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WW1 Ross & Co. Service Compass | Verner's MK VI

Ross Service Pattern Compass Verner's Mk VI

Price £225.00 Sale

An early version of the MK VI Verner's Service Pattern prismatic marching compass, by Ross & Co. of London, dating from c.1905. It is engraved on the lid, ‘Ross, 111 New Bond St, London’, which was the address of the Ross & Co. London showroom from 1881 to 1917. This compass is in very good condition, with little wear, and with the original oxidised and lacquered finishes in good condition. The compass is quite a rare variant of the Verner's type, having a smaller than usual viewing window in the lid, and no friction ring on the underside of the case. It is in full working order and comes complete with its original leather case.

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.

Ross & Co, London: Andrew Ross (1798–1859) founded the company in 1830 at Wigmore Street in London, and from 1840 he began producing camera lenses signed "A. Ross". During his lifetime, the company was one of the foremost British lens manufacturers. After Andrew's death in 1859 his son-in-law, J. H. Dallmeyer, left the firm to establish his own optical company. From 1860 onwards the company was run by Thomas Ross, and became known as Ross & Co. By the 1890s Ross were making Zeiss and Goerz lenses under licence for sale in the UK and the British Empire. Before WW1 Ross and Zeiss worked quite closely together, and at the outbreak of war the British Government put Ross in control of the newly opened Carl Zeiss binocular and optical factory in Mill Hill, London. From around the start of the 20th century Ross & Co. were known as suppliers of optical, scientific and nautical instruments.

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, and finds North well. The transit lock and manual brake are in good working order. The compass card and original glass are in excellent condition. The original leather case is in very good condition.

Dimensions : 53mm (diameter, 77mm inc. prism)

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