKEY goes sick, Col MARTYN 1st Bn QUEEN'S OWN ROYAL WEST KENT REGT, commands 13th INF BDE temporarily.
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sounds like a SIW. Very dodgy. If an OR did likewise with a bayonet he would be in trouble!

Indeed. I have also see two examples of Officers shooting themselves with their revolvers (in 1914) and being described as accidents. The Officer who cut his hand does not reappear.

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This was looked at here: http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=185326&hl=%2Bmontgomery+%2Bsword#entry1804253

Although not in that thread, I do recall that Monty allegedly drew his on some occasion in WW1.

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The Officer who cut his hand does not reappear.

He also served with 1st KOSB. Reached the rank of Major and was MID.

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This was looked at here: http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=185326&hl=%2Bmontgomery+%2Bsword#entry1804253

Although not in that thread, I do recall that Monty allegedly drew his on some occasion in WW1.

Montgomery tripped over his sword and it allegedly saved his life as they were being raked with gunfire at the time. I think it was at Le Cateau if memory serves..

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I am reminded of a passage in 'The Memoirs of Lord Ismay'. (Ismay entered Sandhust in 1904 and joined the 21st Prince Albert Victor's Own Cavalry (Daly's Horse) Frontier Force in 1907):

"When I was about to join the Army, I was warned by an uncle never to trust my life to a bad sword. So I duly went to Wilkinson's in Pall Mall and saw a piece of tempered steel bent almost double before it was inscribed with my monogram and became a treasured possession. I never had occasion to use it for the purpose for which it was intended, but it came in handy for opening sardine tins."

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He also served with 1st KOSB. Reached the rank of Major and was MID.

My mistake. He does reappear on 26th Nov 1914 with a draft of 50 men and severely wounded on 15th Dec 1914 and wounded again on 5th July 1916 - by then a Captain.

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Thanks for the responses chaps, helpful as ever!

William

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The Montgomery incident was a Meteren. He was also shot in the chest whilst there, although that may have been a different day from the scabbard incident.

TR

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The Montgomery incident was a Meteren. He was also shot in the chest whilst there, although that may have been a different day from the scabbard incident.

TR

date? Wiki states 13th Oct... War diary has them in billets in Caestre.

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Martin

I don't use wiki if that is what you are implying.

TR

Terry

No. Simply asking what date he tripped over his scabbard as it might help establish a date when swords were abandoned.. . as mentioned earlier I thought (apparently incorrectly) it was at Le Cateau. You say Messines and so does Wiki. The Warwickshires never produced a written histoy, so I am intrigued. I would genuinely be interested in the source as my source was from a book, possibly referenced to Wiki.

MG

PS. I use Wiki a lot, as do most people. In fact I have only encountered one person in my life who claims never to have used Wiki. I am not ashamed to admit it. There is much valuable info stored in it. Surely it cant all be rubbish. I use it but I do understand the caveats, as I use War Diaries and published histories and books on the Great War and understand the caveats. If the last five books I bought are anything to go by they are so full of errors I might as well have used Wiki instead. I think everyone uses wiki. It is utterly brilliant, but we simply need to be aware of inaccuracies. The same inaccuracies that pepper most books I have on my book shelves. . It is not an issue but if you claim you don't use Wiki I think you are missing lots of valuable short-cuts. Centipede claims he doesn't use Wiki so you are in good company. MG

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Not in good company with that particular creature Martin, we are miles apart. I reiterate, I don't use wiki. In the majority of my posts I give a source, many of which you will not find in wiki. I'll have a look for this one and find the date - although my comment was about him being wounded.

TR

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Not in good company with that particular creature Martin, we are miles apart.

TR

I know. I know. But my point is that Wiki is not the demon. It is the people who don't understand its strengths and its weaknesses. It is merely a research tool that I have found to be extremely useful in finding source info. The reference parts in particular. MG

On topic, do we know when Montgomery tripped? The people of Arnhem might have wished he didn't. MG

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My mistake. I only read the top line of the dreary.... which does corroborate Montgomery's story.

