Swagger Stick

Age: 19-20th century

Condition: Excellent

Size (cminches): 70 x 2 x 2


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Item information


Black painted cane with a silver top and brass end ferule. The silver top has the George VI Royal Engineers crest on it.

History & Provenance

A swagger stick is a short stick or riding crop usually carried by a uniformed person as a symbol of authority. A swagger stick is shorter than a staff or cane, and is usually made from rattan. Its use derives from the vine staff carried by Roman centurions as an emblem of office. In the British Army before World War I, swagger sticks were carried by all other ranks when off duty, as part of their walking out uniform. The stick took the form of a short cane of polished wood, with an ornamented metal head of regimental pattern. The usual custom was for the private soldier or non-commissioned officer (NCO) to carry the stick tucked under his arm. Cavalrymen carried a small riding cane instead of the swagger stick of infantry and other branches. This practice was restricted to the army and Royal Marines, and was never imitated by the other services, although T. E. Lawrence when he had enlisted in the Royal Air Force under the name of Ross, mentions that airmen under training at the RAF Depot at Uxbridge carried swagger sticks. It is thought that this practice was limited to the depot. Until 1939 swagger sticks were still carried by peacetime regular soldiers when "walking out" of barracks, but the practice ceased with the outbreak of World War II. Uniforms are no longer worn by British army personnel when off-duty, and the swagger stick has accordingly become obsolete. In the British Army and other military forces following the Commonwealth traditions, commissioned officers of most infantry regiments formerly carried swagger sticks (described as canes) when on duty, whilst warrant officers and senior NCOs carried pace sticks instead. This practice continues in some regiments, especially by warrant officers when in Barrack Dress. Cavalry officers would often carry a riding crop rather than a swagger stick, in deference to their mounted traditions. In some Irish regiments in the British army, such as the Royal Irish Regiment (1992), officers carried a blackthorn walking stick, based on the shillelagh. In the Royal Tank Regiment, officers carried an 'ash plant' or walking stick instead, in reference to World War I tank attacks, when officers would prepare lines of advance by testing the ground's firmness and suitability for tanks.

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