• 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

    1,886
    1,359
    113
    The C110 Seadiver "combined mask & snorkel" also featured a sliding float valve. This model was a combination of the Clipper Sealion mask
    c106-sealion-png.466057.png
    and the Clipper Seacrest tube.
    c113-seacrest-png-464274-png.469667.png


    C110 Seadiver Combined Mask & Snorkel
    c110-jpg.464317.jpg
    C110-Seadiver.png
    The product description read: "C110 Seadiver Combined Mask & Snorkel. Designed for the beginner, with plastic lens and toughened plastic band for added safety. Fitted with fully adjustable head straps and free moving uncrushable polystyrene float valve." The supply end of the integrated snorkel was capped with a sliding valve closing when the user swam beneath the surface of the water. The demand end passed inside the mask through the top of the skirt. The intersection between the mask and the tube was reinforced to prevent separation and the basic headstrap came with extra strapping to form a harness for added security.

    Like the Seacrest snorkel, the Seadiver Combined Mask & Snorkel was the short-lived successor to a Clipper product from the 1960s, in this case the "Clipper Combined":
    britmarine_1960s_late_4b-jpg.464316.jpg
    An even earlier version of this integrated snorkel mask came without the head harness:
    vintage-britmarine-clipper-diving_360_f6f9ec780bac5a7c6bee9765dde5b2ad-jpg.464319.jpg
    s-l16001b-jpg.464318.jpg

    Next up for review will be the 1970s Britmarine range of snorkels, all of which were valveless. Production of the Britmarine Combined Mask and Tube from the 1960s (below) was discontinued before the 1970s came round.
    britmarine_1960s_late_4a-png.464312.png
     
  2. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    1,886
    1,359
    113
    Today's third posting focuses on one of the snorkels in the 1970s Britmarine range of breathing tubes, the B111 Turtle.

    B111 Turtle Snorkel

    B111_Turtle.jpg B111-Turtle.png
    B111-Turtle-2.png
    B111-Turtle-3.png
    The catalogue description reads: "B111 Turtle Flexible Snorkel. Designed for recreational diver to withstand vigorous wear. Open ended with wide bore flexible tube and combination U bend and mouthpiece in comfortable soft rubber for easy air intake."

    While at first glance the Turtle is the very model of the standard J-shaped snorkel, its individual features signal a growing awareness of human factors perhaps neglected in earlier times. For example, the bright orange band around the top of the tube is there to alert other water users to the snorkeller's presence. A flexible barrel unencumbered with valves increases resilience and reduces risk of entanglement with aquatic plants. A one-piece U-shaped rubber elbow with mouthpiece facilitates adjustability for comfortable mouth wear. Later versions of the rubber elbow came with an eye on the bottom (see image above) for attachment of a neck cord or lanyard to prevent loss during use and to suspend the snorkel during drying and storage.

    To finish off, here are a couple of pictures of Turtle snorkels being auctioned alongside Britmarine masks and fins:
    $_65.JPG $_86.JPG

    So that's all I have to say for today. Half-a-dozen Britmarine snorkel models to go now, then we'll move on to a new thread focusing on basic gear made and sold by other British diving equipment manufacturers operating during the middle decades of the twentieth century.
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2018
  3. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    1,886
    1,359
    113
    On to the next batch of Britmarine snorkels from the 1970s. The first of today's trio is the B112 Marina.

    B112 Marina Snorkel
    B112_Marina.jpg B112-Marina.png
    B112-Marina-2.png
    B112-Marina-3.png
    The earliest catalogue caption read: "B112 Marina Rigid Snorkel. A universally popular open ended snorkel, fitted with a soft rubber mouthpiece and ideal for the beginner and expert alike." The breathing tube earned a two-word description in later catalogues: "Rigid snorkel". The Marina was a simple, no-nonsense snorkel with a "J"-shaped plastic barrel with a bright orange band around the open supply end of the tube to alert other water users to the snorkeller's presence and with a traditional rubber mouthpiece at the demand end.

