Aeronautical Instruments & Tools
Price = n/a
WWII RAF Pilots Knee Board Note Pad 1944
A remarkably basic but essential piece of kit issued mainly to single seat pilots. These kneeboard note pads developed in the early days of aviation during WWI for use by the Royal Flying Corps and continued in RAF service up until the present day where the note pad becomes an integral part of the fast jet aircrew flying suit. In the Great War the aerial view became increasingly important, once the initial mobile phase of action developed into what we now know as 'trench warfare'. Trenches were hazardous to both mounted troops and men on the ground and prevented them from effectively reconnoitring enemy lines. Aircraft had no such restrictions and both cavalry and aircraft pilots and observers had to make notes and draw sketch maps of what they saw on their reconnaissance missions. Both types of personnel did this using boards strapped to an arm or a leg. Whist WWI examples turn up from time to time this is the very first WWII pattern we have obtained and clearly dates to 1944. The front of the board has a note pad that in this instance has been used with only the back paper cover remaining and is dated 12/43. The pad is clamped in position by a wood strip held in place by a pair of butterfly nuts; on removing the clamped board we found the pad is stamped S.1181C (Established June 1930), so confirming the designs pre-war origins. The left column is headed 'Time' and the right is left blank for observations.
The reverse of the board, which is made from varnished plywood, caries two permanently mounted leather straps, large enough for attachment to either thigh or arm. These are secured by a pair of quick release Bennett's buckles, marked accordingly and of the same pattern used on RAF B and early C flying helmets. The leather remains very supple and the buckles are in good working condition. In true Air Ministry style the board is fully stamped up with relevant nomenclature and is headed 'S.L. 1944' followed by a Broad Arrow property mark and is dated 1944. Below is stamped 'H855996/43/C22(b) Stores Ref No 6F/171' and a further broad arrow for good measure! RAF stores reference code 6F covers 'Personal Equipment Aircraft'.
A range of photographs are attached showing the detail and the final period picture illustrates a similar but rather more sophisticated board from RFC and early post WWI period showing intended usage. The original user of our board has written his name 'Davey' but we can only speculate on what he flew and where he served. The board measures 10" x 6" (25.5 cm x 15.5 cm) A modest but very useful piece of WWII RAF flying kit that is now remarkably hard to find in any condition. This one ticks all the boxes and would make a great addition to an RAF collection or mannequin display.