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:Unlike 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:This 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:The 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:The top of each barrel is engraved, the left hand one has the /|\ mark and the power of the binoculars themselves:The 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:The 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.
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.
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…