Thursday, 24 March 2011

Great Malvern International Military Convention

Well, what did you do with your weekend, more specifically, what did you do with your Sunday morning and early afternoon? I spent mine travelling to Elgar country to visit the militaria show at the Three Counties Showground in the shadow of the marvellous Malvern hills

I arrived at about 9.30, kitted out in my 1944 pea dot pattern camouflage and jack boots, badged up officer pattern field cap, belt, map case and holstered airsoft P38, half expecting to be told not to take the gun into the show but, much to my surprise and delight, the security guard on the gate didn't say a word, apart from to comment on the time it was taking me to put my 21st century money back into my reproduction wartime wallet, and hoped I had a good day

Did I have a good day? Well, I went half expecting it to be a bit of a let down. To be honest, I was expecting to get there and find the place half empty, with not many people trudging around not that many stalls. This expectation had fixed itself in my mind subsequent to conversations I'd had with one or two dealers I regularly buy from, both of whom had said, prior to the last show, that they wouldn't be attending because, from their perspective, the show had gone downhill and it was no longer worth their while. In fact, the halls that the show was housed in were almost, but not quite, full of stalls, and the place certainly felt quite full of punters for the three and a half hours I was there

A view of the 'cafeteria' area and the forever bustling Soldier of Fortune stall to the right
I mingled with the multitude and circuited the place three or four times, stopping off for an Americano or two en route, chatting to some of the dealers about prices, and learning a few things about items I didn't recognise and previously hadn't a clue about. Every day's a school day, and for me that's part and parcel of what makes events like these so enjoyable

Every now and again I'd stop to chat to the occasional familiar face or to people showing an interest in the uniform, and that's something else about events like this that makes them so enjoyable, at least it is for me. Let's face it, if you go to a show dressed as a Waffen SS officer in a field uniform then you want people to notice you. There is an element of showing off about it and I'm the first to admit it, but I really do enjoy meeting people with a shared interest and answering their questions

I was hoping to see a few more like minded individuals there, similarly living out their own escapist fantasies for a few hours, but they were sadly very thin on the ground. I know it's not primarily a show attended by reenactors and living history groups putting on displays, nevertheless, I expected to see a few more people in full uniform than I actually saw and the fact that I didn't was a little disappointing. I spotted a young man in an American airborne uniform, a lady wearing what I seem to recall was an ARP uniform, though I could be mistaken about that, and a number of individuals looking very dapper and dandy in their wartime civvies, like these two 'fine, upstanding gents' who kindly agreed to have their photo taken. Thanks again, chaps

These two likely lads were having a great time at the show, in the company of their similarly clad lady friends. Calling themselves the 'Blitz Buddies' they describe themselves as 'a fairly informal group of friends with a shared interest' and attend shows and events up and down the country. Visit their website at for further information

Of course, that's not the only reason one travels to militaria shows, to mingle, catch up and generally pass the time of day chinwagging over a coffee, you can do that any day of the week. No, one goes to buy goodies that you try to keep hidden from the wife, or your three year old toddler who you don't want playing with them or knocking them over, and there was plenty I could quite easily have come home with ranging from the cheap and cheerful odds and sods, like a spare button or two, right through to the wincingly expensive deactivated mp40, ceremonial dagger, or this.....

.....yours for a cool £650 from Worldwide Arms
I was concentrating on German gear and, as I have already intimated, there was plenty there, but anyone going for British, US or Russian stuff was well catered for, too. Lots of things caught my eye, much of it, sadly, priced beyond my relatively meager means on the day; a variety of deactivated guns from numerous dealers, a ceremonial dagger or two, wound badges and combat clasps in very good order, a particularly nice panzer officer's communication set, one or two sets of binoculars complete with cases, some excellent reproduction clothing and equipment from Richard Underwood, Anthony at Militaria-net and Pete at SOF, and heaps of sundry items with which to accessorise your 'impression' or fill out a display space or two. In short, I went with a shopping list and ended up buying none of it!

All in all I saw four of these original cowhide rucksacks ('Tornister 34') in varying states of repair. This one was priced up at approximately £45 and the most expensive one I spotted was £20 dearer, with fully functioning, possibly replacement, straps
I was having so much trouble deciding what on the list to prioritise, I finally dispensed with it and bought a couple of other things instead, namely some very reasonably priced inert ammunition to fill my k98 pouches from James at Chelmsford Militaria, and a very nice reproduction model '44 rucksack, complete with straps, from SOF. Both are photographed below

Inert shells complete with stripper clips.....
.....shown here with one of my ammo pouches and five shell casings for my airsoft bolt action k98

My newly acquired reproduction rucksack, complete with inner and outer pockets and chunky leather and metal carrying straps. Very good value, in my opinion, at £40. Thank you, SOF
The SOF stand was busy throughout the day, certainly while I was there. I was very happy indeed to be one of their customers. Those rucksacks are jolly useful and not that easy to get hold of
So, when all said and done, I had a very good day as a paying punter at the show and came away satisfied, having learned a few things, made one or two successful purchases, and taken advantage of an opportunity to dress up! It's true of all events like this I dare say, but some traders were clearly doing a lot more business than others and if you were one of the unlucky ones then I can understand how you might be persuaded not to return. As for me, I will definitely be back

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