The Stalingrad Sword is one of the most notable swords in modern times and was specially forged as a gift to the Russian people in 1943. King George VI and Sir Winston Churchill together decided that a ceremonial sword should be made for presentation to Stalin to commemorate the Battle of Stalingrad in WWII and in recognition of the importance of the battle.
This was a very nice and warm hearted gesture from Great Britain to Russia and spoke volumes of the understanding that one country had for another during its worst hour.
The Battle of Stalingrad was the greatest and bloodiest battle of WWII, it lasted for 200 days, between August 21st 1942 and February 2nd 1943. The Red Army lost around 400,000 soldiers and 40,000 civilians dead, whilst the Germans lost around 200,000 soldiers including six whole divisions completely obliterated in the cauldron of death that was Stalingrad.
This battle however, was the turning point for the Russians and from then on the German war machine was on a downward spiral until their entire defeat in 1945.
The Stalingrad sword was designed in 1943 by R.M.Y Gleadowe, who was a former Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford, it took three months to complete to be presented to Stalin and the people of Stalingrad. Incidentally, Stalingrad is now know as Volgograd.
A SWORD FOR THE PEOPLE
Gleadowe drafted out six designs and the King finally approved of one of them, this design was then sent to a committee of nine members of the Goldsmiths Hall who supervised the work that was undertaken by the best craftsmen in England.
The sword blade itself was forged by the famous company of Wilkinson Sword and two swordsmith's were selected for this important task, they were the 86 year old Tom Beasley and his assistant, Sid Rouse.
Beasley was born in 1860 and began work at the age of eight helping his father at the family forge, his family had been sword makers since the early 1700's.
Below expert swordsmiths Beasley and Rouse are seen working on the sword. Every care and attention went into the making of this sword, it was to be a sword for a statesman and would consequently show this in every detail.
The company of Sanderson
Brothers and Newbould of Sheffield were selected to supply the special
steel for the blade. The 36 inch double edged blade, once made, was
acid etched with the words:
The same was etched on the reverse side of the blade in the Russian language. The Russian wording was supervised by Sir Ellis Hovell Minns, who was a Slavonic iconographer and also the President of Pembroke College, Cambridge.
One of the best gold and silversmiths at the time was actually serving in the British Royal Air Force - R.A.F, he was Corporal L.G. Durbin (1913- 2005 ) Durbin was granted special leave from the R.A.F after the Institute & Company of Goldsmiths specifically asked for his assistance in completing all the intricate gold and silver work which was to adorn both the sword and the scabbard.
He worked on the sword at Meadow Road, Kennington, UK at the forge of Frank Adam, his tutor at the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts.
Durbin created the silver quillions (cross guards) for the sword. The ten inch wide quillions was crafted from solid silver and showed carved leopard's heads at each end, the handle was bound with pure eighteen carat gold wire, with a ferrule of red enamel on silver at each end.
Durbin personally selected the shimmering rock crystal which was carved to make the pommel, held in place by the rose of England in gold.
The scabbard was covered with crimson Moroccan leather and fitted with silver embellishments bearing the Royal Arms, Crown and Cipher with three gold mounted Soviet stars. Overall a very ornate and beautiful work of art.
After Wilkinson Sword Ltd had finished all the work, the 4ft 2in long sword went on a whistle tour, being displayed in every major British city before being transported to Tehran. Sir Winston Churchill later handed the sword to Stalin on behalf of King George VI, in the Ballroom of the Russian Embassy at the Tehran Conference on November 29th 1943.
Amongst those present at the ceremony was President Roosevelt, the British, Russian and U.S Joint Chiefs of Staff. The most revered out of them all however, was Marshal Klimenti Voroshilov, who was noted as The Defender of Stalingrad.
THE PEOPLE THANK YOU
In 1944, the citizens of Stalingrad presented approximately thirty special folios to Beasley for his work and dedication on the sword. One book, containing numerous rare photographs of Stalingrad and its people was presented to Sid Rouse, this portfolio is now in the possession of his grandson John Dixon, who today still carries on the family sword making tradition.
In effect, the people of Stalingrad personally thanked the sword makers for their work and were consequently paid more honor than the British government who originally commissioned the sword. It was a case of workers to workers, uniting in homage to the dead.
DISRESPECT OF AGES
The original Stalingrad Sword hangs in The Battle of Stalingrad Museum in the center of the city of Volgorad, Russia. The sword hasn't been cared for or looked after at all and is in quite a bad state of repair. Some of the silver and gold emblems have been ripped off it and the blade looks like it has rust forming on it.
The blade of this sword should be gleaming and fingerprint free, it should be showing off its beauty. It should be an everlasting reminder of the sacrifice the people made in the terrible battle that was Stalingrad. Instead...well see for yourself!
Covered in greasy ingrained fingerprints, scratches and surface rust, it has been left to rot.
The silver work too has been allowed to get into a dilapidated condition, it looks battered and scratched, like someone has tried to clean it with sandpaper! Overall, its quite appalling that Russian authorities have let this state treasure decline into this disrespectful wreck. So much for respect, honor, and remembrance of those that died in the Battle of Stalingrad.
DUPLICATED FOR DESTINTY
Luckily there were three additional Stalingrad swords made by Wilkinson Sword at the same time and these remaining swords are in mint condition.
It is stated that Wilkinson Sword is currently arranging a long term loan of one of these priceless swords to the Medmenham Collection at the Military Intelligence Museum in Bedfordshire UK.
Distinguished neurosurgeon Martin Lewer-Allen is the owner of one of the three swords and is pictured above pulling the exquisite sword from its illustrious scabbard. I could only hazard a guess at this swords value, being one of only three duplicates of the original ever made, but I think $100,000 would be close.
Personally I would be wearing a pair of white cotton gloves before handling something of such great value as this sword.
If Martin Lewer-Allen is reading this page then I could do with some more photos of the sword, as they are rather scarce to find anywhere. All credits will of course be forthcoming in the event that you could send me a few nice pictures!
There may be some truth to the rumors that the sword has been refurbished and is now displayed in its own special display cabinet in The Battle of Stalingrad Museum. A tourist recently took some pictures of the sword and I have managed to procure one of them directly off the internet. The sword, now in its apparent refurbished state, as shown below.
I am not sure but I would guess that the museum perhaps managed to procure one of the duplicated swords and put it there in place of the " old " one. After all, the battered scabbard was stripped of its embellishments, hard if not impossible to refurbish.
I would like to think it is because someone read this webpage about the disrespectful condition of the "old" one that something was done about it. Of course we will never know if that was the case or not.
Page created August 21st 2009. Updated October 8th 2012