Speaker: Dr Mark Barton, naval historian and author of British Naval Swords.
As fundamental as rum and the lash to the Royal Navy in the age of sail is the form of short sword designated a ‘cutlass’. However, it was not until 1804 – the year before Trafalgar – that the Royal Navy adopted an official pattern for the weapon, and 2014 when these swords were finally withdrawn from even ceremonial service.
This talk sheds light on the sword’s history in the Royal Navy. It explores the motivations for adopting the pattern during a global war when the country was on the brink of invasion; what made it inferior to many early ones, and why the Navy spent decades rejecting improvements to the sword. It examines new patterns in the Victorian period, and a proliferation of new designs among other maritime organisations. It looks at the flurry of changes made in the late nineteenth century, following a major procurement scandal when the weapons had been found to be ‘utterly useless’. It concludes by bringing the story all the way up to date with their final uses in action and on parade.
To sign up for this free lecture, go to https://royalarmouries.org/leeds/whats-on/the-cutlass
Image: © The Trustees of the British Museum.