A World War period Faithful Freddie Submarine Binnacle compass.
This superb piece of early Twentieth Century maritime history was used as a back-up device for the main gyro compass aboard submarines and was stowed in the conning tower during operations. Should the ship’s main compass fail, the Faithful Freddie would have been mounted on the bridge and used to navigate the vessel whilst on the surface.
The binnacle is comprised of a thick brass base ring for mounting to the conning tower with a wooden base made from teak and a cylindrical brass mount on top which houses the compass and gimbal. The brass mount has two thick solid brass port and starboard arms with a painted iron ball on each. The balls were used for correcting any errors in the compass created by the surrounding metal parts of the vessel and can be manoeuvred to suit. To the front of the mount is affixed a brass plaque stating, “Pattern 189 No 637H”.
The teak base has two “Niphan” system watertight cable couplings for providing power for the bulb that was contained within the centre of the binnacle and used to light the compass at night. Niphan was a patented product of Simmonds Brother Ltd during the First World War and they advertised as being suppliers to HM War Office during the period. To the other side of the base is a brass slide for gaining access to the bulb and a hinged door that is screwed closed. This door also contains magnets used for the fine adjustment of the compass.
The brass hood has a carrying handle to the top and a viewing window fore and aft. The main door has a catch to the top with a hinged base and has a secondary viewing facility by means of two hinged slides to the centre. The door reveals the compass protected by a clear glass window to save it from the elements. The reverse door opens in the same way but reveals the compass through a piece of glass that has an opaque surround and a clear centre. These numerous methods of viewing the compass were conceived to allow for secrecy when using the compass at night and on the water’s surface where it was necessary to avoid attracting attention from enemy aircraft.
The Royal Navy pattern spirit filled compass featuring a Fleur de Lys and crown marking to the paper dial, is housed within a gimbal and is stamped, “Patt 188 – No2308K.S – R/COS/ZD”. The azimuth ring that sits on top the compass is further stamped with, “Patt1880 – No1507K and a reminder that, “Instructions for use in stowage box”. All are in good working order.
These instruments were originally produced for the Royal Navy in 1909 and continued to be used until after the end of the Second World War. Lovingly named by the crews of the Royal Navy after a PG Wodehouse character, Freddie Rooke in Wodehouses’s 1921 book, “Jill the Reckless”. The character who has to endure unrequited love, spends much of the novel saving the main protagonist and the focus of his attentions from numerous scrapes. The main character names Freddie as, “Faithful Freddie” for his continued assistance in difficult situations. Just what the binnacle was designed to do!
There are no manufacturer’s marks on the instrument which would suggest that it was produced during wartime (either First or Second World War) but without the availability of production records, it remains the only clue to its date. Either way, a rare and superbly manufactured binnacle which owing to its size is perfect for display.