In this age when we think of weapons, we tend to think of aircraft, electronic guidance systems, bombs and missiles. Sophisticated star wars systems may come to mind or huge warships and aircraft carriers or even chemical or nuclear weapons.
Of course that has not always been the case.
From man’s earliest days the blade has been the basic form of weapon whether for hunting, defence or warfare. For close combat and ceremonial occasions it is still in use today: the dress sword of the mounted officer or the bayonet of the infantry. If you are lucky enough to be Knighted you may even get a tap on the shoulders by the British Queen with a ceremonial sword.
I would like to make it clear at this point, that this article takes no stance on the use of weaponry.
My own beliefs and convictions are not included here. This is a look at some of the non standard, more interesting and curious forms that blades have taken, with historical, geographic and cultural differences. I use the term blade because some of the forms shown cannot be described as knives or swords.
Some readers may be surprised to find that the image shown is actually modern British army issue. It is issued to one of the most feared units in the British army: the Gurkhas.
It is their weapon of choice in close combat, rather than the bayonet.
The story of the Gurkhas is a long and historically complicated one.
Succinctly: Gurkhas hail from Nepal which was part of India. In its Empire building days, Britain made India one of its colonies. The Gurkhas were seen as brave and heroic fighters who were recruited into the colonial Indian army as a “Martial Race”, a term which meant that they were not classed as mercenaries.
With the independence of India in 1947 four regiments became part of the British army. Prior to this they have fought in both World Wars and latterly were part of the forces that in the 1980’s defeated the Argentine army in the Falklands and also served in the Middle East.
The Kukri shown above is the standard army issue with karda and chakmak.
Traditionally the blade is 12-15 inches (30-38cm) long. The karda is a small accessory blade used for many tasks. The chakmak is unsharpened and is used to burnish the blade. It can also be used to start a fire with flint.
The Shamshir is a sabre that is part of the scimitar group of swords.