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JB Howkins of Hoveton, near Norwich, sent in this photograph of an item he had always been told was “used on board ships to send sailors up aloft in a storm to reef sails”. It features lead ends covered with plaited twine.

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I was delighted to find some years ago a more exacting example, admittedly of only tangential relevance to my police truncheon collection, concealing a pointed steel blade, which – when extended – invited even more ‘encouragement’ than the example illustrated by Alan Sturrock in his letter.

Gavin Littaur

London NW4