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Verner's Patent Marching compass MK VI | Compass Library

Verner's Service Pattern Compass Mk VI

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An early version of the MK VI Verner's Service Pattern prismatic marching compass, dating from c.1908. There are no maker's marks, but this is a high quality compass and was most probably made by F. Barker & Son, J. H. Steward or one of the other prominent scientific instrument manufacturers of the period. This compass is in very good condition, with very little wear, and with the original oxidised and lacquered finishes in very good condition. It is in full working order and comes complete with its original leather case. The compass has the name of its original owner, 'J. W. H. Thompson', engraved on the base.

The Verner's MK VI was produced between c.1905-1914, and was standard issue to British officers at the start of WW1. It was replaced soon after the start of the war by later developments, such the MK VII. The 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 original instructions, 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 has no 'broad arrow' service markings, so it may well have been an officer's private purchase item.

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 very good condition and full working order. There is some minor wear to the original leather case.

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

(Please Note: this compass is not available for shipping to the USA)