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Royal Flying Corps Gimbal Compass c.1913

Price $735.00 Sale

A very rare Francis Barker 'RGS' type gimballed compass, retailed by Charles Gaupp & Co. of Hong Kong. Although there are no maker's marks, this is a well-known Barker design - the distinctive Barker 'RGS' pattern, which first appeared in production around 1875, and featured in Barker catalogues until the 1920s.

The compass has a nickel-plated brass case, enclosed in a fitted leather case. As the compass bezel is lifted upwards the gimbals are freed, allowing the compass bowl to move. Pushing the bezel downwards locks the gimbals and the compass card. The compass is in full working order and finds north well. Written inside the lid of the leather case is the number '688' (partially obscured) and the name 'T. W. Goodban'.

Further details of the 'RGS' type of compass can be found at the excellent trademarklondon website, and in Paul Crespel's book Trade mark London.

This compass has a very interesting provenance, having originally belonged to T. W. Goodban, one of the very earliest members of the Royal Flying Corps. Thomas Walter Goodban (1895-1955) enlisted in the R.F.C. in April 1913, as a 2/am 'Aero Rigger' with the service number 688. He went out to France with the RFC on the 9th September 1914 and served on the Western Front until January 1917. By January 1918 he was stationed at an Aircraft Acceptance Park in the UK. The AAP's were etablished by the RFC close to aircraft factories and handled the inspection of new aircraft before they were delivered to squadrons. By the middle of 1918 T. W. Goodban had been promoted to Sergeant and was then transferred to the RAF 8th Cadet Wing, having been passed 'fit as Pilot or Observer' by a medical board in July 1918. It seems likely that he had some experience as an observer in France and had been selected for pilot or observer training in the UK. From July 1918 until January 1919 he was stationed with the 8th Cadet Wing, 1st Cadet Wing and 5th School of Aeronautics at Denham airfield. Cadet Wing aircrew trainees undertook a two month course of basic training, including map reading, signalling and morse code. Once this phase was completed, they moved on to the School of Aeronautics for a further two months course of ground instruction, covering navigation, wireless, photography, aero engines, machine guns, bombs, instruments, rigging, and artillery and infantry co-operation. In February 1919 Goodban was transferred to the AAP at Coventry, before serving with the North Russia Expeditionary Force from May to October 1919. Once back in the UK, his next posting was to the No. 1 Flying Training School at Netheravon from February to October 1920. In November 1920 he was posted to No. 4 Squadron, remaining with them until February 1921. No. 4 Squadron had disbanded at the end of WW1, but reformed on 30 April 1920 at Farnborough, equipped with Bristol Fighters. Part of the squadron moved to Aldergrove near Belfast in November 1920 as a result of the Irish war of Independence, moving to Baldonnel Aerodrome near Dublin in May 1921. T. W. Goodban finally left the RAF in August 1921. After the war, he travelled extensively in the Far East and Middle east, working as an engineer, before dying in Beirut in 1955.

(T. W. Goodban's younger brother, Frank Goodban, also served in the RFC and RAF in 1918, having transferred from the infantry. Copies of the details of T. W. Goodban's service career will be included with the compass)


In very good condition, full working order, and finds North well. With some minor marks and wear to the nickel plated bezel. The glass, compass card and case are in excellent condition

Compass: 65mm diameter, 27mm height (35mm extended)
Leather case: 70mm x 33mm