As I have only been seriously collecting militaria for the last eight years or so, I find it hard to imagine a time before the Internet. It must have made life much harder for the keen collector to find rare pieces, chat with fellow collectors and research must have been much more problematic. Today I am going to look at a few of the most useful websites I use, I imagine that you will probably use some of these as well, but if you are starting out in the hobby, I hope they are of use.
Forums are both a blessing and a curse. You can guarentee that 80% of the time you will get a sensible answer to a query you post on them (and 90% of the time a stupid one as well). Forums allow collectors and reenactors to get in touch with one another and swap ideas, research and opinions. It is the opinions that make forums, converesly, dangerous. There are always posters who know just enough to confuse the matter, so use them with caution.
The two forums I frequent most often are the WW2 Reenactors forum http://wwiireenacting.co.uk/ and the Warrelics collectors site http://www.warrelics.eu/forum/ . Both have a pool of experts who answer queries and post quickly and regularly, however Warrelics is aimed more at the collector so instead of constant requests about who makes the best repro battledress there are more posts about original kit. In both forums, however, the focus is much more on American and German equipment than British and Commonwealth, which may just be a reflection on the make up of the collecting community. Personally I try and respond to others queries as well as post questions as I feel this is a fairer approach that helps others just as others help me.
The other great thing about forums, Warrelics especiallly, is that one or two very helpful posters put up informative posts packed with information and photos on obscure topics, for example this one on Cobalt Blue Waterbottles: http://www.warrelics.eu/forum/equipment-field-gear/distinguishing-cobalt-blue-mk-vi-mk-vii-water-bottles-433342/
If ever there was a model of a website designed by and for collectors, then this is the one: http://www.karkeeweb.com/ . Devoted to British Accoutrments, this website is insanely detailed, encourages original research and brings together collectors from across the world to pool their collections for the collecting community.
This is my first port of call if I am researching an item of leather or webbing personal equipment. It is not complete as it is a work in progress, but it covers all the major webbing equipments from 1900-1958 and shows variations, the items being used, fitting instructions and much more. The thing I like about it most though is the inclusive nature of the site. If you have a varient or unknown piece of webbing, you can email photos in and often they will publish them, citing you and your collection, if its something they haven’t covered yet.
The saddest part of the site however is that by covering one area of military equipment so well it highlights how bereft of information we are for many other types of equipment and uniforms.
There are many more useful sites to the collector and I will cover some of these in later posts.