SDC10184 (2)

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.

SDC10214 (2)

Advertisements

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.

SDC10136 (2)

SDC10138 (2)

SDC10141 (2)

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.

kit

Berghaus the outdoor clothing/equipment people are running an online competition at the moment based around the question – “What does adventure mean to you?”

Competition aside, it’s a question that interests me because I think my life is one where we seek adventure albeit at a low level, lower even than Alastair Humprey’s Micro Adventures. Nano-Adventures perhaps.

I say we because Little Boots is most often my partner in action where adventuring is concerned. So undoubtedly the place to start with that question, as far as I’m concerned was to put it to Little Boots.

The answer I got was –

“Bushcraft and tying knots and things. And firecraft. And setting up camp.”

An interesting answer. We have probably used the word bushcraft whilst wombling around and doing stuff in the woods. Tying knots is something LB has been interested in for a while, and is accentuated by the current craze for loom bands. Firecraft is a word I’d never use, and I think must have come from the Bear Grylls book that LB takes on every camping trip.

But it’s good to know that my child equates the word adventure with being outside, and doing outdoorsy stuff.

For my part I would answer the question “What does adventure mean to you?” by saying it’s something to do with the spirit of life itself. The things that make you glad you are alive, even if they are tough going along the way. The things that make up for all the rubbish of modern times we have to endure.

Recent adventures include a hilly, five-mile yomp through woods and fields to a remote pub with a wood-fired pizza oven, another trip where we slipped across a railway at a crossing that I’m still unsure we should have used and battled through chest-high nettles the other side, a three a.m start to cycle to the water on the opening day of the fishing season and a virtually sleepless night in a small tent in the woods during the worst thunderstorm to hit the county for a good few years.

Fun, exciting and perhaps slightly dangerous experiences that will live in the mind as well as the heart for a long, long time.

That’s what adventure means to me.

milk

While I don’t bother with New Year’s resolutions, I have this year made a decision that I plan to stick with through 2014 and beyond.

It is to take my camera with me as much as is possible, or perhaps that should be as much as is sensible. I used to carry it a lot, but somehow got out of the habit and since I don’t have a camera on my ancient phone I’ve missed a few things I’d have liked to have snapped.

One was a simple and vibrant piece of street art on some phone boxes near Charing Cross.

The day I remembered to stick my camera in my pocket I found that the authorities had begun painting it over. That made me reach my decision right away.

As is often the case with these sort of things since I’ve had the thing with me, there’s been nothing worth capturing.

However last Thursday I fleetingly took this photo on a different phone box.

At first I thought it was a drawing, but I see now that it’s a sticker. What it’s about I’ve no idea, but things like this always interest me (as several of my blog posts will attest) and it reminded me of a comic strip called Milk and Cheese that used to be in Deadline.

Man I loved Deadline.

You will notice that I keep my blog roll small.

I won’t bore you with the rationale behind that, but it’s interesting to note that two of the sites I link to have recently received trial down-filled clothing from Uniqlo. Here and Here.

Like Paul Kirtley I’ve seen the adds on the London Underground and have wondered whether the gear was any good.

Now I’m wondering where’s my trial garment!

aussie knot

This is a funny little knot.

I’ve no idea what its real name is. There will be at least two. All knots have a minimum of two names. It’s a bit like (but isn’t) a half-hitch I’ve decided after looking in a book I’ve got.

I have called it the Aussie Noose because I noticed at the weekend when I was desperately flicking through the TV channels for something to watch and I came to a programme where someone had been hung in Australia 100 years ago. I was about to flick on when I noticed the rope. It was tied in what didn’t look like a noose and was, I thought, just a loop that someone had tied just to give the semblance of one. To me it looked like a Granny Knot.

Being mildly obsessed by knots at the moment I made a quick sketch of it, before carrying on channel-hopping. Later I picked up a piece of string and tried reconstructing it. Luckily it had been tied rather loosely on telly, as captured in my sketch, and I was able to do so fairly easily.

It’s a simple knot and, (I was surprised to discover) is a slip-knot, so could function as a noose. But probably not one that’s easy to get off afterwards. As you will see it’s based on a simple overhand knot. Then the free end is looped around the other and tucked back under itself. It’s then simply a matter of pulling on all four strands (A, B, C, D) that exit the knot, to tighten it.