Category Archives: Binoculars

Canadian REL Binoculars

Research Enterprises Ltd was a short lived Canadian company set up during World War Two to produce optics and electronics for the allied war effort. The company started producing war materiel in 1941 in Toronto and quickly became one of the region’s largest employers. By 1946 however the company was no more, like many firms set up by the Canadian government, once war was over REL was wound up.

As well as making radar equipment and sniper scopes, one of the most numerous products produced by the firm were binoculars for use by Canadian troops and allies. There were approximately 50,000 pairs of 6×30 binoculars produced by the company and it is a pair of these we are looking at tonight:imageUnlike the Second World War British and Indian binoculars we have looked at on the blog before, this pair do not copy the WW1 British prismatic binocular design, but rather have a far more modern and ergonomic shape to the main body:imageThis is coated in a special non slip black paint finish that helps the user keep hold of the binoculars regardless of sweat or moisture. The reverse of the binoculars have two lugs braised onto the main barrels to allow a neck strap to be attached:imageThe focus of the lenses is adjusted on the individual eyepieces, which thread in and out to change the focal length. A graduated scale is engraved onto each eyepiece:imageThe top of each barrel is engraved, the left hand one has the /|\ mark and the power of the binoculars themselves:imageThe letters CBG53GA are a Canadian Army stores code and the GA indicates that this pair were originally issued with a case. The right hand side indicates that REL produced this set in 1943 in Canada and gives details of the settings of the reticules inside the lenses:imageThe quality of these binoculars is excellent and I can imagine them being a popular choice amongst British officers as well as with the Canadians. When manufactured, the binoculars were tested by spraying with water and being dropped six feet into sand. A number of cases can be found for the binoculars. As well as fitting in the standard 37 pattern binocular case, a rexine-type case is also found with these optics, in both a black and a very dark green colour.

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.

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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…