Original British Victorian Naval "Lead Cutter" Training Cutlass - Circa 1850
Original Item: One Only. This is very heavy Victorian Naval Cutlass that was specifically produced so that regular seaman in the Royal Navy could build up their shoulder muscles. In the time of Nelson and before, many sailors were pressed men, kidnapped and sent to sea. However, by the time Queen Victoria came to the British Throne in 1837, the Royal Navy was only made up of volunteers, who usually enlisted out of need. Due to their poverty, their physical condition was often deplorable, reducing their effectiveness.
So, the Admiralty decided to invest in these volunteers by providing far better living conditions and better food. They introduced physical exercise and every rating was required to do a Cutlass Drill. In this regard these special "Lead Cutter" Cutlasses were introduced to build up the shoulder and arm muscles. The seamen trained with these by striking large slabs of lead, which is where the name comes from. Due to training with such a heavy blade, when issued the lighter sharpened cutlasses, they were able to wield them to great effect. It was even reported than some exceptionally developed seaman carried sharpened lead cutter cutlasses into battle, delivering tremendous force on the enemy.
Here we have a typical very heavy lead cutter cutlass fitted with a huge 30" blade by just over 1 1/2" wide in an iron grooved grip and substantial hand guard. Released from Priddy's Hard at the Portsmouth Hampshire Naval Establishment in the 1980s it is still in remarkably good condition, with only some slight scattered rust on the blade and still displaying the Broad Arrow acceptance mark on the blade in front of the guard. The nearly 4 lb. weight of the cutlass is amazing and when one visualizes the puny British Seamen of the 1850s and 1860 one can fully understand the effectiveness of such a Cutlass in training and perhaps also in combat.
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