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WW1 Verner's Service Pattern Marching Compass Mk VI

Verner's Service Pattern Compass Mk VI

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A rare early version of the MK VI Verner's Service Pattern prismatic military compass, signed by Robert Ballantine of Glasgow, and dating from c.1908. Ballantine, who set up his business in 1908 at 99 St Vincent St, Glasgow (the address marked on the base of the compass), would have been the retailer, with the compass most probably having been made by either F. Barker & Son or J. H. Steward. This compass is in extraordinarly fine condition, pretty much as good as the day it was sold. There is virtually no wear at all to any part of the compass, with the original oxidised and lacquered finishes in near mint condition. It is in perfect working order. It is exceptionally unusual to find a Verner's compass in what can only be described as museum condition.

The Verner's MK VI was produced between c.1905-1914, but had been replaced by the MK VII by the start of WW1. The aluminium compass card features black hand-painted markers over a luminous paint background. This type of luminous paint, most probably a version of 'Balmain's Luminous Paint' was a compound of calcium sulphide. The paint was made luminous by exposure to sunlight or, as suggested in the instruction booklet, by burning a strip of magnesium ribbon near the compass card. It was patented in England in 1877 by William Balmain, and was often used in compasses, before the introduction of radium paint rendered it obsolete just before WW1. This compass may well have been an officer's private purchase item, but from its condition it was clearly never used. The compass comes complete with its original fitted leather case and shoulder strap, and the original, extremely rare, instruction booklet.

Robert Ballantine: In the late 19th century the Ballantine family were involved in the business of J. Lizars, a well established Glasgow opticians. Matthew Ballantine took over the running of the company in 1882. They expanded into selling photographic items around this time, starting to manufacture cameras around 1896. In 1908 Robert Ballantine retired from the Lizars Buchanan St. business and set up in business under his own name at 99 St Vincent St, Glasgow as an optician and photographic dealer. The Glasgow business of Lizars continued under the management of Matthew Ballantine junior and Arthur Ballantine, both sons of Matthew Ballantine senior.

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.1900-1918. 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. As well as designing compasses, Verner was a prolific author, military historian, and chronicler of the Rifle Brigade.


The compass is in near mint condition and full working order. There is some minor wear to the original leather case. The instruction booklet has been folded to fit in the case, but is otherwise in good condition. Overall, an exceptional, museum quality MK VI Verner's. It would be almost impossible to find a better example.

Dimensions : 52mm (case diameter, 72mm inc. prism)