The British army has had several patterns of saw-back bayonets but only one saw-back sword. The pattern 1856 infantry Pioneers’ short sword (hanger) was issued to the Pioneers within each infantry battalion. This sword was issued to The King’s Own (Royal Lancaster) Regiment.
Each British infantry battalion had a ten-man squad of Pioneers, under the command of a corporal or sergeant. Their main tasks were to travel in advance of the main army, to clear the way and to undertake and supervise heavy construction work. The Pioneers were an early form of combat engineers.
Besides being a weapon, the saw-back sword was robust enough to replace the axes and hand saws usually carried by the Pioneers. The short, heavy blade could be used as both a saw and a machete and was of particular use when cutting brush to clear a field of fire and for clearing bivouac areas.
The 574mm blade has 27 pairs of saw teeth, extending for 390mm from the ricasso. The blade is double-edged for the last 165mm and terminates in a spear point. The saw teeth remain very sharp and the blade retains its upper and lower factory edges. The shoulder of the spine bears a crowned Birmingham inspection stamp. The forte of the blade is etched with a decorative panel containing the maker’s details, “RobT Mole & Sons, Makers, Birmingham.” Robert Mole of Birmingham was a prominent British sword maker and received numerous War Department contracts for swords and bayonets.
The ricasso is stamped with the War Department arrow and WD, a Birmingham factory inspectors stamp and a worn maker’s mark, “MOLE BIRMH.” The obverse ricasso bears the fabrication date of 3 ‘93 for March 1893. The blade is in very good condition with minimal age and use related marks.
The blades’ full width tang is hilted with ribbed brass grip scales, held in place by four steel rivets. The thick brass stirrup guard has a short, disk quillon, which is stamped with the issue date of May 1893 and the unit markings of The King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment.
The sword is complete with its brass mounted leather scabbard. The scabbard is in excellent condition. The leather is strong and the stitching is intact and tight. The leather is stamped with the War Department arrow and a Birmingham inspection mark and the date, 1900. The sword sheathes and draws smoothly and is held firmly within the scabbard. The brass locket bears an issue date of October, 1901 and the unit markings of The Sherwood Foresters, The Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire Regiment, who served in South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War.
This is a great example of a scarce British Pioneers sword unit marked to a prestigious Line Infantry regiment.
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