Object Title

Pattern 1897 Infantry Officer's Sword

Pattern 1897 Infantry Officer's Sword


This sword marked a radical departure from its predecessors. Since 1822 the British infantry officers had been armed with a combination cut and thrust sword with a half-basket hilt. Its slender, slightly curved, spear-pointed blade was pipe-backed, a feature that had become popular in officer's swords from about 1810 and was intended to add rigidity for thrusting. In 1845 this blade was replaced by a heavier, single fullered blade and the guard strengthened. The blade was now essentially an infantry version of the blade used for the contemporary 1821 patterns of Trooper's swords, but lighter and narrower as it did not have to withstand the shock of mounted use. Although the general from of the 1822 and 1845 Infantry swords remained similar, the 1845 improvements made for a slightly sturdier, if heavier, fighting weapon.

However as a cut and thrust weapon the 1845 sword was, by necessity, a compromise and by 1892 a new sword had been devised. Intended solely for thrusting, the blade was unlike anything that had gone before. The blade has no edge for the first half of its length, being identical front and back. These thick, rounded edges gave the blade great strength and rigidity, whilst a deep fuller along this portion of the blade meant the total weight was no more than its predecessor. The final half of the blade is flat and tapers into an acute spear-point.

From 1892-95, this new blade was mated to the 1845 half basket 'gothic' hilt. However, despite its strengthening, this guard left significant gaps through which the hand of the wielder could be attacked, and the brass could become bent with a strong blow. The result was the 1895 steel three-quarter basket hilt, with much reduced gaps and good overall hand protection. The backstrap of the new hilt was chequered along its length and was designed the thumb could sit on top, in a thrusting position. The final amendment to this sword came in 1897, when the inside of the guard was turned down, to sit comfortably against the side of the wearer.

Use and effect

Although designed as a fighting sword the pistol had replaced the sword as the main weapon of the British infantry officer by the time Pattern 1897 entered service. Nevertheless, it was still carried in the field in the South African War and in 1899 a brown leather scabbard was introduced for active service. Reports from the latter part of the Mahdist War (1881-99) suggest that on the few occasions the patterns 1892-7 swords were used in anger it stood up well to the rigours of sword on sword combat.

Despite the obsolescence of the infantry sword when Britain declared war on August 6 1914 the order was still given throughout the army for officers to sharpen swords. This order was clearly followed as some Pattern 1897 swords show evidence of sharpening.

The Pattern 1897 continues to be used today, albeit it in a purely ceremonial capacity, as part of the dress uniform of infantry officers of the British Army.


Blade length 81.5 cm ( 32 in)
Country of manufacture Britain
Date entered service 1897
Manufacturer Wilkinson Sword, London
Overall length 96.5 cm (40.4 in)
Primary operator Britain
Weight 900 g (1lb 15.7 oz) (without scabbard)


Henry Yallop