A response to an earlier post from a blog reader and old friend led to discussion of a kukri donated to that friend in the early 1950s by a former Indian Army officer. On retirement from the service, the officer was presented with the kukri which was subsequently loaned to me for investigation.
When I first saw the kukri my heart sank; on the pommel was a moulded lion’s head, and out there ‘in the wild’ are many, many so-called lion’s head kukris which have been made specifically for the tourist market and vary in quality from middling to awful. I really didn’t want to be the bearer of bad news.
Nevertheless, on unsheathing the kukri I was very pleasantly surprised to see a triple-fullered blade (i.e. with three wide longitudinal grooves) of obviously good quality. The cho (‘blood notch’) was deep and nicely cut.
The horn handle, although it appeared to be missing an inlaid plaque or shield, was well made and very comfortable, probably the most comfortable I have encountered so far on any kukri.
The sheath, clearly not tourist quality, had the rear tinder/flint pouch and what appeared to be two original kardas (knives) as opposed to the usual karda and chakmak (sharpener) combination.
As ever, first port of call for information was the IKRHS website, and after only a short wait the following reply was received:
Congratulations! That’s not a standard lion head! That’s a Dehradun-made officer-quality WW2 or probably earlier silver Lions head, ‘tin chirra’ [three fuller] kukri. Bolster looks nickel silver. It’s a real one that the tourist lions heads are poor imatations of. It would have had an inlaid shield that can bear intials. Original scabbard & kardas as well! (Brit. Officers dont need chakmak…) Full house!
Relief! Not a tourist-grade lion’s head copy, but a top-notch original. I wasn’t to be the bearer of bad news after all; indeed, quite the opposite.
The original owner of this kukri was Colonel E. C. (“Tom”) Johnson. Born in about 1900, Johnson volunteered for the Army in 1915 by lying about his age, only to receive a burst of machine gun fire in Thiepval Wood during the Battle of the Somme. He finished WW1 as a lieutenant in the Middle East before joining the Indian Army where he stayed through WW2, retiring c.1947 to England.
Tom visited Jersey, where the current owner of the kukri and I both live, in the early 1980s when I had the pleasure of meeting him.
Searching through online copies of the London Gazette, I have found entries as follows:
As usual, much useful information was provided by the friendly denizens of IKRHS.
If you own a lion’s head kukri or are just a fan of kukris in general let me know via the e-mail button below.If you have enjoyed this post, please drop me a note or subscribe to this blog using the Subscribe function on the Home Page. Thanks!