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An occasional series on a few of my favourite things.

This, like an earlier favourite thing, is a knife that I inherited from my grandfather.
Whilst that one was given to him by his father-in-law, this one is of less certain provenance. He never showed it to me when he was alive and it came to me when we were clearing the house after his death. I made the assumption since it was an old knife that he’d had it since he’d been a boy. After all for my generation, my father’s and beyond most boy’s aspired to own a sheath knife. And my grandfather had been in the Scouts and I knew that in the Thirties some Scouts carried a knife on their belts. A knife is after all an essential piece of outdoors kit.

Thus I thought no more of it until recently when I put the maker’s name through an internet search engine. (The details – Joseph Rodgers & Son, Cutlers to His Majesty, Sheffield, England do not show in the picture – the blade is stamped on the other side).

The result identified the knife as those issued to Auxiliary Units in WW2. This shadowy bunch of warriors was set up when the threat of Nazi invasion was very real. They were something like the Special Forces wing of the Home Guard: recruited with the specific intention of creating mayhem behind enemy lines, should Britain be invaded. Such was the secrecy surrounding these units, and so resolutely did those involved take their oath of secrecy, that very little is actually known about these units.

So whilst I was pleased to find out something about this knife I was faced with a number of questions.

Had my grandfather been in an Auxiliary Unit?

Is that why he was not called up at the earlier in the war?

If not, where had the knife come from?

I asked my mother if she knew anything of the knife’s history. She did not, but when I explained what I thought it was, commented that she’d always thought it unusual that he knew where all the defensive pillboxes were on the (local) Kennet and Avon canal.

From looking on the internet it would seem that the Auxiliary Units were all based in coastal counties which would put paid to any suggestion that my grandfather was a member of one. I think he probably picked it up somewhere, like a few other bits and pieces he had, however I guess I will never be certain.

So I have inherited a knife, a piece of British wartime history, and a mystery.

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In my last post I mentioned Bushcraft and Survival Skills magazine.
This is a publication I very much enjoy. Little Boots also likes it because it has features on tracking and as I have mentioned before, we are always on the look out for tracks and animal signs when out wombling in the countryside.

The September/October edition is out today and I’m delighted to say they have kindly published a short book review I did of Lost In The Jungle by Yossi Ghinsberg and since it’s on the very last page it’s nice and easy to find.

Last year I read Jungle Soldier Brian Moynihan’s fascinating biography of Freddie Spencer-Chapman, which I enjoyed, although I am still slightly perturbed by the sudden demise of the subject. He was a remarkable man.

I have been reading a few jungle-based adventures lately and so acquired a copy of Spencer-Chapman’s book The Jungle Is Neutral which I was reminded of by an article in Bushcraft and Survival magazine by SAS Handbook legend Lofty Wiseman, where it was referenced after the following statement:
“Survival is easy in the jungle and if you have a chance out of all the environments, sea, temperate, desert, arctic or jungle – choose the jungle.”

As an aside I also coincidentally stumbled across a site of the same name, which is interesting, but alas appears to have been discontinued.
The Jungle Is Neutral blog.

Now that is a small coincidence, and I have mentioned such things in previous posts, especially where they appear somewhat uncanny. And here is another.

Just as I started reading the Spencer-Chapman book I also started researching some of the background of Captain Gurowski who I posted about a short while.

Imagine my surprise then when just after I had learned that Captain Gurowski was apparently in France in early 1940 as part of a Scots Guards battalion that was learning to ski, I discovered, whilst reading the first few pages of his book, that Freddie Spencer-Chapman was one of the instructors brought in to train those troops at Chamonix, in Haute Savoie. He would therefore presumably have known Captain Gurowski.

This has inspired me to discover more about the Captain.

Last week Little Boots and I spent a couple of days on a wooded campsite. It was nice to get away, as life has felt rather too hectic of late, and great to spend some time outdoors.
We cooked over an open fire, whittled sticks (me an atlatl/LB somekind of ninja weapon), climbed trees and even rigged up a hammock using a tarp, paracord and walking poles.

I’m always astounded by LB’s climbing skills, but was also impressed that my child can now single-handedly pitch a tent, light a proper fire to cook on and self-administer first aid following a slip whilst whittling.

These are useful skills and things that no amount of time playing computer games can give you.

I am a very proud parent

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It is not often that those that are named on churchyard war memorials are buried within the same grounds. The reason being that service personnel are generally buried where they fall.

So I became curious when I spied a military headstone in a country churchyard not too far from where I live.

The memorial was for Scots Guard Captain R Gurowski, who died aged 30 on 2nd June 1940.

It would be interesting to learn his story.

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Last year, for the first time, I started a fire using just a piece of steel and a piece of flint. The steel I used was a chunk of old file and I enjoyed this challenge so much that i bought a proper firesteel for future use.

Now I should clarify here that by firesteel I mean a piece of hard steel fashioned for the purpose, rather than a ferrocium rod which some people call a firesteel.

“Ferrocerium is a man-made metallic material that gives off hot sparks at temperatures of 1,650 °C when scraped against a rough surface, such as ridged steel”.

It’s the same material as the “flint” in cigarette lighters and using a rod of the stuff to start a fire with is only marginally more difficult than a box of matches.

Having spent a few quid on my firesteel I wanted to protect it from rusting and also given its hook-shaped ends stop it from getting snagged on stuff.

So I made a little pouch for it, using (as before) the leather from a pair of gardening gloves from the Poundshop .

The “button” is a double-six domino piece that I found when camping last year. We pitched our tent as it was getting dusk and noticed a bit of rubbish, but it wasn’t till the next day that we saw the full extent. There were fag ends, bits of paper, food and loads of scarps of wood all over the pitch. Much as I hate clearing up after other people – or rather littering pigs – I did, over the couple of days, tidy it all away via the campfire and whilst doing so found the domino. It seemed like a nice little thing and so rather than bin it, thought I’d keep it as a good luck piece. After all a double six has to be lucky right?

So when I was making the firesteel pouch and pondering what to use as a fastening, the idea popped into my head to re-purpose it. A bead was needed, as a securing device, to complete the lace fastening and so I used one I had made from a piece of spalted birch.


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