Naval Dirks and Blades at the Artillery Museum

Naval officer’s dirk. The First Empire. France. 1804–1814. From the collection of D.A. Fedourin

On July 11 the Museum of Artillery, Engineers and Signal Corps launched subject exhibition «Naval Dirks and Blade» comprising cold steel arms from the comprehensive collection of a renowned St. Petersburg-based collector D.A. Fedourin.

Different styles of dirk were worn by European and American forces on land and sea. Easier to carry than swords, dirks gained favor as lighter side arms among many military and naval officers during the 17th through 19th centuries. In some navies, they continued to be worn by midshipmen and cadets well into the 20th century. Numerous examples of naval dirks have survived from the earlier age of sail, some with histories of use during naval engagements. Most naval dirks were worn primarily on dress occasions, however, and consequently although attractive many were not designed for use in battle.

Naval and other dirks were commonly made with either double-edged or single-edged blades, and there was no standard blade configuration. Reference books covering naval dirks invariably show the popularity of both blade types. As a consequence, historically there were about as many naval dirks mounting single-edged blades as those with double-edged blades. Some dirks have single-edged blades that also have a false edge near the tip, a feature that could be useful in a backcut.

D.A. Fedourin is a long-term partner of the Museum of Artillery, Engineers and Signal Corps. Through December 2004–January 2005 the Museum hosted the display «Dirks, Daggers and Knives» featuring pieces from Fedourin’s collection. Nowadays, this important collection is considered to be among the most comprehensive private assemblies of cold steel arms in the world, and is worth being exhibited at any museum dealing in military history.

The display «Naval Dirks and Blades» comprises about one hundred side arms dating XVIIIth–XXth century worn by officers, midshipmen, and cadets from fifteen countries of the world. including Great Britain, Germany, Denmark and Russia.

One of the display’s sections is dedicated to XVIIIth century naval dirks. Naval officers and noblemen used them as side arms instead of swords and sabers.

During the age of the First Empire in France (1804–1815) short dirks were worn exclusively by officers and cadets. Interestingly, due to rather high cost of a dirk, those pieces were often passed on from father to son.

Among the most interesting and important showpieces at the exhibition are short swords and blades worn by officers of Japanese Navy. In addition, visitors to the exhibition «Naval Dirks and Blade» will have an opportunity to see cold steel arms of Greece, Austria, Sardinia and Yugoslavia dating XIXth–XXth centuries. The display is on view through middle October.

Published in: on October 5, 2007 at 8:48 am  Leave a Comment  

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