‘FOUR WAY’, ‘FOLDING LENS’ or ‘SPLIT LENS’ TYPE
1900s Motoring and Early World War I Flying Goggles, World War II Japanese Type 5 Dust Goggles, WWII Russian Tank Goggles, Chinese Tank Goggles, RAF Split Lens &etc.
This goggle type has its roots in France, with most references relating them to ‘early French types’. The earliest advertisement sighted for this kind is dated 1904. They may have been a development of the 19th century ‘Railway Spectacle’ with protective glass side panels (Fig. 3). They could be folded into a very compact shape and allowed good peripheral vision.
They were popular with Edwardian motorists and pre and early World War I aviators. They became standard Japanese Army and Navy Landing Force Type 5 dust goggles throughout the 1930s and WWII. This metal hinged Japanese version with its neat case appears to be the basis for the Type 59 Chinese general purpose and tank goggles produced through the 1960s to 1975. From 1934 Russian motorised troops, from motorcyclists to tank crews were issued with a heavy leather version of the type, which with the exigencies of war was rapidly replaced with artificial leather during the Second World War. Post WWII cheaper light leatherette versions were mass produced in the Soviet Block to be used by government workers and sold to the general public. With their good peripheral vision it is said the design inspired the WWII RAF split lens types. Their general use in Edwardian times and during WWI; later adoption by various armed forces; and then mass production during the Soviet era in both Eastern Europe and China means there are some very rare versions, and some very common ones.
1900s to the end of WWI
The goggles initial hay-day was the period of the 1900s up until early WWI. Numerous advertisements for the type appear in European and American magazines and catalogues during that period. Evidence would suggest that versions were made in France, Germany, Britain and the United States and probably elsewhere. In the few years before WWI the aviation world was small and comradely, although very competitive, with air shows and competitions being regularly held throughout Europe (mainly France and Germany) and America. At such events the clothing and accessories of notable pilots were perused and subsequently bought. So at the commencement of WWI aviators were tending to wear similar equipment; French goggles and flying helmets were popular universally. During WWI, however, more robust, nationally distinctive goggles types were designed by the various belligerent countries and these tended to eclipse these pre-war lightweight Edwardian types.
Due to the advantages mentioned above the split lens types did remain popular post-WWI as lightweight handy goggles for the amateur motorist. Also due to their good peripheral vision and ability to be folded and slipped into a pocket, they were later chosen as dust goggles by the military of several nations.
The Japanese Versions
A notable military user was the Japanese Army and Navy, through the 1920s until the end of WWII. They were used as early aviation goggles and from 1930, as military ‘Dust Proof Glasses’.
In the early 1920s the Japanese Imperial Army Air Force procured much equipment of French origin. It is possible that examples of the type arrived then. In the early 1920s they were used as aviator’s goggles, these appear to have been leather masked with nickel or chromed plated frames. The most common use of the type, however, was from 1930 as general purpose dust goggles for ground troops. They were designated ‘Dust Proof Glasses’ (防塵眼鏡 ‘Bōjin Megane’) Type 5 (1930 = fifth year of Hirohito’s reign = Showa year 5). The later military ‘Dust Proof Glasses’ had khaki painted frames and the mask seems to have evolved through time, with early ones made of leatherette and wartime production being a high quality lightweight pale khaki canvas. There are numerous pictures of them being used by troops in the dusty environments of central Asia during the 1930’s and elsewhere in WWII. Although from 1930 Japanese tank crews had their own special laminated ‘Armoured’ goggles based on the British Triplex ‘Featherweights’ of WWI, non-armoured land transport troops, dispatch riders and ground troops used these lightweight folding lens Type 5 dust goggles through the 1930s to the end of WWII.
These were originally Army issue, but when Naval Landing Forces started routinely operating on land, they adopted these Army goggles as well as several other items of ground troop equipment. Examples of early leather flight pairs are marked ‘Yamamoto Manufacturing, Iwatani’. The Type 5 Dust Goggle was usually issued in a small, neat, thick leather pouch with a rear loop for threading onto a belt, either shut with a tongue and loop closure, or a snap fastener.
