Brian Wolfe

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About Brian Wolfe

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    Senior Moderator
  • Birthday 06/08/48

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    brian.wolfe@bell.net
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  • Gender
    Male
  • Location
    Ontario, Canada
  • Interests
    Medals: British and India (post 1947), Special Constabulary and a few others.
    General: Staffordshire and British Police memorabilia
    Plus odds and ends that capture my interest from time to time.

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  1. Hi Chris, Thanks for your comments and also for putting a smile on my face and keep looking for that system. Regards Brian
  2. Good idea Chris and very well done. I have several medal groups with documentation and the medals are in one place and the documents in a fileing cabinet in another room. A note on the back of the group, of under the group in most cases, informs those who come after me, or a forgetful me, that there are document that go with the group. Obvious problem is that this can result in the paperwork getting separated from the medals, a problem you have managed to avoid. Well done. Regards Brian
  3. Well, I feel that I am just doing little except agreeing with all of the above, but here goes any way. I speak of British and therefore Canadian, Replacing ribbons is a matter of personal chioce, of course. However I would never replace one out of a group without replacing (and preserving) the balance of the group. A vet woud never, in my opinion, wear a group with one new and three or four original ribbons. I believe there are ribbons available made of the same material as the originals and I think they are worth the extra money. I have several groups in the collection with quite soiled and worn ribbons that will stay that way. I do not see this as disrespect but rather true respect for the original recipient. Now a story about a group of WWII medals that belonged to my father, and are now in my care. Originally they came in the medal box along with a piece of ribbon. My father decided he wanted them mounted for wear and had them swing mounted. After a number of decades he decided the fashion at the local Legion was to have them court mounted, which he did. So the medals never had the original ribbons on the medals themselves and were then mounted and remounted using new ribbons each time. I see no problem with this, especially when they were his medals. The good news is that Dad kept the original boxes which contain the original ribbons, packing paper, small envelope, a note of award and in the case of the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal a small silver maple leaf (showing overseas service) for the ribbon bar. Good topic and one I agree needs revisiting from time to time. Regards Brian
  4. Thanks Nicolas, I think everyone needs at least one place where they can retreat from the world and be in the surroundings that makes them comfortable. Now my shop and office are more along the lines of semi-organized chaos. Regards Brian
  5. Hi Paul, Thanks and yes I did build them all. Sometimes it is an advantage to have a cabinet shop all to yourself. Hi Chris, Ummm, but thanks...I think. Regards Brian
  6. This is not the blog I had in mind for this month as may be evidenced by the lateness of its submission. I usually have several ideas in the works with most needing more research and fact checking. No doubt this surprised you since I almost never state references or even sources for my blog content. My reasons are as uncomplicated as I like to think I am. I do not aspire to be held up as an expert or even an authority on history or the collecting of historical artifacts. I have never thought the amassing of large quantities of items qualifies me as anything much above an organized and selective hoarder. There are, believe it or not, 212 drawers in the collection room which contains our medals collection and I assure you this doesn’t qualify me as an expert. I use the term “our” when referring to the collection as my wife has added many specimens over the years, mostly from the Victorian era. Therefore, the collection is not “mine” alone and therefore the use of the term “our”. Sorry to disappoint those of you who may be trying to psychoanalyse me; I have no other personalities, not that “they” have told me about, at least. You’ll notice from the photo below that I am still working on the drawer labels. Oh, I see, Brian decided to ramble along for several paragraphs and attempt to pass it off as a legitimate blog. No, I tried that, in a manner of speaking, during my mid-term French examination in my first year of high school, I took all of the French phrases and words I could remember, arranged them into sentence-like strings and hopped for the best; it didn’t work. On my final French examination, the questions of which were totally in French, I simply wrote, “I don’t read French, therefore I am unable to complete this exam. Considering you, as the teacher, have never spoken a word of English during the year I must assume you will also be unable to read this note”, and signed the bottom. I dropped French the next year, but picked up a working knowledge of Canadian French, the only true French a real Canadian should speak (check out any restaurant in Ottawa) during my years with a French Canadian construction crew. I’ll bet Madame what’s her name would be surprised, perhaps a little shocked, at some of the language I learned on the job. Viva Quebec! Now back to the title of this blog. It is a reference to the closing scene from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark and the warehouse where the Ark was finally sent for storage. Indiana Jones, (you