Stock Ref: AST 1750

An important example of an early Light Infantry Officers sword with a Talisman decorated blade and possibly the owners initials, which also appears to be marked to one of Britain’s most famous regiments during the American War of Independence, and the Peninsular War.

76cm (30”) slightly curved single fullered blade with flat back and hatchet point. The blade is single edged except for the last 7”. The blade is engraved with Talisman symbols which include on one side a 4 and a 3 which may relate to the (43rd Foot) a stand of arms and foliate designs and on the other with a stand of arms, martial trophies and other foliate designs and what may be the owners initials E L?

Stirrup hilt with single bar guard with hole for sword knot ring, cross guard of two bars with a diamond shaped insert, rearward facing quillon. Grip of reeded dark ebonised wood with fluted steel back piece. Coffin shaped pommel with round ball tang button.

Maker: Not known – probably the blade imported from Solingen in Germany.

Dated: 1780 – 1800

The pattern of this sword is based on Austrian/Hungarian light cavalry sabre which was later adopted by the British as the 1788 Light Dragoon sword. It seems to have combined elements with the 1786 Spadroon and appears to predate the 1803 pattern which was adopted by the 43rd – see Plate 140 (Page 154) Robson’s Swords of the British Army 2nd Edition. It is therefore possible that the sword was produced sometime between 1780 – 1800.

No scabbard

The sword is in very good condition for its age and long service history. The blade has an overall grey patination but no rust and knicks. The original etching remains generally clear with some loss towards the hilt. The guard is intact. There is finger wear to the grip commensurate with use and a small chip in the wood near the pommel.

Talisman decorated blades are now quite rare, the mystical symbols used were a combination of astrological and figurative designs and included the sign for Jupiter a stylised 4, as well as suns, moons, and stars. See Wagner Cut and Thrust Weapon spp. 72-3 and Lhoste and Buigne, Armes Blanches Francaises (3rd impression 2009), pp. 110-114.  It is unclear whether the juxtoposition of a 4 and a 3 is meant to be symbolic or a Regimental number or both.

The 43rd Foot dates from 1741 being numbered in 1751. The regiment fought against the French in Canada, and was present at both Lexington and Bunker Hill and was besieged and surrendered at Yorktown during the American War of Independence. The 43rd Foot became the 43rd (Monmouthshire) Regiment of Foot in 1782.

In 1803, the 43rd, the 52nd and the 95th Rifles became the first Corps of Light Infantry and formed the Light Brigade at Shorncliffe in Kent under the command of Major-General John Moore. The regiment was re-titled as the 43rd (Monmouthshire) Regiment of Foot (Light Infantry). The 43rd was part of a force led by Sir Arthur Wellesley which in 1807 captured Copenhagen and the entire Danish fleet.

Peninsular War

In August 1808, during the Peninsular War, the 43rd fought in the Battle of Vimeiro which drove Napoleon's forces from Portugal. The campaign against the French then moved to Spain where in January 1809 the regiment took part in the retreat to Vigo and Corunna; achieving fame as part of the rearguard to the army before returning to England. In May 1809 the 1st battalion of the 43rd, as part of Sir Robert Craufurd's Light Brigade, sailed for Portugal to join Sir Arthur Wellesley's army. On landing at Lisbon the 43rd moved to Spain to support Wellesley's forces there. The battalion's march of 250 miles from Lisbon to Talavera included a march of fifty-two miles in twenty-six hours in the hottest season of the year. The battle of Talavera had been won before the battalion arrived however a company of the 43rd which had been at Lisbon from December 1808 fought in the battle as part of General Richard Stewart's brigade. In 1810 the 43rd formed part of the Light Division under the command of Sir Robert Craufurd. The 43rd fought in the battle of the crossing of the Côa in July 1810, the Battle of Bussaco in September 1810 and the Battle of Sabugal in April 1811. The 43rd also took part in the Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro in May 1811, the assault on the fortress of Ciudad Rodrigo in January 1812 and the Siege of Badajoz in April 1812; when storming the breach the 43rd lost 20 officers and 335 men.

The regiment went on to fight at the Battle of Salamanca in July 1812 and the Battle of Vitoria in June 1813 and then pursued the French Army into France where they saw action at the Battle of Nivelle in November 1813, the Battle of the Nive in December 1813 and the Battle of Toulouse in April 1814. Following the end of the Peninsular War in 1814 the Light Division was disbanded and the 43rd returned to England.

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