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Old 4th February 2021, 12:30 PM   #1
CutlassCollector
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Default The British Broad Arrow Mark

What is your earliest firearm or sword that is marked with the British broad arrow (pheon) mark of government ownership?


The mark has been around for centuries and was mainly used for marking stores and equipment to discourage pilfering but also used for prisoner clothing and boundary marking stones. It was used with letters to signify different countries.
It does not appear to have been used on firearms or swords until much later.

There was a large gap between the issue of cutlasses from 1804 which were generally marked with the crown and Royal Cypher in script form and the 1840s cutlasses that were marked with the broad arrow. It must have been sometime between these dates.

Does anyone know when the broad arrow was first used on weapons to signify government ownership?
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Old 4th February 2021, 04:31 PM   #2
fernando
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David, i risk talking nonsense but, a version of the broad arrow, one under a crown, appears in guns dated 1800 ... and even earlier .
Lots of New Land Pattern pistols with it may bee seen out there ... mine included.
Others with deeper knowledge will tell you better.


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Old 4th February 2021, 04:51 PM   #3
Will M
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Broad arrow was also used on British cannon ball pre 1800, I'd like to think so the enemy knew who was shooting at them!
This ball dates to be fired in 1760 at Isle aux Noix fort near Montreal.
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Old 4th February 2021, 05:41 PM   #4
Jim McDougall
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This is truly an interesting topic, and as I'm sure most are aware this is pretty much a waltz through a bureaucratic administrative web which seems to have begun around early 1300s.
It sounds strange but the keepers of the 'Privy Wardrobe' were the first official 'keepers of ordnance'.
This strangely appointed office for royal stores became more clearly designated to ordnance in the time of Henry VIII in the 1540s.
In 1683 Charles II issued a warrant specifying use of the 'pheon' on official stores, which we may presume included arms.
In 1806 the board was ordered to mark ordnance stores again.
This chronology is admittedly vague, but it seems such is the history of the Board of Ordnance.

Most items of issue from the Napoleonic period until 1855 were marked BO topped by the arrow.
After 1855, it was changed to WD under the arrow (War Department).

So the question is:
When was the broad arrow first implemented as a marking on arms?

As Will has shown, we know artillery had it in 1760, so we can presume that larger segment of ordnance had such use in place then and earlier.

This background is not the answer needed, just some perspective, pending search further re: actual arms markings.

Attached is a post 1855 wooden canteen with the WD instead of BO accompanying the broad arrow.

From: "Treasures of the Tower of London"(1982, A.V.B. Norman, G. Wilson)
While swords remained in the control of regimental colonels until c. 1788, firearms were purchased and controlled by the Tower and Board of Ordnance.
It would seem that the locks of guns were marked with the crowned broad arrow as early as 1731, probably earlier, from these examples;

#97, Long Land pattern musket , crowned arrow, date 1731
#98 cavalry pistol date 1744 crowned broad arrow
#99 cavalry carbine c.1770 crowned broad arrow

I had hoped that bayonets might yield some clues, so to "The Plug Bayonet" (R.D.C.Evans, 2002);
It would appear that the Board of Ordnance was involved in degree with bayonet supply (then plug bayonets) by c. 1685, however the Board preferred that colonels privately purchase these. Most of the bayonets seen have the dagger mark of the LCC (=London Cutlers Co.) but obviously no crowned arrow.

Possibly in Queen Anne period (1702-14) the advent of the socket bayonet may have changed that, but remains to be seen.

On an aside, the East India Company, which clearly had its own bale mark, seems to have pretty faithfully marked all their gun locks, and the socket bayonets marked accordingly. With swords, as I was told by David Harding ("Small Arms of the East India Company") the Company did not place bale marks on its swords.
Perhaps this may suggest BO arrow markings might be on socket bayonets for British government ordnance?
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Last edited by Jim McDougall; 4th February 2021 at 07:01 PM.
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Old 4th February 2021, 06:07 PM   #5
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Here are fotos aof a carbine made during the reign of James II. which has no broad arrow, so its introduction must have been later.
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Old 4th February 2021, 06:12 PM   #6
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.........and here a pistol of 1747 with the boad arrow
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Old 4th February 2021, 06:14 PM   #7
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.........and here a pistol of 1747 with the boad arrow and a pistol of Dragoon Guards 1738 with the arrow on its barrel
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Old 4th February 2021, 07:11 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by corrado26
Here are fotos aof a carbine made during the reign of James II. which has no broad arrow, so its introduction must have been later.
Given the civil unrest of these times, it seems likely that the Board of Ordnance may not have been involved in the issue of this gun, thus that stamp of broad arrow while prevailing earlier on gun components might not be present.
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Old 4th February 2021, 06:36 PM   #9
fernando
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
... So the question is:
When was the broad arrow first implemented as a marking on arms? ...
Yes Jim; that is the original question indeed . Udo is coming close, so it appears .
As for this mark having been used since early times as a symbol of the King's property, the most bizarre things are found with such mark; meaning that, finding it in plausible property like canteens, is nothing comparing to bizarre items like screws .


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Old 4th February 2021, 07:06 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
Yes Jim; that is the original question indeed . Udo is coming close, so it appears .
As for this mark having been used since early times as a symbol of the King's property, the most bizarre things are found with such mark; meaning that, finding it in plausible property like canteens, is nothing comparing to bizarre items like screws .


.
Wow Fernando! now that is bizarre, a screw??? But then I guess in those days, these were not as common as going to the hardware store buying them by the box.
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