remember), that’s the theme music that plays in your head as you enter a military collectables show; or does that just happen to me? Anyway, as I was working on the blog for April’s edition I needed some reference material and a really nice picture I purchase about a year ago, but where was it. I looked through every drawer and cabinet here in the office (aka the “Home Office”) with no luck. Where did I put the darn thing? I know it is not in the collection room as I don’t store such items there, only a few reference books and they are all in order and accounted for. It has been said that everyone has three lives; one that the public sees, one that the family sees and a third one, possibly the real you, that only you see. I too have a dark side, a horrible little secret that I am about to share for the first time. Not even in my past did I reveal this to the “shrink” during my evaluation; whom I might add found me quite normal, in fact he wrote in his evaluation that I am A.B.Normal, so there. We have two large storage areas in our basement where, years ago, I started to store those items that I had no real place to keep them, papers, research material, pictures books and some collectables. In the beginning I would mark “Bankers boxes” with “Brian’s Stuff” and store them away. After a time I would mark subsequent boxes as “Brian”, then simply “B” and more recently I left the new boxes without markings as I am the only one to use these areas. With doors closed it was a case of mind over matter, that is to say, I didn’t mind and it really didn’t matter. So the image I have so carefully crafted as an organized and regimented person has been a sham all along. So far I have been unable to find that picture I was looking for though I have just begun looking through the items in storage. So far, along with several photos of military themes I have found a Special Constabulary medal in the original addressed box and a WWI named trio, but no picture. Be assured the if I happen to run onto the Holy Grail or the lost Ark of the Covenant I will be sure to let you know. Regards Brian
  7. Well done Chris! What a great story and magnificent effort. Regards Brian
  8. Thanks for the comments and support fellows. Actually, Paul, I have 5 kids though I was talking about my three youngest daughters and their husbands. Believe me 5 was plenty, especially when the four girls were all in their teens at the same time; and they say war is Hell.
  9. As time passes I find things that were considered common place have changed while I was distracted by life in general. At one time I would question why I was here and what my purpose for being was. In other words, I was questioning my existence and place in the universe. This, of course, was a deep philosophical question. Today as I age I find the question remains the same but seems to arise every time I enter another room. Now no longer a deep philosophical question it has become a matter of, “I know that I was looking for something when I entered the office, but I’ll be dammed if I can remember what it was.” The other day I returned from picking up some groceries and said something regarding the cashier to the effect that “the girl at the store was checking me out and...” In the early part of my life this beginning of the statement might have raised an eyebrow by my wife as to why a girl was checking me out. Now days such accidental double meaning statements go unnoticed as she knows no “girl” in her right mind would bother to “check me out”. In a way today is a lot less stressful albeit much harder on my male ego. On Family Day (a holiday here in Ontario in February) I walked into the living room and simply inquired as to what the day’s weather was like. A conversation starter; nothing more. Four of the six daughters and sons-in-law took out their I-phones and announced the state of the present weather even though a glance out of the front window would have given them the same information; how things have changed. I am definitely not a big fan of change, finding comfort in the familiar, and the linear. When I was a youth I liked to visit the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) as often as possible. There I could lose myself in row upon row of displayed items from Archaeopteryx to Zacanthoides, Archeology to Zoology. Fossils and dinosaurs displayed row upon row all ever so neat and carefully labeled. The Ancient Roman section had tables in two rows on which was displayed hundreds if not thousands of coins mounted on slanted bases and covered with what would best be described as long glass tent-shaped panes of glass in frames which resembled table mounted green houses. Again row after row all neatly labeled. I used to like the section with animals all prepared to the highest level of the art of taxidermy and the Indigenous Peoples exhibit displayed with their tools and in a setting that looked like their camp sites. I’m sure these were artistically made mannequins though I told my brother that they were indeed real stuffed people. To this I added that I saw a sign stating that they were looking for an example of a “little brother” to stuff and I had entered his name as a candidate. I recall this led to several sleepless nights for him and my mother, and no end of satisfaction for me. My poor mother; I must have been an intolerable child. This was my world, at least when I could arrange to be there as it was several hours from the town where I was doomed to reside. It’s located in a cultural wasteland where academia was routed out and burned at the stake for the witchcraft it was. Of course this was simply the observations of a child to his surroundings. As an adult, looking back through the haze of time, I realize that no one actually routed out academia to burn at the stake; they would have