Aeronautical Headgear British
Royal Naval Air Service WWI Flying Filter Goggles
Probably the scarcest pattern of all aviator googles from any period worldwide. It is believed very few were made and it has been speculated they may never have developed further than the experimental stage and so few have survived today that most museums do not have a set on display. The only other example we have been able to locate is part of the Yale Peabody Museum's collection in the US. When Mick Prodger published his classic reference work 'Vintage Flying Helmets' he was unable to source a set for inclusion. Each set was contained within a custom made wooden case that held 8 pairs of coloured lenses (or officially designated "light filters") that were intended to assist with locating and spotting enemy ships and submarines from the air, under different climatic conditions. Some were for looking through haze, whilst others were for spotting oil on the surface of the water, or again for locating U Boat shadows under the water or even enemy gun flashes over the trenches, where RNAS pilots served with distinction alongside their RFC colleagues. The set when issued included an instruction manual giving directions for use and the most appropriate filters to use, depending on operational area and prevailing light conditions.
This superb example is complete and despite being over 100 years old appears to be in unissued condition. They were discovered in a building close to Kalafrana on the southernmost tip of Malta, which was a seaplane base between 1917 and 1946, when it was transferred to the Royal Navy. In WWII RAF Kalafrana was home to 228 Squadron flying Sunderland's and remained in use until the 1960's. Clearly these are the flying goggles that time forgot, until recently re discovered. The booklet shows some aging and the staples are rusted but is still readable and indicates a print date of December 1917. Seeing the historical value of the booklet and its somewhat tender state we have had a very convincing replica reprinted that can be read without fear of damaging the original and both are included within the grouping. The original wooden transit box is sound and as well as the two pairs of filters currently fitted to the goggles it comes with a further 6 filters thus making up the full set. Each pair of filters is numbered and whilst showing some age related wear and fading it is amazing they have survived at all. The goggles themselves are virtually mint and the tan leather is still soft and pliable; the cloth bound edge is fur lined and remains pristine, as are the face pads. The brown drab fabric backstrap is complete but has lost its elasticity over the last 100 years ; this would have been secured behind the users head by means of a metal ring and hook. The second image attached shows how these goggles can be displayed with an approriate Mk I flying helmet but this is for display purposes only and is not included in the sale.
This RNAS issue set is undoubtedly a museum quality item that rarely, if ever, appears for sale on the collectors market, although Historic Flying Clothing has recently sold a similar set but this is only the 4th pair David has ever had.