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voltaire60

NATIONAL SERVICE LEAGUE- FIELD GLASSES SCHEME

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voltaire60

   A few bits and pieces regarding the scheme organised by the National Service League to borrow field glasses,telescopes,etc for the duration of the war-for use by officers and NCOs. Bits were assembled for a specific request by a GWF member but held back as his request was specific.

    The challebge now is to find a pair of field glasses with an NSL  number on them-and the accompanying "thank you" letter from the British army officer/NCO returning them. Should be out there somewhere-Let's find one!!

   (PS- Lord Roberts and the National Service League also organised a scheme to take in spare horse harness for the war, though this seems not to have been returned. Details of this are sparse but should be out there somewhere (ie Hampshire-Come on Broomfield-cough up the info.)

 

     The Field Glass Fund began early in September 1914 at the instigation of Lord Roberts. A man not fit  for active duty, his prestige meant he could propel a good cause quite a way.  An appeal was launched for  binoculars and telescopes of all kinds, especially the more prismatic lens varieties. The agency for the administration of the scheme was the offices of the National Service League at 72 Victoria Street. Founded in 1906, it was the main pressure group advocating  compulsory service and Roberts was  it’s figurehead.  The NSL undertook to register each  apparatus sent in, stamp it with a unique number and the initials “NSL”, maintain a register of the details of the owners-and ,at the end of hostilities, endeavour to return the  items to the owners.  The bait for the patriotic-minded was that  Roberts undertook to  send each loaner a personal, signed note of thanks

   The scheme was an immediate success, especially among those who were “unable to shoot” (in sporting terms) because of the war. In the first 3 days of the scheme, over 300 pairs of field glasses were sent in. By  19th October, the total had risen to 14,000 and by January 1915, a circular letter went out to the Press giving the total collected as 18,000. The total by the end of the war was around 30,000

     After the death of Lord Roberts, the scheme continued under the patronage of his widow as  “The Lady Roberts Field Glass Fund”, though it’s practical administration and  promotion was done by his daughter Aileen Roberts. In January 1915, Aileen Roberts sent out a round robin to the Press advocating continued  loans and also solicited cheques to purchase field glasses if the opportunity arose, as well as practical arrangement at NSL to have the instruments graded, allocated and repaired if necessary. The Press letter of January 1915 played on the reputation of the late Field Marshal by saying that he had prepared a second letter asking for continued support before his death but had not lived to sign it.

     Cheques had come in to NSL from the start, encouraged by a lead donation from the Duke of Portland  of £200 in September 1914.  Then, funds were solicited to take advantage of a supply of field glasses on which the NSL had taken an option. By May 1916, NSL was spending around £100 a week, of which c£8 went on office salaries-the rest on purchase, repair and distribution costs.

     As well as NSL, others solicited for field glasses- eg The Hendon local paper reported on 25th September 1914 a request from the CO of a  new company in a new service battalion- H Coy (Hendon Company), 9th Middlesex a plea for 6 sets of field glasses for NCOs.  National Archives “Discovery” gives hints as to records of the effective state appropriation  of lenses and field glasses from the major stockists early in 1915 and  the effective appropriation by purchase from the Ministry of Munitions from c. March 1916-under a scheme where the ministry would appraise and pay against a fixed scale.

    At the end of the war, efforts were made to return the borrowed field glasses and telescopes to their original owners.  Aileen Roberts circulated a letter through the Press in mid-December 1918 asking for return-and that officers and NCOs who returned them were encouraged to enclose a note of thanks  to the owner- returns were handled through NSL in Victoria Street. At least some were returned this way, for  on 3rd November 1919, the Yorkshire Post printed a letter from a “Bradford Doctor” that he had loaned and got back field glasses and that a nice note from the officer who had them was enclosed.

    Examples  of borrowed and marked glasses are not easy to find but are almost certainly out there. The Armagh Observatory has in its stocks 4 telescopes lent in early 1918 and subsequently returned, each with a unique number stamped on them.  There is a copy of a letter of thanks  from Roberts at IWM in the papers of W.J.Telford,MC- it was sent to his father at the time.  There are currently 2 for sale on the Internet-one is from my bookselling colleague, Roger Collicott:


ROBERTS, Frederick Sleigh, 1st Earl Roberts . (1832-1914). Field Marshal. The Highlight of His Outstanding Career Was Victory in the Second Afghan War,1880

Used

Quantity Available: 1

From: Roger Collicott Books(Widecombe in the Moor, DEVON, United Kingdom)

Item Description: Book Condition: Good. One page TLs, Englemere, Ascot, Sept. 18th, 1914 to Miss Hill, who has responded to his appeal for field glasses for his NCOs. He was colonel-in-chief of the Indian Expeditionary Force in France in 1914 and died 8 weeks after this letter was written, on November 14th, of Pneumonia. Manuscript. Bookseller Inventory # 000959

 

  There is another for sale from Richmond autographs:

ROBERTS Lord Roberts of Kandahar - Typed Letter Signed 1914 ...

https://www.richmondautographs.co.uk/.../roberts-lord-roberts-of-kandahar-typed-lett...