much more likely thrown the concept into a burlap bag and drowned it in the river followed by crazed dancing around a huge bonfire. However I do digress; a privilege claimed by and reserved for the elderly. A number of years had passed from my last visit to the ROM caused by marriage and raising a family and other less worthwhile activities. When I once again paid a visit to my former sanctuary the place had undergone a transformation. I suppose that I should have not been surprised as I too have not remained the same person I had been decades before. In place of the neat rows placed in displays one room adjoining another in a manner not unlike some series of above ground catacombs was something I was not prepared to see. It now looked like a department store-front with displays akin to the talents of a window dresser. In one large case there was exhibited medieval armour alongside an example of textiles from the Ming Dynasty, on the floor of the display rested a large skull of a carnivore from the Cretaceous Period and to add insult to injury a pair of muskets rested against the skull. If Father Time had cleaned out his basement then this could very well be the dumpster into which he was depositing his junk. It was evident that what has happened is that they are now catering to a different target audience. Being situated on the campus of the University of Toronto they most likely were geared in the past to the academia of the University both staff and students. Now they are aiming at a wider market and with that new direction they need to entertain as much and possibly more than just educate. I don’t have a real problem with this except at times I think the museums have gone from the idea of the grey haired old professor haunting the galleries to Sponge Bob Square Pants leading the children in a song about passing wind. I suppose this had to come to pass considering the government cut backs in every facet of society where they used to fund these organizations. The bottom line is now foremost, through necessity; accountants and bean counters before curators. Are these organizations really turning into profit mongers I pondered and if so, what effect do they have on today’s youth. My last visit to the ROM, after my initial shock, didn’t seem as much like an alien environment as it had initially. Perhaps it was change itself that was bothering me, clouding my perception and rational. While in the paleontology section my wife and I witnessed something that nearly brought me to tears of elation. There a little girl with her parents was looking at a display of trilobites when she said, “Look, a Greenops boothi and there’s a Phacops rana. Did you know that in Latin rana means frog?” I wanted to ask if this kid might be up for adoption! Perhaps things hadn’t changed all that much after all. There were still little nerds in attendance and the old geezers haunting the galleries were still there, except now that old geezer it was me. So the need to pay attention to the bottom line has caused museums to be profit mongers through necessity but still educators through desire. While the asymmetrical displays of specimens and the seeming helter skelter of topics made more sense this time, when I got home I went straight to the study, made some more labels and realigned my medals into even straighter lines than before. Museums may still be places of education and surrounded by chaos but my world remains regimented and linear. Somehow there is comfort in that. Regards Brian
  10. A collection to rightly be proud to own. Thanks for sharing these photos of your collection. Regards Brian
  11. Have you considered contacting a cabinet maker? I have repaired several damaged stocks in my shop for a friend of mine. It may be worth looking into. Regards Brian
  12. Thank you for your comments Spasm. The bow strings are make of one very long piece of string which is wound onto a jig. The problem was that the posts on the jig were too close on the first attempt. This is, of course, is an error that bites me much more than it would many people as one of my numerous careers, and one that persists to the persent day, is that of a cabinet maker. So, measure twice, cut once, go back to the lumber stacks, select another piece of timber and cut that one correctly. LOL I also noticed that I said the English made use of sharpened "steaks". Perhaps that harkens back to the time when I worked as a butcher. I doubt the French would have been too frightened by a bunch of pointy Porterhouse steaks. It would be great to be able to show a video clip here on the GMIC as the actual shooting of the crossbows was quite interesting. In retrospect it would have been nice if we had even taken some photographs to post. I was more interested in proving my theory regarding the removal of the bow strings. I'm not sure if I will do any more experiments, unless I can get my hands on some weapons grade plutoniun. Regards Brian
  13. Not sure of the age perhaps another member can assist you. Cenrtainly there were cuff made to fit women and children, a very nice specimen. If I can find out more this weekend at a show I am attend.ing I will post what I find out. Regards Brian
