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Old 12th February 2014, 10:57 PM   #1
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Default The Fire, the Queen and the Cutlass

The number of different patterns of the British Naval Cutlass that date to the 1840 - 1850 can be confusing. Not to mention the several different new models, there were 1804 blades fitted with new hilts and even cutlasses made from the ubiquitous 1796 heavy cavalry blade shortened to suit. Added to this mix were unaltered 1804 cutlasses marked with the royal cypher of Queen Victoria.

‘Swords for Sea Service’ notes that no 1804 pattern cutlasses were ordered for the Royal Navy after 1808, so why then are there seemingly authentic 1804 cutlasses marked with the cypher of Queen Victoria who reigned from 1837 to 1901?
Replicas or fakes are always a possibility and yes there is an 1804 replica stamped with the letters VR, see picture. But stamping the letters with readily available letter stamps is a very different matter than producing an inch high cypher and in any case why fake an 1804 with VR when GR would make more sense.

In 1840 following complaints from the navy it was decided that an improved hilt and guard would be fitted to existing blades to improve hand protection. Initially 10,000 1804 cutlasses were ordered to be fitted with the improved hilt and all available cutlasses were sent to the Tower of London armoury for modification. By March 1841 only about 1000 of these modified 1804 cutlasses had been re-issued when a major fire at the Tower destroyed a large number of the remaining cutlasses and left the navy seriously short of weapons.

Is it possible that, because of the shortage, the survivors of this fire and possibly those still en route to the Tower were simply inspected, stamped with the royal cypher and sent back into service unaltered?
Well it’s just a theory but look closely at the two cyphers. I think they were made by the same stamp and I also think the ‘V’ on the stamp itself was made by removing the first part of the ‘W’ on the WR cypher of the previous monarch William. If true this may indicate that they were stamped early in Victoria’s reign before new cyphers had been made.
It’s hard to be sure so any opinions would be received with interest.
The picture with small letters is a replica. The other two are from two different seemingly authentic 1804's. One mark is very faded - any comments?
Regards CC.
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Old 13th February 2014, 05:55 AM   #2
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CC, you have asked the very question that has been puzzling me for these past years. If you remember in a previous thread, I mentioned that my M1804 has block letter GR under crown, but not like the spurious mark of the S&K German swords, as shown in Gilkerson. The GR on mine near exact to the m1814 Brit cutlass with block letter GR. I further mentioned an early cast iron ribbed grip cutlass with straight blade and sheet guard with a very worn VR under crown marking. This sword's mark is so worn that only a slight portion of the V visible, leading me to wonder if it were a later (and weaker) stamp of a sword put back into service in its working life. You have asked that fundamental question that I've hoped others might be able to answer, as I have only guesses. I remembered reading of the destruction of many of the older models in the Tower fire and likewise suspected that some of the existing earlier models might have been issued to naval ships. As this would have been after the Age of Fighting Sail, they would have more or less been for emergency use and just sat in a rack, awaiting the need. So many questions remain, even if we can determine that the marks aren't spurious, which they still might be (notice I said spurious and not fake! S&K marked thier swords to inspire buyers that theirs was a mark of quality. Were there other makers at the time perhaps doing the same with similar marks? VR marks? Were these reused in the Royal Navy? As surplus on merchants? As exports? Certainly, British swords were being shipped out to India, Africa, etc, at the time. Until someone can document the markings that appeared on Kirshbaum swords with clarity, we can't even rule them out as the producers of said swords. Anyway, just my two cents. Hopefully, someone else might come in on this one? Anybody?
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Old 13th February 2014, 09:31 AM   #3
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Although I think the overall style of the stamp doesn't quite "look right" I would certainly agree that the VR is an altered WR, not only from the odd left hand side of the V but also because the VR is off center to the crown, if it were WR the WR would align perfectly to the centerline of the crown. As to when it was placed perhaps more examples would help give a feel if this was something done approx. 150 years ago or not.
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Old 13th February 2014, 04:49 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by adrian
................ I would certainly agree that the VR is an altered WR, not only from the odd left hand side of the V but also because the VR is off center to the crown, if it were WR the WR would align perfectly to the centerline of the crown. As to when it was placed perhaps more examples would help give a feel if this was something done approx. 150 years ago or not.
Well observed Adrian and yes that does seem to make sense. It would also indicate that the cypher stamp was made in one piece rather than the letters being separate from the crown. CC
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Old 13th February 2014, 05:25 PM   #5
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Default Cyphers

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Originally Posted by M ELEY
CC, you have asked the very question that has been puzzling me for these past years. If you remember in a previous thread, I mentioned that my M1804 has block letter GR under crown, but not like the spurious mark of the S&K German swords, as shown in Gilkerson. The GR on mine near exact to the m1814 Brit cutlass with block letter GR. I further mentioned an early cast iron ribbed grip cutlass with straight blade and sheet guard with a very worn VR under crown marking. This sword's mark is so worn that only a slight portion of the V visible, leading me to wonder if it were a later (and weaker) stamp of a sword put back into service in its working life. You have asked that fundamental question that I've hoped others might be able to answer, as I have only guesses. I remembered reading of the destruction of many of the older models in the Tower fire and likewise suspected that some of the existing earlier models might have been issued to naval ships. As this would have been after the Age of Fighting Sail, they would have more or less been for emergency use and just sat in a rack, awaiting the need. So many questions remain, even if we can determine that the marks aren't spurious, which they still might be (notice I said spurious and not fake! S&K marked thier swords to inspire buyers that theirs was a mark of quality. Were there other makers at the time perhaps doing the same with similar marks? VR marks? Were these reused in the Royal Navy? As surplus on merchants? As exports? Certainly, British swords were being shipped out to India, Africa, etc, at the time. Until someone can document the markings that appeared on Kirshbaum swords with clarity, we can't even rule them out as the producers of said swords. Anyway, just my two cents. Hopefully, someone else might come in on this one? Anybody?
Hi Mark, yes I do remember that thread regarding thinreadline's machetes with VR and GR markings. Although we have evidence from catalogues that GR in block form was used by Solingen manufacturers and we know it was also used in that form as a ordnance mark we don't have the same for VR and I hope this thread may throw up a few more pictures of cyphers for comparison. The VR crown is different on the cutlass and machete.