    Here's one that appeared on an auction site in recent years:
    $T2eC16d,!zQE9s3stYwPBRzW-os2Jw~~60_58.JPG
    The matching blue open-heel fins and plastic-rimmed mask come from the Haffenden stable too. Can you identify the models in question from the earlier messages in this thread? :)
     
  4. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    1,886
    1,359
    113
    And here's the second of today's offerings, the B120 Britmarine Starfish Snorkel.

    B120 Starfish Snorkel
    B120_Starfish.jpg B120-Starfish.png
    B120-Starfish-2.png
    B120-Starfish-3.png
    The first catalogue description: "B120 Starfish Snorkel. A snorkel with a perfect contour design for the experienced user and with a soft rubber mouthpiece for maximum comfort and easier breathing." Subsequent versions read: "B120 Starfish Snorkel. Contoured design. Flexible mouthpiece." A contoured design represented a shift away from Haffenden's previously traditional snorkel configurations and a nod in the direction of the newer "wraparound" style of breathing tube gaining in popularity during the 1970s.
     
  5. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    1,886
    1,359
    113
    The third model today is the B124 Britmarine Walrus Snorkel.

    B124 Britmarine Walrus Snorkel
    B124_Walrus.jpg B124-Walrus.png
    B124-Walrus-2.png
    B124-Walrus-3.png
    First catalogue caption: "B124 Walrus Rigid Snorkel. Perfect for the enthusiast or the seasoned diver. Soft and flexible rubber mouthpiece that reduces mouth and jaw fatigue. Fitted with extra wide bore rigid PVC tube for easy breathing." Later versions: "B124 Walrus Rigid Snorkel. Flexible mouthpiece."

    This model causes a feeling of "déjà vu" when it appears on the same catalogue page as the B111 Turtle below.
    b111_turtle-jpg.469684.jpg
    The difference between the two snorkels appears to lie in the characteristics of their barrels. While the B111 Turtle featured a flexible tube, the B124 Walrus came with a rigid one. Both models were fitted with a one-piece U-shaped soft and flexible rubber elbow with mouthpiece allowing adjustability for mouth comfort.

    We'll move on soon to the final three snorkels in the 1970s Britmarine range.
     
  6. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    1,886
    1,359
    113
    We're now down to the last three Haffenden snorkels. They were all relative latecomers to the Britmarine stable, absent from the first catalogue of the 1970s. Let's begin with the B132 Porpoise.

    B132 Porpoise Snorkel
    B132-Porpoise.png
    The catalogue description reads: "B132 Porpoise Snorkel. Extra wide bore. Distinctive fluorescent stripe." The Porpoise only appeared in the second of the three Britmarine catalogue of the 1970s. It bears a resemblance to the 1015 Big Bore snorkel manufactured by Colin Glass's Guernsey Sous Marine company, also marketed during the 1970s:
    Big_Bore_cat79.png
    In both cases, the key feature was the extra-large internal barrel diameter, providing greater airflow. Their L-shaped rubber elbow with integrated mouthpiece eliminated the usual depth of tubing below head level, reducing water drag and resistance to breathing while aiding in water expulsion. Unlike the Sous Marine Big Bore, however, the Britmarine Porpoise barrel was straight, not wraparound, in shape.
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2018
    Sam Miller III likes this.
  7. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    1,886
    1,359
    113
    The second Haffenden breathing tube to be reviewed today is the B135 Conger, which appeared in the second and third Britmarine catalogues of the 1970s.

    B135 Conger Snorkel

    B135-Conger.png
    B135-Conger-2.png
    Product description: "B135 Conger Snorkel. Flexible mouthpiece. Distinctive fluorescent stripe." The "distinctive fluoresecent stripe" relates this snorkel's design to the short-lived Porpoise reviewed in the previous message. Otherwise the catalogue reader is left with a sense of "déjà vu - again", a phrase I abhor from a language pedantry perspective, but this wording does seem somewhat appropriate here. Compare the Conger with the Turtle and the Walrus snorkels below:
    b111_turtle-jpg.469684.jpg
    b124_walrus-jpg.470401.jpg
    There seems to be little or no difference between the three models in shape and both the Conger and the Turtle have flexible mouthpieces.
     
