Sunday, 15 February 2015

Dressmakers Switch to Lifejackets

From The Times, 15th February, 1915. 



The German threat to sink, without warning, every British merchant vessel, on and after Thursday next, gives an added interest to devices for saving life at sea.  At least three varieties of garments designed for this purpose—Gieve’s waistcoat, the Boddy jacket, and the Miranda waistcoat—have been tested and adopted by the Admiralty, and there is evidence that some of the survivors of the Formidable owe their lives to one or other of these devices.

Recently large contracts for Miranda waistcoats have been given by the Admiralty to three of the leading London drapers.  Messrs. Peter Robinson (Limited) have received an order for some thousands, and at their factory in Little Portland-street the waistcoats are now being turned out at the rate of about a thousand a week.  About 200 girls who in normal times would be engaged in making mantles and dresses are employed upon the work.

The Miranda waistcoat, as made for the Admiralty, is of blue dungaree lined with holland, and derives its buoyancy from a quilted padding of kapok. This, it may be explained, is a soft, silky, elastic fibre found in the fruit pods of Eriodendum anfractuosum, the silk cotton tree.  For a long time the flossy kapok was used for stuffing cushions and upholstery, for which purpose its elasticity made it specially suitable.  Of late years, however, its extreme buoyancy has brought it into use for life-belts and similar apparatus.

Exactly 1lb. of kapok is used in each waistcoat, all except 2oz. being in the front and the mass being so distributed that the greater portion covers the upper part of the chest.  By this means, whether the wearer be conscious or not, and whether he fall into the water head foremost or otherwise, his face is brought above the surface.  The total weight of the waistcoat is about 2lb. 6oz. 

[Don't you love it that The Times tells us the botanical name of the tree that produces kapok?]

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