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Verner's Patent Cavalry Sketching Board Compass (1900)

Verner's Patent Cavalry Sketching Board Compass (1900)

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A rare First World War Verner's Patent No. 2157 Cavalry Sketching board, serial number 256, made by A. Edgell & Co., London, in 1900. The compass insert (a replacement for the original compass) was made by Aston & Mander of London c.1914. This Sketching Board was designed by Lt-Col. Willoughby Verner. It is very well made, of high quality wood and brass, and features a leather wrist strap on the rear. It comes complete with a roll of sketching paper. There is an integral clinometer on back of the board. There would originally have been a pivoting ruler attached to the front edge of the board, but this has been removed. The sketching board carries the War Department 'broad arrow' mark, and 'WD' lettering, showing that this was military issue service kit, rather than an officer's private purchase item. Dated 1900, it is likely that it was used during the Boer War, and later during WW1.

Lt-Colonel William Willoughby Cole Verner (1852-1922) served on the staff in the Egyptian campaign of 1884-85 and during the Boer War. He retired as a Lt-Colonel in May 1904. The earliest Verner designs were simple pocket compasses, with the various models of the Service Pattern, MK III to MK VII, appearing between c.1895-1918. His prismatic service compasses were essentially a development of the Schmalcalder patent design of the early 19th century, but they remained the standard service compass of the British Army until the start of WW2. Verner also designed a Cavalry Sketching Board, the 'Verner's Patent'. As well as designing compasses, Verner was a prolific author, military historian, and chronicler of the Rifle Brigade.

The Cavalry Sketching Board: was originally invented by Colonel W. H. Richards, who taught military surveying at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst c.1880. The board was improved by 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.

Cavalry Sketching Boards were designed to be strapped to the arm of a 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 pilots and observers of the Royal Flying Corps to make sketches of enemy positions and trenches.


The sketching board and compass are in good condition and full working order. There are marks to the woodwork where the fixings of the pivoting ruler would have been, and a small piece is missing from the top right hand edge near the roller. The compass is in very good condition and full working order. The clinometer is in very good condition. There is some wear to the original leather wrist strap. The board comes complete with a roll of field sketching paper.

Dimensions : Board: 175mm x 245mm, Compass: 30mm diameter