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An antique Japanese sword, recently consigned to auction, is accompanied by documents that tell the tragic tale of its former owner, Robert Tienteh. 16-year-old Robert, of Chinese-English parentage, had an obsession with the Orient and a desire to travel to China or Japan. According to newspaper cuttings (pictured below left), he disappeared from his home in Stepney, East London, and his papers were subsequently found in a rowing boat off the Cornish coast.

He is believed to have travelled to Looe in Cornwall and hired the boat with the intention of travelling to China. Seven months later he was presumed, by the jury at an inquest-without-a-body in Looe, to have died accidentally.

The documents also include a letter that Robert wrote to his brother-in -law Douglas Jones, as well as the original photograph of Robert, dated 31 March 1947, that was published in the newspapers (pictured above). Douglas was himself a Chinese speaker and introduced the young Robert to Chinese culture by taking him to Chinese restaurants.

In the letter Robert wrote ‘I have a chance of leaving the country quickly and I am taking it’. He also wrote that he wanted Douglas to have his Chinese books, of which he included a list, and at the end of the letter he wrote ‘I give my Japanese sword to you’.

The sword (pictured below) and the accompanying documents will come under the hammer in January at our first Coins, Medals, Militaria, Weapons and Paper Collectables auction of 2023.

At our special one-day Lifetime Private Collection of German Militaria auction this week bidding was fierce and many of the hammer prices were exceptional. All 536 lots were sold with sales totalling £141,093 (including premiums).


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