• Welcome to ScubaBoard

  1. Welcome to ScubaBoard, the world's largest scuba diving community. Registration is not required to read the forums, but we encourage you to join. Joining has its benefits and enables you to participate in the discussions.

    Benefits of registering include

    • Ability to post and comment on topics and discussions.
    • A Free photo gallery to share your dive photos with the world.
    • You can make this box go away

    Joining is quick and easy. Login or Register now by clicking on the button

Basic gear from mid-twentieth-century Britain: Britmarine (W. W. Haffenden)

Discussion in 'History of Diving Gear' started by David Wilson, Jun 3, 2018.

  1. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    A new thread about another British manufacturer of underwater swimming equipment. Let's begin with the chronology of the company:
    And here's a little geography to go with the potted history. The Wall Street Journal has described the sandwich as Britain's "biggest contribution to gastronomy". It was invented during the eighteenth century by the fourth Earl of Sandwich, who allegedly asked his servant to prepare a snack consisting of roast beef between two slices of toasted bread so that he could eat while indulging his gambling habit. The earl's aristocratic title derived from the medieval town of Sandwich in the south-eastern English county of Kent:
    kent.png county.php?id=2281&map=&place=Sandwich&county=kent&where=1.png
    For several decades, this historic settlement was also the location of the Haffenden company that is the subject of this thread.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2018
  2. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    A glance at the timeline in the first posting on this thread will show that the company underwent several name changes as its operations expanded over the years, e.g. W. W. Haffenden Ltd, Haffenden-Richborough, Haffenden Moulding Company.

    In the mid-1950s, the firm expanded its existing "Submarine" brand range of moulded rubber swimcaps to include a Submarine Clipper rubber swim fin, face mask, breathing tube and combined face mask and breathing tube.

    Here is an image of the interior of Sugg Sports store in central Sheffield in 1961. The photograph shows "one of the rooms where some of the sportswear was on display, including some Lee Cooper jeans and snorkeling and scuba diving equipment." The Submarine Clipper snorkelling equipment is displayed on the panel at the top right of the picture.

    Although the Haffenden company replaced the name "Submarine" with the new trade name "Britmarine" in December 1962, it retained the product name "Clipper" for its adjustable open-heel fins, which were very popular in their day. I loved swimming in a blue pair during my teenage years.

    Haffenden also made Clipper fins for other people. A prominent example is the "Lloyd Bridges King Neptune Marlin" fin, exported from England to the United States to satisfy the growing interest there in underwater swimming encouraged by the popular "Sea Hunt" TV series.
    Note the US foot sizing within the embossed circle and the UK sizing within the embossed square. Haffenden retained the Clipper fin in its repertoire right into the early 1980s, when they replaced the natural rubber in the fins with thermoplastics. The change to the new material was not a commercial success. Haffenden ceased manufacturing underwater swimming gear altogether within a year or two.

    In the next posting, my focus will remain on the Clipper open-heel adjustable fin, whose design may have inspired, or been inspired by, fin developments in Poland and Hungary. Haffenden not only redesigned its own-brand Clipper fin during the 1960s and 1970s but also manufactured versions of the fin bearing other companies' logos.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2018
  3. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    A retrospective glance first at the adjustable open-heel fin models from Poland and Hungary closely resembling the Britmarine Clipper.

    Poland: Gumar
    Poland: Michałek
    Hungary: Martelon
    Unlike Martelons, Made-in-England Britmarine Clippers were available in sizes up to UK 10:

    Here's how the Clipper was showcased in a Britmarine catalogue from the late 1960s:
    From the mid- to late 1960s these fins were available in blue and "safety yellow" (latter below):
    $_58b.JPG These fins were sold widely in the UK and could also be found in retail outlets abroad. Here, for example, is a Kingston Gleaner newspaper ad from Jamaica, 17 March 1967:

    In the next posting we'll take a look at a Britmarine Clipper variant from the round-toe prototype.
    АлександрД likes this.
  4. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    The late 1960s Britmarine catalogue, which can be viewed at https://drive.google.com/open?id=0Bw7z_4bLjOOEaVhHLURsSkdQSlk, featured the familar round-toe design below:

    However, the Haffenden company also manufactured a model with a slightly different foot pocket design:
    $(KGrHqJ,!rQE-ZUfRNh+BPtPz-WPGQ~~60_12.JPG $T2eC16dHJGIFFp!0eBgCBRlR,9r7)g~~60_58.JPG
    In this variant, the toe of the foot pocket was straight-ended rather than rounded when viewed from both the top and the bottom.

