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Lt Col B Vaughan Arbuckle, British Artillery Officer’s Sword pattern of 1822/92. Royal Regiment of Artillery


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The search was on!

 

I have collected European military swords for approximately ten years. Whilst I was lucky enough to purchase a named 1912 cavalry officer’s sword, it took many years to discover its owner. This process set me onto the path of purchasing other named British swords. This sword came to my attention on a British sword selling site, antique-swords.com and I set out to research its history and discover if it was worth purchasing.

 

The sword is decorated with traditional late-Victoria/Edwardian designs, in additional to conventional decorations found on artillery officer’s swords, namely the canon and winged lightning bolts.  The swords obverse side carries the owner’s initials “BV” in a scroll located close to the hilt. The reverse side of blade shows the Beaver surmounted by a Victoria Crown, with “ER VII” cypher below.  Both of these characteristics confirm the sword to be post-1901-1911 Royal Regiment of Artillery officer’s sword.

 

The traditional way to trace British Officers is via Hart’s Annual Army List, and with the later date in mind I worked my way back through the years. This search proved fruitless and there was no Royal Regiment of Artillery officer with the initials, BV. There was, however, a BA and upon searching for detail I became convinced that Benjamin Vaughan Arbuckle was my man, but why BV? I discovered his service in India and embarked on a search of Indian Army List online – FIBIwiki finding Benjamin Vaughan Arbuckle listed with a hyphenated last name Vaughan-Arbuckle and concluded that this was indeed my man. Searching both sources provided me with his service history and ancestory.com gave me his family history details.

 

The Sword Itself.

 

Since the Napoleonic Wars officers of the Royal Artillery carried the same regulation patterns that were required for infantry officers.  At some point in the 1840s, officers in Royal Artillery gave up carrying the infantry pattern sword in favour of Pattern 1821 Light Cavalry officer's sword.  As the pattern was officially introduced in the 1822 Dress Regulations, it is not incorrect to also refer to it as a Pattern 1822 Cavalry Officer’s Sword and is still the regulation pattern for officers of the Royal Artillery. Adopted in the late 1840s it was fitted with the new Wilkinson style blade. During the period of the 1845 blades were fitted to British Infantry and Artillery officers' swords, and from 1845 to 1892, tended to get straighter, but this was not universal. The curvature varied, though it is fair to say that more straight examples seem to appear from later dates. The 1845 swords enjoyed a long service life and was used successfully in colonial wars all over the world, often winning the praise of British soldiers who used it to defend their lives. However, in 1892 proponents of the theory that thrust should be used exclusively over cutting for swords prevailed and the cut and thrust blade was replaced by a straight dedicated thrusting blade with a thick, fullered, dumbbell section and a very acute narrow tapered point.

 

The sword is a single fullered Wilkinson 1892 blade, 864mm (34”) long, with an overall length of 1016mm (40”).  Blade width is 292mm (1&¼”) at the shoulder.  The sword overall is in clean

condition, with some cosmetic flaws. The blade is nice, with crisp deep etching, however, there is localized pitting here and there, and one small notch in the blade edge. The blade is straight and solid in the hilt.  There is a steel scabbard present fitted with two rings.

 

The three-bar hilt is in solid condition, with a surprisingly clean and bright surface to the steel parts.  The twisted triple silver wire is all in place and the overall condition of the grip remains excellent, with only minor surface wear towards the pommel. The tang nut is tight and secure and shows no sign of removal or tampering.  

 

Benjamin Vaughan-Arbuckle was born on the 10th of September 1839 in Charlton, Kent, England. In 1858, he gained a commission in the British Indian Army and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the 6th Mountain Field Battery (Bengal Army), on the 15th of June 1858. Commissions in the Royal Artillery were normally awarded to those who graduated from a course at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich and the purchase of an artillery commission must be considered unusual, however, one must assume that he possessed the educational standards required of an artillery officer. (There is no evidence that he attended Woolwich!)  British Indian Army postings were less prestigious than British Army positions, but the pay was significantly greater so that officers could live on their salaries instead of having to have a private income. British officers in the British Indian Army were expected to learn to speak the Indian languages of their men, who tended to be recruited from primarily Hindi speaking areas and he would have attended language courses to become proficient in Hindi at Indian Army language schools.

 

Vaughan-Arbuckle was promoted Lieutenant, Bengal 22nd (Bengal) Field Artillery Battery in August, 1858 and continued to serve with the battery until 1863. During April and May, 1860, he served with the forces under the command of Brigadier General Chamberlain against the Mahsood Wuzeerees and was present at the forcing of the Burrarah Pass, and destruction of Makeem and was eligible for a Medal with Clasp. Between 1864 and 1866 he served with the 19th (Bengal) Field Artillery Battery before transferring back to the 22nd (Bengal) Field Artillery Battery in 1867, eventually becoming Instructor of Gunnery between 1869 and 1871.

 

 In 1872, Lieutenant Vaugh-Arbuckle attended the Gentleman Cadet Company, in England, which seems to have served as a training course for more senior promotion and a necessary avenue for promotion if you had not attended a military college. Upon completion he was promoted Captain Royal (Bengal) Artillery on the 1st August 1872. Whilst in England he married Judith Emily Preston Deplatt – they had met in India.

 

Between 1873 and 1875 he served as a Captain with the 3rd Field Artillery Brigade, at Dover, Kent. During this time his son, Bertram Vaughan-Arbuckle (Capt. Royal Scots, 1874 - 1920) was born. In 1876, whilst detached to Isle of Wight, his daughter, Sybil Mary Vaughan-Arbuckle (1876 – 1932) was born. In 1877, he was appointed Adjutant of the Durham Artillery Militia.

 

Between 1878 and 1882 he served back in India as a Captain in the 11th (Bengal) Field Artillery Battery and was promoted Major on the 16th of January 1879. He served in the 1879-80 Afghan War being employed on Commissariat duty and was eligible for the Afghan War Medal. After that he served with the 9th (Bengal) Field Artillery Battery, Karachi Sind, India for two years. His second daughter, Effie Judith Vaugh-Arbuckle (1880 – 1953) was born in 1880.

 

What followed were a number of British home postings. Between 1883 and 1884 he served as Commander Artillery, Cinque Ports Division before being posted as Commander Artillery, Scottish Division 1885 - 1888. On the 28th of July 1887, he promoted Lt. Colonel. He was posted Commander Artillery, Eastern Division (1889), Commander Artillery, Southern Division (1890) and Commander Royal Artillery, Aden (1891 – 1893).

 

In 1894, he retired to St. Brelade, Jersey, and Channel Islands and seems to have purchased this sword as a ‘retirement’ sword upon the coronation of Edward VII.  Lieutenant Colonel Vaugh-Arbuckle died in St. Brelade, Jersey and Channel Islands, on the 14th of April 1924.

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