Captain John Gaspard Le Marchant serving as a brigade major of the 2nd Dragoon Guards came up with the idea of a light cavalry sabre after he noticed how clumsy the design of the heavy, over-long swords was being used by the British Army at the time of the French Revolution.
With the collaboration with the Birmingham sword cutler Henry Osborn, a new sabre was born. In 1796 the new Light Cavalry Sabre was adopted by the British Army in 1796 and was used by them until 1821.
The sabre was used by mainly by the British Light Dragoons, Hussars and the King’s German Legion light cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars. It was later also adopted by the Prussians (1811), Portuguese and Spanish cavalry and became the finest cutting sword ever manufactured in quantity.
The sword was made of steel with the blade between 32.5 and 33 inches in length measured in a straight line from the hilt to the tip of the sword. The sword had an average weight of 2lbs 2oz.
The handle was made of wood and covered with black leather. A single rivet joined the handle to the blade near the hilt. The hand was protected by a stirrup D shaped single bar knucklebow of iron.
The blade had a pronounced curve with a spear point tip being border from the tip than at the hilt and was very sharp from the last six inches of the blade, making it ideal for hacking and slashing.
The scabbard was also made of steel with wooden liners and had two loose suspension rings.
The mounted swordsmanship training of the British emphasised the cut, at the face for maiming or killing, or at the arms to disable. This left masses of mutilated/disabled troops, the French in contrast, favoured the thrust, which gave a cleaner kill.
Officers of the famous 95th Rifles and other light infantry regiments and the flank companies of the line regiments adopted swords with an identical hilt to the 1796 light cavalry sabre, but with a lighter and shorter blade.
John Le Marchant introduced a series of reforms to the British cavalry but he sadly died leading a cavalry charge at Salamanca 22nd July 1812.