1.       

Typed Letter Signed (“Roberts F.M.”) to R.B. Winch in Edenbridge, thanking him for his “kind response to my appeal for field glasses”. 1 page 4to, Ascot, ...

This has a full colour illustration, which I decline to post for copyright reasons but at time of writing it can be seen on Google.

 

   Gobbets from foreign newspapers suggest that field glasses also came in from abroad-  a Singapore newspaper records 4 pairs being sent in early in 1915. As well as the British Army, it seems that some were solicited and probably delivered to the Belgian Army in late 1914.

  

     How the field glasses were assessed and used is described in a circular letter printed in “The Lancet”  of 6th January 1917 (available on JSTOR)  which prints the guts of a blurb put out by NSL  in reviewing the scheme after 2 years:

 

   LORD ROBERTS’S FIELD GLASSES: A RETROSPECT OF TWO YEARS WORK.

To the Editor of THE LANCET.

      SIR,-Soon after the outbreak of the war, my father, Lord Roberts, asked the public to lend their glasses for the use of the Army. After two years I think your readers may be glad to have some particulars of the result of his request. Upwards of 26,000 glasses have been received, without reckoning those which, in pursuance of my father’s suggestion, have been collected in Australia, the Malay States, and elsewhere, and issued forthwith to the local forces on their way to the seat of war. The instruments sent comprise every type, and have been classified and issued according to the needs of different units. Particularly useful have been the fine prismatic glasses sent which have-been allocated to artillery and machine-gun units, according to their power ; large mounted telescopes for batteries ; deer-stalking tele- scopes for gunners and snipers, and good old-fashioned non- prismatic racing glasses for detection of the nationality of aircraft, locating snipers, signalling by disc, collecting wounded, and musketry instruction. I am indeed grateful for the way in which my father’s appeal has been met. British people all over the world have given their best, recog-nising that, in spite of the fact that their glasses are on loan and that the organisation for their return has been arranged, the chances of loss are many, and that they may never get their glasses back. When I think of the enormous numbers of good glasses sent it may seem ungracious to ask for more, but the demand is still great. I am told that at watering places, and on race- courses and elsewhere, large numbers of glasses are still to be seen in private hands, and to the owners of these I would once more appeal. I should add that we have been entrusted by the Ministry of Munitions with the purchase of individual glasses from those who cannot afford to lend them, and that the address for sending glasses for either purpose is the same. Every good glass (except opera-glasses) and every telescope (except toys) is wanted for the service of the country. Glasses should be addressed to the Manager of Lady Roberts Field Glass Fund, National Service League, 72, Victoria-street, S. W.

          I am, Sir,

                yours faithfully,

 

 

                        ROBERTS.

December, 1916.

 

 

 

   There is an informative blog about all of this by Professor Linda Mugglestone in TORCH- The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities.

 

SEEING THE INVISIBLE FOE: KEEPING THE ENEMY IN YOUR SIGHTS IN EARLY WWI

 

In the autumn of 1914, journalists repeatedly returned to the problem of what the Daily Express termed ‘the invisible foe’. War had become, quite literally, one of entrenched positions. Yet, as journalists pointed out, they could, as a result, be faced with a task of describing a confrontation which was, paradoxically, often removed from the powers of direct observation. ‘It is part of the impressiveness of this war that there is normally nothing to be seen’, as the Daily Express commented in November 1914:

When one talks of the front, meaning the point of nearest actual contact between the opposing forces, one speaks of something which cannot be seen even by a spectator standing (if one were so rash) within fifty years of the leading trenches.

