Tribute to Ewart Oakeshott

Ewart Oakeshott

Sybil Marshall & Ewart Oakeshott

Ewart Oakeshott, 25 May,1916- Sept 30,2002

With the passing of Ewart Oakeshott a great scholar and teacher has left us. He influenced innumerable people all over the world with his work. We feel it is important to recognize his great contribution and hear about his impact on those of us who remain behind to carry on in his example. Below are reminiscences of how deeply Ewart touched so many of us.


On the Death of Ewart Oakeshott- October 2, 2002

He spoke to us
Of history and legend,
Knights and villains,
Saints and kings
Their deeds and folly
Known to him
Through their gleaming brands
Alive in his hands
And through his words
Alive in our hearts

I fumble through
The careworn pages
Familiar in my studies
Old friends are they –
Now stained with tears
And seeking comfort,
I spy a blade
Adorning my wall
But find its luster…

Christian Henry Tobler
Order of Selohaar
Author, “Secrets of German Medieval Swordsmanship”
SSI Advisor

Some of my favorite memories of Ewart are from spending evenings in his sitting room, in over stuffed chairs, sipping whiskeys and talking about swords.

Ewart Oakeshott &
Chris Poor

One evening especially stands out in my mind. I had just arrived and was ensconced in my chair; drink in hand, when I noticed a “new arrival” on the wall across from me. Such moments were often mixed- sometimes an “old friend” had been traded or sold to make room for the new sword.

In this case a 14th C cut and thrust sword (sometimes referred to as the Black Prince sword) was gone and in its place was a lovely 15th C sword, very like the sword of Henry V., Ewart told me this was one of “those Castillon Swords” dredged from the River Dordogne in the 70’s. So while he told me the story of how he had seen it years before and, finally, its arrival in his hands, I took it down from the wall and became better acquainted with it.

The thrill of handling such a fine sword, studying it, getting to know its feel, examining the details of its construction will stay with me always. Whenever I handle a sword I’ll think of that evening, and many others like it, spent with Ewart talking about swords.

I will miss him. Christopher Poor


“Mr. Oakeshott was probably the person who single-handedly has done more to contribute to the spreading of the real knowledge of the medieval sword to the general public. Collectors and

Ewart Oakeshottresearchers have lost a mentor and a beacon of knowledge and humanity.

His efforts in the field he so much loved sowed the seed of the urge for knowledge in many of us.
His works speak of the quest for knowledge fueled by love and passion.
His ease for sharing, his relentless quest for truth, his unstoppable pedagogical will and his kindness are an example for every one of us.
It’s a real loss.
He’ll be really, really missed. ” Marc Gener

Ewart Oakeshott

On the occasion of our first visit with Ewart Oakeshott and his lovely wife, Sybil Marshall, we had just sat down to lunch in their elegant dining room when I saw that he was serving the quiche using a Bronze-Age dagger. As he served, Ewart explained how he had acquired the dagger in the 1950s, for a few shillings, and that he considered it perfect for serving quiches and gateaux. The quiche was, not surprisingly, exceptionally delicious.

This incident epitomizes Ewart Oakeshott’s attitude toward the swords, daggers, and armours he loved, studied, and collected throughout his long, fruitful lifetime. He was never content to allow a piece to sit on a shelf and remain an idle curio; instead, he believed that a weapon deserved to be held and used, “cuddled and loved.” The profoundly human insights he derived from this credo and practice have bridged the millennia from the Bronze Age to the twenty-first century and illuminated weapons scholarship for generations.
Selah.  Stan Lombardy

“The sword world is very small and we have lost our father. What path he now treads, I know not, but I know what has been left behind is not him. The essence, spirit, soul has gone beyond this ritual, begun a stately dance in another sphere, one in time I too shall dance.” Susan


I am saddened by this news, as are all the others who have posted here. The sword world has suffered an irreparable loss with the passing of this great man, a humble and gentle man with a great heart and love, and joy, for the subject he pursued his whole life.

Ewart Oakeshott

Ewart Oakeshott

He lived a long and good life. He enlightened us all. What better epitaph can there be for such a man? I can only pray that I live as well as he did — strong in knowledge, tempered by humility, and always willing to share.

Godspeed, Ewart Oakeshott. I hope to meet you yet. D Wilson


We want to express our condolences and sorrow by the loss of the great sword’s master E. Oakeshott. Thanks for your teaching Ewart.

From the swords department of the Army Museum of Madrid

Adolfo Bernalte Sanchez
Jose Antonio Gonzalez Suarez
Jose Juan Rubio MarquezEwart Oakeshott


May I take this opportunity to join with others in remembering Ewart.

I first became professionally involved with arms and armour in 1983 and very soon found myself in communication with Ewart on various matters, particularly medieval swords. He encouraged me in my work from the start and I first met Ewart in early 1985, at the second Park Lane arms fair, London.Ewart Oakeshott

We continued to correspond through phone and letter and I first visited him at Ely in the late 80’s. Together with my wife, we were wined and dined and, like many entertained by Ewart and Sybil, were made most welcome. The sweet, or rather the serving of it, will always be memorable: the cheesecake was divvied out by Ewart using a Bronze-age dagger. This of course, although not unusual to him was a first for me, went totally against any museum training and was wonderful to behold!

The other occasion that I will not forget, along with those others lucky enough to attend, was his 75th birthday party held ‘on ye feast of ye Seven Virgins’ (as the invitation put it) in 1991. Surrounded by friends and colleagues we celebrated his life and work and of course the publication of his Records of the medieval sword.