    Haffenden also used this design when manufacturing fins for other company brands:

    Speedswim (sold in the UK in Woolworths)

    Uvex (sold in Germany)
    s-l1600c.jpg s-l1600b.jpg
    The Britmarine Clipper survived for quite a while, sustaining further design modifications, beyond the end of the 1960s, so we'll meet the model again in a later message. For the moment, however, we'll continue to focus on Britmarine fins, masks and snorkels of the late 1960s, which did not all survive into the 1970s.
    АлександрД likes this.
  5. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    On to other Britmarine fins of the late 1960s. We'll focus today on the fin identified as "Model B" above. Here is a close-up of the fin:
    The label embossed on the top of the foot pocket on the catalogue page displays the product name "Penguin", which was the name given to the original design, which came with an instep strap for extra security.

    The Model B came in a choice of blue or safety yellow:
    Brit-Marine-yellow-diver-Fins-flippers-adjustable-size 1.jpg
    Brit-Marine-yellow-diver-Fins-flippers-adjustable-size 2.jpg
    The Model B was designed to offer some of the benefits of a full-foot fin, including a sole extension to protect the heel and a toe opening for comfort and drainage, while retaining the open-heel fin's advantage of adjustability for family use or when accommodating an individual's growing feet. An open-heel fin with a heel platform was not an uncommon sight during the 1950s and 1960s, as witness the Typhoon Clubmaster in another recent thread here:
    Back to the Britmarine Model B for further close-ups:
    Brit-Marine-yellow-diver-Fins-flippers-adjustable-size 3.jpg
    The image above shows the extended heel-plate, while the image below diplays the markings on the top of the foot pocket:
    Brit-Marine-yellow-diver-Fins-flippers-adjustable-size 4.jpg
    The markings include the registered trademark, the product name, the country of origin and both the European and the UK shoe sizes.

    So much for the "semi-open" heel fin in the Britmarine range. I recall purchasing a pair in the mid-1960s when I was attending a German language course in Austria during the mornings and cooling off in an open-air pool there during the afternoons. Their foot pockets accommodated my raised arches and long toes better than my Britmarine Clippers did, while their blades were reinforced with tall side rails and ribs supplying all the power I required before I upgraded to a pair of Typhoon Cressi full-foot fins when I joined a university branch of the British Sub Aqua Club a year later.

    Britmarine Model B fins were discontinued by the end of the 1960s. In the next posting we shall consider the full-foot fin in the Haffenden's Britmarine range.
  6. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    Up for review now is the Britmarine Model A fin, which came with a closed heel. The original name for Haffenden's full-foot model was the Britmarine Neptune.

    Britmarine Model A fin

    The first Britmarine Model As came in a choice of blue or safety yellow. A later version had ribbed blades:
    $_58.JPG This ribbed-blade version of the Model A was the chosen design when London's Lillywhites sporting goods store commissioned Haffenden to produce its own-brand Trident fin:
    Lillywhites_Trident_1969-3.png The Lillywhites Trident fin differed in three respects from the Britmarine original. First, it was only available in black, while Britmarines came in colours other than black. Secondly, it was a non-floating fin, while Britmarines were buoyant only. Thirdly, its size range extended to a UK size 11-12, while the largest Britmarines were size 9-10.

    Britmarine Model As, and doubtless Lillywhites Tridents too, had the softest and most comfortable foot pockets in the Britmarine range. They clung to the feet without exerting pressure, even when they were a snug fit, and they could be worn for long periods without hurting the feet. The downside of the highly flexible foot pockets was the tendency of the blades to be a little on the floppy side, converting less kick into thrust than users would have liked.

