Object Title

Pattern 1894 Lance

Pattern 1894 Lance


The lance was first adopted by the cavalry of the British Army in 1816, after its effect in the skilled hands of Napoleon's lancers had been seen on the field of Waterloo (1815). Four regiments of Light Dragoons were converted to Lancers in 1816 and more would follow. Initially armed with a lance of 4.87 m (16 ft), this was soon found to be impracticable and a lance of 2.75 m (9 ft) was soon adopted and remained the standard length of British lance for the 100 years it remained as a service weapon of the cavalry.

In 1820 a steel ball was added to the base of the point of the lance in order to prevent over-penetration down the shaft to make withdrawal easier. However the British abandoned the ball in 1840, although a rondel type 'stop' continued in patterns for the Indian cavalry. From 1836 shafts of bamboo were used exclusively until 1885, when problems of supply and quality saw ash, treated with linseed oil and tar, reintroduced alongside bamboo. All lances had a hide sling wrapped around the midpoint of the haft which and was looped round the arm when in combat to prevent the lance being lost and the wrapping of which provided a secure grip for the hand. On ash staves a leather protector sleeve was added to the bottom half of the shaft. This both provided a grip and prevented chafing to the shaft from the carbine when slung. This also enabled a 'D' ring to be attached so that the lance could be kept in the correct position when being carried in the stirrup bucket, which was ordered on all service lances in 1896.

From 1868 until its final withdrawal from service in 1927, the lance head remained unchanged. The blade was of thick triangular form and hollow ground. The head lacked langets from 1868 and was shellaced onto the shaft despite claims from British cavalry officers that this left the head vulnerable to being cut off in combat. This was remedied in 1894 by doubling the length of the socket of the lance head. Problems with supply, or perhaps the desire to produce a more robust weapon for shock use, saw the British Army desgined an experimental steel shafted lance in 1915. This retained the same 1868 head but was never introduced to service. It is remarkable that even after the experience of trench warfare had begun that improved lance designs for the cavalry were still being explored.

Use and effect

Whether lance or sword was the best weapon for the cavalry was a question that divided military opinions in the 19th century. If a consensus can be said to have existed it was that the lance required a great deal of training to use effectively. It was also widely acknowledged that lancers should also carry swords, for use in the melee when a lances' length could be a disadvantage.

Unlike the German cavalry who had the lance as their main arme blanche, or the French who equipped approximately half of their total cavalry regiments with this weapon, the British use of the lance was much more select. Following the failure of shock cavalry in the South African War, the lance had been withdrawn from the British cavalry in 1903 and was not reinstated until six years later. In 1914 only the six designated Lancer regiments of the 26 regular cavalry regiments were issued with the lance, and none of the Yeomanry regiments carried it.

However, the cavalry regiments of the British Indian Army did contain a much higher proportion of lancers, and were renowned for being particularly skilled with the weapon. At El Hinu, during the Affair of Abu Tellul (14 July 1918) the Poona Horse and Jodhpore and Mysore Lancers of the Imperial Service cavalry killed over 90 Ottoman soldiers with the lance. They captured 100 prisoners and four machine guns. This included a successful charge against an entrenched position.

The deadly effect the lance could have is described by Second-Lieutenant Leche of the 12th Lancers. When in 1914 his Squadron was able to take by surprise a dismounted force of German cavalry in the flank and could "just take the Huns like pegs":
"Our lances did great work, though they didn't go in as far as one would think - about a foot in most cases. Several men also used the butt with very good effect, and one man got his lance through up to the sling!... The doctor said the wounds were terrible. Anyhow they squealed enough when they got it."


Country of manufacture Britain
Date entered service 1894
Manufacturer Royal Small Arms Factory, Enfield
Overall length 2.76 m (9 ft 0.5 in)
Primary operator Britain
Weight 2.19 kg (4 lb 13 oz)


Henry Yallop