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1932 Pattern Life Preservers ...

September 4 2008 at 8:18 PM
Pussy Palmer  (Login PussyPalmer1)
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Response to Repeat post - n/t

I have followed this thread with interest & have studied the item currently being offered for sale on E-Bay. Firstly, some general comments upon this item: as Shide says, if it is a reproduction, it is a very good one - as is usually the case (& an inherent danger with buying from places like E-Bay, without having the chance to handle & examine it), it is difficult to comment upon an item solely from photographs.

However, on balance, my observations are:

(a) the yellow paint has not been applied with a brush, it has been sprayed on - what looks like "brush strokes" is the weave of the cloth. Of course, either method of application is feasible for 1940, so just the fact that it has been brushed on doesn't necessarily mean "fake";
(b) whether the life preserver has been sprayed, or brush-painted, last week or during the "Battle of Britain", it would have been as simple to mask out the zip then as it would have been more recently - what would be the point of spraying over the zip & thus lessening its working effectiveness? That would be a nuisance when the bladder / kapoks needed changing, wouldn't it? ...
(c) the shade of the yellow paint looks a little too light for "RAF Insignia Yellow";
(d) why paint the underside of the life preserver (i.e. the panel with the zip)? This area does not need to be yellow, as you can't see it when the vest is being worn by an airman floating in the drink;
(e) the colour of the grey / green cloth appears rather too vibrant, & close to "new", for an item which purports to be almost 70 + years old (unless it's been unusually well-stored / preserved!);
(f) likewise, for an item which - one might imagine - has been sprayed with yellow dope around 1940, the paint is in pretty good condition - check out original photographs to see how swiftly the real yellow paint cracked & flaked on a "Mae West" with daily use during the "Battle of Britain" ...
(g) the leg tapes do not signify a "fake", any more than does a dye marker pack on a 1932 Pattern vest - it is well-known that leg tapes were an unofficial addition sometimes made to these life preservers.

In conclusion, Shide's suggestion that if something, "... looks too good to be true, it probably is", seems appropriate. If the E-Bay life preserver is original, what we seem to have is a rather well-preserved, coveted item, made even more juicy by the addition of the unofficial, non-standard leg tapes. We cannot necessarily assume that the item is a "fake", i.e. manufactured to dupe a discerning & knowledgeable collector - if he wanted to to that, the maker would surely have "aged" the vest appropriately. However, what I assess this item to be is a modern reproduction, made either for the collector, re-enactor or living-historian - the seller may not necessarily be aware that it's a copy, but I believe that this is what it is.

Unfortunately, asking the seller to post photographs of the inner, rubberised surface of the life preserver wouldn't necessarily leave us any the wiser ... there are two manufacturers of reproduction 1932 Patt. life preservers:

(1) Steve KIDDLE (Pegasus Militaria), who has always used the correct grey / green cloth complete with the green rubberised inner surface.
(2) Steve SILBURN (Sefton), whose reproductions never used to have a rubberised inner surface, but has only fairly recently started using such cloth.

So, what if this E-Bay item turns out to have a green rubberised inner surface? One thing is certain - it suggests that it could be original, but it sure as Hades doesn't prove it!!!

On the subject of original 1932 Patt. life preservers ... well, I've rattled on enough - that will have to wait for another post! ...

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