Today’s swords are facsimiles of the functional weapons of the past and are essentially a ceremonial weapon.
The pattern date referred to in the description of a sword should no be confused with the date of manufacture.
There are five distinct types of swords carried in the Australian Army:
- The Mameluke Sword
- The Cavalry Sword
- The Artillery Sword
- The Infantry Sword
- Scottish Claymore Sword
Members of the Royal Australian Army Chaplains Department are not to wear swords and sword accessories.
The Mameluke Sword
Mameluke swords are a cross-hilted, curved, scimitar-like sword historically used by Mamluk warriors from whom the sword derives its name.
Mameluke swords were carried as dress swords by officers of most light cavalry and hussar, and some heavy cavalry regiments in the British Army at various points during the 19th Century, starting in the period after Waterloo.
This sword is carried by officers of Major General rank and above. The current regulation sword for generals is the British General Officers Dress Sword pattern of 1831, it is a Mameluke style sword, and is carried on ceremonial occasions.
The Cavalry Sword (Sabre)
The current Cavalry Sword is the British Cavalry Officer’s Sword pattern of 1912. The hilt has a nickel-plated steel bowl guard decorated on the outside with a scroll design and has a sword knot slot near the pommel.
The straight blade has a single fuller to each side to within eight inches (20.3 cm) of the sword point and is decorated with an engraved floral design.
Members of the Royal Australian Armoured Corps and Australian Army Aviation wear the Calvalry Sword with black leather and silver fittings.
The Artillery Sword
The current Artillery Sword is the British Artillery Officer’s Sword pattern of 1822. It has a steel three bar hilt and back strap with a wire bound sharkskin grip.
The sword knot is able to hang so that the strap can be wrapped around the wrist when mounted. The slightly curved blade (based on the cavalry sword) has a single fuller to each side to within eleven inches (27.5 cm) of the sword point.
The Artillery Sword is worn by members of the Royal Australian Artillery.
The Infantry Sword
The current Infantry Sword is the British Infantry pattern of 1897. The hilt has a nickel-plated three quarter ‘scroll’ pattern pierced sheet steel guard with the “EIIR” royal cipher. It has a leather sword knot attached to the slot near the pommel.
The grip is wire bound black sharkskin. The straight blade is etched half way on both sides with a foliage design having the royal cypher of Elizabeth II in the centre. There is a single fuller on each side. The brown leather scabbard has a nickel-plated chape and throat. This model sword was an improved version of the 1895 Pattern, which combined a more robust blade with a thrusting point to the blade.
The hand guard was also turned down on the inner edge to prevent the fraying of the uniform. On ceremonial occasions such as trooping the colours, the ensign’s brown scabbard may be replaced by a chrome scabbard.
The Infantry Sword is worn by members of the Royal Australian Infantry and all other members and ex-members entitled to wear a sword. The Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps have a black leather scabbard fitted with a black leather Infantry sword knot.
The Claymore (Scottish Units)
There are three distinct types of Claymore swords.
The original ‘claidheamh mor' was a large two handed sword used in the late Medieval to early modern times.
The second called a ‘claidheamh da laimh’ was also a two handed heavy broadsword.
However, the more commonly recognised type of ‘lowland sword’ or basket hilt sword is not of Scottish origin, although it is always associated with the Highland warrior.
The original enclosed handle design was introduced to protect the hand during combat. Within the military the basket-hilted Claymore is still carried by officers in Scottish Regiments as part of their ceremonial dress.