There are many instances in military operations where accurate timekeeping is essential. Navigators aboard aircraft needed to know exact timings to help them work out where an aircraft was if cloud cover obscured landmarks. Other uses included for doctors to check heart rates, engineers working with timed components etc. Different watches had different degrees of precision depending on what their intended use was. Today we are looking at an Air Ministry pocket watch, sadly missing its top loop and non functional, but still an interesting item:
From the face of the watch we can see that the movement is Swiss made, this suggests it was procured before the outbreak of the Second World War as it would not be possible to get hold of Swiss made items easily once the rest of Europe was occupied.
The rear of the watch has a removable pressed metal cover over the movement to protect it, but still allow access for repairs and cleaning:
With a little persuasion, this cover can be unscrewed and the action of the watch, sadly non functioning, is revealed:
The back of the cover has an RAF store’s code and the letters ‘AM’ for Air Ministry lightly struck above:
Although wrist watches were common by World War II, pocket watches were still in use and the stores codes can indicate what a particular watch was intended to be used for, as indicated in the 1940 copy of ‘Aviation Instrument Manual’:
6A/….. may be carried in an aeroplane and are of use in connection with performance tests & navigation.
6B/….. intended for general application but may be used in an aeroplane.
6E/….. is for general use (engineering, medical etc.).
Despite this coding, it does seem that the rules were regularly ignored and the IWM have an example of a watch, coded 6E/50 that was used by an RAF unit on D-Day and is inscribed as such. Presumably the realities of supply led to a fluid situation and watches were used as and when they were available rather than strictly by the book of regulations.