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.
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 572mm 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’s upper and lower edges have been armoury sharpened.
The ricasso is stamped with the Wilkinson maker’s name, a Wilkinson inspection stamp and the fabrication date of August 1900. The obverse ricasso is stamped with the bend test X, Wilkinson inspection stamp and War Department Broad Arrow. The blade is in fantastic condition.
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, flat ball quillon.
The sword is complete with its matching, brass mounted leather scabbard. The scabbard is in excellent condition. The leather is strong and the stitching is intact and tight. The leather of the scabbard is stamped with the War Department Broad Arrow, 1900 issue date and a Wilkinson inspection stamp. The brass furniture has small dings consistent with its age and service. The sword sheathes and draws smoothly and is held firmly within the scabbard.
The brass throat of the scabbard is stamped with the re-issue date of January 1903.
This is a fantastic example of a scarce British Pioneers sword.