World War I saw a great number of “firsts” in combat that needed to be addressed because conventional warfare had never dealt with such things before. Namely, this includes poison gas, tanks, airplanes, etc.
Trench warfare was not new, but it certainly came of age during the “War to End All Wars.” Periscopes served a vital role in allowing soldiers to see above their trench out into “No Man’s Land” without sticking their head up and making them vulnerable to sniper fire.
This worked to see the field of battle, but it didn’t provide a way to fire at the enemy from the safe confines of the trench and actually be able to see where you were shooting.
That’s where Charles John Cooke comes on the scene. Cooke was a British subject residing in Hong Kong during the war and he invented a contraption that remedied the problem of being able to see and being able to shoot, but not being able to do both.
In the spring of 1916, he patented a device that acted as a monopod, anchoring a pistol to the floor of the trench. Attached horizontally was another brace that stuck into the wall of the trench on one side and was braced against the shooter’s shoulder on the other side. Rising from the monopod was an exceptionally long extended magazine inserted into a pistol that would rise just above the top of the trench.
Attached to the magazine was a traditional periscope that rose up behind the pistol and allowed the shooter to look down the sights on the slide of the gun. A pulley attached to the trigger with a ring extending down to the shooter allowed the soldier to fire the pistol while still concealed in the trench.
I’ve never seen one of these devices or even heard of one being used in the trenches, but it’s certainly an interesting design that proves necessity to be the mother of invention.
Logan Metesh is a firearms historian and consultant who runs High Caliber History LLC. Click here for a free 3-page download with tips about caring for your antique and collectible firearms.