Antiques expert Allan Blackburn looks at the world of militaria...
So, we are in March now and the weather is getting better. I can see daffodils trying to push their heads through and the first signs of spring are definitely here. For many, it’s time to brush off the winter blues and start to get out and about again.
You may think it’s strange to see a pair of binoculars in an antiques shop, but believe it or not we get quite a few in and this is the time of year when we sell the most. I’m no twitcher but along with these milder, longer days, a spot of bird watching wouldn’t go amiss and you certainly need a trusty pair of binos for that particular hobby!
Binoculars fall into the field of collectables known as militaria. For many it is a family connection which first sparks an interest in militaria. When the well preserved boots or long forgotten medals of grandfathers and uncles are unearthed, someone in the family often embarks on a search for more information, which ultimately leads to an avid interest in militaria.
There is no shortage of militaria items to collect: Uniforms, armour, weapons, trench maps and medals are all enthusiastically collected. Anything a soldier needed in war time can be classed as militaria and binoculars such as these were part of their essential kit.
Binoculars came to be after the invention of the telescope in the 17th century. Binoculars made for military use tend to be a bit more rugged than ones made for hobbyists. They are more water proof and most have an independent focus. One variation of war time binoculars were called “Trench Binoculars”. They were a cross between binoculars as we know them and a kind of periscope. They enabled the soldier a view over the trenches without having to put himself in danger by putting his head out.
These Pentax binoculars are on sale for £49.99, Pentax being a name most people are familiar with when thinking about lenses or cameras. The smaller pair are French military and are on sale for £19.99.
Collecting militaria gives people a unique insight into our history through the battles they represent. A militaria dealer once told me that buyers of these collectables are keeping them in trust to pass on to their descendants as a reminder of all the men who have fought for Britain in the past. Without this memorabilia, the terrible lessons of war would be forgotten.