Postwar cheap surplus store gear

Discussion in 'General Flight Jacket Discussion' started by Micawber, Jan 29, 2019.

  1. saucerfiend

    saucerfiend Active Member

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    Yea, Burt. I remember our old bud wanted it real bad but wanted one with a Talon zip, if you can believe that.
     
  2. Smithy

    Smithy Well-Known Member

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    That's an absolute ripper!
     
  3. Micawber

    Micawber Well-Known Member

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    Among the many photos saved on my HD originating from a local interest group for my old home town is this which shows a very well known local character who lived in an an old bus parked up on some wasteland that was awaiting redevelopment. He was there for a number of years in the '60's to '80's. By the time building work started he had acquired squatters rights so the local authority or site developer was forced to pay him a fairly handsome sum to move. With his payout he bought himself a brand new campervan and set up shop not that far away before permanently leaving the area for good.

    So here is the late Ginger Mills photographed by his bus sometime in the early '70's. The point of this post: The Irvin which I imagine he bought, or scrounged from one of the surplus shops or off the surplus traders on the market, maybe even from Millets store which was not far from where the photo was taken.

    Ginger, SA.jpg


    And by coincidence here he is again right outside the old Millets shop which sometimes stocked old surplus gear.

    Ginger Mills, Evening Echo 1970's.jpg

    Bit of a contentious character who was always around the town and still well remembered there despite passing away elsewhere quite a number of years ago.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2019 at 4:41 PM
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  4. Smithy

    Smithy Well-Known Member

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    That bus has seen better days but then probably so had Ginger!

    It's characters like that which make a place. Growing up there used to be this old bum who used to hang around the shops up from my old school. He stunk like a polecat but used to get the odd thing from the butcher and the hot bread shop. He was there for donkeys years and was a really lovely old bugger and was nice to us kids, but you had to be upwind of him. He used to try and help ladies with their shopping and that sort of thing. When he kicked the bucket everybody was shocked to hear that he was actually a millionaire, the heir to quite a large fortune. For whatever reason the old boy had given two fingers to that and decided to live life differently.
     
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  5. MikeyB-17

    MikeyB-17 Well-Known Member

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    See, again, Millets. Another one which turned into a camping shop, as most surplus places seem to have done. We had a few places down our way, although I never saw any Irvins for sale. Now all they sell is camping odds and sods and the occasional horrible MA-1 copy.
     
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  6. Micawber

    Micawber Well-Known Member

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    He was certainly a character and many people still have strong opinions about him, so much so we called a halt to any further discussion regarding him. Living immediately behind the shops meant he was a permanent fixture in and around the town, usually with an ever changing entourage of teenage girls. Saint or sinner he was a man of his time ...and I never did get back the tow rope he borrowed from me.

    A later residence complete with washing hung out to dry.
    Ginger Mill's old coach, Gentles Yard, SA.jpg

    For years the Millets in the town was run by a formidable lady who always, always had a cigarette on the go. The place was crammed with a mixture of military surplus gear, webbing, helmets, caps, new denim, leathers, parkas you name it. It would be impossible to have a place so full of stock on rough two tier wooden rails, in boxes, in piles on the floor and stacked up the stairs as the fire safety, insurance and health and safety would come down on it like a ton of bricks. I think virtually everyone who wanted one bought their rabbit fur trimmed hooded parkas from there back in the day but as you say slowly the genuine surplus dwindled as did the leathers etc to be replaced with camping paraphernalia, flimsy orange cagoules and the like.
     
  7. Obscurator

    Obscurator Member

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    Does anyone remember Laurence Corner, off the Euston Road? I used to buy genuine British surplus stuff there in the 60s and 70s before they went a bit "camping and outdoor shop". They had a line where they took genuine German WW2 leather overcoat, of the sort you could buy in the Sixties for pin money in the Amsterdam flea market, cut them off at the waist and relined them with sheepskin to make fake flying jackets.

    There was also an excellent surplus store by the bridge in Lowestoft, where we used to buy tank aerials to turn into spinning rods. I also had a pair of RN sailor's bell-bottoms, complete with fall-front, from there. A girl I knew who was handy with a needle took them in between the waist and knee for a more trendy Swinging Sixties look, suitable for an art student.

    Then there were demob suits from the old clothes shops, which were low grade clothing when dished out. I still have some bits, including genuine Utility shirts, and the quality is more Saville Row than Primark.

    The stuff was everywhere, and I can't recall any aspect of day to day life between about 1950-1980 which didn't involve using something surplus, and not just clothing. I'm still using the WW2 webbing small packs from the CCF that somehow left school with me, along with several tins of Pickerings blanco.
     
