THE BÉZARD COMPASS - Part 1 - TECHNIQUE

NOTE: the following article deals with the original Bézard compasses and their imitations but detailed information is still missing. Thank you for any detail concerning the production years of the various models. The Online Compass Museum would also be very grateful for any documentation (original or copy) concerning this instrument's history and technology (for our email address: see CONTACT).

CONTENT

Part 1 - TECHNIQUE

Part 2 - DOCUMENTATION


Picture at right:
The inventor in his Colonel's
uniform of the Polish Army





 
Click on image to enlarge

INTRODUCTION

This compass was officially designated on the boxes (see below) "Diopter-Orientierungsbussole" i.e. magnetic compass with alidade, but it became very famous under the name "Bézard-Kompass". It was immediately adopted by the Austrian Imperial Army (click HERE for list of official decrees) and then later in Germany as a result of intense lobbying.
It can be seen in the hands of the Austro-Hungarian explorer, Count László Ede Almásy in photographs dating to the early 1930’s. Almásy had explored the Libyan Sahara where he discovered the famous cave paintings. His life was covered in the Anthony Minghella film "The English Patient" (click on the photograph for enlarged view).
This scene, that only lasts a few seconds, was probably only for publicity. A sighting operation takes much longer, and in such a short time frame the needle would not be able to settle !

NOTA : This photographic still from the film "The Sahara – a Lost Paradise" has been kindly provided by the Science Vision © production company www.sciencevision.at who also pointed out that it is not an original shot, but a modern production.

THE VARIOUS MODELS

The 1902 patent describes a wooden casing. As soon as 1906 a second larger version was available. It had an aluminium case and a mirror. The division was more precise (every 2° instead of only 5°). During WW1, the case of the Army models was made of a Bakelite-type material called Hartgummi (hardened natural rubber, check Ebonite in Wikipedia) in the documentation. Later produced models were made of aluminium. The basic model called Spiegelmodell 1906 (mirror version) was later modified into Armeemodell 1910 II. The version produced from 1913 on with markings in radium paint was called "R".
A civil version (card calibrated in 360 degrees) and a military version (6400 MILS) were produced. This graduation could be ordered in clockwise or anti-clockwise versions. The small model was available with (I S) or without (I) the mirror and only calibrated in 360 degrees.
J. von Bézard published in 1907 a long article in the military review Streffleur (s. below Bibliography) when he was teaching at the Theresianische Militärakademie in Wiener-Neustadt, in which he stated the prices (wood: 6,80 and alum. 13,50 Kreuzer) and that orders had to be sent personally to the inventor Hauptmann von Bézard.

The original version (1905) existed both with a wooden case (consistent with the patent) and a metallic case. The divisions were printed on cardboard or engraved on the aluminum case bottom.


Technical Data (Small Model)
- Dia.: 45mm
- Case width: 52mm
- Divisions: 5° on paper / 2° on metallic case
In the metallic version, the figures were also engraved inverted (click on pict. above right for detail view) so that they could be read in a mirror which was not installed on all items. See a descr. published in the 1907 catalog of the French retailer for metallic products ('fire arms and bikes') MANUFRANCE.
- Arrow system: see further below
- Weight: 37gr / 62 gr
The lids of the original model with the patent no. and a very small arrow beside the word DIREKTION (resp. MARSCHDIREKTION on the one with aluminum casing):


Left: aluminum / right: alumimun polished, 50mm ruler

The next development was the Armeemodel 1910

In its 1907 catalogue, the French company Société des Lunetiers (S-L) already displayed the two versions: a plain one with wooden case and one with mirror and aluminum case:



See also the Auricoste version without any patent mention - probably because of the specific WW1 situation.

Technical Data (Large Model)
Dia.: ... mm*
Case width: ... mm*
Divisions: 2°
Weight: 75 gr
* Dim. are probably identical to later models
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THE LOGOS

The German version of the Bézard compass was manufactured by the barometer manufacturer Georg LUFFT located in Stuttgart. Three different logos were used. The most common ones are the letters G & L together with a drawing compass or the Name LUFFT in gothic fonts. A very seldom used one, and probably the oldest of all, features a flat cylindric shape with an axis and the name LUFFT (seen on older barometers and Bézard compasses).



