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CambraiComrade

Officers Swagger Sticks - Where'd they go?

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CambraiComrade

Dear All,

Officers often carried a variety of cane like objects throughout WW1. Riding crops, walking sticks, swagger sticks etc were all carried but where did they go in a situation in which the officers was unable to carry his stick? I once heard that they were tucked into an officers boots or puttees during battle, ,is this true?

Many thanks,

CambraiComrade

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Khaki

post-29707-0-40517400-1428009465_thumb.j

I would be surprised if many of them actually survived an attack, and the only one that I have ever seen that looked as if it was a battlefield recovery I found in a pile of 'junk'. It was very battered and I took it to a silver smith who restored it to a presentable shape. It appears to be real silver and has no wooden shaft. The devices front and back are of the Honourable Artillery Company.

khaki

post-29707-0-23387300-1428009490_thumb.j

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CambraiComrade

Cheers for sharing old boy, interesting item there!

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Staffsyeoman

A beautiful one and a lovely job rescuing it. But an officer would not have carried one so topped; officers' swagger sticks tended to be a wooden dowel covered in leather.

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Khaki

Thanks guys, the restoration was a very delicate job even for the silver smith, he was very concerned that the old silver might tear, but all went well and I have given it 'pride of place' for over thirty years. I have two of the leather covered wooden ones, would the silver finial have belonged to a BSM or similar?

regards

khaki

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FROGSMILE

We seem to revisit this issue every couple of years and it has been answered many times.

After a lifetime's study I think that simplest way to explain it is that there are two lengths of stick or cane, one walking length and one much shorter similar in length to a riders whip/crop.

Over the centuries these two lengths have literally 'exchanged' to and fro as de rigeur between officers and senior non-commissioned officers, literally as a form of military fashion.

In WW1 officers tended to carry the longer stick in various types sometimes to the extent of leading their men into battle (certainly early on in the war) gesticulating with it (usually to direct or point intent or activity).

Conversely, since Victorian times the shorter stick had been a requirement for other ranks when in walking out dress and they were checked at the guardroom for their turnout including the stick which had gained the nickname of swagger stick or cane. These much shorter canes were not a requirement for officers at that time.

At the same time, senior NCOs carried longer sticks, similar in dimensions to the officers as parade canes, and these often had a regimental ferrule with badge or unit number.

Later still (and not as far back as some think), the Foot Guards modified a stick (essentially dividers), originally used to measure the optimum distance between guns by artillerymen, in order to measure marching pace or cadence.

Between WW1 and WW2 other ranks stopped carrying the shorter sticks and the officers began to use similar length pieces of dowel covered in leather as their own form of swagger stick. Fashion had turned once again. In 1990 I was still required to have one of these, but they lost favour once again soon after and are no longer seen.

Mounted units had their own version, a riding whip. Irish regiments favoured a blackthorn stick. Some Highland regimental officers favoured a shepherd's crook.

To answer Khaki, I think you have the ferrule of a swagger stick of an HAC NCO, rather than a BSMs parade cane, which was much larger.

There is a much longer explanatory thread on this that you will find in 'search' with the term Swagger Stick.

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nigelfe

I seriously doubt that any form of stick was used to determine the distance between guns, it makes no sense in horse drawn batteries where speed into action was the key criteria.

As for WW1, I suspect they stayed in the officer's valise.

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FROGSMILE

I seriously doubt that any form of stick was used to determine the distance between guns, it makes no sense in horse drawn batteries where speed into action was the key criteria.

As for WW1, I suspect they stayed in the officer's valise.

I did not 'make up' any of the statements I have made and am surprised that you should imply that I would.

There are WW1 photos of officers with their sticks in the field, especially in 1914. Some well known photos of a battalion of Cameronians (SR) is one that readily comes to mind. There are many others.

The measuring of distance between guns was carried out centuries ago, not in WW1.

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Khaki

An interesting study in itself, of the two leather covered (officers) sticks I have, one is covered in plaited leather and feels lead weighted, which I thought might be the older of the two. I have seen a number of other ranks sticks frequently made of a wooden shaft with the fittings made from cartridge cases, buttons and projectiles.

khaki

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FROGSMILE

An interesting study in itself, of the two leather covered (officers) sticks I have, one is covered in plaited leather and feels lead weighted, which I thought might be the older of the two. I have seen a number of other ranks sticks frequently made of a wooden shaft with the fittings made from cartridge cases, buttons and projectiles.

khaki

Yes there were some different leather designs, including plaited as you have mentioned and in the Far East a type called "whangee" (a type of light, strong local cane without leather covering) was required.

