Monday, March 28, 2011

The British Pattern 1868 Cavalry Lance at Arnhem?

Anyone who has studied the Battle of Arnhem has probably seen the iconic photograph of MajGen R.E. "Roy" Urquhart, CB, DSO, commanding the 1st Airborne Division, standing in the yard of the Hartenstein Hotel (his divisional headquarters), Oosterbeek, Holland, during one of the few momentary lulls in the battle. He is standing beside an embedded 1868 Pattern British Cavalry lance (bamboo haft is discernible), which is flying a maroon pennon incorporating the formation badge of the Airborne Forces. Although an obvious anachronism at Arnhem, the symbolism is appropriate in that the Airborne Forces were lightly armed but elite troops, analogous to the lancer regiments of the British Army. The question arises, who would take the time and effort to carry a cavalry lance (presumably in a glider) into battle in 1944, only in the British Army!
MGen R.E. Roy Urquhart at 1 AB Div Hqtrs
Hotel Hartenstein, Osterbeek
Friday 22 September 1944
For a number of years I searched for an authentic lance and had to be content with only replicas. When you compare the real thing to these, you can instantaneously tell the difference. The weight of both the lancehead and foot are immediately evident. The sharpness of the point is also a discerning feature. It should be, the genuine set I finally was able to acquire was manufactured by Wilkinson Sword Company Ltd., each part being a single piece of forged and tempered steel.

In addition to their continued use by the renowned Musical Ride of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, genuine lances are still carried on ceremonial occasions and limited duties by various units of the British Army. (If you click on any of the images they can be enlarged)

British Pattern 1868 Lancehead and Foot circa 1936

Wilkinson Sword Co. Ltd etched trademark
on lancehead

British Cavalry Lance Patterns 1885 and 1868 from LOCs (List of Changes)

Standard British Army Lance Pennon

The following photo (drawing) is not nearly as clear as it should be, but is believed to be an original source document, and hopefully the reader will be able to discern the dimensions (barely). It is specifically for a British 1868 Pattern Cavalry Lance. The width is 9 1/4", length is 29" and the dimension to the swallow-tail is 9 3/4". Am sure there was a certain manufacturing tolerance, if not shrinkage in active service. The LoC (List of Chages) specifies that the pennon material shall be red and white 'shalloon'. Shalloon defined as a lightweight twilled fabric of wool or worsted.

Pattern for Lance "Flag" (pennon) for British1868 Pattern
 Cavalry Lance

Additional information can be found in a new article on this blog. See;


Calvin Chivers said...

Looking for a drawing of the 1868 Pennon Pattern, if you have this, please send to

Pat G said...

Great information - thanks for posting it.

Anonymous said...

I have a pattern 1868 lance, minus sling and pennon. Has anyone got a list of markings? I suspect this was on issue to the Light Horse in South Australia. The South Australian Mounted police have quite a number of these lances and used them for tent pegging, also Pat O8 swords.


Gordon Hazel

Arnhemjim said...

Hello Gordon,
I'm familiar with the manufacturers etched markings, and vaguely recall seeing some regimental markings, but the vast majority of lanceheads I've seen have been unmarked, as have all the feet. Personally have not compiled any listing.There are several web sites of possible interest, however if you found my blog page you probably have found them. But I don't assume anything anymore, so here they are;

Hope this is at least of some limited assistance.

Arnhem Jim
Arizona Territory

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