A LUFFT logo featured a barometer pressure capsule  (see example further below, Czechoslovakia)

The logo currently used by this company depicts its name written in gothic letters.
The inscription on the compass rose also changed during the course of manufacture: Thus one sees PATENT-BÉZARD and ORIGINAL-BÉZARD in several languages (see below). The inscription BÉZARD-KOMPASS also appeared on the obverse of the casing.


(Click on picture for enlarged view)

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ARROWS AND NEEDLES

The appearance of the dial and the needle has had two distinctly different forms. The very first was arrow-shaped while the later one (from the 1930s on) featured the famous circle at the southern end. 


The arrow-shaped pointer was glued onto a magnetic needle with wax. needle was made of luminous paper (Balmain)
The letter N is partly covered by a radium paint line.
The dial had a cut-out corresponding exactly to the shape of the arrow. There were also two lines of radium paint on both sides of the opening (right). This device allowed a good visibility when superimposing them using the mirror in relative darkness.

An early model's cardboard arrow attached with two screws in the lid indicating the marching direction. Note the two thin lines made of radium compound paint. This one has a different shape without the disk in the centre.



The last model's phosphorescent arrow in the lid (Fluid Bézard).

 

On the military model (Armeemodell) 1910 II, the declination was set and could not be adapted (9 deg. West). This value corresponded to the center of Germany at the turn of the century.
It became adjustable on later models (see below).



On the large Armeemodell II, the course index was a red dash painted on a celluloid tab inserted between the mirror hinge and the bakelite case.
This device was later replaced with a metal tongue placed vertically in a slot in the hinge and across the mirror’s rotational axis.
From the 1930's on (approximately), the arrow-shaped paper pointer was replaced with a more conventional but specific system. The south mark on the celluloid disk comprised a luminous circle within which the observer had to place the needle's disk-shaped luminous south end (click on image for detail view).


The marching course marker on Model I was a sharp metal pointer.
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LID


The first models were equipped with an aluminium lid that quickly oxidised (Picture left). It was replaced with a stainless steel lid. From the 1950’s (exact date ?), it was painted military green for the German and French armies and for the German Border Police (BGS).
At the base of the lid there is a 50mm slide on the large model II. After WWII, a 40mm ruler was also engraved on the small models' lid. The exterior of the lid bears the word DIREKTION (or DIRECTION but also RICHTUNG) across an arrow indicating the direction of travel. On the inside of the lid is a luminous arrow in card that is fixed with two screws.
The export versions were marked DIRECTION. One of the series (Austria Army?) bore the word RICHTUNG instead of DIREKTION. The typography is interesting: the horizontal bars of the H and the T are inclined and aligned like runes carved in soft wood.

Corroded aluminium lid marked DIREKTION

Stainless steel lid marked RICHTUNG



Note: the apparent dots on each side of the word RICHTUNG are actually fixing screws for the card arrow.
Stainless steel marked DIRECTION (small model, French export version, 1930s)



Sliding pin located at the zero reference of the ruler to measure precisely distances on maps.

THE SIGHTING SLOTS


While the slots on all models were plain straight openings, on the small Model I S manufactured after the Second World War they terminated at the base like gun sights.

The slots on the UBK (see further below) featured in addition two horizontal wires used to aim at elevated objects and measure their elevation angle together with the clinometer.

The offset between the sight line (through the slots) and the apparent position of the needle's point in relation to the divisions was a drawback because of the resulting parallax which Capt. Franz Winterer described thouroughly in a chap. of  his book (see pic. at right) in which he compares the Bézard compass with his own.


Picture : drawings in the margins in Der Militärische Gebrauch der Winterer Bussolen, 1936)
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THE 10 cm GRADUATED RULER



Model II also had two clips used to fix a 10cm graduated ruler.
Walking in the dark was easy thanks to the 10cm graduated ruler bearing two lines of self-luminous Radium-compound paint. This device was parallel to the marching course set on the compass dial. I was mounted in the support at the base of the lid (pic. at left). After World War II, the rulers no longer had Radium paint but either a long line of non radioactive luminous paint or no paint at all (pic. below)
.

