It is hard to comprehend the revolution in manufacturing India went through during the Second World War. Before the war India had a very limited manufacturing base, whilst there was some modern industry in the country it was at a comparatively early stage of industrial development The Second World War acted as a catalyst and the country went through a very rapid change in a short period of time. One area that needed rapid expansion was that of optics- sights for weapons, telescopes and mirrors and of course binoculars. Tonight we are looking at a rather fine pair of binoculars manufactured in Calcutta in 1944:In design they are virtually identical to the equivalent British made binoculars. There are a few detail differences compared to other sets I have. For instance on my British made binoculars the loops for the carrying strap are little brackets soldered onto the body of the binoculars. This Indian pair have a slightly expanded top plate with two cut outs through them instead for the straps to secure into:The focus of the binoculars is adjusted by twisting the eyepieces to move them in and out and this changes the focal length, the eyepieces have knurling on them to make it easier to twist:The two parts of the main body have a textured lacquer to aid grip:And the angle of the two halves is adjustable, around a central brass rod:A small guide is marked on the end to show the relative angle of the two eyepieces:There are two sets of markings on the binoculars, one indicates that they are ‘Binoculars, Prism, No2. Mk II’ and they have six times magnification:The other set of markings indicate they were made in Calcutta in 1944 by ‘M.I.O’:MIO was the ‘Mathematical Instrument Office. The 1944 History of the Indian Supply Department provides some interesting background:
During war, the numbers of firms producing scientific instruments has increased to about one hundred and sixty but very few of them are well equipped. The Mathematical Instruments Office has been enlarged and converted into an Ordnance factory and the work of manufacturing simple stores like drawing boards, stands, instruments, sun compasses etc., has been taken away from it and given to the private firms. This left the M.I.O. free to concentrate on the production of the more important stores such as binoculars, prismatic compasses, sighting telescopes etc. The industry is mainly concentrated in Calcutta with 95 of the total 160 firms located there. Lahore comes next with 21 firms.
My thanks go to Michael Skriletz for kindly sending these binoculars across the Atlantic for me.