Racal PT-404 Field Telephone

Despite the growing use of radio sets, field telephones were still an essential part of field communications throughout the Cold War. By the 1970s however, most of the designs of field telephone in use by the British Army were becoming rather antiquated so a new design was desperately needed. The large communications firm of Racal came up with a new and far more modern design of field telephone, powered by D-Cell batteries held in a heavy duty plastic housing:

The lower part of the telephoone was dedicated to the batteries and was accessed by unscrewing it from the upper part. Moulded pictographs indicated to the soldier how he should insert the batteries to make the telephone work:

The field telephone was far more sophisticated than earlier models and included a number of features such as ‘whisper’ which reduced the levels of sound to minimise noise in tactical situations. These required a number of controls to be fitted to the top of the telephone unit:

To go with this, extensive instructions on how to operate the telephone were printed on metal plates affixed to the side of the telephone:

The handset of the telephone is made of black plastic with a button that needs to be depressed to make the user’s voice heard:

Although very heavy and bulky by modern standards, for the time this field telephone was small and light and was designed to be far more portable than earlier models. To this end, a pair of metal sling loops are fitted to either side of the telephone to allow it to be carried over the shoulder on a strap if required:

It was far more usual, however, to place the telephone in its dedicated satchel:

This had a top flap that folded over to secure the telephone inside, with two twist catches holding it firmly in place:

A small metal data plate is secured to the top flap:

These telephones were simple, robust and reliable so they remained in British Army service for decades and indeed they were still being used by Cadet forces for training into the 2010s.

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