VinSign hand painted vintage road signs

img_6786At Gent Militaria I saw these vintage road signs made by Bob Meyer of VinSign. Hand painted signs, or partially hand painted using templates are a common sight at re-enactment events and at all militaria shows you see signs for sale. But these from VinSign are much more realistic. I was very impressed by their faux enamel road signs. The typical chipping of the enamel and underlying rust have been reproduced faithfully, and only from close up will you see it’s not real enamel but wood.

img_6787On display, each sign is accompanied by a period photograph of that sign. More details and prices on vinsign.eu. You will find great signs for your home museum or re-enactment display, or even a diorama for a real museum. They are that good.

I have made some signs myself, but it takes time to do it well. What I haven’t seen yet are the Dutch metal road signs you see in photos of Market Garden. They are white cast metal with a black border. These may be a fun challenge to produce when I have some time.

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Wings & Wheels 2016

DSCF6041Here’s the photo album of our annual day at the Wings & Wheels militaria show and vehicles and re-enactors display. It gets harder every year to find anything worthwhile at the show, but I still enjoyed it.

We paid particular attention to all the Willys Jeeps, because I’m looking at buying one and still uncertain if I want an all original Willys or a US WW2 styled Hotchkiss. It turns out most of the Jeeps at the show were Hotchkiss Jeeps. There was a very nice Ford GPW too.

The firing display of the M7 “Priest” from the Tank Museum in Brussels was very impressive too. That’s something new for a change!

View photo album

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Airborne beer with M1 helmet mug

airborne-beer-animatedWhile on our battlefield trip in and around Bastogne, we picked up this Airborne beer. The gift pack comes with a ceramic mug shaped like an M1 helmet. It is marked ‘Airborne’ on one side and ‘Battle of the Bulge’ on the other side. It’s a bit awkward to drink beer from, but it’s great for serving NUTS!

The beer is brewed locally at Brasserie Lamborelle. The beer has a dark red-brown color with a nice head, but not too much foam. It had some grain, malt and spices in its taste, with some sweetness I can’t quite describe. It’s nice, but a bit flat. Not one of my favorite beers. But I did buy one to keep as a souvenir, and the mug is really neat.

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Visit to 101st Airborne Museum Bastogne

DSCF5559I visited this museum in the same weekend as the Bastogne War Museum. The 101st Airborne Museum is more for the paratroopers enthusiasts and knowledgeable collectors. It is located in the former officers mess building of the Belgian Army, built in 1936.This prestigious building was used by the German army as “Unteroffiziersheim” during the occupation of Bastogne in WWII. It’s very well laid out as a museum and it has a magnificent collection, but hardly any explanation is given at all. So this is a more of a place to see the items for real that you only know from books.

The highlight of the tour is in the basement. There you will find a very realistic medical ward and surgery and also an air raid shelter with very impressive sound effects. It really feels as if tanks are rolling over the street just overhead, such intense and realistic noise!

See photos of the museum here, as well as other photos of our Bastogne weekend.

Visit the museum website

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Visit to Bastogne War Museum

DSCF5255In May I visited Bastogne for a weekend with my son. We revisited the Bastogne Historical Center which has been completely transformed into the Bastogne War Museum. It has been enlarged and the collection pieces have changed. Some of the good pieces (generals’ uniforms for example) have disappeared, but many new quality items have been added. Some very fine vehicles, such as a Sherman tank with a hole in the hull through which the interior can be viewed, a beautiful Hetzer and a mint condition Kübelwagen.

The best thing of the tour is the audio guide with voices of people from Bastogne during the war. Most notably Emile, whom we follow through the story of the liberation at first, and then the German counter attack, the siege of Bastogne, and finally its re-liberation. The illustrations by Philippe Jarbinet and the animated diorama’s are incredible, especially the café with its basement used as an air raid shelter. This is really up to the standard of the Imperial War Museum, and then some!

The only criticism I should give is that the museum does not limit itself to the war at Bastogne, or even the Battle of the Bulge. It explains the rise of National Socialism, the war in the Pacific etc… This may be educational to the general public, and school children, but it would be much more valuable to focus on the Battle of the Bulge and display more items relevant to that.

See photos for an impression of the museum and the rest of our Bastogne weekend.

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New markings on gas detection brassards

gas-brassard-jason gas-brassard-pierre

These two new markings on WW2 gas detection brassards were sent to me by different collectors on the same day. Jason Claire sent me the photo of his green brassard with the marking “5/44 1 SL/DE” and Pierre Hardouin of his dark brown brassard in new condition, with the marking “2/40 1 S LTD D“. The latter is similar to another marking in the list in my article on gas detection brassards.

I still have no explanation for the different colors, and the dark brown seems to be an early type, judging by the date (1940). So if anyone knows more about this, please comment or Send me an e-mail.

Read the full article

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Sante Fe B&B near Bastogne for battlefield trips

B&B Santa Fe at Lutrebois, Bastogne

B&B Santa Fe at Lutrebois, Bastogne

I was a little late planning a trip to Bastogne to visit the museums and sights there. Luckily, I stumbled upon the “Santa Fe” B&B of Marc Reyter at Lutrebois, a village just South of Bastogne. Marc is a young history teacher and also a WW2 militaria collector. He focuses on the 35th “Santa Fe” Infantry Division that liberated this village and drove away the German 5th FJ Regt.

It was a very pleasant stay. The room was really tidy and comfortable and Marc was a good host. I find this a lot more fun than staying at a hotel. You get to chat with local people and learn a whole lot more.

Marc will also provide you with a discount coupon for the 101st Airborne Museum at Bastogne and a voucher for a free apéritif at the Wagon Léo restaurant at Place Mc Auliffe. This restaurant is one of the traditional highlights of Bastogne and I really recommend it.

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Airborne 44 album 6 autographed

airborne-6Last Friday, Philippe Jarbinet came all the way from Verviers to Oudenaarde to promote the release of the 6th album of Airborne 44 by signing a limited number of albums. Johan from Atlantis was so kind to ask Philippe to sign the book for me and make a beautiful drawing of a 101st Airborne paratrooper. Thank you Philippe & Johan!

Album 6 is the second album of the third cycle. Each cycle has its own storyline. The scenarios are well written and the drawings and colouring are amazing. These books are really a culmination of my two hobbies coming together.

Below you can see the drawing Philippe made:

airborne-signed

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When did the Army change to clutch back jump wings?

Field Guide to US Paratrooper BadgesThis question has ended my article about jump wings for a long time. Recently I was contacted by Joe Weingarten who was able to shed some light on this.

The US Army changed to clutch back in late 1944 for all wings, badges etc. However many manufacturers continued to make pin back until the start of the Vietnam era. The pin back badges were sold in Base and Post Exchanges as these are considered private sales and not government contract.

The Army has never stopped issuing the WWII design which is still in use today. But by 1950 they were issuing only clutch backs. During the Vietman era they moved to the plated badges and by 1974 silver filled were no longer issued.

Joe is the author of the book “Field Guide to US Paratrooper Badges“, which you can buy at Amazon. Joe also has a web site selling very nice reproduction sterling jump wings. His BB&B reproduction has already been discussed on this site, but he has them with almost all the different hallmarks you can think of.

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