    We'll return to Britmarine full-foot fins later in this thread. In a few days' time, I'll be posting a message about Britmarine and Clipper diving masks of the 1960s.
  7. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    Proceeding, as promised, to five Britmarine and Clipper diving masks from the late 1960s. I'll focus first on standard masks made by the Haffenden company for young people and adults, reserving children's models for a later post.

    Clipper Mask (Standard)
    The image above appeared in the catalogue at https://drive.google.com/open?id=0Bw7z_4bLjOOEaVhHLURsSkdQSlk. The Clipper was a triangular mask with a plastic lens and rim, available in blue or safety yellow. Further images below:
    Products64054s.jpg $_58.JPG
    The top of the mask skirt is marked "Safety Lens", "Britmarine Clipper" and "Made in England". The mask sold as far afield as the Caribbean island of Hamaica, as this ad from the March 1967 Kingston Gleaner illustrates:

    Two further adult and adolescent masks to follow.
    АлександрД likes this.
  8. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    Next up is the standard Britmarine mask in the late 1960s Haffenden range.

    Britmarine mask (Standard)
    Britmarine.png By way of contrast with the Clipper mask, the Britmarine was an oval mask that came with a better face seal, a wider field of vision and a dearer price tag. The choice of colour was again blue and safety yellow. Further pictures below:
    $_61a.JPG Brit2.jpg
    $_61d.JPG The top of the mask skirt is marked "Britmarine", "Mask", "Safety Lens" and "Made in England". The Britmarine was clearly intemded to be an improved and upmarket version of the Clipper, offering greater comfort than the latter, which was described in a "Which?" consumer report of August 1965 as "varying from face to face" when it came to "comfort", "vision" and "getting water out", eliciting the comments "misted up", "rubber too hard" and "bad seal".

    A while later, the Haffenden company added another better-quality mask to the range, calling it the "Britmarine Super".

    Britmarine mask (Super)

    Britmarine_Super.png This model sported a metal rim, the first Haffenden mask to do so. Two further innovations were compensator bosses to facilitate equalisation and a split headstrap to cradle the mask on the head. The mask commanded a correspondingly high price with black as an extra colour option. The clear intention was to supply a line of more professional-looking gear as the company began marketing its goods in continental Europe, including French and German descriptions in its revised catalogue. This expansion and professionalisation continued during the 1970s.

    So much for the adult and adolescent masks in the Haffenden range. We'll move on to children's masks in the next post.
  9. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    Now for a review of the two children's masks in the Britmarine range.

    Clipper mask (Junior)

    The Junior version of the Clipper mask came with a safety lens but without a plastic or metal rim to secure it. The colour options were again blue and safety yellow. In the event, this model survived into the 1970s as the C108 Sea Nymph mask, which came in orange with better-quality buckles (below):
    Later in the 1960s, the Haffenden company launched a Junior version of the Britmarine Super mask.

    Britmarine mask (Super)
    Costing half the price of the adult and adolescent version, the Super Junior came with a split strap and a metal rim with top screw but without compensator bosses. Ear-clearing by squeezing nostrils through the mask skirt was for older age-groups!

    Next time we'll have a look at Britmarine snorkels and combined snorkel masks of the late 1960s. Stay tuned!
    АлександрД likes this.
  10. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    On to Haffenden breathing tubes of the late 1960s. We'll start with the Clipper range above.

    Clipper tube
    As you can see from the Britmarine catalogue image above, the term "wide bore" meant very different internal diameters back then and nowadays. The traditional "J" shape was capped at the supply end with a sliding valve. Colours were blue and safety yellow to match masks and fins in the Clipper range.

    The Clipper Tube was tested for an August 1965 Which? consumer report on masks and snorkels. Here is how the "Clipper Neptune", as it was then called, fared in comparison with other breathing tubes of the day:

    Haffenden's breathing tube with its sliding valve survived into the 1970s, but only just. Here is its short-lived successor, the C113 Seacrest:
    Its product description read: "C133 Seacrest Snorkel. Snorkel fitted with free moving uncrushable polystyrene float valve and comfortable soft rubber mouthpiece."

    We'll move on next to the snorkels in Haffenden's late-1960s Britmarine range.

Share This Page