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Development

This model of sword was carried by all light cavalry troopers of the Imperial German Army. Only Kurassiers and Schwere Reiters, which totalled at 14 regiments just 10% of Germany’s cavalry regiments in 1914, were considered heavy cavalry and hence Uhlans, Hussars, Dragoons and Chevaulegers were all armed with the KD 89. Prior to the standardisation of the German cavalry in 1889, all these light cavalry regiments apart from Uhlans, relied on the sword as their main weapon.

The piped backed, quill-pointed blade of the KD 89 was of the same form as the Prussian Modell1852/79, but with a shorter, straighter blade and simplified guard, resulting in a lighter sword. The crest on the guard varied according to the state that each regiment came from, whether Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony or Württemberg.

The heavy cavalry regiments continued to carry their massive, straight bladed Pallasch, little changed from the Napoleonic Cuirassier sword it was modelled upon 100 years before.

Use and effect

From 1889 the sword became an auxiliary weapon for all German cavalry troopers as the lance was introduced to all regiments, heavy and light, as their primary mounted weapon. Along with carbines for dismounted action, this relegated the sword to the trooper’s forth weapon, even behind the pistol which could be fired from the saddle with some success at close range.

As such, few accounts exist of the KD 89 in action. Officers seemed to have often not carried a lance, but the wide variety of swords they carried makes evaluating the effect of the KD 89 problematic. However, the account of Lieutenant Baron von Buddenbruck of the 1st Guard Dragoon regiment striking an English cavalry officer ‘square across the face’ but failing to stop him issuing orders and escaping would fittingly describe the lack of cutting ability of the KD 89.

Its stiff, straight blade, cocked handle and fore-finger grip mean the sword is designed for thrusting, not cutting. Because of this, and due to its relegation in the importance to German troopers, British cavalrymen found that the majority of cavalry swords captured from the Germans had not even been sharpened along their edge. An unwelcome encumbrance to a cavalryman’s load, the sword was being phased out as part of the troopers’ equipment as early as 1915.