Fine Antique Arms & Armour

Scottish Military Basket Hilted Backsword of the type carried by the Perthshire Highlanders (116 Regiment of Foot) - Late 18th Century Ref: 11.61


Price: £1,550

Item Description:


A representative example of the distinctive and rare form of late 18th century Scottish military basket hilted backsword carried by The Perthshire Highlanders. The hilt is symmetrical from the front being made up of two halves of steel which are brazed together and pierced with thistles and leaves inside roundels and bars. To the front an incised roundel is present cut around its edge with the regimental motif, now indistinct,"NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSIT".


The 116th Regiment of Foot, [Perthshire Highlanders] was raised in January 1794 by John, fourth Earl of Breadalbane. In November 1794 the regiment was sent to serve in Ireland. In January 1795 it received it's official number of the 116th Regiment. A mutiny broke out among the soldiers, now stationed in Dublin in August 1795, due to a rumour that the regiment was to be disbanded and the men sent to reinforce other units serving abroad. They rioted in the streets of Dublin for two days until other troops restored order. The regiment was then officially disbanded on 23rd September 1795 and its men, ironically, were then transferred to other units.


The hilt is built up from a broad base plate through which the tang passes and from which the ribbon type guard bars are formed. The small domed pommel sits in a ring formed from the upper part of the hilt. The grip is a replacement. The backsword blade is typical of blades manufactured for the British military at the time and is unmarked, 29.25 inches long (75 cm) and possesses a short ricasso. Some four inches from the hilt (10 cm) two fullers emerge either side. A central broad fuller extends to the tip of the blade. The second fuller sits underneath the spine of the blade to 10 inches (25.5 cm) from the tip after which the blade becomes double edged and the fuller disappears. Overall the sword is 35.5 inches long (90 cm).


The distinctive pot-bellied style of this hilt is typical of a sword form made for other Scottish regiments of foot towards the end of the 18th century. In general it seems it was issued to Scottish fencible regiments raised in 1793/4 for war with France but were disbanded in 1801. The 116th is perhaps the most enigmatic because of the notoriety it achieved due to the mutiny and its life was very short.


Two further examples of the sword type can be seen in Cyril Mazansky's British Basket Hilted Swords page 201. The frontal roundel of one of these is engraved with the marks of the Breadalbane Fencible Infantry. See also "The Welded-Hilt Swords of the 116th Regiment of Foot, The Perthshire Highlanders" by Major D R Baxter, Journal of the Arms & Armour Society, Vol VIII, 6th December, 1976.


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