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W. Gregory & Co. British Army Marching Compass 1900

W. Gregory & Co. British Army Marching Compass c.1900

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An excellent example of an English military marching compass dating from c.1893-1904. This is a very rare and unusual design, I have only seen one other example. The 'W', 'E' and 'S' markings on the glass and the red War Office broad arrow or 'crow's foot' mark at the North point on the compass card are features that mark this out as a particularly rare compass. The hand drawn paper compass card has the retailer's name: 'W. Gregory & Co, 51 Strand, London'.

The broad arrow marking and Gregory's well-known association with the British Army strongly suggests that this compass was intended for military use, most probably during the Boer War. As Gregory died in 1904, it is reasonable to assume that the compass was made around the turn of the century. The compass has a hand-drawn paper card, with a red broad arrow at the north point, a jewelled pivot, and a brass hunter case. There is an automatic transit lock which engages when the lid is in place. There would have been a paper sighting marker attached to the inside of the lid, but this is no longer present.

William Gregory (1837-1904) was a notable military photographer and optician who worked from this address from c.1881 until his death in 1904. One of his advertisments from 1885 described the business as 'Optician to H. M. Government (War Dept.), the National Rifle Association, etc'. In 1889 Gregory was forced to file for bankruptcy, and his business was taken over by Samuel Smith & Sons, with Gregory staying on as manager. During the 1890s Gregory established himself as a successful photographer of military subjects, and examples of his glass negatives and photographs can be seen at the National Army Museum. As Gregory died in 1904, this compass must have been made between 1881 and 1904, probably by one of the best London makers, such as Francis Barker. Gregory was not a compass maker, and would have bought items such as this wholesale from makers like Barker, signing them with the company name, before selling them in his shop.


The compass is in very good condition and finds north well. The automatic transit lock is working perfectly. The compass card is in very good condition. The original glass is in very good condition. The brass case is in good condition, with a few marks and minor signs of age and wear.

Dimensions: 47mm diameter (excluding loop, 70mm including loop)