A Devil’s Bargain

Carl Zeiss binoculars 1917

In the run-up to the Battle of Loos, the British Army realised it would need thousands of binoculars for officers and NCOs. A public appeal produced 2,000 pairs but the shortfall was still severe. With the British optical industry unable to cope with the demand, the Ministry of Munitions turned to the only manufacturer in the world capable of supplying the necessary quantities – Carl Zeiss in Jena – in GERMANY. Through Swiss intermediaries, the German firm replied that it would be happy to supply the materials needed, and indeed range finders. If the British required samples, Zeiss suggested checking the equipment of captured German officers.

What did the German High Command request in return for this equipment that would help their enemy kill their own soldiers? Unobtainable rubber, from Britain’s African and Asian colonies, vital for everything from fan belts, tyres and telephone cables.

Such was the impetus behind the war to end all wars – anything for victory, even if it meant   dealing with the enemy.

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