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RAF / RN Chinagraph Pencils (Cold War era) for Kneeboards

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RAF / RN Chinagraph Pencils (Cold War era) for Kneeboards

Old 20th Sep 2018, 20:24
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Question RAF / RN Chinagraph Pencils (Cold War era) for Kneeboards

Hi all,

I'm researching British flying clothing and equipment through the 50's to 80's for some web pages I've been writing to share my research, and this is a little detail I can't find any information on! I have a small collection, and thought I'd best document what I learn about it as I have a tendency to forget the details!

Can anyone shed any light on the specific Chinagraph pencils issued by the RAF / RN for use on kneebards in the RAF during the cold war era?

Were they a commercially available pencil? If so, which brand? What did they look like? Were they marked with Stores Ref Section numbers? What colours were they issued in? (And more questions along these lines!)

Does anyone have any knocking about form those days that they'd be willing to part with? I'd love to put one with my Mk2/2A and Mk4/4A flying coveralls, they would look much better with the right item in the pencil pocket! I also put my gear on show in Newark Air Museum once a year, so it'd go to some public use too if I can find one (or two)!

Do modern day aircrew still use these pencils or similar, or is there something else in use these days?

Many thanks, Scott.
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Old 20th Sep 2018, 20:32
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They were a plastic body you could put a lead in and screw out with the screw on the top like a propelling pencil, see

https://picclick.co.uk/Single-Milita...227087531.html

https://www.worthpoint.com/worthoped...ator-424002585

ones we had didn't have the clip on them as it was a fod hazard.

probably have one lying about at work still.

think they were normally red or balck
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Old 20th Sep 2018, 20:42
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Hi NutLoose,

Thank you! I now know what I'm looking for! I was expecting a wooden pencil!

Which era / decades were these typical for?

Many thanks again! Scott.
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Old 20th Sep 2018, 20:50
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Originally Posted by ScottBouch View Post
Hi NutLoose,

Thank you! I now know what I'm looking for! I was expecting a wooden pencil!

Which era / decades were these typical for?

Many thanks again! Scott.
They were in use throughout my time flying : 1973-1995
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Old 20th Sep 2018, 20:54
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Thanks Timelord, that's really helpful!

Cheers, Scott.
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Old 20th Sep 2018, 20:57
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In an AP about Mk2 / Mk4 coveralls, I read that the shoulder pencil pocket could also be used for a pencil torch.

Any gen on these? Were they issued? If so, same questions as per the pencils please!

Cheers, Scott.
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Old 20th Sep 2018, 20:57
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I will have a look, it might be a bit tatty but you can have it, doubt it has any lead in it though
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Old 20th Sep 2018, 20:59
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You are welcome, Some people drilled holes in the top to attach it to the knee board with string, to stop it dropping into the cockpit.
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Old 20th Sep 2018, 21:07
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Thank you NutLoose, that's very kind! Old and tatty is fine, as it shows real service life! I'll PM my email address... - Ah, I can't for some reason.. my email address can be found here: http://scottbouch.com/contact.html

Ah Timelord, yes, you've brought back a memory! I somewhere have a piece of white elastic with aluminum eyelets at the ends, that I believe to be for this purpose...
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Old 20th Sep 2018, 21:32
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Hi Scott,
I was at Eastern Radar (civil) during the 1980s,and we used these chinagraph pencils for writing on the 'edge-lit board',and also on the radar screen itself - there was no label display in those days,and we were presented with essentially a primary radar display,so in order to retain 'idents',it was necessary to write a/c callsigns on the tube.As it was overwhelmingly an RAF unit,I imagine they supplied the pencils,and they also provided the rolls of 4"x2" cloth (really meant for cleaning rifle barrels ) used for wiping it clear..As we were writing on dark backgrounds,our 'leads' were actually yellow or white,and the plastic pencils themselves were either red or yellow.When Eastern Civil closed,I grabbed a handful of these as they were surplus to requirements,and if you send me your address via PM,I'll post you one of each colour,new and unused.I've seen your display at Newark,and found it unusual &interesting.

Last edited by ex82watcher; 20th Sep 2018 at 22:11. Reason: typo
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Old 20th Sep 2018, 21:35
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I had to hang up my flying suit in 1999 following a final failed medical. In the pocket are two Chinagraph pencils so probably modern at that time one blue and one red. Made by Staedtler and embossed with "omnichrom and 108-2 for the red and omnichrome 108-3 for the blue both wooden. If any use PM me.

Last edited by DODGYOLDFART; 20th Sep 2018 at 21:51.
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Old 20th Sep 2018, 21:36
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Thank you ex82watcher! How very kind! PM coming up!

Glad you've seen my stuff at Newark, for a niche subject it's amazing how many people take a liking to it!
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Old 20th Sep 2018, 21:47
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Originally Posted by ScottBouch View Post
Hi NutLoose,

Thank you! I now know what I'm looking for! I was expecting a wooden pencil!

Which era / decades were these typical for?

Many thanks again! Scott.
Chinagraphs were wooden in my time (1959-73), painted the same colour as the crayon contained. Sorry, all mine now long gone to the great nav bag in the sky.
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Old 20th Sep 2018, 21:52
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Actually, these things were everywhere, aircrew used them for knee pads, controllers on radar screens, ops on tote boards and every ops desk was covered in Perspex so China graph notes, scribbles and doodles were all over them. And if you happened to need to note a phone number in the bar one evening........
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Old 21st Sep 2018, 06:53
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Quite agree, Timelord, and the way the RAF was run in the immediate pre-digital age. I hope that the historians have fully understood that this cheap disposable item was absolutely crucial to our operation, along with the sheets of Perspex which could cover entire walls (and of course the Ops/Admin Boards beneath the sheets).
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Old 21st Sep 2018, 07:28
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And how many times were cheques and other documents written in reverse after a day at work?
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Old 21st Sep 2018, 08:13
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Hi all,

Thank you guys for the interest and help on this!

I've started to put together a bit of a rough timeline based on your service dates:

Chugalug2: 1959 to 1973, Wooden, painted the same colour as the crayon contained
Timelord: 1973 to 1995, Plastic - confirmed by ex82watcher: 1980's, Plastic
DODGYOLDFART: 1999, Wooden, Staedtler omnichrom 108

I wonder what current aircrew fly with? Are the Staedtler pencils still the thing?

Excuse the question, but what would you typically note down on a knee board anyway? Would it depend on the type of flight? Would you make notes there pre-flight, or during?

Cheers, Scott.
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Old 21st Sep 2018, 08:21
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Originally Posted by DODGYOLDFART View Post
I had to hang up my flying suit in 1999 following a final failed medical. In the pocket are two Chinagraph pencils so probably modern at that time one blue and one red. Made by Staedtler and embossed with "omnichrom and 108-2 for the red and omnichrome 108-3 for the blue both wooden. If any use PM me.
Hi DODGYOLDFART, these are still on staedtler's website, do yours from the late 90's look the same? https://www.staedtler.us/en/products...non-permanent/
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Old 21st Sep 2018, 08:42
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There were 'wooden' pencils with chinagraph 'leads' and string that unwound to uncover new lead at the UAS/AEF I spent time at during the late 90s.
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Old 21st Sep 2018, 08:45
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Many years ago (Cold War), most flying squadrons and stations ran on ops boards generously coated with Chinagraph. All the information was tracked that way, crew and aircraft status, progress through training serials, tasking, flypros, weather etc. I observed to a colleague that all the Sovs needed to do to ensure victory was to develop a bomb that would erase Chinagraph, denying us all our normal information. And if they wanted to be doubly sure, arriving at 1800 on a Friday would also help!
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