Object Title

Sword

Sword

Date

1910-1920

Object Number

IX.5502

Provenance

Purchased at auction from Christie's South Kensington Ltd. Sale 9170, Antique Arms and Armour and Books, 19 July 2001 (comprising five swords in all)

Physical Description

Of steel, with flat oval pommel, pierced by two holes (for a wrist cord, now missing) with the pointed, angular end of the tang projecting beyond; wide tang to serve as the grip (now lacking its cord binding); stepped disc hand-guard which can be folded flat (the means of keeping it folded in or out now missing); and a broad, double-edged, leaf-shaped blade with a flattened central 'ridge' for the last 335 mm (13.2 in.).
Condition on acquisition: generally good; indications that surface oxidation has been cleaned off.

Dimensions

BladeLength17.6in.
BladeLength448mm
BladeWidth2.8in.
BladeWidth70mm

Associations

Places Britain

Bibliographic References

M J Milner, 'The Welsh Knife: a trench knife issued to the 9th Battalion, the Royal Welch Fusiliers', Journal of the Arms and Armour Society, XVIII, No. 1, March 2004, pp. 7-23, mention at p. 14 and note 28.

Notes

A more complete example, with scabbard, is IX.5508.
The following general account was written before the publication of Milner 2004 and needs revising to take account of it.
For these 'knives' generally see R Flook, British and Commonwealth military knives, Airlife Publishing, Shrewsbury, 1999, pp. 16-18. They were 'used by the 9th Service Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers during World War One. Their use is sometimes said to have been confined to machine gunners: the number that survive suggest they were issued more widely within the 9th Battalion though it is not presently known how widely. The knives were privately provided by Lord Howard de Walden to his battalion. The design was [supposed to be, according to the Patent] based on the design for the ancient Welsh Cledd (though in reality it appears to be modelled on a bronze age sword) and was designed and patented [and made?] by Felix Joubert in 1917, the patent accepted on 23 August 1917 [patent illus. at Pl. 16A; also photocopy on inv. file; the patent was for 'A New or Improved Trench Knife']. The hilts were bound with cord and the ricasso of some examples bear the motto DROS URDDAS CYMRU (for the honour of Wales) and the small mark of a J overstamping an O (such as IX.5508) but other examples (such as the present IX.5502) are unmarked. Mr Flook illustrates three examples (Pls 16 and 16B) all of which retain their grip bindings and two of which have (not identical) scabbards. There appear to have been several designs of scabbard. All appear to have a full width leather belt-loop extending from the inside of the mouth. The Patent shows a scabbard of cross-woven textile with leather chape and belt (as on IX.5508). An example in the National Army Museum (acc. no. 8510-26) has a scabbard of 'solid' webbing with leather chape and Flook illustrates (Pl. 16B) an all-leather scabbard.
Another with 'canvas bound leather scabbard' was offered for sale at Christie's, 16 July 2003, lot 27 (illus. of knife only).
Another (without grip-binding) was in Wallis and Wallis sale, 2 March 1983 (Sale 282), lot 1181 (illus. in cat., Pl. 36) where it was stated in the catalogue entry that reproductions had been made 'some years ago'. Another example with grip-binding and scabbard (similar to or the same as that in Flook 199, Pl. 16B (left)) was illustrated in T. Wise, European edged weapons, Almark, London, 1974, p. 64 (date of sale not given). The 1983 Wallis and Wallis catalogue (see above) also cited Hughes and Jenkins, Military Knives, Part 1, cover and no. 4 (not in RA Library catalogue at 14/11/01; PJL). Lord Howard de Walden's own example is preserved at Dean Castle (near Kilmarnock, Ayrshire (see colour illus. on inv. file)). It retains the the wrist cord and cord binding to the grip, both apparently in good condition, and the disc guard and pommel have inlaid (copper alloy?) decoration on a Celtic theme. The sword also has the motto and Joubert's mark, mentioned by Flook.
Another example (details unknown) is in the Imperial War Museum (reg. no. WEA 785).
The Armouries Minute Book (I.189) has the following entry for 6 September 1916: 'Recieved 'Welsh Knife' made by Mr Joubert of Chelsea for use at the Front'. [added later in a different ink but apparently in the same hand] 'Taken by Curator 22/9/19 (private property)'.
For further information on Joubert, see Nestor Macdonald, 'The history of The Pheasantry, Chelsea 1766-1977', 1977 (copy on inv. file).