Object of the Month – July 2022

These swords were made for the Imperial Japanese army and navy from 1872 when conscription was introduced.  In WWII, all Japanese soldiers were required to wear a sword.  In January 1942 the Japanese invaded Burma, (now called Myanmar) with a small army consisting of only 35,000 men. The UK formed an alliance with Burma and their allies against the Japanese, and after a long and vicious campaign, the Japanese finally surrendered.  It was a requirement that all Japanese forces remaining in Burma formally surrendered at a ceremony. As a consequence, all Japanese swords and other military equipment were handed over to the allies and Burmese forces, which is how this Gunto sword was passed on to Arthur Quainton, a Company Sergeant Major from the First Battalion in the Northamptonshire regiment.

The Japanese sword in the museum comes with a certificate belonging to Arthur Quainton which reads: “This is to certify that the above mentioned who has been presented with a Japanese sword has permission to retain same as a war souvenir.”

This verifies the provenance of the sword, that it does in fact come from the Burma campaign, and that Arthur Quainton definitely was handed the sword by a Japanese soldier in the sword ceremony.

The sword can be found in the Main Gallery in Case 6.

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