The RKKA and Soviet Versions
In 1917 to oppose the ‘White Army’ the Bolsheviks raised the ‘Workers’, and Peasants’ Red Army’ in Russian abbreviated to ‘RKKA’. The armed forces were called this from 1918 to 1946, after that date to 1991 they were the ‘Soviet Army.
The folding lens type was well known in Russia from the earliest days, with images of Imperial Russian pilots wearing the type. However the first direct reference to the type in post-revolution times is ‘Order of the Revolutionary Military Council of the USSR number 09 of 01/15/1934’ in which items of the standard kit were listed. It mentions – ‘Protective Goggles for Automotive, Armour and Technical Troops of Armour’. They came in three sizes, with varying ‘D’ frames and glass length.
The pre-war and early war Russian (RKKA) folding lens model was a very heavy leather version, by mid-war an identical version, in fake leather (thin vinyl on heavy cotton canvas) was being produced. For a short while post war the leather version was again produced as safety glasses (see Fig. 19).
The 1934 type continued to be issued and sold post-war until 1954 when a light-weight version was developed, this was mass produced until the 1970s. The 1954 version (гост 111-54, with Government standards variations in 1961 etc) was mainly a civilian version, for industry and civilian transport use. They may have been used by the military as a non-specialised, lightweight and handy; for occasional use only, general purpose goggle. By this time however, tank crews and others who habitually had to wear goggles were using stronger specialised types. This cheap version had lightweight thin plastic leatherette masks and relatively thin chromed pressed steel frames. They sometimes have a PO-# designation, which is post-war nomenclature, ‘Rabochie Ochki’ – ‘Goggles for Workers’. Earlier versions still had a sewn on hem, but later, even cheaper versions only had zigzag stitching to stop the edges fraying.
Typically on the cardboard box in which they are supplied is written something similar to: –
Figure 21. Germany did not produce or issue split lens goggles during WWII. Here a pair of captured RKKA Protective Goggles are being used by a German machine gunner.
The Chinese Versions
A common post-war version is this Chinese ‘Type 59’, ‘fold(ing) goggles’ (折风镜); also known as ‘sheep skin goggles’ (羊皮风镜). Used as general purpose ‘dust proof’, ‘wind proof’, ‘mountain troop’ and ‘tank goggles’. They may have been designed for, and issued, with the Type 59 tank. A better made version, with padded hem, was made for the Chinese Navy. Adopted in 1959, the standard version was mass produced in the period 1960-1975; these dates coincide with the Sino-Soviet Split, when weapons and equipment were no longer sourced from the Russians; and ends with the end of the ‘Cultural Revolution’ and China’s subsequent modernisation.
Examples are often found with slips of paper typically saying: –
They have a quality soft sheepskin leather face mask and tend to come in only dark brown to black. The lenses are plastic, and the brightly chromed (blackened on the ‘Navy’ version) steel frame has a mortise hinge. The fact that they have a hinge and come in a thick leather case to be carried on the belt would seem to imply they are a descendant of the Japanese Type 5 Dust Goggle rather than the Soviet versions. During the 1930s and early 1940s Japanese goggles were certainly produced in the annexed Manchuria, with some of the aviators ‘Eagle Eye’ goggles carrying the ‘MAN’ (for Manchuria) logo. It is not known if the Type 5 Dust Goggle was also produced there, but the Chinese resurrection of a similar design years later may hint that they were?
