Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

Sign in to follow this  
alex falbo

Tommy's specs

Recommended Posts

alex falbo

Any chance forum pals could post photos of infantrymen or servicemen wearing spectacles in and out of the field? Using them as reference for certain projects.

I also would keenly encourage discussion about types and their use along with anything else related to the subject. I understand for the Germans, a special type of field glasses were issued which consisted of a elastic band which served as the temple arms allowing greater ease in originally fitting inside the Gummi mask. As far as I know, The BEF did not issue a certain type and specs were a private purchase.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
centurion

Any chance forum pals could post photos of infantrymen or servicemen wearing spectacles in and out of the field? Using them as reference for certain projects.

I also would keenly encourage discussion about types and their use along with anything else related to the subject. I understand for the Germans, a special type of field glasses were issued which consisted of a elastic band which served as the temple arms allowing greater ease in originally fitting inside the Gummi mask. As far as I know, The BEF did not issue a certain type and specs were a private purchase.

There is already stuff on this on the forum. A British Army spectacle service was established (in Blackpool if I remember correctly) and thousands upon thousands of standard British Army spectacles were issued. This allowed many soldiers to move up a grade in their fittness category so that bespectacled men could take over administrative duties and release fitter men for combat duties. By the end of the war there were also many glasses wearing soldiers in the front line. The original British Army spectacle factory still exists today but it is now a non military establishment that makes glass eyes. Special forms were created to allow MOs to create a reasonably accurate prescription (and sometimes involve local opticians) which were sent back to the Spectacle Service and glasses issued by express post. This took less time than some modern private services in Britain do today nevertheless soldiers on active service were advised to have a spare pair available. Occasionally one sees WW1 British Army specs on sale on e bay (and they look to have better frames than the 1945 era NHS issue). Establishing this took time and in the first part of the war specs were a private purchase (usually by officers as spec wearing ORs were very rare indeed in the front line).

PS There were never BEF specs the specatcle service covered the entire British Army on all fronts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
centurion

Further to the above - according to the BMJ by the end of the war the British Army Spectacle Depot in Blackpool had issued well over a quarter of a million pairs. All glasses were in standard tortoise shell frames These were much sought after post war as being of very good quality.

See also http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=116207&view=findpost&p=1110596

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
alex falbo

Well, after mining some on the forum, I haven't seen too much concerning the topic in depth. However I appreciate your replies.

The well known picture of the border's in their funk holes of August 1916 show a Tommy wearing a pair. This pic doesn't show it well but the lad next to his Sergeant is wearing specs.

borders.jpg

Are these the ones issued by the Depot?

And are they the model Joe Sweeney referred to in another thread as "KR 1704 Glasses" ?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
George Armstrong Custer

Not sure if specialist glasses are of interest to you, Alex, but if so here are some pics of a pair which I have, which once belonged to Major-General E K G Sixsmith (1904 - 1986). I bought them a couple of years ago, primarily because of their association with the military service of Sixsmith who was, inter alia, one of Haig's better military biographers. Although Sixsmith was issued these when he was commissioned in 1924, it would seem very likely that they were developed during the late war, or as a direct consequence of experiences with gasmasks during it. Perhaps someone with more expertise in this field could confirm one way or the other whether these type of glasses were developed during the Great War or immediately after (unlike some on the forum at the moment, I welcome those with expert knowledge in a particular field, and am not inclined to refer to them as 'clever dicks' or 'nit pickers' if they impart that knowledge in a lucid manner which dispels my own ignorance of the subject).

The glasses certainly seem to be military issue, given that the label in the case (which also bears Sixsmith's name) refers to their suitability for use with gas masks as well as ordinary use, and references medical officers. As will be seen from the 1985 letter which Sixsmith wrote to the chap from whom I purchased the glasses, Sixsmith retained the glasses and wore them in the field in the Second World War at actions such as Anzio. The glasses are of peculiar construction. The legs are really little more than strips of highly flexible aluminium foil, and the hinges allow them to open right out without breaking. The celluloid-covered ear pieces are coiled to secure the glasses when worn. The lenses in the glasses, by the way, are incredibly thick - Sixsmith must have had very poor eyesight.

390351_10150512121359500_193705574499_8414432_1762207038_n.jpg

390351_10150512121384500_193705574499_8414433_223856781_n.jpg

390351_10150512121399500_193705574499_8414434_87369564_n.jpg

Will post Sixsmith's 1985 letter about the glasses in the next post.