The shape of the supports changed over time: at first they were flat on the first models with a Bakelite casing, they were followed by two levels and with larger screws on the aluminum casing.
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MIRRORS

There have been three different versions.
On the large Model II it was soldered to one half of a hinge, the other half being screwed to the Bakelite casing (picture left). On later models they comprised part of the hinge (see model UBK, picture right). Its was not perfectly round like the small model but elliptical with a short nose to erect it more easily with a finger nail.
On the small model IS (center - the letter S is the initial for the German word Spiegel, mirror), its hinge was not in the middle but close to the lid. It had a small triangular cut-out for the course index.
The latest model (UBK FLUID, at right) also featured an additional small cut-out (like a moon quarter) on the fringe.

Large model II

Small model I S

UBK FLUID

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GRADUATION IN MILS

(With regard to the use of MILS, see the chapter “MISCELLANEOUS /Divisions).

The oldest known MILS divisions on a Bézard compass is dated 1915 (during WW1) on a small model. It was also probably introduced at about the same time on the large model. The technical solution was very low tech: a stripe of photographic paper was glued onto the crystal. The graduation was divised into four traditional quadrants (0-1600, the zeros facing East and West) and a table was added in the lid.

On the large model, an additional ring-shaped disk made of aluminium with MILS divisions could be inserted between the crystal and the original rose with degrees divisions, thus covering only the degrees scale but not the cardinal points. The crystal was easy to remove so that the MILS ring could be oriented  with the zero mark facing either North or South (see 2nd row). In the same time, the declination could be adapted

In the first manual by Major Gallinger (1929, p. 8, Fig. 5, see chapter Technical Publications) it is said that the MILS zero/6400 division was facing the South marker and respectively the 3200 division was facing the North mark in order to "conform with devices used by artillery and heavy infantry weaponry". For artillery and often also for navigation in the old days it was usual to take a bearing FROM the target, which explains the 32 at north and 64 at south. This feature is also to be observed on other artillery instruments like Winterer's military compass.



Furthermore is a version of the small Armeemodell known which bears the special 6300 MILS graduation which was only used in Sweden's Army (see ex. under Lyth and Silva), but th ecardinals are printed in German.

 (Pic. courtesy Mc Caughan - click for enlarged view).


Small model with provisional MILS divisions





The marching course index was a tiny celluloid tab with a red line. It was replaced later by a metallic tab.

A degrees-mils conversion table (also a photograph) was placed In the lid

The signature on the table (also a photograph) seems to be a joke: the name "fohrrab" is not a normal German person's name and sounds like the word vorab i.e. "provisional" !! Moreover, a normal name should be written with upper-case letters.
Large model with provisional MILS divisions



Several years later, in its second manual, Gallinger (1933, p. 8, Fig. 3) stated by way of addended (red label) that the graduation was also available with the zero mark to North, due to numerous requests...



The dial featured in the 1930's Radium-paint dots at 45 und 90 deg on both sides of the N-S line (see also Winterer).





Dial with additional luminous marking at 45 and 90 deg.
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ADJUSTMENT OF MAGNETIC DECLINATION

The declination could be adjusted for local requirements. Under the capsule glass two superimposed celluloid disks could be moved in relation to each other. One bore the graduations and the other (situated underneath the first) the luminous marks for the cardinal points, i.e. a line for magnetic North and a circle for South. One placed the line opposite the local value for magnetic North. However, this procedure was rather difficult: One had to remove and then replace three tiny screws and a 10mm long, tiny flexible pin in a groove, acting as a spring (not shown on the picture st r.).

Right: One of the three screw:
Bézard Compass dismantled: in the lower section, the two celluloid discs. On the UBK III model realized from the 1930’s correction for magnetic declination was easier and did not require the dismantling of the compass: a small pin attached to a cord allowed the locking of the lower disc by means of a hole situated on the mirror hinge and then it was only necessary to turn the capsule in order to set the rose to the correct value.

