It physically sickened me when I flipped on the TV and saw Notre Dame in flames. My mind could not comprehend nor accept what I was looking at. Having just recently visited several cathedrals in the UK I had purchased books on how these incredible structures were built. I wanted to know everything I could about them. As an artist, a student of engineering, an ordained clergy, a lover of philosophy and architecture, all of my senses were assaulted from all directions at once. It was like seeing the Shuttle explode on launch, watching the collapse of the twin Trade Towers in NYC....... My heart immediately went out to the French people.
During one of the holiest weeks in Christendom we witness the near complete loss of a most holy monument, a nine century old testament to Man's love of God, and his gift to God. How could this happen, we ask ourselves. There is no such thing as coincidence. In less than twelve hours fire nearly consumed this jewel of Christianity that took men 200 years to build. Think about it, this was the work of five generation or more, laboring day in and out.
There are unexplored bits of evidence, unrevealed facts but no coincidences. Perhaps time will reveal the story of how the fire started. Then again political expediency may bury the truth. I hope that all Christian and other religious holy sites will not disregard this disaster and dismiss it as just an unfortunate event. As a Buddhist nun once advised me: "Be awake." Please take precautions, increase security, and be awake to things and people going on around you. Bless those who have already donated small amounts and fortunes to restore this incredible structure. Never take for granted that these things will be with us always. Cherish and protect them. Here are some photos of the Cathedral at York, UK that we visited last month. How can one possibly enter into a building like this and not be inspired?
This week the world of knife collectors became a poorer place. I lost a good friend from Canada, whose company I shall sorely miss. Pete Hooker was a true gentleman in the old-world sense, a type all too rare today. We met via my website and then formed a solid friendship between Pete and I and our wives. We would meet for a burger and brews at someplace midway between his home and ours. The ladies would talk of kids and other things but Pete and I always talked knives and sometimes politics.
I bought several knives from Pete and traded off most of my Randall knives to him in exchange for his X-Daggers and a few F-S knives. For both of us there was always another knife on the horizon. Pete I hope you find that grail knife somewhere along your travels. One day we’ll set down over a beer again and update each other on our latest finds. Go with God my friend.
While on vacation I had the opportunity to visit a museum with a nice section of it dedicated to the WW-2 Commandos and their training. I bought both video they had available and then wondered if they would play on American DVD players. When I got home I found to my great pleasure that yes they do work and the coverage was splendid. I only watched a part of one of them while we were at the museum because there was so much else to see.
It is a three (maybe four?) story building and there were other displays of Highland culture and about the Jacobite rebellion. We also bought a few books but I discovered I owned all of the ones on Commandos. No surprises there. But my blog is about paying back. The museum admission was free but my wife and I dropped in a 10 pound note besides our purchases. The people running the museum were lovely folks, helpful and dedicated to their work. Because of my love of the Commando and my own Highland heritage I want to help contribute something. Therefore
I decided to contact them about selling their DVDs as a way of sharing their knowledge of the actual training that took place very nearby at Inverailort and Achnacarry. This is real footage with a pair of actors providing commentary. The film is very well done and shows the arduous training the prospective commandos went through to earn their coveted green beret.
The grey cover DVD titled “Achnacarry 70 Years on” includes contemporary footage of archeological work at the training centers. It also includes interviews with some commando veterans and my friend Paul MacDonald. Now I know why when we entered the Museum the person at the desk asked “what brings you up here Paul?” The running time is about 45 minutes. Price is going to be $30 including shipping
The green color cover, titled The Commandos” is a bit shorter and includes the exact same 1940s film of the training. So if you are only interested in the WW-II film I would recommend this one. Price is $30 including shipping. Remember this one is only the WW-II footage with some bits of live footage of them at war.
What you will receive are quality videos from the museum they are not copies I have made. As I said the majority of the profits (minus my actual costs) will be returned to the museum as a donation. I know you will not be disappointed. They are incredible films and knowing your love for Commando Knives this is just frosting on the cake.