RAF War-Time ‘Split Lens’ Designs
In Britain the RAF entered the Second World War with an unpopular goggle type, the Mk III (and IIIa which had less padding). It’s unpopularity was due to the fact it had curved plastic lenses which, it was claimed, distorted the view and scratched and scuffed easily. Many pilots did not wear goggles as a result, or preferred the 1928-33 Mk II which, apart from the strap, was near identical to the Triplex ‘Feather Weight’ goggles of 1916; or various private purchase pairs similar to the Mk II or Luxor types etc. Although cockpits were fully enclosed by this time, inverted or negative ‘G’ flying would cause debris to become airborne in the cockpit causing eye irritation and injuries, as did any damage to the canopy; worst of all there were mounting numbers of facial burns causing serious eye injuries. The RAF rushed to develop a goggle type that young headstrong pilots would actually wear once airborne.
As the main complaint about the Mk III was its curved plastic lenses, this aspect was tackled first. As plastic does scratch and scuff easily and the prevailing attitude to plastic was negative, due to memories of early flammable celluloid lenses, the idea of using any form of plastic was dispensed with immediately. Curved glass lenses increase peripheral vision, but are relatively expensive and tend to distort sight. Depending on quality, curved glass lenses will always cause, to some degree, errors in exact object location, and more importantly, cause eye fatigue and visual discomfort. These factors are compounded by increasing the glass thickness.
Curved lenses are usually cut from cylinders of glass; the resulting lenses have an inherent ‘spherical aberration’ and can also have manufacturing variables such as ‘radius errors’ and irregularities in thickness. The two sides of the lens are not easily polished to an identical optical quality radius and flatness. Curved glass, which for optical reasons has to be kept as thin as possible to stop them acting as lenses (in the true sense), is not easily made safe by laminating.
Only a couple of curved laminated glass goggle designs were made during WWII, most famously the Japanese ‘Eagle Eye’ goggles. The Germans produced special ‘Armoured Glass’ goggles in modest numbers, with curved laminated glass lenses. The other standard German aviation goggles i.e. 295 and 306 were curved single layer glass, as was the American AN6530 and its predecessors. Although these had a good field of view and deflected wind, small debris and flames, the single layer of brittle glass often inflicted horrendous eye injuries when struck with any force. The Americans changed to easily replaceable plastic lens goggles in October 1943 (the B-8 and its derivatives by Polaroid); the Germans produced the Nitsche & Gunther ‘Anti-Splinter’ goggles, these had small curved lenses, designed to be tough. They could be worn under the 295 type. That they were not entirely effective is evidenced by the introduction of the larger laminated ‘Armoured Glass’ goggles to selected air crews.
Flat glass is very cheap and is easily polished to optical quality, so it does not appreciably distort vision across any part of the view, no-matter how thick it is. It is easily laminated; a huge safety advantage hence the choice of laminated glass ‘armoured’ goggles for tank crews by Britain, the USA and Japan in the 1930s/WWII. Flat lenses, however, sit near perpendicular to the site line, surrounded by a flat frame so peripheral vision is always limited by the frame and cups/padding. This had always been a criticism of the old RAF Mk II, which was otherwise well liked as being simple, sturdy, optically excellent and, above all, safe. As stated by Prodger (1995), it is probable that someone remembered the excellent field of view associated with the private purchase split lens goggles of early WWI which, although being flimsy, had the excellent optics of flat glass, combined with good peripheral vision. As such split-lens laminated flat glass was the basis of the Mk IV goggles issued in June 1940. Some, but not many were in time to be employed in the Battle of Britain.
Although the Mk IV’s split windows addressed the curved lens issues of distortion, safety and price; and the peripheral vision issues of single piece flat lenses; they were complex and heavy. The Mk IVa (lighter, plastic framed), and Mk IVb (going back to brass frames, addressing strength issues with the IVa) both had the split windows issued as a single pre-constructed unit doing away with the hinge. As all the Mk IV models were complex, simplification came as the Mk VII issued in July 1942 and then in April 1943 the Mk VIII (N.B. Mk V and VI were spectacles/sunglasses). Although the obvious difference between the Mk VII and Mk VIII was simplification, an important change not often mentioned was the cushion stuffing, the Mk VII (and Mk III) had used an early kind of foam rubber, which hardened relatively quickly when in contact with the natural oils found in leather, leaving the cushions completely solid or sometimes breaking up into a grit like substance. The Mk VIII had kapok stuffing, a natural cotton wool like substance, which stays flexible indefinitely.
