British 1895 Pattern Northumberland Fusiliers Officer's Sword, Named to Lt. Col. Lord Arthur E L Crofton, 4th Baron Crofton
Single-fullered straight picquet weight blade with spear point, 0.85 inches wide at the shoulder, the blade 33 inches in length, 39½ inches overall. Steel hilt with pierced decoration including crown and royal cypher of Victoria, and inset regimental badge of the Northumberland Fusiliers, with St George slaying the dragon inset on a flaming bomb device atop the letter ‘V’. Steel chequered backstrap with integral pommel, black shagreen grip bound with wire, brown leather washer. Red and gold parade sword knot with silver acorn, brown leather field scabbard with plated steel mouth and frog strap.
The blade is finely custom etched on both sides: on one side with the regimental badge just as on the hilt: (St George + the flaming bomb), foliate motifs and, at the forte, with the maker’s name ‘E Thurkle / Maker / Soho / London’. On the other side there is the battle honours of the Northumberland Fusiliers within scrollwork, from ‘Wilhelmsthl’ (referring to Wilhelmsthal 1762) to ‘Afghanistan 1878-80’, the regimental badge from their second colour consisting of a rose and crown, above the regimental motto ‘Quo Fata Vocant’ (Whither the Fates Call), a third badge of a lion and crown over ‘Northumberland Fusiliers’, which surrounds ‘The V’ (referring to their traditional title of the 5th Regiment of Foot), and the family crest and motto of the Crofton family: a wheat stalk with seven ears growing from it, with ‘Dat Deus Incrementum’ (God Gives the Increase) within a ribbon. At the forte on the same side there is a brass proof slug and six-pointed star proof mark. The hilt and scabbard have been nickel-plated.
Arthur Edward Lowther Crofton was born in August 1866. The Crofton family owned more than 11,000 acres in County Roscommon from the traditional family seat of Mote Park House.
He became a Lieutenant in the 3rd Battalion, Border Regiment in March 1885 but transferred to the 1st Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers in November 1886. He was promoted to Captain in May 1895, and became Adjutant for the 3rd Volunteer Battalion in June 1896. Being in the 3rd Battalion he was not deployed to the Boer War. He married in 1893 and retired from the service in June 1901 with a gratuity and succeeded his father as the 4th Baron Crofton of Mote in September 1912.
Lord Crofton then returned to service with his old regiment in the First World War (aged 48), having been on the Reserve List of officers since his retirement. He was promoted to temporary Lieutenant-Colonel and took command of the 13th (Service) Battalion from June 1915. The men of the Service Battalions were civilians who had volunteered for Kitchener’s ‘New Army’ at the outbreak of war and had been in training since 1914. Their officers were typically retirees, like Lord Crofton, or young officer recruits, like his 18-year-old son and heir Edward who also enlisted into the Northumberland Fusiliers as a Lieutenant in the 14th (Service) Battalion.
The 13th Battalion deployed to France in September 1915 and within days of arrival had to force-march in order to take part in the Battle of Loos – as their Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Crofton would have been the highest-ranking officer in the field with them with command of around 1000 men. After fighting in support of the Highland Light Infantry at Loos, taking 347 casualties, the 13th was assigned to trenches near Armentieres, alternating with the 12th Battalion until April 1916 when it redeployed to trenches near Meaulte. Lord Crofton relinquished command of the Battalion on the 11th June and was Mentioned in Dispatches on the 13th June 1916.
In July 1916 he was transferred to the Royal Fusiliers, commanding their 31st (Reserve) Battalion based in Colchester. This was a training unit which supplied reinforcements to the deployed battalions. In September 1916 there was a significant reorganisation of training battalions in the Army – unable to cope with the numbers the system had to be centralised rather than parcelled out to regiments and local recruitment was mostly abolished in favour of a national pool of recruits. The 31st therefore became the 107th (Training Reserve) Battalion, with no connection to the Fusiliers. In 1917 with another shakeup of the Training Reserve this became the 265th Battalion. Lord Crofton appears to have remained with this training unit for the remainder of the war.
In addition to his military career Lord Crofton was a significant public figure, becoming a Justice of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenant of County Roscommon. While in military service in January 1916 he was elected by the Irish House of Lords to be one of their twenty-eight Representative Peers, who would sit in the British House of Lords for life. This might have been the cause of his transfer from frontline service to a training position. Both his father and grandfather had also been so elected but he would be one of the last ever to hold this office, as the election of new Representative Peers ended in 1919 after Irish independence. Existing Peers continued to sit, however, so he remained a member of the British House of Lords until his death.
Arthur was the last of the Croftons to live at Mote Park House, moving to England permanently in 1940 and dying in June 1942. Mote Park today is a sizeable public park. His son Edward survived the war but died in 1936 leaving Arthur’s grandson to inherit his title, and the current 8th Baron Crofton is a direct descendant.
This sword was probably purchased at around the time of Lord Crofton’s promotion to Captain, which happened to coincide with the introduction of a new pattern of sword, the 1895 Pattern. It must have been purchased in 1895 or 1896 as from 1897 the hilt design was modified, the inner edge of the guard being turned down to reduce fray on the uniform and the size of the pierced holes in the guard reduced. This sword is clearly the earlier type.
Only in existence for two years, the 1895 Pattern officer’s sword is much scarcer than the 1897 (and some were rehilted as directed by the Army Order that announced the change). The Northumberland Fusiliers chose to add their regimental badge to the hilt of their 1895 and 1897 Pattern swords, creating a unique variation. Only a handful of 1895 Pattern Northumberland Fusiliers swords would ever have been made: 64 officers were with the regiment in 1895 and 7 joined in 1896, for a maximum of 71.
The brown leather field scabbard was introduced in 1899 with the Sam Browne belt, so would have been added at that time.
Established by Francis Thurkle in 1754, the firm of Thurkle was a London sword cutler managed by multiple generations of the same family. At the time this sword was purchased the company was trading from 5 Denmark Street, Soho, an area home to a number of military officer’s outfitters.
The blade has one nick to its edge and small areas of patination, but retains a high polish and little of the patination impacts its particularly fine custom etching. The hilt has minor wear to the plating in the expected areas of friction, but the exposed steel is often bright so there is little visual impact. The sword knot has frayed through where it attached to the acorn on one side – the previous owner has secured this with a metal link. The shagreen of the grip is all present with very little handling wear and the grip wires are all present and tight. The leather scabbard is very good with a little scuffing to the chape.