WW1 “Officer of the Watch” telescope

The centre scope is the Haselfoot!

The centre scope is the Haselfoot!

The April 2014 posting describing around a dozen “Officer of the Watch” telescopes (on this website) mentioned two further stories that would be told eventually. The first, shown below, is about Captain Haselfoot, and his telescope. The story below started from the account provided by the seller on Ebay, and this triggered me to do some further digging in the archives: it was originally written for a local display to commemorate the start of WW1 in the Alresford Community Centre and in the local library museum display cabinet last September, to show off some older military equipment to school kids and others!

WW1 “Officer of the Watch” naval telescope

This telescope is believed to have been used by Captain Francis E.B. Haselfoot, DSO, particularly on board HMS Attentive during the bombardment of the Belgian coast in April 1918, known as the Zeebrugge Raid. Attentive was an Adventure-class scout cruiser, built for the Royal Navy in 1904 by the Armstrong Whitworth yards at Elswick, Tyne and Wear. In WW1, Attentive was part of the Dover patrol. Attentive was 2640 tons and capable of 25 knots, with 9x 4” guns and multiple torpedo tubes.

HMS Attentive

HMS Attentive

This style of “Officer of the Watch” type telescope was used widely in the Royal Navy during and immediately after WW1. This model was made by Ross of London and has the serial number 31334: it is inscribed with the name: ‘F.E.B.Haselfoot RN’. Subsequent to manufacture it has been bound with leather and finished at both ends with a ‘Turks Head’ type serving.

Captain Francis E.B. Haselfoot DSO was an officer in the Dover patrol in WW1 and then retired to the reserve on 13th March 1929. He was awarded the DSO with the following commendation, as quoted in the London Gazette on 23 July 1918:

Lieut.-Cdr. Francis E. B. Haselfoot, R.N.

DSO awarded for “Surveying duties on the staff of the Vice-Admiral Commanding, Dover Patrol, and did invaluable work during the past few months in connection with this operation and the bombardments of the Belgian Coast generally, having frequently been under fire. On the night of the 22nd-23rd April 1918 he rendered valuable services on board Attentive.

Haselfoot was also awarded ‘The Order of the Crown’ by Belgium.

Further reports after WW1:

Captain Haselfoot again appears in the press after the war when in command of HMS Kellet, a Hunt class Minesweeper and survey ship. During a survey off the Norfolk coast he and one of his officers sighted a “Large Sea Serpent”. The account said:

In August 1923 a survey ship, HMS Kellett, was taking observations off the Norfolk coast, when Captain F E B Haselfoot and the navigator Lt Cdr R M Southern observed something strange. Captain Haselfoot later wrote:

“The time was about 9am. It was a summer day and the weather was calm and clear. I am not sure whether the sun was actually shining. I then observed rising out of the water about 200 yards from the ship, a long, serpentine neck, projecting from six or seven feet above the water. I observed this neck rising out of the water twice, and it remained up, in each case, for four or five seconds. Viewing with the naked eye only, I could not make out precisely what the head was like.”

……Obviously he did not get to his telescope fast enough!

The Telescope itself

After polishing!

After polishing!

This is an Officer of the Watch style telescope, much used, and therefore repaired, presumably to hold it together after significant damage. Early in WW1, in September 1915, Attentive in the Dover patrol was in action off Ostend: there she was one of the first ever ships to come under attack from the air, and suffered some bomb hits, but we do not know if Cdr Haselfoot was on board at that time.

Sunshade also covered with the leather and knotting

Sunshade also covered with the leather and knotting

The telescope barrel, to hold it together presumably, is tightly covered from the far tip of the sunshade back to the eyepiece end of the barrel in a tight brown leather cladding, neatly sewn along the seam, and with Turk’s Head type string knotting around the circumference at each end.

The barrel under this cover does appear to be severely pitted, maybe corroded, and so very lumpy. This covering prevents any dismantling of the scope, which is unfortunate as the far end of the single draw has a retaining nut, probably holding the lens carriage, which is obviously loose, so the draw is only just still held in place!

The single draw is plated silver or chrome, and engraved Ross London No 31334, and F.E.B.Haselfoot RN. On the picture below it can be seen that it needed a good polish when received. Overall length is 23” open, 17” closed. The objective diameter is 1.25”, and some damage can be seen on the outer edge of the objective holder, with a chip out of one of the lens pair as a result.

This one cost me £85 on Ebay in January 2011, and it is Accession number 147.

As received

……As received

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