Simplified adjustment for magnetic declination on compass UBK III
Jakubowski's patent
A system for locking the adaption of the magnetic declination was developed in 1933 by Olgierd Jakubowski (Warsaw, patent no. 20963*). A disk with a sliding ruler at the capsule's base could be rotated by the declination's angular figure and locked with three screws. The sliding ruler would be then used like the East-West-line of the original Bézard compass. This ruler also pushed the needle upwards when closing (transit lock).
* Translation in German available
Compare with the Mod. 1922 made by DOIGNON

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DESIGN OF THE ATTACHMENT RING / LOOP

The early models had a round or oval loop fixed to a stem as on pocket watches. After World War II, this was replaced by a riveted loop, less aesthetic, but cheaper and more resistant. Many lids still had the hole for the loop fitting.  
BGS = Bundesgrenzschutz = former West-German border police, since the reunification: Bundespolizei
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THE UBK (UNIVERSAL BÉZARD-KOMPASS) - Versions II and III

The most evolved model, aimed at soldiers and ambitious hikers, was the Universal Bézard-Kompass (UBK). The sighting slits had two transversal wires at mid-height thus forming two reticules. Using these, with the spirit level and the pendular clinometer incorporated in the lid, one could take fairly accurate bearings in three dimensions and even approximately aim pieces of artillery.

The UBK is based on the system which Erich Wolf patented in September 1917 (patent no. 80134) for an artillery compass.

 
The UBK II and its folding MILS/cm slide
Left: The conversion table and the level insert on the back of the casing.

Right: The reticule in the lid slot to measure elevation angles together with the clinometer.



The UBK also existed in a fluid-dampened version (see further down)
The UBK's  dial with the bubble level





Aiming a machine gun using the Universal Bézard compass

(Click on image to see detail)

The folding Mils/cm slide





The UBK was supplied with an accessory allowing rapid estimation of target distance, a slide graduated in MILS and centimeters. It comprised two articulated branches each of 80 mm.

The divisions corresponded with centimetres but they were graduated in MILS for the first 100mm, the remainder was graduated in mm. This gave:
0-20-40-...-200-11-12...
The folding slide was attached to the compass by a thin cord and had to be kept at approximately 50 cm from the eye. The procedure (for a right-handed person) was as follows: hold the slide still in the right hand with the end bearing the divisions to the left. Place the zero aligned with the left side of the observed object and read the corresponding value on the right side with the thumb nail (see sketch top right). A prior condition for all measurements was that one of the parameters must be known or easily estimated: if the observer wishes to know the distance to the target he has to estimate its size (house, vehicle, etc.) for example depending on the average size of a person. If, for a house approximately 20 metres wide, you measure 20 units, then it is at 1km distance given that 1 unit equals 1m as seen 1km away.
Same method applies for vertical measurements (hold the ruler vertical) (bottom illustration).
Illustrations taken from the Manual by R. GALLINGER "Der Bézard-Kompass" (1933):

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THE BEZARD LIQUID DAMPENED MODEL (FLUID BÉZARD)

The last model marketed (until 1996) by LUFFT was a liquid dampened version known as the FLUID BÉZARD. These two words replaced the classical ORIGINAL BÉZARD crystal marking which had also been used in a first development, two versions of which are known to have existed. Both featured a (for Bézard absolutely unusual) red-and-white needle like some WILKIE and PASTO pocket compasse. This was probably the result of some kind of co-operation because WILKIE mastered the liquid dampening technology very early after WWII. The older version featured a capsule with bellowed bottom like a barometer''s capsule. The other obne was totally transparent.

The modern issue existed in a civil version, a military one and even as a wrist-top compass with the abbreviation 'Bw' for Bundeswehr, i.e. West German Army. In addition to the circle at the needle's South end, the crystal's North mark featured two converging lines in which the needle's arrow head was to be set. In the military version, the words FLUID BÉZARD were placed between two white lines representing the WEST-EAST axis.

View of the older issue of the first FLUID DAMPENED Bézard dismantled: the case bottom was cut away and a thn aluminum disk protected the capsule. The mirror was chromated.


The 360° graduation (s. image below)was covered with a paper stripe printed with (64oo) mills divisions. The cardinal points NW, N and NO were marked with a luminous material (paper?). There was no letter for North but only a small arrow located 5° W which is consistent with the declination in the 1950's.


Adjustable distance measuring device in the lid instead of the usual arrow: the calibrated distance for a short number of steps was used to calculate longer distances.



