As will soon become apparent Tuesday’s are secondhand market day in Huddersfield, which means I go hunting for militaria before work. As with all collecting there is a large element of luck and sometimes I will come back laden down with finds and sometimes go weeks without finding things. The summer is always more productive as market traders hit the bootsales and auctions in the good weather and bring their items in to sell to crazy folks like myself.
There are two ways to get a large and wide ranging collection, either go online and pay full whack for items on sites such as WD Militaria or Mons Military Antiques or put the hours in looking through boxes of junk to find that diamond in the rough. There is nothing wrong with the former approach, indeed I have been known to pay out for particularly rare items I really wanted online, but to me much of the fun is in the chase and finding that bargain, hence the second hand market. I intend to expand on this theme later, but for now lets look at the latest additions to the collection…
Military Engineering Book
One of the cheapest and easiest ways to get into collecting militaria is the military publication. These humble but fascinating items were produced in their millions to help instruct servicemen on everything from bayonet drill to military accounting. As they lack the presence of uniforms or weapons they are often overlooked and consequently go for only a few pounds. This example is a book to help guide engineers in building bridges and is full of complicated formulae and fold out plans of various bridges.
Interestingly this particular book is marked as having been printed in India.It is often forgotten that much of the armies in the South East Asian Command were reliant on the manufacturing capabilities of the Indian Empire. There was little enough shipping room to move troops and essential equipment without using valuable hold space for items that could be produced in theatre. I have always had a soft spot for Indian manufactured kit, but due to simple geography it is much harder to find than that produced in the UK.
WW1 Souvenir Cup
At the start of the First World War Britain’s souvenir industry quickly changed tack from making royal china and teacups with pictures of Blackpool Pier to making patriotic china to fuel the war fervour across the country. As these were made by private enterprise, thousands of different variations were manufactured by myriad suppliers, with the most popular to collectors being the ‘Goss’ style ornaments in the shape of tanks, caps, grenades and other war related items.
My find is more prosaic and is a small inch and a half high teacup with a (unfortunately damaged) transfer on the front depicting the flags of Britain, Belgium, Russia and France with a scroll reading ‘ For Right and Freedom’. Unfortunately it is missing the saucer, but it was £2.50 and a hundred years old so I’m not going to complain.
My final find of the morning is a rather crusty 1944 dated ammunition box. I rather like ammunition boxes, they are a substantial item with a lot of presence, are not ridiculously expensive for the most part and are very useful. I store a lot of my collection in mine and they make great ‘set dressing’ at re-enactment shows
This latest addition is marked B167 which apparently means it could be used to hold everything from 2″ mortar rounds to No69 grenades. Unfortunately this box has seen better days, but under the rust its still sound. The plan now is to sand it down and repaint the box in ‘Service Brown’ and then find somewhere to put it where it wont annoy my wife! I have added correct markings in the past and they do add something to the fininshed boxes, however making the stencils is a real pain so we shall see…