Seeing – and the various exigencies of not being seen – would, as one might expect, bring its own pressures to bear on language, representation, as well as on the material culture of war. Even in the very early stages of WWI, the Words in War-Time archive provides interesting evidence of the importance — and challenges — of seeing the enemy, and the means by which this might be accomplished. An extract from the Scotsman in September 1914 is, for example, used  to document a quest for stalking glasses, a word which was – and remains – unrecorded in the Oxford English Dictionary. Headed ‘An Appeal to Sportsmen by Lord Roberts’, it makes clear use of popular synergies between ideas of war and sport:

There are many sportsmen in Great Britain who, for various reasons, are unable to take to the field for their country. I appeal to those who possess race-glasses, field glasses, or stalking-glasses, to render a real service to those who are going to the front by giving them the use of good glasses (Scotsman 7 sept 1914)

Stalking glasses is carefully underlined. In the diction which is deployed, they provide a means by which prey (whether human or otherwise) may be detected when ‘taking to the field’ — irrespective of whether the ‘field’ in question is one of battle or hunting.

Appeals of this kind — like those for the various comforts which (as other posts have explored) were despatched to those in need — provide other ways in which Home Front and Western Front were repeatedly yoked together. Comforts, however, did not need to be returned; a certain naivety (and undue optimism) is therefore perceptible, at least with hindsight, in terms of stalking glasses and their projected use in war. As the ‘Appeal’ continued, ‘If the owner’s name is engraved upon the glasses, every effort will be made to restore these at the conclusion of the war’. History fails to record how successful this reassurance proved to be.

Getting the enemy in one’s sights would, however, remain a prominent topos. While stalking glasses and field glasses had their uses, they also brought problems. The archive notes, for example, a new form of diction in December 1914. Periscopes and field glasses here unite to form a new hybrid in the material culture of war – the periscope field glass. As a letter to the Daily Express on 22nd December (sent by the M.P Mr. Alfred Tobin) observed:

a very large proportion of the casualties in the R.A. had been among the observing officers, who, when using ordinary field glasses, have of necessity to keep their heads above the trenches.

As Tobin added, ‘the use of periscope field-glasses would obviate this’. There was, he concluded, ‘an urgent need for periscope field-glasses.

Periscopes were, however, already in use – not only at sea on submarines (a domain in which the Words in War-Time archive provides a vast amount of data) — but also on land and in the trenches on the Western Front. An account of an encounter between the London Scottish and the enemy on 18th December 1914 had, for example, already drawn attention to the salience, and success, of periscopes:

as soon as the territorials got into the trenches, groups of crack shots immediately commenced the game of “spotting” with periscopes and field glasses. In a night attack the Germans were driven off with considerable loss (Scotsman, 18 December 1914)

Uses such as these clearly moved beyond the available record of the language as given in works such as the Oxford English Dictionary. The relevant section had been published in September 1905; evidence for periscope concluded in 1902. Its definition, too, belonged to an earlier age; a periscopethe OED noted, was a ‘look round’ (in what was an admittedly rare use). It denoted, too, ‘a variety of photographic object-glass’, or could be used to refer to what were described as ‘submarine boats’: ‘An apparatus used in a submarine boat, for obtaining a view of objects above the water by a system of mirrors’. For Andrew Clark, collecting words for the Words in War-Time archive, the utility of his task was, in these and other ways, all too plain. Within a few months of WWI beginning, periscopesgained a new domain of meaning – in which land rather than sea governed the requisite sense, and in which one looked over the top of a trench instead of an expanse of water. ‘We see everything they do by the aid of periscopes’, an article in the Scotsman on Christmas Day 1914 proclaimed. The heading was equally illuminating: ‘Dalbeattie Solder’s Tribute to Periscopes’. Here,the enemy (‘they’) were indubitably brought within one’s sights.

Extracts such as this demonstrate the ready familiarity of this shift in sense, suggesting that by late 1914 it had already been consolidated into popular use. Trench periscope meanwhile came into existence as a more specific synonym which made explicit the circumstances of its use .As contemporary advertising confirms, while eloquent descriptions of cold, hardship, and isolation served to prompt the despatch of a variety of comforts to the Front, the provision of trench periscopes could play on rather more serious concerns for both safety and protection In what proved a highly effective form of commodification:

 A new and simple trench periscope which as been invented for the use of our troops in Flanders, should do much to lessen the numbers of casualties from snipers

As this advertisement from February 1915 proclaims,. such numbers could, of course, only be lessened were the trench periscopes to be purchased (and at an eminently reasonable price of two shillings and sixpence). Failure to purchase would, by inference, leave loved ones at the Front open to the enemy’s gunfire – and forced to render themselves vulnerable by peeking over the parapet while their more favoured colleagues deployed trench periscopes in enviable safety. As Clark stressed, the blandishments of advertisements in a time of war were worthy of study in their own right. ‘A LIFE-SAVER. BAYNES-PARKER PERISCOPE’ states a similar advertisement in the Daily Express on 14 April 1915. A mere four shillings, it stressed, ‘will probably save your friend or relative’s life’. Such pressures must have been difficult to resist.