The Mk VIII, introduced in April 1943 was on RAF stores lists until the 1970’s, said to have been available for when flying historic aircraft and when ‘posing in sports cars’. British companies such as Stadium/Halcyon made copies of it through the 1950’s to the present day and many companies around the world such as EMGO and several ‘generic’ firms are still producing clones.
An Italian Split lens Model
Ratti had been producing goggles since 1917, the ‘Protector’ label had been developed in 1918 and continual developments had seen these lightweight quality goggles used by Italian racing drivers and aviators through the 1930’s. They were popular with pre-war German racing drivers, with a model called the ‘Dictator’ available (this name was missing from post war catalogues!) In the war, as the M38 and M42, they were standard issue Italian military goggles. With their simplicity and light weight they became popular with both the Germans and Allies in North Africa. For the same reason these, and the Czech (or Sudetenland) ‘Duchrow’ goggles, were often preferred by German Paratroopers, over the complex German types. All the pre-war and war time models, however, were not split lens types. Post-war RAF Mk VIII’s became common on the racing circuit; in response Ratti produced a neat and fashionable split lens ‘Protector’ model as an answer to the war surplus goggles which were flooding the market.
British, Protectors Eye ‘Anti-Mine’. 1960s-70s
How to Identify?
The pre-WWI split lens versions come in many styles and materials. At that time there were no international patents or international registered trademarks. This combined with the fact that most towns would have small business and workshops that could easily produce items such as goggles, means that identification of the provenance of these early ones is difficult. Some may have the country of manufacture written on them or their case, or have clues. ‘Brevet’ or ‘Brevete’ is the French for Patent; ‘DRGM’ is an Imperial German registration mark. DEP, Depose or Depontiert is a German word for ‘registered’ or ‘copyright’, but is also found on French items. Some French brands such as OTO/ JBJ tend to have fleur-de-lis on the strap slider, or logo’s on the strap tag or case; often a nice little balloon. Patent, Pat. or Pat’d etc, are usually British or US, ‘Pat. Pending’ is generally US; if you have a patient number it is usually a formality these days to find the items details on the internet.
Early frame types were often made of brass, or nickel plated steel. Chrome did not become common until the very late 1920s.
The early Japanese versions may be indistinguishable from European produced ones; however they always seem to have mortise hinges, Western ones use both metal hinges and fabric joints. If they come in the leather case as shown in Fig. 14, it’s a good chance they are Japanese. Sometimes they will have the place of manufacture written on them or a kana military acceptance stamps inside the mask. The War-time khaki canvas ones should be unmistakable (see Fig 11).
The Russian (RKKA until 1946, Soviet Army after) goggles of 1934 to 1954 are large and heavy (see Fig. 18). Post 1954 they are lightweight and cheap looking, with lightweight leatherette and ‘flanged’ frames (see Fig 20) and where usually for non-military purposes.
The main way to tell whether post war models are Eastern European or Chinese is in the hinge design. The Chinese version appears to have evolved from the Japanese Dust Goggle of WWII, this can be seen in both the smart leather case and the hinge design. Both the Japanese and Chinese versions have a mortise hinge, with a wire pin passed through the interlocking metal teeth. The Chinese ones have quality leather masks, but plastic lenses. The Russian types only used the material of the mask as the hinge joint and post early WWII the masks are made of leatherette and become thinner as time goes by, but always have glass lenses.
Aleks and Dmitri at Espenlaub Militaria, http://www.aboutww2militaria.com, helped greatly with questions on the Soviet types.
‘Beijing’ Ben, http://sidecarpro.com/ helped with details of the Chinese Types.
Mick J. Prodger (1995), Aviation Headgear Before The Jet Age.