  8. Micawber

    Micawber Well-Known Member

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    Yes I remember Lawrence Corner, one of the many who advertised in Exchange & Mart. I would buy E&M every Thursday morning and scour the pages of ex military gear for bargains of which there were plenty and cheap too.
    I already mentioned the place tucked away on the Old Kent Road who sold all sorts of gear none of which was more than a few quid. Caps and helmets were less than a quid but some of the stuff needed fumigating while other was mint unissued.
    Silverman's usually had a large advert but I rarely bought from them.
     
  9. johnwayne

    johnwayne Well-Known Member

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    Certainly remember Laurence Corner, went there a few times in the hope of perhaps finding an A2 before I knew it was called an A2! Then I'd hack off up to Islington and ogle the always too small A2's you occasionally found in Camden Passage that price wise were out of my league, before going to Chris Farlow's shop 'A Call to Arms' and ogle the window displays of mainly Nazi gear, although he did have other militaria stuff of note. Chris Farlow of course was a 60's 'one hit wonder' to many but in truth a good blues rocker with his band, The Thunderbirds!!! Yes like you Micawber, E&M was a regular Thurs purchase, scouring the Militaria section and actually where I saw an ad for repro A2's from 'We'll Meet Again' TV series (about an 8th AF base in East Anglia) for about £80 I think and poor by today's offerings. Subsequently replaced by my ELC house that I still have.
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2019 at 4:53 AM
  10. Micawber

    Micawber Well-Known Member

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    Back in the 60's and early 70's the E&M was a must. Some of the content was plain weird and I could not manage the small columns without my specs now! I bought stacks of gear via it's pages. There was nothing else like it. The vehicle columns were brilliant just a two line ad would have me scurrying off to view this or that wreck lol.
    Fun times.
     
  11. Southoftheborder

    Southoftheborder Active Member

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    There was a shop a couple of doors down the side street from Laurence Corner run by a couple of old girls that still had genuine WW2 surplus when LC was mostly selling repro gear. Even as late as the early eighties they still had a big box full of unissued Irvin trousers and boxes of land army shirts and breeches.
     
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  12. Obscurator

    Obscurator Member

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    I too bought various stuff from the pages of E&M, especially leather jackets, but it always seemed a bit of a gamble; either "pups" or "pearls". The Trade Descriptions Act had no place there, for sure.
     
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  13. Micawber

    Micawber Well-Known Member

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    Expanding this and going off at a tangent somewhat: An ex railways station, again my old home town, was the site of Chris Wilkinson's military vehicle surplus yard which probably started in the 1960's after the Beeching rail cuts closed the line. He was a real character and earned money flogging spares etc foreign governments. Not only that he was a prime mover in the early days of the military vehicle collector / enthusiast movement. The place was stacked with crates of NOS spares, much of it dating from WW2 and was still in existence up until the late '80's - early '90's. Chris did not suffer fools gladly but if your face fit and you were in. Some of his vehicles were used in various film productions. These small independent places are of a type that no longer exist. Most photos care of his son via the local FB group.

    London Rd goods yard where Chris Wilkinson had his business..jpg

    Wilkinsons scrap military yard 1982.jpg

    Chris-Wilkinson-plus-tanks-1980s-courtesy-of-Simon-Wilkinson.jpg

    London-Road-station-scrap-yard.jpg

     
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  14. Smithy

    Smithy Well-Known Member

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    Talking of surplus gear I had a funny experience when we lived in Santiago, Chile back in 2004 and 2005. It was a Saturday and my girlfriend (now my wife) and I thought we'd take a wander to the CBD from our apartment in Providencia. As quite often you see round there, we stumbled upon a little market up a street so we thought we'd have a look. The better half was looking at some arts and crafts stuff and I saw a German WWII helmet over at a nearby stall so toddled over to have a look. The stall was full of Third Reich stuff (remember how many took a hasty one way trip to Latin America in 1945!), ID papers and documents, an SS dagger, medals, etc, etc. Under the table he also had a cardboard box of German stick grenades. I'd seen these before back home in militaria shops and the top canisters were always light as they'd removed the charge. Anyway I picked one up and the top was heavy, I checked and they were all like that and almost certainly still live. 60 year old live hand grenades. I carefully pushed the box back under the table and said gracias y adios to the chap and beat a hasty retreat. I'm no expert on that sort of thing but I wasn't going to wave one of them around too much or give the box a good boot!
     
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  15. Micawber

    Micawber Well-Known Member

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    Good story Smithy, can just imagine some old party member/s and their cohorts being tooled up enough to deter or hold off those that came a lookin'!

    Reminds me of the hoard of live Mills grenades unearthed by some kinds along a derelict railway bank a couple of miles away from where I lived. Police, fire brigade & bomb squad quickly dealt with the situation. Turns out the munitions were deposited by the local Home Guard for use "if the invader comes" during the war and subsequently forgotten.
     
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  16. Smithy

    Smithy Well-Known Member

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    I saw a lot of WWII German stuff floating around in Chile and Argentina, and a high proportion of SS stuff unsurprisingly.

    Heaven knows what happened with those hand grenades.
     

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