Another area I omitted was the Regimental Police led by the Provost Sergeant, who always carried a heavy stick, often used to persuade soldiers to leave the alcohol canteen at closing time. Similar sticks, often home made by regimental pioneers and or armourers and mounted with regimental buttons, or collar badges as tops were also common and used almost as a mark of 'office' along with their RP and PS armbands.

In Africa (Egypt, Kenya et al) a regimental fly whisk or carved African ebony stick was often carried by the officers as an alternative.

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bierast

German officers also often carried sticks, at least once they had ceased habitually carrying swords into battle. For example, this staff from the 45. gemischte Ersatz-Brigade of the Saxon 19. Ersatz-Division:

http://www.royalsaxonarmy.co.uk/images/EIR32_Offzblockhaus1915.jpg

The regimental history of RIR 241 (Saxon and recruited in Dresden; 53.RD / XXVII.RK) describes their second commander Oberstltn. (later Oberst) Kurt Reußner as a snappy dresser who was never seen anywhere without his monocle and riding crop. He was also "a front officer, who asked much of his men, but who never shrank from danger himself - an example to his soldiers. He went through fire for his 241ers and was the only staff officer to wear the ‘241’ on his shoulderboards." [senior officers assigned to new war-raised regiments tended to continue wearing the numbers or cyphers of their old regular regiments]

Oberst Reußner commanded the regiment at 2nd Ypres and on the Somme, after which his health gave out and he was assigned a senior rear-area administrative post in Belgium. He was awarded the Ritterkreuz des Militär-St.-Heinrichs-Ordens for his command of the composite 'Regiment Reußner' in the attacks on the Canadians west of s'Gravenstafel on 24-28 April 1915.

http://www.royalsaxonarmy.co.uk/images/RIR241_Kdr-OberstReussner.jpg

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CambraiComrade

Interesting stuff chaps, cheers for sharing. Interesting about the variety in sticks carried.

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depaor01

...the Regimental Police led by the Provost Sergeant, who always carried a heavy stick, often used to persuade soldiers to leave the alcohol canteen at closing time.

Seems the Germans did this too. There's a German march sequence performed apparently since the 1500s right through WW2 and to this day called "Grosse Zapfenstreich" which is named after the striking of the taps at closing time. Worth putting the search term into Youtube for some impressive drill.

Dave

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calibre792x57.y

Yes there were some different leather designs, including plaited as you have mentioned and in the Far East a type called "whangee" (a type of light, strong local cane without leather covering) was required.

Another area I omitted was the Regimental Police led by the Provost Sergeant, who always carried a heavy stick, often used to persuade soldiers to leave the alcohol canteen at closing time. Similar sticks, often home made by regimental pioneers and or armourers and mounted with regimental buttons, or collar badges as tops were also common and used almost as a mark of 'office' along with their RP and PS armbands.

I have had this short cane sitting in an umbrella stand for many years. It is 23 inches long and about 3/4 inch in diameter. It is bamboo and presumably is a 'whangee'. The white metal band is engraved with 'Major C.H. RODWELL' Not sure whether the band is unmarked silver or something else. It is fairly crudely fitted (visible file marks) and is secured by three small rivets. Can anyone tell me anything more about this former owner? - S.W.

post-47661-0-79607000-1428058439_thumb.j

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eparges

German officers carried a stick as well, as replacement for the sword. The well known young german officer below cites it frequently is his famous book 'raising his Stöckchen for the assault'. Generally wooden or cane, leather covered, length about 60 cm. Exemple shown was owned by Ltn. Werner of 8.Kompanie F.R.73.

stockc10.jpg

stockc11.jpg

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FROGSMILE

I have had this short cane sitting in an umbrella stand for many years. It is 23 inches long and about 3/4 inch in diameter. It is bamboo and presumably is a 'whangee'. The white metal band is engraved with 'Major C.H. RODWELL' Not sure whether the band is unmarked silver or something else. It is fairly crudely fitted (visible file marks) and is secured by three small rivets. Can anyone tell me anything more about this former owner? - S.W.

It is one of the shorter sticks from the post WW1 period when they became the province of officers. It appears to be bamboo or similar (i.e. of Far East provenance) but it is not a 'whangee' type, which was more rough looking like a series of 2inch tubes all joined together. Later used as umbrella handles after steam curving.

