Heliograph Mk V (Part 2)

Following last night’s post looking at the Heliograph itself, tonight we are going to look at how the instrument is operated and the leather carrying case that is so important in keeping the heliograph protected on campaign.

The following description of how to set up and use a heliograph comes from a 1911 set of Will’s cigarette cards:

To set up the helio, as hereon shown, the tripod should stand firmly, and be placed so that the head of it is as level as possible. The instrument is then screwed to the main socket, and by passing the jointed arm from hand to hand it is screwed home. A sheltered spot should always be selected for the helio., provided you have a clear range.WillsSignalling45To align the helio. Using the sighting rod.- The signaller either looks through the hole in the back of the mirror, or places himself in the position shown in the illustration. He now moves his head so as to get the reflection of the distant station covered by the spot on the mirror; he next gets the sighting mark to cover the reflection of the distant station. WillsSignalling46We here show the helio. With the jointed arm which carries the sighting vane and the duplex mirror. The duplex mirror is only used when the position of the sun renders it impossible to throw the light on to the distant station with the one mirror. On the back of the signalling mirror may be seen the key for signalling the long and short flashes. WillsSignalling48The operator is here seen signalling with the duplex mirror, his hand being placed on the key, which, when pressed, throws the light from the signalling mirror on to the distant station, and when released directs it on to the ground in front of the helio. As the sun alters its position so must the mechanism be adjusted to retain the light in the required direction. WillsSignalling49The heliograph comes in a large leather carrying case:imageThis has the contents stamped on the front ‘Helio 5” Mk V’:imageThe top of the case has a large leather strap and buckle to hold down the lid:imageThe case hangs on a canvas shoulder strap, a second webbing strap is attached to the rear:imageThis would pass around the waist when the case was being worn to prevent it from bouncing against the body. The inside of the case has various pockets and mountings top hold the contents securely so they are less likely to break:imageI am still looking for a tripod for this set, but as a lover of obsolete instruments I am so pleased to have added this to my collection. At some point, on a sunny day, I will have to try it out and see if I can make it work again!

2 thoughts on “Heliograph Mk V (Part 2)

  1. Wayne

    Hello, I have been reading your articles for a while now with interest and have decided to let you
    know how much I have been enjoying them, myself being a collector of pre1953 Australian and British militaria I have found your sight to be highly informative, thank you, your two part segment
    on the Heliograph is very interesting and I love your highly detailed photographs, My own Helio is dated 1942 but unlike yours mine is missing a few components from its case which dates from
    1906, I have two stands one dated 1942 and the other 1941, there is currently one on ebay for sale dating from 1916 but unfortunatly the owner is asking a hefty $900.00, too rich for me but I
    thought that you might like to have a look, still a nice example.

    1. hatchfive Post author

      Hi Wayne
      I am glad you are enjoying the blog. I am rather fond of the heliograph as well. Thanks for pointing out the tripod on eBay, happily I have just found and purchased one and it will be appearing on the blog in the next couple of weeks.


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