  14. The Battle of Crecy conclusion: As we discussed in my last blog the Battle of Crecy was a disaster for the French and an undeniable victory for the English. For the English it could be said that they had fought a flawless battle. Just how badly did the French suffer in this defeat? It has been said that they were unable to support Calais when the English laid siege to the city following their victory at Crecy. On the face of it this sounds reasonable, just having been crushed by the English. However, when you look at this siege a little closer you find that the English laid siege to Calais for a full year. It really brings home the realization just how badly the French had suffered. It would be wrong to assume that the English longbow was the only factor in the French defeat. On the other hand it would be just as wrong to underestimate its value. All through this engagement English arrows rained down on the hapless French. The English also had the high ground and were in a position where the French could not outflank them. Added to this there were trenches, pits, sharpened steaks and rows of caltrops strewn out in front of the English defences. Caltrops were multi-spiked devices that were thrown out in rows, much like modern day minefields. These were effective in stopping mounted knights and cavalry. If you think of a horse’s hoof being like your fingernail. A horse actually runs on the tip of a modified digit, or finger, with the nail being thick to provide a tough resilient material on which the horse walks and runs. A caltrop is designed to puncture the soft part of the horse’s foot not protected by the hoof. This would be the same as you taking a needle and, if it were possible, pick the end of the finger nail, no real problem. Now move the needle back to the soft fleshy part of the finger and you may very well discover words you would never use in front of Mom. The English also had cannon, which were huge and cumbersome to move, but none the less delivered salvo after salvo of iron balls into the Genoese crossbow men, mounted knights and anyone else unfortunate enough to be in their way. Even if the cannon balls of the day were unable to penetrate full plate armour of that period the blunt force trauma would kill as easily as if the knight had been shot by a modern firearm. To make my point using a modern example, think of the bullet resistant vest worn by police officers. NOT bullet “proof” as is often the term used but merely bullet “resistant”. While the vests will withstand the impact of a .357 handgun projectile a high power rifle bullet will zip right through them, and the wearer. Just to add a little more about bullet resistant vests, they are NOT puncture proof or even resistant for that matter. A demonstration during my training brought this point home (no pun intended). A vest placed over two supports, leaving the section between the supports unsupported was struck with a stick pen, like a Bic brand ball point pen, and it passed straight through. The lesson learned was simple enough; the vest is no substitute for caution. Fact – complacency kills. Back to my point about blunt force trauma; a blast from a .357 pistol round may be stopped by the vest but you will be knocked off your feet, suffer sever bruising, perhaps broken ribs and if the bullet hits just right it could stop your heart. So the point of French knights wearing full plate armour is rather moot when it comes to cannon balls at any velocity. Another factor which made English victory easily was that the French did not co-ordinate their different sections, such as mounted armoured knights, foot soldiers or light cavalry. Instead each group attacked pretty much as the individual commanders saw fit. This allowed the English to move out and deal with each component as it was offered for annihilation rather than each French component being supported by other ranks. I have one more factor to propose; a theory of my own and not one gleaned for the work of others. Medieval battles fall into one of two categories; open field and siege. The open field battles, such as the English fought against the Scots, was a fluid movement style of warfare. Siege warfare was fought with one side behind the walls of fortified cities or castles, while the other side encamped around the fortification and used a combination of probing for weakness in the defences and starvation of the inhabitants. At Crecy the English had created a fortified position albeit without stone and mortar; while the French had arrived with the intention of attacking in a more open field, or fluid, style attack. As we have discussed this was impossible due to the terrain and heavy defences offered by the English. The French certainly had the superior numbers required for a sit and wait siege style campaign yet threw away their forces piecemeal. We were to see a similar tactic used over and over again by the French and later their allies during the First World War. Wave after wave was thrown against heavily fortified positions. This is not to insinuate this is a French trait as all combatants, including the later entry into the war by the United States, followed this strategy. It was not until around 1917 that tactics changed, but that is not a topic for this blog. Had the French realized that they were using the wrong tactics against a position that was, in essence, needing a more static siege style, then tactically withdrew to more favourable terrain things might have been much different. Could have, should have...didn’t. The Experiment Construction: I followed the basic design as closely as possible to examples of original light to medium crossbows of the 1300s. I did substitute professionally made steel prods (bows) in place of composite or wooden prods of the period. This decision was made for several reasons, the least of all not being safety. A broken prod while under draw of 150 pounds can launch the broken end into the side of your head and or face with deadly consequences. Steel prods are safer and besides after several attempts at making wooden prods, all ending in dismal failure I gave in and ordered steel prods. The other factor was that the experiment had little to nothing to do with shooting the crossbow as much as removing the string without the use of special tools as sited in almost all accounts of the Battle of Crecy. I also used modern string, polyester, for the same safety concerns. Again I