Collecting Military Compasses


Steward Military compass Mk 4 Verners pattern 1903


No: 776


 Colonel William Willoughby Cole Verner was born in 1852 and commissioned into The Rifle Brigade in 1874, retiring in 1904. He served on the staff in the Egyptian campaign of 1884-85 and during the Boer War. He died in 1922. (Cited after The Compass Collector - see LINKS)

Verners Pattern compasses are very popular with collectors. At the same time they are as well compasses that can still be practically and easily used.  The most common models are the Verners Pattern VII and Verners Pattern VIII which were widely used during World War 1.  The numbers IX were also used in WW 2. Their basic construction is a prismatic dry card compass with a both a momentary bearing lock and transit lock.  As a compass they are lighter than the Mk III prismatic that superceded them in WWII and are generally considered easier to use.

In 1895 J.H. Steward produced  a Verner patented compasss like  this one,  which was a pocket compass and not a prismatic compass,    It has distinctive compass card markings.  The card design is the one of the Royal Geographical Society (R.G.S.): the NORTH direction (black diamond) could easily be distinguished in the dark, because the background  glowed greenish blue. When this compass was produced,  "glow-in-the-dark" paint was added on the compass dial and to the lid. Phosphorescent paint is commonly called "glow-in-the-dark" paint. It is made from phosphors such as silver-activated zinc sulfide and typically glows a pale green to greenish blue color. The mechanism for producing light is similar to that of fluorescent paint, but the emission of visible light persists for some time after it has been exposed to light.

Radioluminescent paint was invented in 1908 and originally incorporated radium-226. The toxicity of radium was not initially understood, and radium-based paint saw widespread use in, for example, compasses, watches and aircraft instruments. During the 1920s and 1930s, the harmful effects of this paint became increasingly clear. 



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