13th Oct 1914. 2:00 am. Arrived CAESTRE and went into billets.
9:20 am. Orders to move to MÉTEREN.
9:30 am. A and C Coys formed Advance Guard under Maj POOLE with Divisional Cyclist Coy and Cavalry in front.
10:00 am. On reaching FLETRE, enemy were reported to be holding high ground along ridge in front of MÉTEREN. A and B Coys were deployed, A Coy on left South, B Coy on right North of road, to advance and if possible to cross road. D Coy, under Maj CHRISTIE, was sent up behind C Coy in support. Enemy retired into and just outside MÉTEREN, occupying trenches and houses.
11:00 am. Regiment ordered to push on and endeavour to drive them out.
1:00 pm. Gained outskirts of village but were held up and great need of supports. C and D Coys again advanced and took several trenches but suffered severely.
1:30 pm. GOC ordered Regiment to halt and he would attack with 10th INF BDE to North of village and 12th INF BDE was to attack on South of road.
2:00 pm. 12th INF BDE commenced their attack.
3:00 pm. SEAFORTH HLDRS attack on our left and through A Coy which withdrew at dusk to PLANEBOON. C and D Coys, under Capt FREEMAN and Maj CHRISTIE, were unable to withdraw till much later owing to heavy fire but about 8:00 pm the KING'S OWN came up and passed through them.
10:00 pm. C and D Coys join Battalion at PLANEBOON, the Regiment becoming reserve to Brigade. METEREN was taken during the night. Our casualties 42 killed, 85 wounded, Maj CHRISTIE, Lt GILLIAT (died of wounds), Lt MONTGOMERY (badly wounded). Lts BRINDLEY, YOUNG and THORNHILL (slightly). Very wet all day.
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PS. I use Wiki a lot, as do most people. In fact I have only encountered one person in my life who claims never to have used Wiki. I am not ashamed to admit it. There is much valuable info stored in it. Surely it cant all be rubbish. I use it but I do understand the caveats, as I use War Diaries and published histories and books on the Great War and understand the caveats. If the last five books I bought are anything to go by they are so full of errors I might as well have used Wiki instead. I think everyone uses wiki. It is utterly brilliant, but we simply need to be aware of inaccuracies. The same inaccuracies that pepper most books I have on my book shelves. . It is not an issue but if you claim you don't use Wiki I think you are missing lots of valuable short-cuts. The Centipede claims he doesn't use Wiki either, so you are in good company. I don't believe him either. MG

I happily use Wiki myself as a basic guide, and I always advise my students in my essay guidelines that while Wiki and Google in general can be a useful source for basic information they should make certain this information is supplied and backed by by a reputable source - i.e., follow the editor's footnotes ans check their references.

But, back on topic, so it would seem that there was no British standing order as such for the banning of swords in trenches? I don't have any of the relevant reference works with me here in the UK but it was certainly the case that the Prussian War Ministry issued an official order to that effect for the officers who were wearing feldgrau. I think it was 1915, but may have been 1916, and the recommendation was for them to wear 98/05's, although many chose (it would seem) to wear a shorter bayonet, often a privately made one rather than an official issue example.

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During the action in which he was wounded Monty describes tripping over his scabbard as mentioned and then coming face to face with a German and realising that apart from draw, carry, salute and return he had no idea how to use a sword for it's original purpose as he had not been trained to use it as such. He therefore kicked the German in a certain delicate part of his anatomy.

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I happily use Wiki myself as a basic guide, and I always advise my students in my essay guidelines that while Wiki and Google in general can be a useful source for basic information they should make certain this information is supplied and backed by by a reputable source - i.e., follow the editor's footnotes ans check their references.

But, back on topic, so it would seem that there was no British standing order as such for the banning of swords in trenches? I don't have any of the relevant reference works with me here in the UK but it was certainly the case that the Prussian War Ministry issued an official order to that effect for the officers who were wearing feldgrau. I think it was 1915, but may have been 1916, and the recommendation was for them to wear 98/05's, although many chose (it would seem) to wear a shorter bayonet, often a privately made one rather than an official issue example.

Hi Trajan,

British infantry officers had their swords with them until around February 1915 when they had them sent home and adopted walking sticks. Only the Cavalry kept theirs to the end in 1918. Montgomery's example is well known and indeed, tripped on his scabbard during his platoon attack. I have owned or still own swords that officers took to the front and had them by their side. Captain the Hon. Charles St. Clair. 1st Seaforth Highlanders was killed with his B Coy directing operations.

http://seaforth78.blogspot.com

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