The sticks often had a practical purpose being used commonly for pointing at maps and tactical ground models, or when on parade to point out a man's kit inadequacy such as a dirty button or collar badge.

I am sorry that I cannot help with the owner.

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FROGSMILE

German officers carried a stick as well, as replacement for the sword. The well known young german officer below cites it frequently is his famous book 'raising his Stöckchen for the assault'. Generally wooden or cane, leather covered, length about 60 cm. Exemple shown was owned by Ltn. Werner of 8.Kompanie F.R.73.

]

Very interesting and very similar, thank you for posting. It makes me Wonder if the post WW1 habit of British officers to adopt the shorter, leather covered cane rather than the previous walking cane/ stick was an emulation of the Germans.

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FROGSMILE

Seems the Germans did this too. There's a German march sequence performed apparently since the 1500s right through WW2 and to this day called "Grosse Zapfenstreich" which is named after the striking of the taps at closing time. Worth putting the search term into Youtube for some impressive drill.

Dave

Yes,this was a great tradition from the many European wars of the 17th and 18th Centuries in particular. Allied armies influenced and emulated each other in many of their military routines. In the British Army the tradition of beating Tattoo comes from the allied Dutch 'dem tap to', meaning shut off the beer taps and return to camp limits. The enforcement (after cessation of the beating by the drummers and fifers) was then the responsibility of the Provost.

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calibre792x57.y

Frogsmile - thank you for the information about the cane. I've always thought it was most likely a Thirties piece as my father served in India at that time. - Hopefully someone will identify Major Rodwell. - SW

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Muerrisch

Edmund Blunden's Royal Sussex experience as a subaltern included being reprimanded and ordered to get an ashplant walking stick.

My copy of his autobiography is in my cold spidery loft so exact refs. are not immediately forthcoming.

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FROGSMILE

Edmund Blunden's Royal Sussex experience as a subaltern included being reprimanded and ordered to get an ashplant walking stick.

My copy of his autobiography is in my cold spidery loft so exact refs. are not immediately forthcoming.

That would be spot on for an English line regiment of the period, ash plant being the most common requirement.

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FROGSMILE

Frogsmile - thank you for the information about the cane. I've always thought it was most likely a Thirties piece as my father served in India at that time. - Hopefully someone will identify Major Rodwell. - SW

Yes, 1930s would seem about right. In India at that time the infantry regiments would often require an officer to have both the short and long sticks. Swagger length in camp confines and walking length in 'marching order', when along with his company he would carry out long patrols in the Khuds and, as each company took turns taking the high ground to support the battalion forward, used his stick rather like a man in the Alps would. If interested, I recommend that you seek out and read 'Bugles and a Tiger' by John Masters, which captures regimental duty in India evocatively and with great literary skill.

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PhilB

The white metal band is engraved with 'Major C.H. RODWELL' Can anyone tell me anything more about this former owner? - S.W.

2/Lt 4th N Staffs in Sept 15. (Army List)

Maj, 5th Beds & Herts in 1938. (London Gazette)

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Maureene

If interested, I recommend that you seek out and read 'Bugles and a Tiger' by John Masters, which captures regimental duty in India evocatively and with great literary skill.

This book is available to read online in two different formats. You can borrow it, from the Archive.org Lending Library, but first you must register, and you may need to wait, as only one person at a time can read it.

https://archive.org/details/buglesandtigervo00mast

You can also read it online on the Digital Library of India website http://www.new1.dli.ernet.in

The books on this site are in TIFF format, so you may need to download a plug in, to be able to read the pages.There is more about this website in the FIBIS Fibiwiki page Online books http://wiki.fibis.org/index.php/Online_books#Digital_Library_of_India

If you have technical skills Googling will show you that people have produced programs to automatically down load entire books from this website, rather than read them online.

Cheers

Maureen

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nigelfe

British officers were generally not stupid, while they were formally armed with revolvers they fairly swiftly changed to carrying a rifle, with bayonet fixed, in deliberate attacks. A review of the many photos and sketches (from various theatres) in the RA Commemoration Book reveals no sign of a swagger stick. Swagger sticks may have been fine for day to day carrying in the trenches, but went into the valise on the important occasions or when there was proper work to be done. I'd also suggest that practices varied between units, as anyone who actually knows anything about the British Army is only too well aware, uniformity was not a highly regarded trait.

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