Camouflage : British parapet observation post, disguised as coil of barbed wire

Accession Number RELAWM04483
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Steel, Tin, Wood
Maker Royal Engineers
Date made c 1916-1918
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Non-reinforced observation post consisting of a wooden base made with four boards creating a frame. The interior sides of the frame have been cut to form a circular hole, large enough to fit a head through. Topping this is a cylinder made of tin, the top edges have been sliced down and folded to seal the metal lid closed.

The cylinder has barbed wire coiled around it and, between one gap in the barbed wire, a thin rough opening to view through has been cut. It matches the shape of the gap in the wire and so differs in height at various points, being between one and five millimeters in height and about 100 millimeters long, for viewing through. On the top is connected a piece of wood and a piece of tin to form a rough cross. Fake mud (material unknown) has been scattered on the bade board, although some is now absent, and a dollop of fake mud is on a section of barbed wire.

History / Summary

Small portable British observation post constructed to look like a roll of barbed wire. This is one style of disguised observation posts constructed by the British Royal Engineers and used by Allied forces during the First World War.

The concealment of observation posts was the Royal Engineers Special Works Park's chief form of activity up to July 1916, before expanding to other types of camouflage. They created 3 types - observation posts disguised as large, damaged trees for men to climb up, camouflaged observation posts that hid periscopes and this type of camouflaged observations post - ones that could sit on the parapet of a trench.

The idea for this type of observation post was that a soldier could poke his head up into the post and see across no man's land, which was usually littered with debris and war equipment, including rolls of barbed wire. The posts were not bullet proof so would not protect against a stray bullet or piece of shrapnel, but in theory it allowed a soldier to put his head over the parapet without the enemy forces realising and so deliberately targeting them.

Collected by Australian War Records Section in June 1919 in France.