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Home > Auctions > Astromart Auctions > Antiques & Collectibles > Auction #4711

Trench Periscope from WWI & WWII - Very Rare - Still Works!
Auction No.: 4711
Started: 11/17/2008 9:28 PM
Ended: 11/22/2008 9:28:14 PM
Ending Bid: $202.50 John Haring
Bids: 5 Bids [View History]
Shipping: Buyer pays shipping
Hits: 5375
 Details  Bid History  

There is no longer a reserve price thanks to the latest bid on this very rare, extremely rare, I mean really really really rare periscope!

German Army WWI and WWII foxhole/trench periscope, although the British and Japanese armies each had nearly identical versions. Extremely rare, in good condition based on the amount of use and action this must have seen in two world wars! Brass tube with some remaining original green paint on both ends. The green paint on the tube has worn off down to the original Brass finish. There is a Diopter adjustment with a reticle. Optics are intact, and still very usable! Periscope extends to 29” and collapses to 17 ½”. Very rare, you will find a similar one in Great Britain in the Winston Churchill War Museum (he used one of these). There is also a Japanese one in a war museum in Hong Kong, and the German one for sale right here on Astromart! I obtained this with a lot of antique optics from an estate sale several years ago, and it was stated to be a German WWI and then a WWII trench periscope. After doing some research, I found that the English, German, and Japanese armies all had virtually identical versions of this type of periscope. I have tried to decode the markings without much luck. Perhaps a better set of eyes than mine can see them better. The lettering and numbers are extremely faint, I could not get them to show up well on photos… The pictures below show this scope along with similar pictures of the periscopes in the Japanese and British War Museums. The resemblances are amazing, its hard to say who copied who... I'm told that these were first used by English and German officers during trench warfare in World War I, and then reissued and used again in World War II. UPDATE* After studying the lettering on the back of the scope through a 10x optical loupe, I am convinced that I see a letter "R" and "Beck" along with some other faint serial numbers and markings. The widow of the estate that I purchased this from indicated it was brought back to the USA by an American serviceman that appropriated it out of Germany after WWII. I believe that this originally belonged to a WWI British officer, was taken by a German soldier in WWI, then used by the German army in WWII, during or after which it was appropriated and brought back by an American soldier... Talk about some history here with this thing! More info below... Regardless, these periscopes are without a doubt extremely rare! I don't think you will ever see another one outside of a museum...

The periscopes also had an optional screw on handle and a carrying case, neither of which came with this periscope. I have included a description below which is from a Japanese WWII version to give more information about it, along with the comparison pictures of the museum periscopes. Of course the Germans and Japanese were allies in WWII so it is not unusual that the Japanese would borrow and share the design. The oldest one I could document seems to be the English R & J Beck version from early WWI. It is possible that this was used by both sides. Imagine a foxhole being overrun, then the invaders appropriating the enemies' equipment for their own use. If this instrument could talk, I imagine it would have a tremendous story to tell! "War and Peace times Two" ! For less than the cost of your average "flavor of the month" telescope eyepiece, you can own a piece of real history that can still be used (although hopefully in a more peaceful environment...

I did find a sold listing for one of these from an English auction house for $750, but that included the case and handle. I hope there are some antique optic and/or war aficionados out there that can give this a new home. Outside of its historical value, I can say it is fun to use at home, (you can look outside a window or around a corner without being seen) although luckily there is no one waiting to shoot at me from a trench or a foxhole right now! Here is a description from a War museum:

A Trench periscope is an optical device for conducting observations from a concealed or protected position. In its simplest form, a trench periscope consists of reflecting mirrors and/or prisms at opposite ends of a tube container. The reflecting surfaces of the mirrors are parallel to each other and at a 45° angle to the axis of the tube. As its name implies, a trench periscope could have been used in trenches to spot enemies without risking your head. After some research, I came to the conclusion that not everything was right with this item. An indication about its use can be found in the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defense (because the same item is on display there). Was it used from inside a dark bunker to watch the sea?

The trench periscope in detail:
The pipe, including the triangular shaped item (which is in fact the upper mirror in a metal casing) is 44cms long. The wooden handle is 24cms long. So, when completely screwed together, the item is 68cms long. The upper mirror is mounted on a sliding iron rod so that the length can be extended to a total of 83cms. The triangular metal casing of the upper mirror is also important because it features the well-known prism-shape. The trench periscope has a 5x magnification factor with a field of 10 degrees (at 1000 yards or meters). Below the logo, the serial number is engraved. Finally, below the serial number, there is a very small box that encloses a difficult to reproduce ideogram. It is the same unknown ideogram as on the metal label.

The eyepiece is adjustable from +5 to –5 and it is the only way to focus the image. When looking through it, a scale can be seen. This scale, which consists of vertical lines, has a zero mark in the middle and stretches out to a value of 50 on both ends. This scale is probably used to determine the size of subjects at the horizon.
A great usable antique optic and undoubtedly a sound investment for the future!

Payment: Paypal (no extra fee) is preferred and allows for immediate shipping. All forms of payment accepted however (checks, money orders, etc...) The total price is the cost of the scope plus $8 shipping.

Shipping: I will ship anywhere to the CONUS via Postal service Priority mail for $8. I will also ship to Alaska, Canada, or internationally at cost. Please contact me with your postal information for an international shipping quote.

Thank you for considering this fascinating optical instrument. Please take a few minutes to review my 5 star feedback and I believe this will allow you to be confident in your purchase.

Thanks for looking and/or bidding!

Best wishes,


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