British Named Midshipman Dirk: Battle of the Nile

Item Description

Original Item: During the 18th century it was a tradition for midshipmen (Junior Officers) to carry a dirk (long dagger) as a sign of rank until they achieved officer status when they would be upgraded to a proper full-length sword.

Here we have a beautiful original ivory checkered grip gilt mounted dirk. The curved blade is quite stylish, the pommel and back strap show the British Lion with a flowing mane. The thin chain guard is absent and no scabbard accompanies this weapon. The blade has some deep pitting on both sides however the dirk all in all is very sound condition.

What really sets this Dirk aside is the engraving on the front of the back strap. It is beautifully marked "J.T. LEE. Swiftsure”. Although, un-verified by IMA, the collector from whom we got this item assures us that Midshipman Lee was serving on H.M.S. Swiftsure at the time of the battle of the Nile. The Swiftsure was also at Nelson's most famous battle; Trafalgar in 1804.

There are loads of Internet research surrounding John Theophilus Lee who did indeed serve on the Swiftsure, but there have also been reports that another one of his dirks, handed down by his family, that we think is known to be in existence. Did he have two? We just do not know. Certainly much more research and verifications must be conducted. Such work, however, is beyond our scope, but here is an interesting link we found to get you started

Whatever is determined in regard to the original owner of this dirk, and the inscription, we know this to be a true British Naval Midshipman's Dirk dating from the very late 18th or early 19th century, that just might have been at the right place at the right time, making it an ideal addition for the Anglophile or Naval Historian's collection.

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