(Click on the images for enlarged views)


View from below of the transparent capsule
The first version of the liquid damped Bézard's with the classical stripe (ORIGINAL BÉZARD in black letters on white ground) and a new red-and-white WILKIE-type needle

(Pictures sent by a priv. collector)

Simple civil version: The metallic case and lid were coated with verdigris enamel.
In the FLUID UBK (pic on the right), the words FLUID BEZARD and the lines were white.

This model with steel lid weighs almost 5 oz. (150 gr). There was also a light-weight version (3 oz./100gr) painted in dark brown and with an array of red lines and an arrow on the capsule's bottom (picture HERE).


Wrist Fluid-Bézard model "Bw"
(Bundeswehr / Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Germany). This one also existed in a version with red lines and an arrow on the capsule's bottom.
(Picture: courtesy Ted Brink -
see LINKS, Military compasses)

PLASTIC CASE VERSION


A small plastic version was produced apparently in small quantities probably in the 1950's or 60's. The compass capsule was identical to the metallic version but the words DIRECTION over the arrow and Original-Bézard were written in the die cast. The lanyard loop was integral part of the lid.
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LEATHER POUCHES

The oldest: Black, ribbed, edge-to-edge stitching
The finest: Brown, smooth leather, corner stitching

The last but one version: Brown lacquer

See below the luxurious felt-lined version made for the Bundeswehr (BUND)
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CLIENTS

There is no evidence that the Bézard compass was ever issued to the Wehrmacht troops during WWII, but several European armies adopted it before and after WWII (see VARIANTS further down).
The UBK was, for a long time, the instrument recommended by the German Alpine Club (Deutscher Alpenverein, DAV).

BUND - In West Germany, the lid bore the wording BUND (Federation) in the BUNDESWEHR (German Federal Republican Army) and BGS in the border surveillance units (BUNDESGRENZSCHUTZ) now renamed the Federal Police (Bundespolizei).

Graduation of the Army (BUND) and the BGS compass: 6400 mils.

The Bundeswehr had FLUID BEZARD models. The declination (3° W) was taken into account but not adjustable!

The German Army's new shaped pouches were made of leather lined with red felt. The Fluid Bézard no longer had fittings for the ruler.

See also the user instructions and training material

We have no precise information concerning the period during which the Army and the BGS had these compasses. Your help is needed.

FRANCE
(Armée Française, AF / French Army)

The AF Bézard compass was issued with 360 degrees and 6400 mils divisions. Equipment for the French troops in Indo-China and Algeria (1946-1954 and 1957–1962 conflicts)

COMMENT : It would be interesting to know if France sourced these compasses from LUFFT under extremely advantageous commercial conditions after the Second World War (as a payment for destructions during the War ?). That would have been the final blow to the compass industry in France. On the other side, a comparison of the 1922 model with the Bézard shows that technologically it was obviously no match.
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The lid and/or the dial on the export versions were generally adapted for each client country:

Old French version (1930-1935) Model S I : "BREVET BÉZARD" (with a strange accent on the 1st E of Brevet...)


BRAZIL:    DIREÇÃO
Brazil's armed forces used a UBK model with 360 degrees divisions and w/o level. Abbrev. under the coat of arms: M. G. = Ministerio de Guerra (War Department).
Brazil's coat-of-arms punched in the lid (compare with the official drawind at right)

Pictures courtesy I. R. Ferreiro Pinto
(Click on images for enlarged views)
On the case reverse: the conversion table and the manufacturer's name LUTZ FERRANDO / Rio - Sao Paulo. We suppose that this instrument was partly made under license: LUFFT shipped unfinished parts to LUTZ who punched his data and assembled them.

The serial no. on the base:
The letter L stands for the manufacturer's name.

Detail view of the clinometer scale:The Greek letter µ (micron) stands for the angle unit MILS (s. Miscell./Division systems). The Portuguese word GRAU means degree.


ROMANIA:   DIRECŢIA

.