My wife and I, along with our daughter and son in law, have just returned from a 2 week vacation in England and Scotland. It was funded and completely organized by my daughter as a surprise anniversary gift for our 50th anniversary. It all began with three days in London which included visits to museums, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, All Hallows Church, and some excellent pubs. From there we traveled by train north to Warwick and York. We again followed the same pattern, pubs, museums, castles, and cathedrals. This was our routine du jour for the rest of the trip. Unbeknownst to me my daughter arranged for Paul MacDonald to join the four of us to a trek north to Glen Finnan.
Warwick was very nice and York was too, But, as the old poem goes, “My Heart is in the Highlands.” It was so good to see the mountains again after such a long time away. From York we took one more train to Edinburgh, Scotland. Edinburgh is a lovely city and our stay there also included a Loreena McKennitt live performance. Edinburgh castle is huge, almost beyond belief! With Paul as our guide we visited Inverailort, Achnacarry, Glen Finnan (gathering place for the 1745 Jacobite rising), and the wonderful “West Highland Museum” at Fort William. Paul, Mike and I managed to put way a bottle of scotch whisky one evening after eating the worst supper ever at a local pub : ) The poor old bugger was 86 years old and as he said “he let the fryer get away from him.” Our food was almost fossilized. But he had some good stories to tell of the commandos coming to his place during the war. Sad to say, Inverailort STC is in ruins and fast approaching complete loss. The house is in private hands and the owner seems to have no care for its historical value or the intrinsic value of such a once beautiful house. We were saddened by its current state and uncertain future. The seven-mile drive into the estate and the sheer cliffs behind it gave us pause to think of the daunting training facing anyone determined to become a commando. Remember these lads were all volunteers.
The old Achnacarry STC is still the private home of the head of the Camerons and could not be viewed but from outside the fence. There is a fine but small museum off to the side catering primarily to those of Cameron blood. It is well worth the short drive. The drive back to Edinburgh was enlivened with sleet, rain and about 4 inches of snow. My daughter and son in law did all the driving allowing me the luxury of sitting back and taking photos and visiting with the MacDonald. Paul made the entire trip north an incredible historical adventure. His knowledge of the area, places, events, and people is phenomenal. Paul and I established a very close bond. He gifted me with two lovely agents daggers he made, and a great book titled “Scottish Fencing,” which I highly recommend! It was with a sense of sadness that we turned our faces to the west for America, the same sadness I felt the last time on leaving my ancestral home. I hope you enjoy the photos. Paul we can never thank you enough for taking the time away from your work and spending it with us. The presence of your company was a grand gift, and sorry we drank all of your whisky : (
A very small portion of Edinburgh Castle
Tower of Warwick Castle
Mountain Pass near Glencoe in the Highlands
The derelict estate of Inverailort
Entrance to the "West Highland Museum," a place not to be missed when you are in the area.
Two lovely wee daggers from Paul.
left to right: Paul, Barbara my wife, myself, Gwynne my daughter, Mike my son in law.
Named knives, why are they so desirable? It all depends on what you are looking for and what direction you want your collection to take. They are usually more expensive, so not always the best choice when you are first starting. I just bought one with a replacement handle made up from Plexiglas washers and aluminum. For some collectors this is looked on almost as criminal, at least heretical. For me it just adds one more point of interest. A man can get attached to his rifle or handgun, but his knife is always the closest weapon available to him. A knife is a weapon of closest combat and I believe closest to a warrior’s heart.
Knife combat happens at what some people call “Bad Breath” distance. This is a range where you literally are chest to chest within arm’s and breaths reach. As an instructor of martial arts I found some students could not handle the personal nature of knife-combat training. For them it was too visceral, even using training knives. Many blackbelts would defer and make excuses why they did not want to train with a knife. Some said it was too thuggish. Oddly enough, many branches of the military also feel this way and for these reasons WW-II Commandos were shunned by the “Old Guard” generals.
But getting back to “named knives,” these were the property of men who valued their knives highly, enough to go the extra mile and have them personalized by Wilkinson Sword Co. A man who had his knife disassembled, and a new handle made, took personalization yet another step. It meant he wanted a knife that fit his hand and perhaps even his technical skills. I suspect that such men probably had precisely honed their knife skills as well as their blade. I highly value, even cherish the named knives in my collection, and honor those men unknown, who served their nations in times of extreme danger. God bless them all and all those who serve today.