Particularly interesting in terms of language is the role which periscopes in trench warfare came to accrue. By June 1915, the periscope could be made a vital part of the drama – and suspense – of heroic deeds of war as recounted to those at home. An especially good example comes from the Scotsman in a narrative included in Notebook 35 of the Words in War-Time archive. It recounts, as the title indicates, ‘A HEROIC DEED. A WOUNDED OFFICER RESCUED UNDER GERMAN FIRE’ (in reality, the rescuing of Lieutenant martin by W. Angus of the 8th Scots Battalion, on June 11th 1915). Here, the periscope – used by the enemy – is anthropomorphised, conveying a distinct sense of malevolence when seen from the perspective of the wounded soldier, lying in no-man’s land or, indeed, from that of his would-be rescuers:

His very closeness to [the Germans] his him from their view, but already they must have heard his moans, and knew he was there, for the ugly neck of a periscope, with its ghoulish eye, reached over their trench and leered at the poor wounded soldier below … Slowly and horribly it turned and swayed and leered at us too, and then back to him. Hell itself can produce nothing to match the dreadfulness of that horrid periscope.

Use by the Allies produced no such ominous overtones, at least when reported by the British press.

As such evidence suggests, by far the most dominant sense of periscope in news discourse (and popular comment) between 1914-18 was therefore that which referred to its role in trench warfare. Modern comment tends to distinguish between periscopes (on submarines) and trench periscopes (in trenches). Usage during the 1914-15, as the Words in War-Time archive suggests, reflected instead a different pattern of use – one in which trench periscopes and periscopes were, indeed, typically synonymous** and  periscopes as used on the battlefield often needed no further elaboration. ‘Life and Death Routines in the Trenches’, a headline in the Daily Express states, for instance, in February 1915: ‘Cinema Pictures taken under Shellfire’. The article describes, in words, the routines that cinematic techniques were able to capture by other means, providing an enduring visual record. Tellingly, we are made to focus on the emblematic images of the wet and sodden trenches and, in turn, on anotehr by now quintessential image of the war in which the ‘men huddle below the parapets, gazing through their periscopes, or sniping at invisible Boches’.  The OED‘s revised text, updated in 2005, meanwhile, we might note, records evidence for this shift only from January 1915. Here, too, history — and the ‘historical principles’ of the Dictionary — diverge.***

** Periscopes on the battlefield could also signify periscopic sights which were fixed directly to bayonets, though the Words in War-Time archive doesn’t provide evidence for this use in 1914-15.

*** Revision for OED Online in 2005 provides a citation from D. O. Barnett in 1915, from a letter dated 23–5 Jan.(In Happy Memory 51): ‘I had a man with a periscope spotting for me, and he registered some near things for the Bosch’s face. The evidence whcih had been included in the Supplement in 1933, when many usages of the war were given for the first time (1917 A. G. Empey Over Top: 303 ‘Periscope, a thing in the trenches which you look through’) is now omitted. The fact that Clark’s evidence was read for the Supplement, but in most cases omitted, continues to create problems.

This is part of the "English Words in War-time" blog series. Please visit the blog site for more information, upcoming posts and an archive of previous posts.

- Professor Lynda Mugglestone

(reproduced with thanks and acknowledgements to Professor Mugglestone)

 

STAMPED NUMBERS.

      It seems reasonable to assume the following:

1)       Field glasses, etc stamped NSL and with a serial number are those sent on loan, of which the serial number corresponds to a maintained register with names and addresses (There is no evidence that this has survived)

2)       Field Glasses  stamped NSL are those purchased by NSL with funds donated . This would be seemingly to keep them apart from those purchased by the Ministry of Munitions.

 

 

 

 

  

 

Edited by voltaire60

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MBrockway

See these earlier topics for more on the Lord/Lady Roberts National Service League and Strachey field glass loan schemes


Lord Roberts' loan scheme for private telescopes & field glasses

 

Lord Roberts and Strachey field glass loan schemes
 

Binoculars 29th Regiment help please WW1?

