British 1845 Pattern Naval Cutlass, Post-1859 Type B, by Chavasse
Slightly curved, unfullered blade, leather washer, black-painted bowl hilt and ribbed grip, both cast iron, complete with black leather scabbard with steel chape and throat piece with frog stud, black leather frog. Blade 27 inches in length, the cutlass 32 inches overall.
The blade is stamped at the ricasso with the maker’s mark ‘Chavasse’, indicating manufacture by Chavasse & Co, Birmingham. It is stamped on the other side with a small indistinct mark, possibly a crown inspection stamp. The rear side of the frog is stamped near the belt loop with a broad arrow and ‘I’ which is an Indian stores mark, as well as with a very small letter ‘V’ near the bottom edge.
Experiments during the early 1840s for a new naval cutlass design to replace the venerable 1804 Pattern resulted in a design by George Lovell, the Inspector of Small Arms, being accepted in 1842. A fire at the Tower of London destroyed early stocks and the design did not enter service in bulk until three years later, hence being termed the 1845 Pattern, the initial production run lasting until around 1852.
In December of 1859 and January of 1860, the War Office placed new orders for 17,000 cutlasses spread across eight British manufacturers. These were 1845 Patterns but with a modified hilt, sometimes called the Type B: slightly smaller than the original, with less of a swell to the grip towards the pommel, an oval steel strengthening piece between the grip and the hilt and the back edge of the bowl hilt upturned slightly towards the blade.
3,000 of this batch were ordered from Chavasse & Co, of which this example is one. It has its original brass-mounted leather scabbard, not the new model introduced in 1862 which featured a retaining spring.
The blade is the original curved 27 inches long: many 1845s of both A and B types were converted to straight 25½ inch blades in the 1870s by shortening and reforging. This process was botched by a lack of proper heat treatment after the reforging, leading to blade failures in combat, the deaths of British sailors, a public outcry and a military procurement scandal. The original, unmolested 1845 was considered very successful, however, handling well compared to its bulky predecessor the 1804 and being simpler to manufacture.
The blade is bright with patches of cleaned pitting, which affects the edge in places. The very tip of the blade has rolled (<1mm). The hilt and grip retains almost all of its black paint, some very minor flaking and wear e.g. at the bowl edges. The brass fittings of the scabbard are free of dents and have an even patina. The leather of the scabbard remains flexible with some surface-level cracking and light rubbing in places, its stitching is open along most of its length. The frog has more significant cracking, some flaking, and rubbing wear at its edges. The leather retaining strap of the frog has broken at the weak point where the hole is pierced for fastening at the buckle.