Category Archives: Binoculars

Tuesday Finds

A few nice bits, and one I’m not so sure of today…

Bren Gun Ammunition Box

One of the problems with all machine guns is ensuring they have an adequate supply of ammunition in battle. The Bren Gun was no exception and every man in a section carried a couple of magazines for it. The gunners carried additional magazines and these 12 magazine boxes were also issued allowing large quantities of ammunition to be delivered to the gunner in the field. Considering the box holds 12 magazines, each of which would have been filled with 28 rounds, that made for 336 rounds per box. Not a huge number, but enough to have made the box a heavy enough thing to have lugged around the battlefield:

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This box is a Mk1* example, distinguished form the earlier Mk1 by having a horse hair seal around the rim:

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A catch on the front secures the box:

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Whilst on one end is a steel strip carrying handle (the Canadian manufactured example uses webbing instead):

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Inside is room for 12 Bren box magazines:

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The box has been repainted at some point in its army career, but the original marking have been left unpainted:

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This is not the first time I have seen this done on one of these boxes and seems quite common practice.

Dog Tags

Throughout both world wars British troops wore pairs of compressed fibre dog tags on string around their necks. These tags were in two parts, a hexagonal green tag and a red circular tag. Onto these were stamped a troops name, service number and religion. Regimental details were also sometimes added, but this was by no means universal. The idea was that if a soldier was killed the red disc would be removed along with his paybook so the death could be recorded, whilst the green tag remained on the body for future identification.

These two sets of dog tags appear to be for brothers or possibly cousins, as they share the same surname. The first set is for 5520478 KG BORN, who is recorded as being Church of England. The number block indicates this man was a member of the Hampshire Regiment:

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The second set is for 2206317 CJ BORN who is recorded as being Roman Catholic. Again the number block indicates regiment- in this case the Royal Engineers:

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Both sets of dog tags are in lovely issue on a piece of string for wear around the neck:

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Binoculars

I will be honest, I have my doubts about the military origins of these binoculars. They are very similar in size and design to military binoculars and I would guess they date form around the First World War:

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They are manufactured by Necretti and Zambra, London and this is stamped on the front:

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I have my doubts about them due to the lack of WD or /|\ stamps and the lack of range reticules on the lenses. The manufacturer is also not listed as one of the WD approved suppliers for WW1 or WW2. There is a possibility that these were private purchase items, but no proof.

This is a case of buyer beware and I should have thought a bit harder before purchasing them, or waited and done my research to be sure of their provenance before buying. However they were not expensive, have definite age to them and have good optics so I’m not too concerned with picking them up. If anyone has any further information on them I’d be delighted to hear about it.

Coldstream Guards Cap Badge and Buttons

This cap badge and pair of buttons are for the Coldstream Guards, the oldest regiment in the British Army and second only to the Grenadier Guards in order of precedence. The regiment was founded in 1650 in Coldstream, Scotland by General Moncke. The regiment’s badge, seen on the cap badge and buttons, is the Garter Star with the motto ‘Honi soit qui mal y pense’ or Shame on him who thinks evil of it.

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RAF Officer’s Tunic

This was a particularly nice find considering how little it cost me. This is a 1953 dated RAF officer’s tunic and belt, still with King’s crown buttons on. The tunic is made of fine RAF blue cloth. The distinctive colour of RAF uniforms dates back to its inception at the end of the First World War, when the War Office purchased a job lot of cloth, destined for tsarist Russia, at a knock down price (due to the sudden replacement of the Tsar with those who preferred Red!). The colour of the uniform soon led to the new service being nicknamed ‘Crabs’ due to the supposed similarity in colour between the uniform and the underwater crustacean.

The Tunic itself is full cut, with four pockets:

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The pockets and front are secured by brass ‘Kings Crown’ RAF buttons:image

One of the buttons is a flat disc as it is covered by the waist belt and needs to fit discretely behind it:

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Inside is a label detailing size, manufacturer and date:

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Unfortunately the rank lace is missing, but looking at the discolouration it belonged to a Wing Commander:

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My aim with this one is to try and track down some lace and restore it a bit before displaying it as its in pretty good nick and it fills a hole in my collection as most of my other RAF kit is Other Airmans.

Naval Ratings Photograph

This little photo depicts a sailor in square rig. Judging by the age of him, he may well be a boy sailor. His cap tally says HMS Victory, which was used as a training ship. The black top to the cap dates him to around the Second World War, whilst on the back is the photographer’s details for a J Roberts, 83 Dewsbury Road Leeds.

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Artillery Binoculars

Military optics need to be as good as possible, whilst also being cheap enough to mass produce and robust enough to survive the battlefield. Throughout the twentieth century, the Germans had a well deserved reputation for producing the best lenses, binoculars, sights and telescopes. Despite this, British binoculars were perfectly respectable and came to be seen as a sign of an officer, alongside the revolver and Sam Browne belt.

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This pair of Binoculars were manufactured in 1944 for the British military and are larger than the typical x4 magnification binoculars routinely issued to all officers. They are marked O.S. 656 MA- this means they meet Optical Store drawing number 656 and were issued without a case.

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The prominent red screws were to allow dry air to be forced into the binoculars to reduce condensation and fungus. The binoculars are marked NIL for Nottingham Instruments Ltd, a shadow company set up by the Ministry of Supply, run from a former Players factory and controlled by the major optics firm of Ross.

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The optics on this pair of binoculars are still as good as the day they were made and despite their age they are still an excellent set of binoculars.

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