was not interested in whether the string, when wet, would stretch or not, but rather could I get it off the prod. Another point I doubted was the claim in almost all accounts of the Battle that the bow strings could not be adjusted once they stretched. Construction of the bowstring was identical to the original in everything including the jig I used to build up the ¼ inch thick bow string. My first attempt looked good but was too short. Once I had the correct length I used a secondary colour to give the end connectors and the middle area where the string and bolt (arrow) met a little added style. The stirrup at the front of the stock (or “tiller”) and the tickler (trigger) were both made for me by an armour maker who lives a few miles from my home. This gave the finished product a very authentic look and feel, which is what I was going for. The nut (the revolving catch for the string) was made of mild steel at a local machine shop; again a safety issue. The stock itself is made of white oak and the total weight of the finished crossbow is 11.2 pounds, the draw weight is 150 pounds with a 7 inch draw. This draw is right at the maximum suggested by the prod manufacturer which I felt was within safety parameters. The range we set up for testing our crossbows was at 50 yards, which we found out was far too close especially when we initially over shot the target. To be honest neither Brian nor I had as much faith in our bows as they proved to warrant. A search for our missed bolts showed a range of 80 yards; perhaps the bolts we were unable to locate reached even farther distances. We both found that hand drawing the string was exhausting after an hour. We finally used the system of hooks on a length of leather fastened to our belts to draw the string. This involved bending over; attaching the hooks to the string and then standing straight this pulled the string back to engage the nut. This method was used in the 1300s so met the criteria for authenticity. Even with this mechanical advantage we were exhausted well before we had enough fun with our new weapons so we have met several times since to play William Tell; anyone for an apple? The Results: I was not concerned with distance or accuracy for the purpose of the experiment however, I was impressed with both. Getting the correct range was our biggest problem but as far as the right/left issues we mastered that very quickly. To my way of thinking this upholds the theory that even village idiots can be taught to fire a crossbow with a reasonable degree of accuracy in a fairly short length of time. We found that the length of the tickler (trigger) gave a great deal of mechanical advantage and allowed the bow to fire with very little pressure. Considering the power of these bows and the shocking ease of launching the bolt (arrow) one needs to be as respectful toward them as a modern firearm. Think of a high powered rifle with a “hair trigger” and no trigger guard; deadly. One of the things we discovered, which I have never encountered in research material, was concerning the length of the tickler. Once the bolt is fired the nut spins and if you let go of the tickler right away the weight of this lever will engage the hut so as to be ready for the next loading procedure. In essence the long ticklers serve two purposes, one to allow ease of launching the bolt and secondly reengage the nut to allow fast reloading. Removing and Adjusting the String: Here is what we discovered. First of all we decided that with the assistance of Brian’s son, Mike we would see if three grown men (two of us retired old guys) could take the string off and put is back on easily. Remember at the Battle of Crecy there were 2,000 Genoese, all of whom were proficient with the use and care of their crossbows. By placing the butt of the crossbow on the ground and Brian and I standing with the side of our foot against the tiller and grasping the prod end on our side then pushing down, Mike could take the sting off and replace it with no problem what-so-ever. We tried this with two people and while a bit more difficult it was by no means impossible. So what about a one man effort? Let’s say that the Genoese were self-serving jerks and refused to help one another; perhaps they were all jerks or just had a death with, I don’t know but let’s look at a one man effort. To string a longbow, and I have done this, you place the outside of the bow against the outside of your left foot with the bow behind your right leg. With the string attached to the lower tip of the bow bend the top of the bow toward you and attach the string. So what about a crossbow? Palace the crossbow with one tip on the ground in a position much like you would find if you were using a pick axe to dig a hole. With one foot against the back of the lower arm of the prod push toward the ground. With the right hand on the back of the upper arm pull upward and at the same time use the stock like a pick axe handle and push down with your left hand. This takes the weight off the right hand a bit allowing you to slip the string off the prod. To replace the string simply repeat the exercise but replace rather than remove the string. What if the string had gotten wet in the first place, how would you adjust (shorten) a stretched string? We now know you could remove the string so simply twist the string one of two turns and, Robert’s your father’s brother, you have a proper length string. After nearly a thousand dollars of investment, hundreds of hours of research construction and testing over the course of two years I can confidently say that the history books and documentaries have it wrong on this point. Proof positive and you read it first right here on the Gentleman’s Military Interest Club. Regards Brian
  15. Thank you for your kind comment Percy. Regards Brian