Late Anglo-Saxon Sword
- Dated: AD 875
- Found: 1874 in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, England
An iron sword fragment and hilt were found near Abingdon in Oxfordshire in 1874. The decoration on the sword hilt indicates this was a high status weapon dating from around AD 875. The style of the guards and pommel (Peterson style L) also suggest the sword dates from the late 9th to 10th century.
The sword hilt forms one of the most important examples of the late Anglo-Saxon silversmith’s art. The hilt is decorated with six silver engraved mounts; the engraved ornament on the mounts is in the Trewhiddle style - named after finds made at Trewhiddle, Cornwall. This style combines engraving and inlay with niello (black sulphide of silver).
The upper and lower guards are curved and contain various interlaced designs, including birds, animal and human figures, and foliate patterns. The figures on the upper guard have been identified as the four symbols of the evangelists.
The style of leaf used next to the figure of the eagle on the upper guard has also been identified on early tenth century embroideries from Durham, on the back of the Alfred Jewel and a number of other objects dating to this period.
The pommel incorporates two outward-looking animal heads, with protruding ears and round eyes and nostrils, now fragmentary. The lower portion of the iron blade is missing, however X-rays of the sword show that the blade is pattern welded.
The sword was acquired by Sir John Evans and presented to the Ashmolean in 1890. It is on display in the ‘England 400-1600’ gallery on the second floor.
The Guns of Aimo Lahti
Between 1922 and 1940, Aimo Johannes Lahti designed some of Finland’s best small arms including pistols, submachine guns, machine guns and anti-tank guns. Up until the end of the First World War Finland had been an autonomous Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire and as such relied on Russian small arms with the Mosin-Nagant being Finland’s standard issue rifle even after independence. In 1919, the newly independent Finland began a programme of indigenous small arms development which eventually saw many of Aimo Lahti’s firearms adopted.
The photographs above show some of Lahti’s best designs including the Lahti L-35 pistol, the Lahti L-39 20 mm anti-tank rifle, the Suomi KP/-31 submachine gun and the Lahti-Saloranta M/26 light machine gun.
Lathi dropped out of school at a young age but became fascinated by firearms in his teens. After working various jobs, serving a year of national service with the Finnish Army which fostered his interest in firearms and after a spell working on the Finnish railways Lahti returned to the army in the 1920s as an armourer. In 1932 the he was appointed head light weapons engineer by the Finnish Ministry of Defence. He eventually became a master armourer and director of the Finnish National Arsenal. In the mid 1920s he began work on his first designs. After examining a Bergmann MP18 Lahti began work on a submachine gun - the Suomi M22 and later M26 which formed the basis for his later Suomi KP/-31 (see images #5 & #6).
The Suomi KP/-31 (meaning ‘“Submachine-gun Finland’), used a straight blowback system and was chambered in 9mm, feeding from a box magazines or from 40 or 71-round drums. The KP/-31 was adopted by the Finnish army in 1931 but under 5,000 had been produced by the time the Winter War Began in 1939. The Suomi proved to be robust, reliable and accurate due to its long 12.5 inch barrel. It was produced under license in Sweden, Denmark, and Switzerland and the 71-round drum inspired the now iconic drum of the Soviet PPSh 41.
Aimo Lahti c.1940 (source)
The second Lahti design adopted for service was the Lahti-Saloranta M/26 light machine gun which he designed with Arvo Saloranta in 1926. The M/26 was arguably one of the interwar period’s better light machine guns although it suffered from being complex and somewhat heavy. It used a recoil operated system and could fire accurately in single shot or fully automatic modes. It fed from a curved 20-round box magazine or a 75-round drum loaded below the receiver. Like the Suomi relatively few were produced by the Finns and during the Winter War vast numbers of Soviet light machine guns were captured and put into service, with the DP-28 often being favoured. (See images #7, #8 & #9)
In 1929, Lahti began the development of a semi-automatic pistol to replace the German Luger which had proven unreliable in sub-zero temperatures with the weapon’s exposed toggle lock freezing solid. While the L-35 shares a passing physical resemblance to the pistol it replaced it shares no mechanical similarities (see image #1). The Lahti used a rectangular bolt which was enclosed within the receiver and was locked at the breech when in battery. The L-35 is notable for having an accelerator, a feature usually only seen in machine guns. This was to ensure that the weapon was reliable in sub-zero conditions ensuring that the inertia of the recoiling barrel speeds up the bolts rearwards travel. While a run of the pistols were made without the accelerator during the Winter War these were found to be less reliable than the pistols with the accelerator. The pistol was chambered in 9mm and fed from an 8-round single stack magazine. Interestingly, the pistol could not be field stripped as the receiver fully enclosed the action which very effectively prevented dirt from entering.
Exploded diagram of the Swedish Lahti M/40 (source)
As with Lahti’s other weapons the number made by Finland was relatively small with under 15,000 pistols made in a number of production runs between 1935 and 1951. A Swedish copy was licensed as the Lahti Husqvarna Model 40 with over 80,000 Swedish Lahti’s being made with the pistol remaining in use until the 1980s.
Lahti also developed larger calibre weapons including the L-39 20mm anti-tank rifle and a number of anti-aircraft guns including a dual mount 20mm cannon adopted in 1940. The L-39 was a direct development from Lahti’s earlier anti-aircraft cannons using the same 20mm Anti-Aircraft round. The L-39 fed from a top mounted 10-round magazine and used a gas operated self-loading action. By the beginning of the Winter War only a handful of the anti-tank rifles had been produced and they saw limited use. When the Continuation War began in 1941, the 20mm round fired by the Lahti proved ineffective against the more modern Soviet armour and was relegated to a anti-materiel role used to engage Soviet defensive positions.
By the 1940s the concept of anti-tank rifles, even 20mm ones such as the L-39, was increasingly obsolete in the face of armour development. The L-39 is easily recognised by its two skis attached to its bipod which allowed it to be pulled in snow - at 94 lbs unloaded this would have been a colossal weight to carry. (See images #2, #3 & #4)
Lahti’s weapons were robust and reliable and were instrumental in the arming of Finland following the end of the First World War. With designs ranging from pistols to anti-aircraft cannons Lahti proved to be a gifted firearms designer. Following the end of World War Two he retired, dying in 1970 at the age of 74.
'Aimo Lahti - The Most Important Weapons Designer', S. Kärävä (2002), [source]
The Handgun Story, J. Walter, (2008)
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Firearms, I.V. Hogg, (1978)
Military Small Arms of the 20th Century, I.V. Hogg & J. Weeks, (1985)
I didn’t know how this post was going to end so I assumed the cat started organizing the crayons????
If you’re picky about cosplaying your body type, then you’ll love this guy!
The only known surviving Roman scutum shield - known from testudo(tortoise) formation.
mid-3rd century AD, Dura-Europos
Aftermath of the Warsaw Uprising, 1944.
i have no words