George

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
George Armstrong Custer
386239_10150512139464500_193705574499_8414467_1236069321_n.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Chris Foster

Q872colcrop_1.jpg

border Reg cropped image (Don't ask about the added colour its a long story)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
centurion

The official issue from the spectacle depot were all to one design with tortoise (horn) rims and earpieces (source BMJ) so anything else must be from another source or post war

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
truthergw

Very similar glasses to the ones George shows were still being issued in the late '50s. Gasmask specs as they were known.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
centurion

The College of Optometrists has in their museum a pair of glasses like those shown - they are described as Gas mask spectacles; Hadley Co Ltd ;Europe: United Kingdom C.1940. Similar glasses have appeared on a number of auction sites - all tagged as WW2.

http://www.deadmenss.../0/100_9043.jpg

However Bausch & Lomb were producing these type of glasses for the German Army in WW1. It's not beyond possibility that some reached British Soldiers via German POWs. (The same glasses were issued to German soldiers in WW2 but with the earpieces replaced by elastic.). I have found a photo of a WW1 German soldier wearing WW1 Bausch & Lomb pattern glasses

After the end of WW1 the British Army's glasses were procured from private suppliers rather than being manufactured in the state owned factory in Blackpool and it's entirely possible that gas mask specs were introduced at this pont and before then soldiers had to wear the standard Depot issued horn rims under the mask (which would have been uncomfortable) or rely on captured German ones (possibly with the lens replaced) or get a private glasses maker to do a pair for them.

It would seem that the thin rimmed fingerpiece pince-nez may also have been used as this American shows http://www.flickr.co...nez/4432980492/

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
alex falbo

I welcome those with expert knowledge in a particular field, and am not inclined to refer to them as 'clever dicks' or 'nit pickers' if they impart that knowledge in a lucid manner which dispels my own ignorance of the subject).

George

Couldn't have said it better. Please continue the discussion.

As regards to a previous post here, the KR 1704 glasses. I wasn't aware that it was Kings Regulation 1704 that glasses be worn on and off duty not a designation for the spectacles model or type :doh:.

It would appear that wearing glasses with the SBR would pose the greatest trouble.

Were soldiers OR allowed to wear privately purchased specs while at the line?

Thank you Chris for the enlargement. What would like to also clarify is if the bridge nose pieces were a feature for specs during this period?

Here are some more pictures

IMW Q11434 - Royal Munster Fusiliers' Catholic Chaplain in 1917

large.jpg?action=d

On the subject of the German 'Gummi glasses' or Maskenbrille

Below picture comes from a first class thread about the Maskenbrille CLICK

101_2592_edited.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
George Armstrong Custer

Alex, I'll be surprised if it turns out that prescription glasses with frames for wearing under the gas mask of the type issued to Sixsmith in 1924 weren't developed by the British during the Great War, particularly as Centurion's references and your photo shows that the Germans did.

George

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
centurion

They may well have been developed during WW1 but there is no evidence that they were manufactured or issued. The majority of British Army men issued with specs were employed in rear area duties, freeing other soldiers for combat. It doesn't seem to have been until the German offensive of 1918 that substantial numbers of spectacle wearers went into the front line.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
alex falbo

Alex, I'll be surprised if it turns out that prescription glasses with frames for wearing under the gas mask of the type issued to Sixsmith in 1924 weren't developed by the British during the Great War, particularly as Centurion's references and your photo shows that the Germans did.

George

My thoughts as well concerning the realities surely encountered with men wearing them under the PH hoods. Although I have not seen any photos or evidence that spectacle wearing infantrymen or troops in general employed the Maskenbrille after getting their perscripted lens fitted. As both the photos of the border Reg. chap and the RMF Chaplain, normal specs look to have been worn in front line conditions with both PH hood and SBR.

Centurion, is your conclusion based off of photos, written records, estimates given the lax requirements concerning conscripted by this period or any combination of the previous? And/or perhaps anything else I missed?

Here's some more photos

A British soldier and pince-nez

4688657132_9bbfe29677_z.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
alex falbo

And of course Mr. Ivor Gurney poet and infantryman.

gurney.jpg

FWHarvey.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Andrew Upton

It would appear that wearing glasses with the SBR would pose the greatest trouble.

Were soldiers OR allowed to wear privately purchased specs while at the line?

Being short-sighted, I actually wear my great-grandfathers WW2 issue gas mask specs (with my prescription naturally) for WW1 living history events, and I can assure you that the frames are so fitted closely to the side of the head (the arms actually start to cut into part of my ears a little after a couple of days as a result) that even wearing an SBR over them is no problem, and a standard PH hood or similar is even easier. The main problem however is dealing with the glasses lenses fogging up when a gas mask is worn for any length of time with them under. For ordinary use there are ways and means of clearing fogging off the lenses of the various gas masks whilst still wearing them, but I have yet to find one that works on the glasses without removing the mask first. So you either keep them on and risk being gradually blinded, gassed if you remove the mask to clear the glasses, or whip them off before donning the mask and have fuzzy vision for as long as necessary...

The ones George has posted a picture of do seem to be a very early version of the type, as they differ from the standard WW2 pairs in several ways, such as the placing of the lense retaining screws, the nose piece styling and material, and the whole general construction of the arms and hinges.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
W.J.Caughey

This advert appeared in August 1914, dont know if anyone took up the offer.

Walter

post-64827-0-37967000-1363377182_thumb.j

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Tony N

I posted a photo of a soldier in the postcard thread http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=153347&st=2725 on page 110, post number 2749. I'm sure there'll be other photos of men wearing specs if you have the time to go through the whole thread.

Tony

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×