Is the VR marking on your cutlass too faded to photograph, would the private purchase mark show up as well?
CC
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Old 13th February 2014, 10:55 PM   #6
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Hello CC,
I see your point exactly now that you have pulled up that old thread (I couldn't find it earlier). Thanks for that. Yes, the VR is perplexing. In several Fagan & Company military catalogs over the past decade, they have had privateer-type cutlass, with the ribbed iron grips and sheet iron guards, obviously of the period, marked (according to the description, unfortunately pics of sword way too small) with VR/crown. I have no doubt that they were not fake, tourist or remade items. Thus, if we rule out fraud, the path goes back to spurious Solingen pieces made for the privateer/merchant/export trade or real items put into service by the British navy.
Concerning my example, the marking is so barely legible, that it wouldn't help in identification. The R is badly rubbed, but visible, as is the top right-hand corner of the V. The crown is illegible save for the bottom ridge. Looking at where the corner of the V meets the mid-portion of the crown, the mark was probably just like the one on yours, being that it might have been the WR type, reduced to VR where the V doesn't quite sit well under the crown, if you catch my drift.
A few more points, for what they are worth. Of the above examples featured in the auction catalogs, some of the cutlass mentioned were only marked with a RN? Royal Navy? Does anyone know of this marking? Proof of spurious stamp?
CC, do you have Annis' "Naval Swords"? If so, you will note the sword on pg.61, #42 'British Hanger cum Cutlass'. It is marked in the block letter GR/crown as well as having the WIDC marking, for West India Dock Company. This associated naval piece got me wondering if other, quasi-branches of the naval dept. might have had markings on their swords, or for that matter, if overseas colonial Brit pieces might have had such block-letter markings? Would a Brit coast-guard station have been issued older pattern swords with said markings in the advent of the shortage? Just thinking aloud...
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Old 14th February 2014, 07:33 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M ELEY
CC, do you have Annis' "Naval Swords"? If so, you will note the sword on pg.61, #42 'British Hanger cum Cutlass'. It is marked in the block letter GR/crown as well as having the WIDC marking, for West India Dock Company. This associated naval piece got me wondering if other, quasi-branches of the naval dept. might have had markings on their swords, or for that matter, if overseas colonial Brit pieces might have had such block-letter markings? Would a Brit coast-guard station have been issued older pattern swords with said markings in the advent of the shortage? Just thinking aloud...
Yes I have that book and also a very similar cutlass to the one you indicated - blade slightly more curved and 2 bar guard, marked Enfield and a small block GR under crown. 1820's coastguard I think. Sim Comfort also shows (EW172) similar that he thinks may have been private or possibly customs service 1840's - similar blade but fluted handle and steel guard. This is marked VR and the cypher is similar to the 1804 cutlass. Below is a picture from the book.

I have never seen RN marked on a cutlass and I'm not sure how early N became a standard mark for Brit Naval cutlasses and boarding axes but N was common late part of 19th and into 20th Century.
CC.
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Old 14th January 2022, 02:59 AM   #8
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Default Invitation to join Cutlass Research Project

Hi Guys

The Heritage Arms Society is conducting an English Sea Service Cutlass project which will also focus on anomalies and potential fakes currently in the market.

The Mission
To create a data base that captures and illustrates as many examples of British Sea Service Cutlasses, Bayonets, Pioneer Swords, Machetes, Lead Cutters or Single Sticks as possible, with the view of making this data available to current and future collectors.

Current Update
Whilst initially this project was advertised via like minded collecting organisations we have now extended our reach to include online collecting forums and a number of Naval related research bodies. At this time, we have contacting over 30 such organisations, providing the opportunity to promote this project on the global stage.

The current list of participant list stands at 22, and has representation from Australia, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Canada. Its not to late to come on board, just contact us via email: heritage.arms.society@gmail.com

The template that has been developed for this project can be downloaded from the following link:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1...f=true&sd=true

What happens next
We request that if possible all photos are taken on a white background, outside on an overcast day, highest resolution possible and saved in jpeg format. Your photos are then cleaned up as much as possible in photoshop and sent back to you as a one-page collage with your completed template for final checking.

The data and pictures provided are entered into a table in Excel. Whilst this table does not contain all of the data being collected in the template it does include:

Date (Pattern date if available)
Picture (Full length)
Model (Pattern, Variation, Conversion, Bayonet, Pioneer Sword, Machete, Lead Cutter or Single Stick etc)
Overall Length (In inches and cm’s)
Blade Length (In inches and cm’s)
Blade Widest Point (In inches and cm’s)
Weight (in grams)
Blade & Scabbard (additional comments and/or unusual features)
Guard (additional comments and/or unusual features)
Grip (additional comments and/or unusual features)
Owner’s Initials

At this stage 56 items have been added to the draft table, with many more yet to be processed. This project has required the development of a number of tools which we believe will be invaluable for use in future endeavours. That is, if we ever finish this one.

New participants are more than welcome.
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