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Lieutenant Charles Lutyens Sketching Board Compass (1914)

Lieutenant Charles Lutyens Sketching Board Compass (1914)

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A WW1 Cavalry Sketching board, made by Houghton's Ltd of London in 1914. Various other designs of Cavalry sketching board were being produced around this time, including those by Lt-Col. Willoughby Verner, J. H. Steward, and Aston & Mander. The board is well made, of wood and brass, and features an integrated clinometer and swivelling leather wrist strap on the rear. This Sketching board belonged to Lieutenant Charles John Lionel Lutyens, the nephew of the celebrated Edwardian architect Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens.

Lieutenant C. J. L. Lutyens was educated at Rugby School, leaving at the end of 1914 to enter the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. He was commissioned in the Royal Field Artillery in October 1915, went straight out to France, and was attached to the Royal Horse Artillery. He was invalided home in March 1916, but returned to the front in January 1917. In April Lt. Lutyens was severly wounded and was hospitalised in England. He returned to France once again on 9th September 1917, joining ‘A’ Battery of the 156th Brigade. On October 3rd, while controlling the fire of his battery, a shell landed almost at his feet. Very badly wounded, he died on the way to the first aid post. He was 21 years old. One of his fellow officers wrote that he was admired by everyone in his battery, “He was an exceptionally capable officer, and one of the most courageous it has ever been my good fortune to have known.”

The Sketching board comes with the rare volume five of Memorials of Rugbeians who Fell in the Great War (1919) which was privately printed for Rugby School by Philip Lee Warner and The Medici Society. Each volume contained the biographies and photographs of 100 old boys who were killed in the war. Volume Five covers the period May 3rd to December 3rd 1917, and includes the biography and photograph of Lieutenant Charles Lutyens who died on October 3rd. The book is lavishly produced, printed on wire laid paper, with excellent tipped in photographs.

(Blue boards, cloth spine, unpaginated, but approx 300 pages, size: 205mm x 270mm)

The Cavalry Sketching Board: was originally designed by Colonel W. H. Richards, who taught military surveying at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst c.1880. The board was improved by Major Willoughby Verner who was also briefly Professor of Topography at Sandhurst. Verner patented his own improvements in 1887 and 1891 and the board became known as Verner's. W. J. Bosworth patented further improvements in 1897, and versions of the board remained in use until around 1930. They were produced by several scientific instrument makers, including J. H. Steward, Aston & Mander, and Houghton’s Ltd.

Cavalry Sketching Boards were designed to be strapped to the arm of an officer or cavalryman on the bridle arm. The board was attached to the arm by a leather strap with a swivel joint. This enabled the user to twist the whole board on their arm to align the compass accurately. The board incorporated a compass for taking bearings, and the sketch was made on a paper roll which was wound around one of the side rollers. As a sketch was completed, the paper roll was advanced to supply more paper. During WW1 the sketching board was often used by the artillery, cavalry, and pilots and observers of the Royal Flying Corps to make sketches of enemy positions and trenches.


The sketching board, compass, and clinometer are in good condition and full working order. There are some marks and general signs of wear and use on the woodwork and rollers, and some wear to the original leather wrist strap. The lower edge of the integral clinometer on the back of the board is inscribed ‘C. J. L. Lutyens’. The book Memorials of Rugbeians who Fell in the Great War (Vol 5) is in very good condition, with some marks to the boards.

Dimensions : Board: 185mm x 245mm, Compass: 30mm diameter