Friday 15 October 2010 by Dianne Rutherford. No comments
Collection, First World War, Technology, Gallipoli

When the Gallipoli campaign quickly bogged down into trench warfare, there were not enough periscopes available to allow Australian and New Zealand soldiers to look over the parapets at ANZAC without being shot.

Australian soldier using an improvised periscope at Gallipoli Australian soldier using an improvised periscope at Gallipoli C01471

Luckily the soldiers do not appear to have been superstitious as to fill the gap improvised periscopes were made by breaking shaving mirrors or mirrors taken from transport ships and attaching them at an angle to lengths of wood.

RELAWM00342: Improvised periscope made at Gallipoli

The improvised periscope above was found at Gallipoli in 1919 by the Australian Historical Mission. The mirrors endured a bit of wear and tear during the war, but they can still sufficiently reflect images to give us an idea of how well the periscope worked.

The image below shows the view reflected from the top mirror to the bottom one - in this case part of the staff library. You can make out the rows of books, although the image is a little 'foggy'. You can also see the piece of wood and the ceiling reflected in the bottom mirror, which is a bit distracting and makes it a little difficult to focus on the image from the top mirror.

The reflection from the upper mirror as shown in the bottom mirror.

Still, they were better than nothing and fulfilled an important role in the campaign. Improvised periscopes were an important feature of the periscope rifle. The photograph below even shows one man using a periscope rifle, while another observes through an improvised periscope!

One soldier uses a periscope rifle, while another observes through an improvised periscope. One soldier uses a periscope rifle, while another observes through an improvised periscope. C01541

The Gallipoli campaign is full of examples of improvisation and this trench periscope is one of the classics. You have to admire the ingenuity and ability of the soldiers to use whatever they could find around them to create an item so important in trench warfare.