My Granddad (sadly no longer with us) did not kill anyone during the Second World War.
At least that was what he told me.
It was his habit to come and tuck in his young grandson (me) when he stayed. Sometimes he would regale this grandson (still me) tales of his time as a gunner in the Egypt campaign during the war. His eyes would mist over with what I can only describe as fond nostalgia. Why anyone would fondly remember a time when the dreaded Africa Korps had an arsenal intent on finding you their target eludes me, but it was definite nostalgia (family rumour has it that there was a certain dancing girl ….. This has never been confirmed).
I once asked “Did you ever kill anyone Granddad?” to which he smiled and said “No”.
Now my Granddad was a man of great truth and integrity so young me accepted his word without question (though also with that certain sense of disappointment that young kids have about horrors they do not understand).
As the years passed it became clear that either he was telling a little fib so as not to upset his wide eyed young listener …. Or he was not very good at being a gunner and was truthfully relaying that there was not a hope in hell he hit anything. I suspect the former as my Granddad was also a practical man and a practical solution to stop people shooting at you is to shoot them first. It was a practical solution that would appeal to a practical man.
Nazi Uniform - Waffen SS
During the Second World War the only real interest most British people had in a Nazi uniform was that there was ideally a dead Nazi inside it. When Granddad was firing at and hitting (or missing dependent upon your take of the above tale) I doubt very much he had concerns about how much damage would be caused to the uniforms or indeed those wearing them at the time.
War is hell. War is death and destruction…… And yet ……
I like so many others love a bit of history and a good proportion of that concerns war and conflict. I may be one of the biggest peace loving hippies you could meet but I find myself fascinated by history and indeed its conflicts both historical and recent. It is in these times that any observer of the human condition can grasp the more confusing elements of us as a society. It is the examination of these darker times that illuminates the human character more than any other. War and the cruelty to others make no sense … And sometimes sense can be found in this illogical mess of our past.
The building in which Langton’s antiques is situated has been in the family since 1870. It is therefore conceivable that as they saw the Luftwaffe bombs hit Sheffield during the war that they too had little affection for the Nazi uniform at the time (Unless as mentioned previously it was the macabre wrapping to a gift of a dead Nazi). They probably discussed such as they sat drinking tea during breaks (incidentally we won the war because of tea …. I don’t care what anyone says …. The English cuppa won the war).
That Langtons would later come to have an interest in the Nazi uniform…. and indeed Militaria in general… It spent an awfully long time with an interest in shoes. In fact it spent almost a hundred years with a vested interest in shoes, until in 1999 Joe began wielding his sledgehammer to walls and creating what it would become now, Langton's Antiques. At the very heart of this was an interest and love of Militaria.
As you pass Langtons on the London road you shall glance at is and think.....
“Hmmm … Looks interesting but rather a small … a shop space inside perhaps”
This is highly misleading though I don’t think deceit has anything to do with it, but the inside is huge. Joe wielded him mighty hammer to carve Langtons shoe shop, a builders yard and joiners shop to employ its space for Antiques, Vintage, Militaria, Retro, Art and a lovely café area. Three large floors of all things vintage and Antique.
African Tribal Manhood Cover
Here in the rooms, alcoves and shelves one may discover many things. I have previously discussed how I was introduced to an African Tribal Manhood Cover (day to day use).
Or how about this for something special and especially specifically wonderful. It is a Mukenga Mask. This kind of elaborate mask would be worn during the funerals of influential people and perhaps titled aristocrats, sometimes dancing with the mask on.
I have somewhat zeroed in on the Nazi element with a word like sledgehammer of my own and this is very much due to my own personal reaction to my first visit. Whether due to my Granddad's tucking in recollections or that I (like many) am drawn with macabre interest to one of our darker chapters, it was the Nazi militaria that garnered an emotional reaction.
3rd Pattern Gross Deutschland Officers Cufftitle.
In film, tv and song we are presented the Second World War as the good war. A war in which the good guys (Us in this case) fought off against an evil regime (them) …. And yet when presented with the officer it seemed so dark and yet so ordinary. An ordinary human being wore this who (but for the twist of fate of birth) may have been sitting and drinking tea, we may have bought our shoes at the same place …. Langton's perhaps?
It is an item which can send a chill down the back and at the same time humanise the wearer…. It could have been you given the same prevailing conditions.
Flag from the Staff Car of General Von Arnim C in C Axis Forces North Africa. Captured at the end of the campaign in North Africa
This piece of fabric seeming so fragile and slight …. And yet represents so much. It has found a home at Langton's far removed from its original purpose. Its original symbolism as identifying the personage being driven around to now represent …. What …..?
That people fought and that people died? Perhaps. The huge amount of effort to suppress a madness of conquest? Maybe ….. As a man who keeps things as memories representing the good times and bad I think it represents a physical tie between us and the past. And is that also not what the love of Antiques and Vintage is? A desire to connect with the past?
I am no philosopher but Jo’s sledgehammer and this prized possession are indicative of that and I both admire and love it.
The rumour about my Granddad was that he returned from the Egyptian campaign and brought back with him a framed picture of a dancing girl. When my Grandma found it years later (and after they had married) she smashed it and burnt the photograph.
Weird is it not that amongst the shells, death and fear .... There was just a chance that this girl had caused that pleasant nostalgia when he spoke of his time out there......
..... Love does conquer all perhaps .... And perhaps against all possible credible thought .... There is a touch of romanticism about the Militaria ....
If not go grab your beloved a silver gemstone ring .... Langtons has those too!!!