Category Archives: Binoculars

1917 Dated Binoculars and Case

The British had difficulties providing all the men who needed them with a good pair of binoculars in World War One. As we discussed here, they turned to French binocular manufacturers to make up the short fall and a fairly standard pattern was adopted, but produced by a range of different French optics companies. Tonight we are looking at another pair of these binoculars, of almost identical design but from a different company:imageWhat makes this pair nice however is that they come with the original leather carrying case:imageThe case is made of high quality leather, with a hinged lid that opens to allow the binoculars to be placed inside:imageA strap and brass buckle on the front secures the top flap in place and prevents the binoculars from slipping out:imageOn the rear of the case are a pair of belt loops, allowing them to be worn on a Sam Browne belt rather than by the shoulder strap, which is removable:imageThe front of the case has a /|\ mark stamped into the leather:imageWhilst the top of the case is marked ‘W Swart’ and dated 1917:imageThe binoculars themselves are a standard pair of Mk Vs with Galilean lenses of a similar design to that used in the British Army since the beginning of the century. Each lens has a brass glare deflector that can be pulled forward: imageThe eyepiece barrels are marked with a /|\ stamp and a serial number:imageEach eyepiece is marked ‘Lemaire Fabt Paris’:imageLemaire were a French company that had been founded in 1846 by a monsieur Armand Lemaire to produce binoculars. Monsieur Lemaire died in 1885 and his son in law took over the firm. They diversified into making cars and electrical equipment but continued making binoculars until the firm folded in 1955.

I bought this pair of binoculars for £10 a couple of weeks ago and it is amazing to think that something as attractive and over a hundred years old is so inexpensive. These binoculars were produced in large numbers and it is true that they are not as good as prismatic examples, but this still seems a very small amount for something of this age.

Indian Made Binoculars

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:imageIn 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:imageThe 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:imageThe two parts of the main body have a textured lacquer to aid grip:imageAnd the angle of the two halves is adjustable, around a central brass rod:imageA small guide is marked on the end to show the relative angle of the two eyepieces:imageThere are two sets of markings on the binoculars, one indicates that they are ‘Binoculars, Prism, No2. Mk II’ and they have six times magnification:imageThe other set of markings indicate they were made in Calcutta in 1944 by ‘M.I.O’:imageMIO 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.image

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.


37 Pattern Case

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


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:


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


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.


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:



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:


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


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:


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


A catch on the front secures the box:


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


Inside is room for 12 Bren box magazines:


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


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:


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:


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



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:


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


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.


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:


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:


Inside is a label detailing size, manufacturer and date:


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


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.