 

ww1 binoculars
 

 

Mark

 

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voltaire60
1 minute ago, MBrockway said:

See these earlier topics for more on the Lord/Lady Roberts National Service League and Strachey field glass loan schemes


Lord Roberts' loan scheme for private telescopes & field glasses

 

Lord Roberts and Strachey field glass loan schemes
 

Binoculars 29th Regiment help please WW1?

 

ww1 binoculars
 

 

Mark

 

 

   Fantastic- Did the harness scheme surface in any of this??

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MBrockway

The horse harness scheme was a new one on me and don't remember it surfacing in these topics before.

 

Lord/Lady Roberts also ran a prismatic compass loan scheme along similar lines to the field glass scheme.

 

Mark

 

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voltaire60

   Thanks Mark- I think the Field Glasses Fund extended ,in time, to anything with specialist glass in it-  the extension of appeal to telescopes,etc seems to have pulled in stuff of all sorts. 

      The appeal for harness was particularly for saddles for the reserve cavalry. There is a circular letter from Roberts that pops up on BNA, if searched. Suggests that some 6,000 saddles were pulled in. Although it goes under Lord Roberts, the administration seems also to have been NSL-the more so after his death.

Edited by voltaire60

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Vintage_1970

Thank you so much for posting this article.

I am in possession of a confirmed set of WW1 binoculars with the N.S.L. engraving and a corresponding code.  I have a full military history on the Lieutenant who used them.  They would not have been returned to their original owner, and I am most intrigued with the thought that a list could exists that could match the engraved code to an actual person/family.

 

I need to re-read the info you provided to see if there are additional clues...but I'd love to learn anything more that could be derived from the coding.

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MBrockway
19 minutes ago, Vintage_1970 said:

Thank you so much for posting this article.

I am in possession of a confirmed set of WW1 binoculars with the N.S.L. engraving and a corresponding code.  I have a full military history on the Lieutenant who used them.  They would not have been returned to their original owner, and I am most intrigued with the thought that a list could exists that could match the engraved code to an actual person/family.

 

I need to re-read the info you provided to see if there are additional clues...but I'd love to learn anything more that could be derived from the coding.

 

Likewise we'd love to hear the full military history of the lieutenant that used them :thumbsup:

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Curioman

I have a pair of field glasses marked N.S.L  D377

They are in good condition and clean optics

 

Anyone tell me more about them?

 

Robin

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voltaire60

Hi-  it's unlikely.  Do you have the case or are there any other markings on them????    Initials perhaps??   There is no trace of an NSL register listing who got what from who. There is a slight chance it might be in surviving NSL papers, which,I think, are at the National Army Museum.

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MikeNZ

Thanks to everyone for sharing detail here on this topic. It’s help us identify a set of binoculars we’ve inherited. Our set look to have been over painted with Matt black from original service issue gloss black. It wasn’t until sections of this were cleaned black that detail was visible. See attached.

Noted that ‘5’ in original code ‘1569’ appears over punched on ‘4’ - human error?

 

Just to confirm no “NSL” marking so are these original War Department issue?

149C6251-0F7A-407C-94FA-C650CE491CB5.jpeg

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MikB

The 'S.4' means Special, second-grade Galilean glasses. The M1569 is a registration number applied at the same time, presumably to assist traceability.

 

I don't know what selection criteria were used to assign a 'S' grade within the design type, and I wish I did - for telescopes too. I have a top-of-the-range pish-posh Negretti & Zambra stalking telescope in nickel silver that was graded 'S.2', and would like to know why!

 

For binos:-

S.1 High grade prismatics

S.2 Second grade prismatics

S.3 High grade Galileans

S.4 Second grade Galileans

S.5 Third grade binos of either type

S.6 Binos of unusual design

 

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MikeNZ

@MikB appreciate further detail. 
Pleased to find out provenance for these.

MikeNZ

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MikB
24 minutes ago, MikeNZ said:

@MikB appreciate further detail. 
Pleased to find out provenance for these.

MikeNZ

I don't have any idea who made them. Binos and telescopes donated, 'loaned' and purchased from civilian and foreign military sources (eg. French 'MG' optics) were inspected and approved for service, mostly as I understand it in late 1914 and early 15, due to the 'optical munitions' emergency. There's only fairly sketchy evidence of serious attempts to return loaned instruments, because the war lasted far longer and was hugely more damaging than was expected in the early months. Many that reached the front line would have disappeared in the mud, and many that survived would have lost connection to any documentation.

 

I've never found a cross-reference table of Specials registration numbers to original sources of donation, loan or purchase, or a link to units they were issued to.

Edited by MikB

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