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93rd Sutherland Highlanders Officer’s Dirk Dating to Circa 1850

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Price: £4,850

Ref: 001.16

Item Description

This impressive dirk is formed with black hard wood grips to the dirk, by-knife and by-fork, all decorated with a cut basket weave pattern of interlace with studs applied at the intersections. The mounts are ornate and the openwork pommels are canted and decorated with ornate bands of thistles, foliage and topped with finely cut multi-facetted citrines of a light rose pink colour. The dirk blade and scabbard are extensively marked with emblems and motifs of the 93rd Highlanders. The Regiment fought bravely at the Battle of Balaklava in 1855 when utterly outnumbered by the Russians in an action immortalized by Robert Gibb in his painting “The Thin Red Line”.

The dirk is housed in a wooden scabbard covered with black leather and mounts on top. The mouthpiece to the front contains the number 93 within a frame of thistles and foliage. The chape and pocket rims are reinforced with further mounts and also embellished with thistles and foliage. The base ferrule of the dirk grip fits snugly over the top of the scabbard mouth piece.

The leaf shaped blade is just under 12 inches (30 cm) long and has a scalloped back edge and a double fuller extending for three quarters of the blade length after which it becomes double edged. On one side the blade is centred with an etched thistle with the word “SUTHERLAND” above, and “HIGHLANDERS” below, with further scrolls and foliage above and below this. On the reverse side the blade is centred with the number 93 within a scroll of thistles plus further foliate patterns above and below. Beneath this is a scroll with the words “CAPE OF GOOD HOPE” commemorates the actions of the regiment there in the early 19th century.

The name and address of the retailer, Jones, 6 Regent Street, London, is applied onto the blade near to the hilt base. At 6 Regent Street, London, a “John Jones” is registered from 1828 to 1868 and a “John Jones & Co” from 1894 to 1923. The retailer name on the dirk is simply Jones and a “Jones & Co” is recorded from 1868 to 1893 as a retailer that sold swords made by the Wilkinson Sword Company. The dirk is of a pattern dating from 1830 to circa 1870.


The 93rd Sutherland Highlanders was raised from the Sutherland Fencibles at the end of the 18th century and was formally gazetted into the British Army in 1800. In 1805 the Regiment sailed for the Cape of Good Hope to assist the Highland Brigade recapture Cape Colony from the Dutch. In 1806 the 93rd helped rout the Dutch at the Battle of Blauwberg Hills after which Cape Colony surrendered. In 1814 the Regiment embarked for the American campaign and landed near New Orleans on 23rd December in time to help turn the flank of an American surprise night attack. A few days later the 93rd helped rout the left flank of the Americans during torrential rain but this was noticed too late by the British to take advantage. During the final assault of the campaign the 93rd was left bogged down in front of American positions with no orders due to the loss of its senior officers and was shot to pieces, showing such immense bravery to earn the highest respect from the American forces.

The Regiment was withdrawn to Ireland to rebuild its strength in 1815 where it remained for 8 years without a single desertion. In 1823 the 93rd was posted to Barbados to help garrison the West Indies and returned to England in 1834 to receive New Colours from the Duke of Wellington in Canterbury. After being stationed at various garrisons in Ireland the 93rd was sent to Canada in 1838 and was present at the capture of The Windmill held by rebels and returned to Scotland in 1848 to garrison Stirling Castle and was Guard of Honour for Queen Victoria in 1849.

In 1854 the 93rd left Plymouth for the Crimea Campaign. The Regiment fought bravely at the Battle of Balaklava in 1855 when utterly outnumbered by the Russians in an action immortalized by Robert Gibb in his painting “The Thin Red Line”. The historical author, Thomas Carter, wrote: “Advancing in great strength, supported by artillery, the Russian cavalry appeared on the scene. One portion of them assailed the front and right flank of the 93rd, but were instantly driven back by the vigorous and steady fire of that distinguished regiment, under Lieutenant-Colonel Ainslie”. Col. William Bernard Ainslie was made a Companion of Bath (C.B.) for his leadership during the campaign.

On 20 September 1857 the 93rd arrived at Calcutta reaching Cawnpore on 31 October to see the remains of the slaughter done by mutineers on women & children. The Regiment then crossed the Ganges River to join the column assembling for the relief of Lucknow. After a number of engagements the Regiment took part in the storming and taking of Secunder Bagh (a walled garden fortification). By heavy cannonade a breach wass made and the 93rd rushed in under heavy fire, at the same time storming the main gate, with the 4th Punjab Infantry Regiment. Fierce hand-to-hand fighting lasted for hours within the enclosure. By 3 pm, 2,000 Sepoy mutineers were dead inside. Six Victoria Crosses were awarded to the 93rd for their actions on this day. The rebels were later routed at the Battle of Cawnpore after which the 93rd spent some days clearing the district around Lucknow.

In March at the Battle for Lucknow the 93rd helped storm Kaiser Baugh. 5,000 Sepoy rebels faced the 800 of the 93rd. Fierce hand-to-hand combat took place for 4 hours. Of the 93rd 15 men were killed and 47 wounded. Of the Mutineers over 860 were dead. The Victoria Cross was awarded to Lt. Wm McBean who killed 11 enemy in succession with his sword at the gate. After severe skirmishing and street fighting Lucknow was cleared & in possession of the British. The 93rd then proceeded to camp at Dilkoosha. The Regiment then took part in the Battles of Bareilly, Poosgawah, Russellpore and was posted to various hot spots around India. The Regiment left India from Bombay in 1870 and was welcomed back to Scotland in Leith after 19 years away.

In 1871 the Regiment was presented new colours by the Duchess of Sutherland. In 1877 the 93rd was posted to Curragh camp near Dublin in Ireland and in 1879 part of the Regiment helped garrison Gibraltar. In July 1881, the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders were united with the 91st (Argyllshire Highlanders) Regiment of Foot to form the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Princess Louise’s (Sutherland and Argyll Highlanders) later renamed Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise’s) . The traditions and character of the 93rd remained so strong that members of the 2nd Battalion would continue to refer to themselves as the 93rd right up until that battalion was put into suspended animation in 1947.

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