There were two different models: one engraved "Original-Bézard" on the case underside, the other one "Busola-Bézard":


Both versions featured a military graduation (6400 Mils). The cardinals are indicated in Romanian language:



(Click for enlarged view)
TURKEY (1930's)

Interesting note about the language: See Miscellaneous/ Cardinals/ Turkey


(Click for enlarged view of dial)

This item was donated to Compassipedia by Doug Carter

SWEDEN

 - See above: Graduation in MILS (63oo)




POLAND: The word ORIGINAL was written in Polish language: ORYGINALNY

YUGOSLAVIA (Serbo-croatian):

CZECHOSLOVAKIA: Version with several logos:
Picture at left : Czechoslovakia's coat-of-arms (heraldic lion in a square standing on one corner) between military units' numbers (P.18.7 ... 23)
Picture below at right: LUFFT's logo above a flat cylinder (barometer capsule)

  
NETHERLANDS ("RICHTING")
Old army models were marked either D.v.O. (Dept. van Oorlog = War Dept.) until 1928 when the name was changed to DvD (Dept. van Defensie).



The German word RICHTUNG (DIRECTION) wwas translated into Dutch RICHTING:

  

(Click on images for enlarged views)
Post WWII issue (1960?):
ORIGINEEL
instead of Original Bézard

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IMITATIONS

In some countries where the German company LUFFT didn't export the instruments, major manufacturers made them using their names and logos (as licensees?) like Cornelius Knudsen in Denmark or GAMMA in Hungary. Other items are not absolutely identical and we think that they are imitations like the Czech "ŠP" or the Hungarian MOM/41, the East-German FPM and the Romanian I.O.R.
The same dial design was also used on the FALKE compass.

See also:
- OPTOS (Germany, Austria or Switzerland?)
- TRIUMPH

DENMARK
Manufacturer: Cornelius Knudsen - Kiøbenhavn (Copenhagen)
Famous Danish marine optician.
Compare with the Dutch item (bottom)

DESCRIPTION - Dimensions: same as small model I (no mirror). Graduations: 6400 mils, counterclockwise. Full figures are written with 4 digits (1000, 2000 etc.). Cardinal points in German. No. 1323. No ruler at the lid's basis. Other markings: a royal crown above the initials HV (Army Administration in Danish ?). The word RETNING (direction) is written with the same fonts than on the original German Bézard compasses.
The manufacturer's name indicated on the case underside encompasses a coat-of-arms topped by a crown and displaying a pair of drawing compasses and a drawing square.
The label on the West-East axis reads: FELTK. / M. 1928 (field compass / Model 1928).

 
GERMANY (East, former GDR)
Manufacturer: FPM (Freiberger Präzisionsmechanik)

(Read more details in the category Marching compasses)



FRANCE


Manufacturer: J. Auricoste

(Read more details in the category Marching Compasses)

Manufacturer: CHAIX

(Read more details in the category Survey Compasses)
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CZECHOSLOVAKIA - 1

One civilan model (360 deg.) in two different versions signed by ŠP and MEOPTA (for full description pls. follow the links).

There was also a military version (64oo MILS) on which the word SMĚR (direction) was engraved inside and outside the lid.


Military version
(Click on the image for a view of both faces)


ŠP's logo


MEOPTA
's logo
CZECHOSLOVAKIA - 2
No maker's name, SMĚR means DIRECTION. Compass equipped with a mirror that could be pivoted over 180 degrees:



(Click on the picture for viewing a movie showing the mirror's rotation)
(Click on the picture below for an enlarged view)

The outside of the lid bears declination values for cities to the East and to the West, from the German border (Cheb / Eger) to the Ukrainian border (JASINA) passing through Prague (PRAHA) valid for the year 1938.
The ruler allowed the direct reading of distances on military maps to 1:75 000 - one division measures 1,33 mm equivalent to 100 metres on the ground.
The lid is also equipped with a metal support undoubtedly for use on field guns.

Technical Data
- Divisions : 6400 mils
- Diameter: 45 mm
- Weight: 145 g
- Dial (for picture, click on link): 6400 mils., clockwise
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ROMANIA
Manufacturer: I.O.R.
Read in the category Marching Compasses details concerning this company.
NETHERLANDS
Manufacturer: unknown

The case ist almost identical with the Danish version above.
LUFFT probably exported unsigned instruments.

Picture by courtesy of Snyder's Treasures
HUNGARY:  IRÁNY    (DIRECTION)


The oldest small version that we know of was built by GAMMA. The large military version (from 1930 on until post WWII) was made by SÜSS - MOM / Süss Nándor also called Plant No. 41 for reasons of secrecy.

(Click on the links to jump to these entries
Pictures (left and center): MOM / 41 - (right): GAMMA
   
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