British Army Handcuffs

Although they were armed, members of the military police also carried the same accoutrements as their civilian counterparts such as whistles, truncheons and handcuffs. Handcuffs were vital fro securing prisoners once they had been subdued so the prisoner could not be a danger to themselves or others. Until the Second World War the most common type of handcuff in use by both the police and the military as a heavy duty iron type, usually known as a ‘Darby’:

The Darby handcuff was first used in the Victorian era, and by the 1850s it was recognised that it had serious shortcomings. Despite this, the design would continue in service for decades to come. The basic problems were that it was very heavy and did not adjust to size so if you had someone with slim hands, they could slip it off and if you had someone with thick wrists, unless you had the correct size it was very difficult to put it on a prisoner. The handcuffs were officially known as the ‘flexible’ type as they had a link between each cuff that allowed prisoners to eat and perform some simple tasks that earlier solid cuffs did not:

Each of the cuffs is made of iron in a loop with a hinged end piece. These cuffs are extremely robust and no matter how strong the prisoner he would not be able to break them:

To open the handcuffs a small key is provided:

To open them the key is rotated clockwise and screwed all the way in, the last half turn releasing the cuff:

Once on the prisoner, only half a turn is needed to secure the cuff. After this however it still required a lot of turning to release the key and this slowness of use was one of the major problems with this design of cuff- by the late nineteenth century designs with a ratchet were being introduced which were much simpler and quicker to apply. Despite this, the design continued in service for decades and new examples were still being produced, such as this example which has a /|\ ownership mark and the number ’13’ which suggests they were made in 1913:

These handcuffs are superbly well made and despite their limitations would still restrain a prisoner just as well today as the day they were made.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.