Category Archives: Binoculars

58 Pattern Binoculars Case

When the 1958 pattern webbing set was introduced officer’s equipment such as compass pouches and binocular cases were not included in the initial design- earlier 37 pattern or 44 pattern examples soldiered on and were attached as best they could to the new webbing set. This was clearly unsustainable as they did not fit properly and were always in danger of falling off- therefore a purpose designed binoculars case was introduced to match the rest of the 1958 pattern set:imageThe case is made of green, pre-shrunk cotton and is far more angular than its predecessors, a box flap is provided to protect the top of the pouch:imageThis is secured by a brass turn button:imageOn the rear C-hooks allow the case to be secured to the waistbelt, whilst a webbing loop above allows the yoke to be passed through to prevent the case from falling forward:imageThis case is marked under the flap, but as is often the case with the 58 pattern equipment this is hard to read due to the dark colour of the underlying webbing:imageI believe this example dates form 1968, but it is hard to read. This case was made by MW&S, Martin Wright & Sons Ltd. The stores number can be seen below which is a pre-NATO code.

The case would have held the small binoculars No 2 in use since the Great War, the case being well padded to help protect the optics. It must be said that British binoculars were not highly regarded by those using them, and often superior West German brands were privately purchased that may or may not have fitted in the 58 pattern cases.

WW1 British Army MkV Binoculars

At the outbreak of the Great War the British Army expanded very rapidly, too rapidly in fact for the supply of equipment and uniforms it needed to keep pace. Expedients were quickly found for much of this, with alternative designs, commercial equipment and foreign orders taking up the strain. One area that the Army found itself deficient in was good quality optics for its officers. The best lenses and binoculars were made in Germany, which obviously was not an option for supply. The British optics industry was relatively small so the army turned to French manufacturers and tonight we are looking at one of the most common pairs of French made binoculars for the British Army:imageThese binoculars are made of brass, with a leather grip around the main body:imageTwo mountings are fitted for a neck strap:imageThe focal length is adjusted by a central ridged knob, which moves the lenses back and forth to adjust them for different people’s eyes:imageAn extending brass sleeve over the ends of the lenses helps reduce glare and reflections:imageThat these binoculars are French is clearly seen from the eye pieces which have ‘l’Petit Fabri Paris’ embossed upon them:imageTheir use by the British Army is revealed by a /|\ mark, here cancelled by a second arrow facing it to make a >|< shape indicating they had been sold out of service:imageThe opposite barrel has a stamping indicating that these are a Mk V Wide pair of binoculars:imageThese French binoculars are known as Galileans; their lenses are weak in magnification compared to prismatic lenses, but they are good at gathering light and work well for people with eye defects. The optics on this pair are exceptionally clear for a hundred year old set of binoculars and although the magnification is not great (x5 supposedly) they are perfectly functional. These binoculars seem pretty common and not overly expensive, but they are an attractive object with an interesting story to tell.

Number 2 Prismatic 6×30 Binoculars

Tonight we turn our attention to the most common form of binoculars used by the British Army in WW2. The Number 2 Prismatic 6×30 binoculars were the most widely issued design of binocular, being made in a number of marks by different manufacturers. This pair is a MkII set:imageThe main body of the binoculars is made of black painted brass, joined by a hinge allowing a degree of adjustment:imageFocusing is done by screwing the eyepieces back and forth to change the focal length to match he viewer’s eyes:imageA /|\ mark on the front of the body indicates they are military property:imageThis pair are marked as having been made by Kershaw’s of Leeds in 1943:imageThese are a MkII pair which means they have graticules marked on the lenses. The binoculars have small metal loops on the back to fasten a neck strap through:imageThe strap is made of 5/16″ webbing with two buckles to adjust it, the sling itself being 32″ long:imageThese binoculars were produced in huge quantities, with virtually every officer and most NCOs bring issued a pair, matching cases were provided with both the 37 pattern and 44 pattern webbing sets to carry them in. In this image of a British Intelligence officer in Yugoslavia the binoculars are clearly visible:7cd72b2bc32b8eceb9efedafd1e3b254a0642f1aAlthough some dealers do charge silly prices, I have bought a number of sets of these binoculars over the years and never spent more than £5 a pair so bargains are out there.

Binoculars Cases

We have looked at British Binoculars a few times on this blog, however today we are going to consider the cases they went into. I have two binocular cases in my collection- a 37 pattern and a later 44 pattern example. The similarities and differences between these two cases show the development of the two webbing sets, with the 44 pattern benefiting from the practical experience of the Second World War.

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37 Pattern Case

The 37 pattern case is a hard fibre case, covered in tan webbing secured at the front with a press stud:

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On the rear are ‘c’ hooks to secure it to the belt and at the top to allow it to attach to a compass pouch:

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Inside the lid is stamped the manufacturer’s mark M.E.Co and the date of 1941:

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The two buckles on the sides of the case indicates its a second pattern case, as the buckets allow a shoulder strap to be attached so the case can be slung over the shoulder.

