I started in the late 60's much to my parents' dismay. I obtained a 2nd pattern Heer tropical pith helmet from an old man in Mexico for 2 dollars or so and brought it home to Hollywood from a trip with an uncle. Being Jewish (and having lost relatives in Austria and Germany to Hitler's thugs), my parents did not like the swastikas in the house, but they were very understanding when I explained that I was fascinated by history. I had always watched war movies and documentaries and dreamed of obtaining TR headgear. I believe my interest in this stuff goes back about 45 years now. The chance finding of the Tropical helmet was the catalyst that began a hobby which is now into its 5th decade. Unfortunately, I am going to start from scratch now as I do not have a single item left from my collection. I lost items to moves, theft, need to sell when I was broke and to my mom throwing out many items while I was in the Army. I need to find a lady who is as interested in this stuff as I am. A rare bird, indeed.
Too bad you lost your collection. My moms lady friend lost her dads medical corps items during a big move. It is pretty hard to believe 50 years ago, you could get that stuff for a couple of dollars.
I started when I was 10, collecting WW2 RAF items. My Dad was in the RAF and had many sources.
Unfortunately I sold them all to fund my flying lessons when I was 19
I didnt start collecting again until a few years ago with a TR focus
"In all my years as a soldier, I have never seen men fight so hard." - SS Obergruppenfuhrer Wilhelm Bittrich - Arnhem
That's interesting... I was going to post the very same question! So, instead, here's my story...
My interest in WW11 paraphernalia began back in the early 1950s in New Malden, Surrey, England... I happened to live close to a WW2 'ammo dump', and as a small kid, this hidden and fenced off area was just about the best place I had ever seen!
It was an area about the size of a football field which was piled sky high with the most amazing collection of WW11 equipment... high above our heads army vehicles of every description were stacked on top of each other, while down below narrow lanes and pathways ran between them; these were filled to overflowing with tank tracks, flame-throwers, shells, bombs, old radios, headphones, ammo boxes, tins... etc. etc. and, there were many strange and unrecognizable things of every shape and size, wrapped in greaseproof brown paper.. all of which oozed thick, sticky grease if you tried to open them. The memory of the overall smell of diesel, grease, and hot metal under the summer sun has stayed with me all my life...
Each time my mates and I went to play there we would collect as many "finders-keepers" things as we could carry before heading home. I can remember walking home with a bomb under each skinny arm and my pockets filled with so many small items that my trousers wouldn't stay up! We didn't realize at the time that the shells and bombs were deactivated, so we were always warning each other on the way home... "Whatever you do... don't drop it!" My bedroom was filled with shells and bombs... my favorite bomb being one with lovely fins which were painted bright yellow, and I used to keep that one right next to my head on my bedside cupboard! I have no idea what on earth my mother thought of all this... and even more perplexing is, I have no idea what became of my amazing collection. How I have often wished that I still had it!
Eventually, everything seems to have been thrown out or swapped... the ammo dump disappeared... I grew up... but... the love of war relics has stayed with me all my life... and that smell of diesel and grease... well, to quote Crocodile Dundee, it's as good as that "Channel number 5" to me!
Nice story. I know of a military dump(dating to WW2) in my state, but it is a restricted area. I don't feel like getting shot anytime soon!
Yes, we were lucky because, apart from a fence that was easy to climb over, there wasn't a soul around or any form of security in those days. There were so many reminders of the war all around us then anyway, it didn't seem such a big deal to be stealing old equipment... you could actually still find plenty of it laying around if you knew where to look. The war was still so fresh in everyone's minds, not to mention all the vacant lots where houses had been bombed, shrapnel embedded in walls everywhere, even most workmen seemed to be dressed partly in old army uniforms... and of course, just about every other movie on TV was a war movie.
Now of course, it's a completely different story! Just imagine little kids playing around in a modern ammo dump... or heaven forbid, taking home a few keepsakes!
my interest started when i was 5 years old. my grandfather, who collected motorcycles, showed me his folding army bike. when he saw that i liked it and the history behind it, he went out and bought me a 2 dollar surplus camo hat from the late 80s or early 90s that i ended up wearing every day for a year or so. ive been hooked ever since then. ill post a pic of it when i get back home : )
Looking for WWII U.S. dog tags
started collecting soldier stuff (little aifix soldiers) when i first saw the VIC MORROW -COMBAT TV SHOW when i was 8 years old....just liked the look of uniforms and what they meant.
I hear ya Aussielad...I think that others who enjoy our hobby can also say that there was something about the look of military uniforms and gear that contributed to "drawing us in". I firmly believe that many of the most recent/new age collectors were most likely drawn to the hobby from watching all of the hollywood style war movies such as Band of Brothers etc. Im not knocking B of Bro's (i love it too) but I find it kinda sad that it takes movies of combat scenes and such for the younger modern crowd to even be remotely interested in the History of it all. But I guess if thats what it takes for them to learn from our history, then so be it.
I first got the itch when my Grandfather, who was in the US Navy Seabees in the Pacific during ww2 gave me his personal Scrapbook. It contains letters and postcards to and from him that he glued to the scrapbook in dated order as well as some photos and other neat stuff in it. I read the whole thing and was hooked from then on. Heres a couple pics of it (the patch on it isnt part of the scrapbook). It even had some ration cards loose inside of it and some vehicle registration cards from the 40s.