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An Infantry Officer’s Fighting Sword, 1808

A George III 1803 pattern infantry officer's sword, with curved, part-blued, fullered steel blade decorated in bright gilt with a trophy of arms, foliage swags, the crowned Royal Arms  to one side, a stands of arms, foliage, and a crowned GR cypher to the other, the back of the blade bearing the signature of John Justus Runkel of Solingen, gilt-brass hilt, the guard pierced with the royal cypher GR crowned, wire bound fish skin grip and bold gilt lion's head pommel, contained in its copper mounted leather scabbard, the throat engraved with the maker's name ‘TATHAM / Sword Cutter / to his / MAJESTY / Charing Crofs’.
The development of the Pattern 1803 Flank Officer's sword originates with formation of grenadier and light companies in the late 18th century. These were considered the elite of both the Foot Guards and line infantry, and could be detached and deployed separately as skirmishers. The grenadier company was the senior company of any infantry battalion and would typically lead an assault. When the battalion was deployed in line, the grenadier and light companies were deployed on the right and left flanks respectively, and both companies could be could be called upon to operate in looser formations and semi-independently. The added element of risk associated with detached skirmishing in looser formations meant that the officers of these companies needed a more robust fighting sword than the straight 1796 pattern.
Henry Tatham (1770-1835) was sword cutler to George III from at least 1798. His business was located at 37 Charing Cross in close proximity to the Horse Guards and the Admiralty. By contrast, John Justus Runkel was located in a small alley in Tookes Court, Holborn. In July 1806, Runkel indentured into his business a young apprentice named Abraham Neef who was native of Solingen, Germany. The Neef family had been cutlers in Solingen since the late 16th century, and the apprenticeship of Abraham Neef to Runkel suggests strong links between Runkel and the Neef family. In fact it has been suggested [see: Dellar and O'Reilly] that in fact the Neef family of Solingen were making some, if not all, of the blades imported by Runkel from Germany to Britain in the period 1780-1808. In 1803 Tatham entered into business with Joseph Egg.


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