You might have guessed the recovery of the stolen Yeaton knife might be the topic of this blog. There are three types of people I cannot abide; a liar, a cheat, and a thief. The Yeaton knife disappeared under suspicious circumstances back in the 1970s. Kelly Yeaton, the brother of Samuel, tried for many years to find the location of the knife and recover it. Many people were engaged and it all came to naught. It finally surfaced for sale when the man in possession of it needed money. If I were a Buddhist I might think that karma brought it to the surface. Good karma for the Yeatons and not so good for the people who have possessed it illegally for all these years. The wheel turns. It galls one to "buy" (at a rather large price) what had been stolen from them but we knew that recovering the knife was a once in a lifetime opportunity and either we jumped at the chance or it would disappear into some collector's safe. After a very quick check with the family I placed a large deposit on the knife to ensure we had locked it in. Then began the task of raising the balance of the funds. The family rallied but it was mostly on the shoulders of Kelly Yeaton's son to pull it off. He did it for love of history, family, and doing what is right. I love that about a man. My part, after the initial communications, was to travel with him to Colorado as a second set of eyes to verify it was indeed the knife. I was also familiar with the seller to ease the uncertainty of the sale. The entire story will be in my book. Ironically, I had written the first part which I called, "A Disturbing Twist," to the Shanghai story. Now as Paul Harvey used to say, I have the rest of the story.
I am still searching for the links in the chain of events that lead from its disappearance in California to its eventual reappearance in Colorado. If you have any information to add to the story I am all ears. I credit all of my sources in my writing unless they prefer anonymity. Photo courtesy of Roy Shadbolt.
The motto: "Sic Transit Gloria Mundi," is translated as: "Thus Passes the Glory of the World." Welcome home the Samuel Yeaton dagger.
Here is another example of damage commonly found on F-S knives. Some guards are accidentally bent by idiots using the knives as throwing knives. Others are purposely bent (usually forward) to lie one's thumb on it. Idiots come in all flavors. This knife is a rather uncommon J. Clarke & Sons in otherwise good condition. I corrected the bent guard by the following method. No warranties expressed or implied!
I often get questions about restoring or repairing an old WW-II Commando Knife. The correct choice is an individual decision. One thing to keep in mind is whatever you do cannot usually be undone. So, will what you are going to do improve the knife, and for what reason? These are the two primary questions you should ask yourself. Will it restore the knife to a serviceable condition or ruin the patina while hoping to increase the sales price/profit?
In this case I had a valuable Wilkinson Second Pattern, named knife, with a butchered tip. It had been broken and then made worse by someone with a grinder trying to reshape the tip. First off if you touch a power tool to one of these knives I hope the bluebird of happiness flies right up your......well you know. Hand tools only.
Here it was just as I started to file it back to shape. Then I decided to take some photos to show how bad it was. I used a fine toothed 6 inch file to start with. The blades are about the same hardness as a bayonet so they will file. GO SLOW! You do not want to add more scratches and gouges to the damage already present. Once I had re-established the point on center then I worked on blending in the bevels. Finally I switched to some fine grit sanding paper backed up by a piece of flat wood. I could go further but for now I am satisfied and the ugliness that bothered me has been minimized. Whether I will try to get any of the Dremel tracks off the rest of the blade remains to be decided. I think you will agree it looks better than being left in its previous sorry state. I am hoping to find a ragged 3rd pattern to illustrate further blade restoration on. If you have a beater you want to donate let me know.
To the naked eye the blade looks a lot better than this highly magnified image would make it seem. But in time I may go back and refine it a little more.
Wishing you all a Happy and Safe New Year.
Wishing all of my friends and visitors a very Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! At this time of year keep all of our servicemen in your thoughts and prayers, those serving abroad and at home. Remember our veterans who fought in all of our past wars. Without their sacrifices we might not have the personal and religious freedoms we have today. AND Never forget the TRUE meaning of the Christmas holiday and keep it holy.
You can find out more about me on the "Stories" pages. My hobbies have included training in Japanese martial arts, Kenjutsu, many forms of knife fighting, long range rifles and tactical firearms. I have written several self published books on muzzle-loading firearms, knife-fighting and gas engines and compressors. I am working diligently on my 400+ page F-S book.