1861) Wilkinson Sword of Col. Eden Vansittart, Indian Army and Royal Army, DSO, Col.of the 8th Gurkha Rifles
and Col. of the 8th Battalion Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment, 1914-15. 33" blade of regulation 1845 Infantry Officer's type, bears Wilkinson address, proof star, stamped with #21565 (1876), etched with Vansittart arms of eagle over two Maltese crosses over "E.VANSITTART". All etching clearly done by Wilkinson during sword's manufacture. There is no other etching on the fine+ condition blade, and never was. It has been professionally edged for combat. Wilkinson's ledger records proofing of sword # 21565 on "21 Sep. 1876 / 33 X 1 1/8 / Reg. Infantry / Mounted 10/10/76". The failure to enter the buyer's name is not unusual in the ledger. While the blade is certainly a post-1845 Infantry Officer's type (and this would make sense, since Vansittart was commissioned in his cadre, H.M. 63rd Foot), the flimsy brass hilt of the 1822-45 sword has been replaced by a steel fine quality Indian Army officer's version of the 1821 3-bar Light Cavalry type, a vastly more solid and protective guard. More of this below. The hilt is in fine condition, though the original shagreen grip covering shows the wear of considerable use and campaigning. The tang button is untouched. The scabbard is the correct post-1901 wood and leather field use pattern with correct plated steel mouth piece, all other mounts of leather.
Eden Vansittart was born April 19, 1856, son of Henry Vansittart, Civil and Session Judge of the Honorable East India Company Service. Although commissioned into the 63rd, it was always intended he enter the Indian Army, and on 20 July, 1877, Vansittart was appointed to the Madras Staff Corps, and commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Indian Army on Sept. 10, 1877. His War Services in India are as follows:
1881: North West Frontier, Mahsud-Waziri Expedition.
1888: NWF, Hasara Expedition.
1891: NWF, Hazara Campaign, (medal with clasp)
1897-98: NWF, Operations on the Samana and in the Kurram valley during August and Sept. 1897.
Operations of the Flying Column in the Kurram valley under Col. Richardson, 20 Aug. to 1 Oct. 1897. (medal with two clasps).
Considering Vansittart's Afghan campaigns, it is not surprising that he elected to get a more protective hilt for his sword, probably sooner rather than later. In India there were, of course, many depots and moreover, well-stocked outfitters that could cater to any British officer's or sportsman's requirements. If ever there was a place on earth where an officer with every chamber in his revolver expended could expect to face cold steel, it was the NWF. Naturally, Vansittart would ride on the march but dismount during operations, and here the shorter 33" infantry blade would serve him best if needed.
As a Captain in the 5th Gurkhas, Vansittart made himself an expert upon the Nepalese and its peoples, specifically the Gurkhas, to an extent any modern anthropologist might envy. His "Notes on Goorkhas - being a short account of their country, history, characteristic, clans, & etc. (1890)", published in Calcutta, 1890. It was inscribed by permission to the Commander-in-Chief, India, Sir F.S.Roberts, Bart., V.C., C.C.B., etc. It was intended as a guide to evaluation, recruitment, and proper treatment of the Gurkhas by British officers. Though the author maintains a scrupulous objectivity concerning the martial virtues of various clans, tribes and their affiliated groups, he describes and urges understanding of their proud genealogies and customs that were of such importance to the Gurkhas, and that their British officers would be wise to appreciate. He describes their "sturdy, unflinching courage, or daring elan", and ends Part III with a Gurkha saying "It is better die than to be a coward!"
Vansittart retired in 1913 and moved to England. He volunteered to return to the colors in 1914, and was given command of the 8th Battalion Royal West Kent Regiment, formed Sept. 12, 1914. On Sept. 26, 1915, the second day of the Battle of Loos, the Battalion received orders at about 10:30 AM to attack at 11 AM. At that hour, the men left the trenches, led in person by Colonel Vansittart, in an attack that quickly became a disaster. Thrown in on extremely short notice, promised flank support that failed to materialize, the Battalion found itself facing completely intact German wire that was supposed to have been destroyed by British artillery. It was decimated by concentrated machine gun fire from its front and both flanks. Casualties to other ranks were on the order of 60%, and of the 24 officer casualties, 13 were killed - only one officer remained unwounded. Col. Vansittart himself was gravely wounded, and initially reported killed in action; however, after hours in no man's land, he was found by the Germans and given medical care (and repatriation in 1917). For this action, he was mentioned in despatches, and later received the DSO.
All the above research and more, including a modern reprint of his Gurkha monograph, is included with the sword.