Like many who are interested in this field it is to Ewart that I owe at least some, if not a great deal of, inspiration. Earlier this year I met with Ewart at the Park Lane arms fair. As we sat and chatted over a whisky, and fate decided that this would be the last occasion we would do this, I told him that I had only recently recalled the fact that the first book on the subject of arms and armour I ever picked up was one of his. As a teenage schoolboy, sitting in the Much Wenlock public library deep in the heart of rural Shropshire, I pulled a book off a shelf and began reading about A Knight and his Weapons… The same, or a similar, scenario probably happened to many reading this.

Even when ill he retained his warmth and sense of humour. During his recent illness when telling me of his regular blood transfusions I made the all too obvious joke about him being a vampire and seeking out virgins blood. His response was to comment on how difficult it was to find virgins blood in Ely!

He was enthusiastic when told of my appointment here at the Royal Armouries last year and it was only on 27 September that I gave a public gallery talk using, for the first time, two of his medieval swords presently on loan here. The public were able to heft these weapons and quite obviously thoroughly enjoyed the experience, even though we did not slice up any cheesecake.

Ewart will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him, either personally or through his works, and our sympathy and thoughts are with Sybil and family. Robert C Woosnam-Savage
Curator of European Edged Weapons. RA


I knew and admired Ewart Oakeshott for nearly forty years, we were I believe kindred spirits. In some ways we were so different, but there was a bond, which connected us, a love of swords. He loved swords with a great passion all his life, he knew the heft of a sword as soon as he took in his hand, it sang to him.Ewart Oakehshott

One of my fondest memories of our friendship is from the early seventies, when Sybil and Ewart lived at “High Deering” in Sussex. I was one of a small group who called ourselves “The Swordsmen”; this was a sword loving dining club. The members and our wives, would meet periodically at” High Deering”. Sybil would cook and oversee dinner, which was always superb, and the wine good, and drunk out of glasses on which was engraved “The Swordsmen” and with our names. At each end of the table sat Sybil and Ewart. After dinner the table was cleared and the ladies left the men to their brandy and cigars. Then came the reason for our gathering, the members placed on the table their newest treasures. The sword was then discussed, past around and its story told. When it got to Ewart and he held it in his hand, this benign looking man seems to grow. Although all there had a love of swords, it was not the love that Ewart had. He would hold the sword as if it was an old friend, that he had not seen for a long time. Taking it in his hand he held it like a warrior, not a collector or an academic.

One of the things that some people will not know is that Ewart was also a very good artist, as the illustrations in his books and the paintings at Sybil’s and his home in Ely will attest. He was a many faceted man, who gave of his Knowledge to all that asked. His books have inspired generations and awoken in them a love of arms and I’m sure will continue to do so to any that are lucky enough to read them in the future.Amongst all the memories I have of Ewart, this is the last and most special. At the European Historical Combat Guild’s annual seminar at the Royal Armouries on August the tenth 2002, something special took place that affected all that witnessed it. Ewart was to be made an honourary member of the Guild, but just a couple of weeks before he had taken a bad fall, which put him in hospital. He insisted that he would get out and be there, and he did and was. He arrived with Sybil; they were both in wheel chairs accompanied by two of their dedicated helpers Esther, her husband Graham and Chris Poor. After dinner, I pushed Ewart to the centre of the dining area, where after a few words from me, he was presented with his honoury membership. He then said he would like to say a few words, but he was not going to speak sitting down. So with help from Esther and myself he struggled to his feet and spoke. You had to be there to see this old frail man rise in his pride. There are all sorts in the Guild, some of whom are very tough men, but all those who saw him that night, were deeply affected by Ewart’s courage.

He was a special man, who I loved and honoured and whose like we shall not see again. Don’t greave you that knew him, just be glad that you had the good luck to have met such a man, and I’m sorry for those of you that didn’t.

Remember, when you read some puffed up academic talking about swords, just think about Ewart.

This is a poem of his, on the last page of his book” Sword in Hand ”

Survivors beyond memory
Old things and rare my treasures are.
Times folded gates, fast closed to me,
These lonely sentinels unbar.

Years do not weary them, nor mar
Their power of ancient wizardry;
Things old and rare my treasures are
Enchantment seeking memory.

Scarred wreck of long forgotten war
Austere, unchanging, silently
Dream, and the drums faint and far
Arouse the blazoned years for me.

Enchantment wakens memory;
Old things and rare my treasures are.

That says it all.

See you later old friend, keep a place at the table for me.
Love John (John Waller)


It was with great sadness that I received the news of Ewart Oakeshott’s passing. Though in very poor health the last time I saw him, he still had that gleam in his eye when he spoke about his beloved subject. He was the perfect old world English gentleman, which is how I will always remember him. It is hard to express how privileged I felt to have received his praise as well as his criticism over the years in what was, sadly for me, too much of a “long distance” relationship. I owe so much of the refinement of my craft to Ewart. He will be sorely missed, not only by myself but by the countless others that he touched during his long and fruitful life. Bruce Brookhart MRL


I discovered Ewart Oakeshott’s works in a dusty corner of my university’s archeology library; Ewart OakeshottI could not believe such books had been written and yet for a few years I had been collecting books on arms and armour and had never dreamt such books as his existed. I was jubilant, and his books were critical in inspiring me to write my degree dissertation on a particular aspect of armour development. It was also at this time that I discovered the world of European historical combat treatises, and the passion of my life found a place to reside.

From myself and all those of my friends who you played a part in bringing together and expanding our world, Matt Easton, Schola Gladiatoria, HEMAC

Several people felt this passage appropriate:

Swift the hero sprang to his feet
Saw mid the war-gear a stately sword
An ancient war-brand of biting edge
Choicest of weapons, worthy and strong,
The work of giants, a warrior’s joy.

Ewart Oakeshott’s Curriculum Vitae