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44 Pattern Case

The 44 pattern case is a green soft case rather than being made of the stiff fibre of the earlier case. It is fastened with a quick release buckle on the front:

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The buckles are in rust proof metal and the webbing is rot proofed as it is designed for the jungle. The rear has the same style of hooks as the earlier design- clearly showing that we are looking at evolution rather than revolution:

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Inside is the stamp for the manufacturer (not readable unfortunately) and the date 1952:

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I like both these cases and yes I have a pair of binoculars for each one…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday Finds

A few nice bits, and one I’m not so sure of today…

Bren Gun Ammunition Box

One of the problems with all machine guns is ensuring they have an adequate supply of ammunition in battle. The Bren Gun was no exception and every man in a section carried a couple of magazines for it. The gunners carried additional magazines and these 12 magazine boxes were also issued allowing large quantities of ammunition to be delivered to the gunner in the field. Considering the box holds 12 magazines, each of which would have been filled with 28 rounds, that made for 336 rounds per box. Not a huge number, but enough to have made the box a heavy enough thing to have lugged around the battlefield:

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This box is a Mk1* example, distinguished form the earlier Mk1 by having a horse hair seal around the rim:

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A catch on the front secures the box:

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Whilst on one end is a steel strip carrying handle (the Canadian manufactured example uses webbing instead):

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Inside is room for 12 Bren box magazines:

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The box has been repainted at some point in its army career, but the original marking have been left unpainted:

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This is not the first time I have seen this done on one of these boxes and seems quite common practice.

Dog Tags

Throughout both world wars British troops wore pairs of compressed fibre dog tags on string around their necks. These tags were in two parts, a hexagonal green tag and a red circular tag. Onto these were stamped a troops name, service number and religion. Regimental details were also sometimes added, but this was by no means universal. The idea was that if a soldier was killed the red disc would be removed along with his paybook so the death could be recorded, whilst the green tag remained on the body for future identification.

These two sets of dog tags appear to be for brothers or possibly cousins, as they share the same surname. The first set is for 5520478 KG BORN, who is recorded as being Church of England. The number block indicates this man was a member of the Hampshire Regiment:

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The second set is for 2206317 CJ BORN who is recorded as being Roman Catholic. Again the number block indicates regiment- in this case the Royal Engineers:

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Both sets of dog tags are in lovely issue on a piece of string for wear around the neck:

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Binoculars

I will be honest, I have my doubts about the military origins of these binoculars. They are very similar in size and design to military binoculars and I would guess they date form around the First World War:

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They are manufactured by Necretti and Zambra, London and this is stamped on the front:

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I have my doubts about them due to the lack of WD or /|\ stamps and the lack of range reticules on the lenses. The manufacturer is also not listed as one of the WD approved suppliers for WW1 or WW2. There is a possibility that these were private purchase items, but no proof.

This is a case of buyer beware and I should have thought a bit harder before purchasing them, or waited and done my research to be sure of their provenance before buying. However they were not expensive, have definite age to them and have good optics so I’m not too concerned with picking them up. If anyone has any further information on them I’d be delighted to hear about it.

Coldstream Guards Cap Badge and Buttons

This cap badge and pair of buttons are for the Coldstream Guards, the oldest regiment in the British Army and second only to the Grenadier Guards in order of precedence. The regiment was founded in 1650 in Coldstream, Scotland by General Moncke. The regiment’s badge, seen on the cap badge and buttons, is the Garter Star with the motto ‘Honi soit qui mal y pense’ or Shame on him who thinks evil of it.

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RAF Officer’s Tunic

This was a particularly nice find considering how little it cost me. This is a 1953 dated RAF officer’s tunic and belt, still with King’s crown buttons on. The tunic is made of fine RAF blue cloth. The distinctive colour of RAF uniforms dates back to its inception at the end of the First World War, when the War Office purchased a job lot of cloth, destined for tsarist Russia, at a knock down price (due to the sudden replacement of the Tsar with those who preferred Red!). The colour of the uniform soon led to the new service being nicknamed ‘Crabs’ due to the supposed similarity in colour between the uniform and the underwater crustacean.

The Tunic itself is full cut, with four pockets:

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The pockets and front are secured by brass ‘Kings Crown’ RAF buttons:image

One of the buttons is a flat disc as it is covered by the waist belt and needs to fit discretely behind it:

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Inside is a label detailing size, manufacturer and date:

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Unfortunately the rank lace is missing, but looking at the discolouration it belonged to a Wing Commander:

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My aim with this one is to try and track down some lace and restore it a bit before displaying it as its in pretty good nick and it fills a hole in my collection as most of my other RAF kit is Other Airmans.

Naval Ratings Photograph

This little photo depicts a sailor in square rig. Judging by the age of him, he may well be a boy sailor. His cap tally says HMS Victory, which was used as a training ship. The black top to the cap dates him to around the Second World War, whilst on the back is the photographer’s details for a J Roberts, 83 Dewsbury Road Leeds.

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Artillery Binoculars

Military optics need to be as good as possible, whilst also being cheap enough to mass produce and robust enough to survive the battlefield. Throughout the twentieth century, the Germans had a well deserved reputation for producing the best lenses, binoculars, sights and telescopes. Despite this, British binoculars were perfectly respectable and came to be seen as a sign of an officer, alongside the revolver and Sam Browne belt.

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This pair of Binoculars were manufactured in 1944 for the British military and are larger than the typical x4 magnification binoculars routinely issued to all officers. They are marked O.S. 656 MA- this means they meet Optical Store drawing number 656 and were issued without a case.

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The prominent red screws were to allow dry air to be forced into the binoculars to reduce condensation and fungus. The binoculars are marked NIL for Nottingham Instruments Ltd, a shadow company set up by the Ministry of Supply, run from a former Players factory and controlled by the major optics firm of Ross.

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The optics on this pair of binoculars are still as good as the day they were made and despite their age they are still an excellent set of binoculars.

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