Object Title

Spanish Pattern Artillery Hanger

Development

By the 18th century, the artillery was playing an increasingly important role on the battlefield, in addition to its long established role in siege warfare. Whilst this brought a great increase in firepower to the battlefield, it also exposed artillerymen to the dangers of a fluid battlefield. Although the purpose of artillerymen had always been to serve their pieces, they now needed to be able to defend themselves if the situation arose. Artillery, particularly foot or field artillery, was slow to deploy or re-deploy and therefore was vulnerable to fast-moving enemy forces - especially cavalry. Despite the great range and potentially destructive power of their pieces, gun crews needed to be able to defend themselves at closer quarters. As such, gun crews carried hangers - short infantry swords. These were intended as a means of defence, yet were convenient enough to ensure that artillerymen could continue to perform their main duty of serving the guns.

Official records indicating the type of sword carried in the late 18th and early 19th centuries by the other ranks of the British field artillery does not exist. However, contemporary paintings and later records suggest there was a standardised hanger, referred to as the 'Spanish' Pattern hanger - probably in reference to its adoption in the Peninsular War.

Use and Effect

The ‘Spanish' Pattern hanger has a short, broad, and straight blade. The blade is single-edged and of wedge-shaped section for the majority of its length, with the final portion transforming into a lenticular section with a false edge terminating in a wide spear point. The sword is intended as a combined cut-and-thrust weapon, but the absence of a fuller on the thick, flat blades makes the sword very heavy for its length. The simple brass stirrup hilt, whilst enabling the sword to be worn flat against the body and not inhibit movement too much when suspended from a shoulder belt, is too light to offset the weight of the blade, making the weapon very poorly balanced and blade-heavy in the hand. The great weight would have at least meant that the sword was sufficiently heavy to be able to parry attacks from cavalry swords, and the very thick back to the blade may have been intended to enable the sword to function as a fascine knife for chopping wood. However, the sword was not well thought of within the 1819 Select Committee on Artillery, who commented that 'The Sub-Committee beg to remark that the sword with which the Artillery-men are now armed is in itself a very inefficient weapon for any purpose.'

The unpopularity and failure of the weapon saw it replaced in the 1820s with the Pattern 1796 Light Cavalry sword (already in use with horse artillery) and brass-hilted saw-backed hangers. This provided guns crews with both more serviceable fighting swords, and hangers that could usefully serve as tools.

Statistics

Blade length 657 mm (25 14/16 in)
Country of manufacture Britain
Date entered service About 1805
Overall length 784 mm (30 14/16 in)
Weight 1.007 kg (2 lb 4oz)

Author

Henry Yallop