WW1 compass from the Museum of Richmond exhibition

Another of the items featured in the Museum of Richmond exhibition, as well as in our schools learning resources, is the compass that belonged to Cecil Cloake. After the end of  the First World War, Cecil became a GP in Wimbledon and his son John wrote several history books about the Richmond area.

Cecil's WWI compass

The small hand-held compass has provoked much reflection on the experience of soldiers and how the technology available to them often seemed inadequate against the new weapons technology. For example, the early gas hoods that soldiers wore to protect them against the new deadly chemical weapons. Some of these hoods were actually sewn by schoolgirls and really offered little protection.

Cecil Cloake would have had to use his compass under fire, with shells exploding around him. To lead his men in an advance or back to safety, Cecil would have to use the compass to line up with local landmarks and work out their location. He would have to calculate distances and work out which direction they should move in. In the smoke of the battlefield, a wrong calculation could lead the men into the path of the enemy soldiers.

Cecil was awarded the Military Cross for bravery during the Battle of the Somme in 1916. A citation recorded:

He went forward under heavy shell-fire, reorganized two companies which had lost their officers, and by his cool pluck restored confidence among the men at a critical time.”

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