British sabre for an infantry officer with the East India Company

British sabre for an infantry officer with the East India Company

Sabel East India Company

Technical data

Type Sabre
Model Variant Pattern 1803
Made by J.J. RUNKEL - Solingen, Germany
Used by East India Company, United Kingdom
Date 1803-1822
Dimensions 91.5 cm (L) x 13.5 cm (W) x 2.5 cm (H)
Weight 0.952 kg
Where to be found within the War Heritage Institute Royal Military Museum, storage

How Germany manufactured weapons for the United Kingdom in 1803

The Variant Pattern 1803 sabre was a short sabre for infantry officers with the East India Company. As the British government doubted the quality of British weapons, it equipped its armies with items from foreign suppliers. Consequently, this sabre was manufactured by the German Runkel Company in Solingen in 1803. At that point in time, the occupation of the Indian subcontinent by the British East India Company was quite unsettled. German manufacturer Runkel supplied Britain with weapons up till 1807.

Sabel East India Company


The gilded brass hilt features an ivory grip. The elegant knuckleguard square-corners into a straight flat crossguard with faceted terminal button. The langer’s external side is embellished with a climbing lion holding a crown and its inner side with a weapon trophy. The knuckleguard’s bulge is adorned with an aureole (rays or star).

A sharply cutting blade with wide fuller and straight back is secured into the grip. The blade is partly blued and decorated with etched personages. The outer side presents the royal crowned monogram GR above the Roman numeral III (referring to King George III); the inner side displays the English crowned coat of arms and the motto “honi soit qui mal y pense” above a banderole stating “dieu et mon droit”. The back reads “JJ Runkel Solingen”.

Sabel East India Company

Did you know that…

  • by 1780 English sword makers had acquired a dubious reputation? Despite the fact that the British government wanted to protect its industry by levying duties on the import of foreign swords, it also preferred to equip its armies with foreign-made models (e.g. by the German Runkel company).

  • when the East India Company placed orders for 10,000 horsemen’s swords with various suppliers in 1786, Thomas Gill, an English sword maker, insisted on a test comparing his swords with the imported ones? In October 1786, the first tests were run on a machine specially made for the East India Shipping Committee. Swords by Gill, Runkel, Hervey and Wooley were compared.

  • Gill’s swords only just achieved the best results? Runkel swords obtained a second place, significantly ahead of the other British producers. British edged weapons indeed proved to lack in quality.

What makes this sabre a top piece?

This sabre is a rare and unusual object. The fact that it was manufactured in what is now known as Germany for the British East India Company is an interesting fact that makes the object even more fascinating. Moreover, the weapon is of excellent quality.

-Nand Cremers, collection manager Arms and Armours, War Heritage Institute