    Sam Miller III likes this.
  8. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    1,886
    1,359
    113
    The third and final 1970s Haffenden snorkel for consideration today is the B33 Mariner. Its key feature was the combination of the mouthpiece with a flexible hose that dropped out of the way when not in use.

    B33 Mariner Snorkel
    B33-Mariner.png
    B33-Mariner-2.png
    Catalogue caption: "B33 Mariner Snorkel. Concertina snorkel." This accordion-type breathing tube design was supposed to benefit scuba divers, who wanted their snorkel to be within reach but out of the way when not in use. The design dates back long before the 1970s. In an interview reproduced online at Fathoms Online Magazine for underwater enthusiasts, Scubapro co-founder Dick Bonin claims to have been the inventor of the first "flexible snorkel": "We brought out the first flexible snorkel. In Chicago, they used to sell surplus aircraft parts so I took a hose and put it on a snorkel tube, and I never forgot that. Swimaster priced it at $2.95 and everyone said we were out of our minds, but we sold them like crazy."
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2018
    Sam Miller III likes this.
  9. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    1,886
    1,359
    113
    So much for the fins, masks and snorkels manufactured by the Haffenden company in the Kentish town of Sandwich in the south-east of England between the 1950s and the 1970s. Many older British divers will have snorkelled with Britmarine and Clipper branded basic gear during their childhood and adolescence. Some American youngsters will have done so too unwittingly in the middle years of the twentieth century because Haffenden exported the same masks and fins with a different branding Stateside to equip fans of the TV series "Sea Hunt" who wanted to try out skin diving for themselves in the pool, lake or sea.

    The Haffenden company has long ceased trading. During its lifetime, it never advertised its presence in the British diving press. Britmarine and Clipper sub-aqua products were sold through sporting goods retail outlets rather than dive stores. During the 1970s, such merchandise could be found alongside other Haffenden moulded rubber goods, e.g. swimcaps and hot water bottles, at Britain's most famous pharmacy chain, Boots, which is now owned I think by Walgreens.

    I expect many reasons have been given for the demise of the company and the consequent discontinuation of the Britmarine and Clipper underwater swimming lines. My own take on this event is that the company chose new technology over customer loyalty, abandoning natural rubber as a raw material and plumping instead for thermoiplastic elastomers. The trouble was that Haffenden's clients liked their hot water bottles, fins and swimcaps made from natural rubber and deserted Haffenden when the company's synthetic rubber substitutes failed the popularity stakes. The Italian Mares company may have managed to beat these odds with their first composite diving fins, but the same technological change contributed to the death of a British firm that was once a household name throughout this green and pleasant land. A lesson to industry everywhere that customers should never be taken for granted when technological change beckons.

    This will be my last posting in this thread. In a few days' time I shall begin a new thread, the third and possibly last in the series dedicated to British basic diving gear of the mid twentieth century. The next thread will focus first on famous names such as Dunlop, Heinke and Siebe-Gorman, proceeding then to the minor league players in basic diving gear production at that time.
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2018
    Sam Miller III likes this.
  10. Sam Miller III

    Sam Miller III Scuba Legend Scuba Legend

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: CALIFORNIA: Where recreational diving began!
    4,865
    3,458
    113
    "This will be my last posting in this thread. In a few days' time I shall begin a new thread, the third and possibly last in the series dedicated to British basic diving gear of the mid twentieth century. The next thread will focus first on famous names such as Dunlop, Heinke and Siebe-Gorman, proceeding then to the minor league players in basic diving gear production at that time."
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Say it isn't so... I so enjoy reading your post on the evolutional and development European equipment.
    Sam Miller, 111
     
    David Wilson likes this.

Share This Page