When did infantrymen of Western armies cease to be issued of swords as sidearms (and backup weapons), on a general basis?

PS, Swords were rather common stuff for infantrymen even in 19th century (the briquets). See, for instance: this website. I recently saw (at the NYC Frick Collection) a video titled "Watteau Soldiers", whose pictures are easy to find. That artist clearly depicted (ordinary private) infantrymen carrying both bayonets and swords hanging from their belts.

  • Do you define bayonets as swords, such as the French Model 1866 "Chassepot" Yataghan Sword Bayonet for example?
    – Ken Graham
    Jul 10, 2016 at 22:46
  • No, I refer to "pure" swords, which can't be plugged to the rifle.
    – Filippof
    Jul 11, 2016 at 4:51
  • This is not an exact duplicate. "Last used" and "cease to be issued" are two very different things. The first question makes little sense, while this question sounds very reasonable.
    – Alex
    Jul 11, 2016 at 21:32
  • 2
    In fact infantrymen (soldiers) were almost never issued swords. Officers were. The arm of an infantrymen was a pole weapon, and later a musket, rifle, etc. Equipped with a bayonet (which is not a sword).
    – Alex
    Jul 11, 2016 at 21:34

1 Answer 1


When the shovel became standard issue for infantry between World Wars 1 and 2. I don't believe swords were ever "standard issue" for infantry but certainly starting with Napoleon bayonets were. German infantry did so well against all other counterparts in North Africa because Erwin Rommel made sure all soldiers had a shovel, knew how to use it and in fact did use it. Russian interior ministry forces are famous for their use of shovels and the US military is infamous for having great shovels but failing to use them.

  • 1
    You have confused an anecdote in Rommel's Infantry Attacks, from World War One, with his campaign in North Africa in World War Two. Jul 11, 2016 at 1:56
  • At least in the eve of Napoleonic warfare, I think that nearly every infantryman of European regular army carried some kind of sword (e.g. a dagger) hung to his belt. My ask is, when this situation changed, for deeming obsolete the use of sword as detailed above.
    – Filippof
    Jul 12, 2016 at 7:12
  • If you look at Rommel's Afrika Corps...the best equiped infantry save for the US Marines in the Pacific the answer is "no, soldiers still carried a knife." in the case of the Marines it was the k-bar...and yes they needed it as hand to hand combat was a regular occurance for infantry in the War in the Pacific. But again..."it was the shovel." That's how your son got home alive...and why the Japanese died in simply stupendous numbers I might add. Jul 12, 2016 at 13:35

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