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Thread: WW2 Contact Light Fittings - reappraised

  1. #1
    SuperMod Carnaby's Avatar
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    Default WW2 Contact Light Fittings - reappraised

    Until recently I believed there were three versions of these fittings used on a number of airfields up until the end of WWII.
    The AM airfield lighting drawing M&E WA15/53/54 depicts the C3 fitting which was the one used on a large number of airfields by 1945. It also shows the earlier C2 unit. This suggests that there was a C1 fitting, which I assumed was the pre-war unit.

    However there is another 'intermediate' fitting, of which I became aware as noted by Paul Bellamy at Polebrook, and confirmed by Peter the Eater. This makes four distinct types and next post will attempt to describe the anomaly.

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    SuperMod Carnaby's Avatar
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    Default Re: WW2 Contact Light Fittings - reappraised

    As a means of understanding the versions we have to start at the most recent.

    This unit, the C3, is described as such shown on the Air Ministry drawing It is a '1942 style - high intensity fitting with a small seating ring'. It was installed on a large number of the 160 WWII stations equipped with the system. I am not convinced about the 'high intensity' as I believe it contains the same internals as the earlier fittings.
    .
    C3 Compact fitting

    ========================================

    The C2 is also shown on the above drawing, and is described as the '1941, low intensity - large seating ring' fitting. This is the one found at Polebrook by PB.
    .
    C2 Star fitting

    ========================================

    Now the confusion begins - what is the C1? The Polebrook thread highlighted the fact that this 'C2' fitting is not identical to the units at Silloth. Both are star-shaped, however The latter has a 'flat' at one point, whereas the C2s have two indented areas. I also suspect that the Silloth may have a larger seating ring than the Polebrook. I suggest we call the Silloth types the C1. (Silloth was the first Coastal Command station to be equipped with Beam Approach and Contact Lighting)
    ..
    Silloth 'Star' Fitting

    .

    =========================================

    Which then leaves us with the Chance manufactured unit found on the pre-war airports (Manchester, Croydon and Heston). This unit (strangely similar in appearance to the C3) didn't have nearly enough light available for aircraft actually on the runway. I guess we call it the 'pre-war' fitting.
    .
    Chance fitting as used at Croydon c.1938


    Action: We need to measure the lamp and seating ring diameters of the C3, Polebrook C2 and Silloth fittings to see if there is any correlation. If so, why was the unit redesigned? In over ten years research I have found virtually nothing in TNA on this subject, other than details of the pre-war unit.

    Note: According to the AM chart the C2 and C3 were known as C2A and C3A whan the internal bi-directional beam concentrator prism was fitted, What about the earlier fitting?
    Last edited by Carnaby; 30-04-2012 at 16:29.

  3. #3
    SuperMod P Bellamy's Avatar
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    Default Re: WW2 Contact Light Fittings - reappraised

    Brief details of British Patent 514949 (Application date May 14, 1938, publication date November 22, 1939) as marked on the Silloth example: LINK

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    SuperMod P Bellamy's Avatar
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    Default Re: WW2 Contact Light Fittings - reappraised

    This seems as good a thread as any to post some details of an ex-Feltwell C2 fitting I've been slowly emptying of compacted soil over the last few months.

    As donated:





    Now some closeups that are sure to keep Carnaby happy...

    Casting details:



    Cable fitting:



    Intact(ish) Osram bulb:





    The bulb and stem have become loosened from the cap, so I'll have to drill out all the casing bolts to get to it properly, but the filament is unbroken at least:



    Shame the glass was stoved in at some point in the past, it would be nice to source a replacement to complete the job.
    For the record, there was no trace inside of the RAE prism thingy.

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    SuperMod Carnaby's Avatar
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    Default Re: WW2 Contact Light Fittings - reappraised

    Quote Originally Posted by P Bellamy View Post
    Now some closeups that are sure to keep Carnaby happy...

    For the record, there was no trace inside of the RAE prism thingy.
    Excellent Paul. Had to say my heart stopped whilst I scrolled down the pics for the prism which I felt certain would appear.

    We'll discover one some day! I inquired at Farnborough re this device but they had nothing on it.

    Do we know if this is a Chance or GEC unit?

  6. #6
    SuperMod P Bellamy's Avatar
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    Default Re: WW2 Contact Light Fittings - reappraised

    So far the only maker's marks are the [J W & C Ltd.] stamp on the upper outer casing.
    All the debris from inside the lamp well is being retained, so I can examine the myriad glass fragments for anything that doesn't match the curvature of the outer dome.

    Remember when you first raised the RAE Prism thing and it seemed likely that the only CL unit likely to still have one in was the one Richard photographed at Feltwell?
    Guess which fitting this is...

    Something I ought to note before I have to drill them out.
    The glass dome is held in place by a tar-like sealant underneath and a cast metal ring above. This ring is secured from the underside of the "star" upper casting by a series of what appear to be Allen bolts.
    Last edited by P Bellamy; 03-04-2014 at 00:33.

  7. #7
    SuperMod P Bellamy's Avatar
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    Default Re: WW2 Contact Light Fittings - reappraised

    What is believed to be the sole surviving Contact Light fitting at Twinwood Farm, an incomplete C3 recovered when the peritrack was being patched a few years ago. Please ignore the green hammerite, in the background is most of a wartime AM obstruction light (there's a complete unit in the store)









    Not much to note about this one, other than the minor detail differences in the "cone" compared to the Feltwell example, but as it's empty the bulb holder was found to be of the screw-in type rather than the usual bayonet-type.

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