Sunday, 11 April 2021

William Fitz-Henry of the 60th Royal Rifles Regiment: what became of his sword?

The first blog post for a verrrryyy long time, and we open with a mystery and an appeal for help locating a sword.

William Fitz-Henry of the 60th Rifles Regiment has been featured on this blog before here (putting together his families from two marriages) here (records from the Surrey Record Office) and here (finding his grave in Winchester). His background is a mystery, as so far I haven't been able to locate his parents or any Fitz-Henry relations which would connect him into any other branches. 

His army records relate that he was born 1 March 1830 in the St Mary's parish of Dublin. But this is before Civil Registration in Ireland, and there is no corresponding baptism for a William Fitz-Henry (or any Fitz-Henry family) in the St Mary, Dublin Church of Ireland parish registers.

William worked his way through the ranks from private in 1847, to Quartermaster with the honorary rank of Captain in 1867. (1867 Gazette Issue 23270 published on the 5 July 1867. Page 4 of 68)
He was presented with a sword in 1867, presumably to commemorate this promotion.

This sword may have been part of the effects which William left to his eldest son Dr George William Fitz-Henry:

I give my watch & chain and all my jewellery and my set of camp furniture and military chest of drawers with their cases and all my Guns & Rifles to my said son George William

And somehow it found its way into a sale of military ephemera in Sheffield in 2017 (there's a photo too!):
A Victorian Presentation Sword, to W. Fitzhenry, 3/60 rifles, 1867, 321/2" blade by Wilkinson, steel hilt (gold plated), blade dull, minor discolouration, in nickel plated scabbard, which may be replacement.

Where had it been in the past 150 years?
And where it is now?
And why are we trying to track it down?

Currently the West Highland Museum is participating in a virtual exhibition "Highland Threads".
A dress belonging to William's wife is one of the key exhibits. This dress is a marvel of 19th century Indian workmanship, bought when William was stationed at Bellary in what was then the Madras Presidency, and Barbara accompanied him as an officer's wife. 
The actual museum exhibition will also feature a replica of William's mess uniform created by Jo Watson, and having a photo of his sword would complement the exhibit.
The staff of the Regimental Museum for the 60th Royal Rifles are also involved with William's military history.

If you were the lucky buyer of this sword, or if you were the seller in 2017 it would be marvellous if you would either contact me via the blog email address (below) or contact the Curator at the Regimental Museum at the Peninsula Barracks in Winchester, Hampshire, the place where William spent many years of his army career. 
We would love to know the journey the sword had taken and a photo of the very sword would be amazing.

Edited 4 May: link to auction catalogue with photo

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