gear being available, who buys it and why ... is a topic which
deserves broader treatment here ... but, for the moment, a magazine
article which broadened a few horizons at the time introduces the topic.
THE QUARTERMASTER'S STORE"
This was the title of a slightly rude song popular in the 1939/45 war.
It implied that an army Quartermaster could fix you up with "anything",
Nineteen Seventies, when a few ex-army nutter mates started a surplus
store with a mountain of genuine government sell-off gear in a warehouse
in Islington, their innocent hearts hadn't quite cottoned on to some
of the implications of what they were getting into. They supplied the
clothes and tackle for films and acted as advisors on the TV series
UXB (Unexploded bomb). From the store they also ran what they
called a 'battle re-enactment' group.
I took a risk - and it wasn't easy to convince them that some of their
regular customers might have surprising hidden depths. The first few
sets of reproduction prison manacles I persuaded them to put on display
sold like hot cakes, along with a popular line of standard handcuffs.
Then a trial run of five reproduction army pattern strait-jackets in
efficient working-order sold out in two days ... and the next twenty
sold in two weeks ... so the lads suddenly knew there was more to selling
government surplus than they'd realised.
That's when I suggested kitting out a 'specialised' area in a remote
corner of their moody premises. A wall of good solid steel bars with
a seriously lockable entrance gate made a plausible-looking cell. As
a display space for a full range of prison irons, wall manacles, strait-jackets
and leather restraints it was an impressive sight. An army cot with
straps added and a latrine in the corner boggled the minds of a few
visitors, but fired up the imaginations of a whole lot more.
Customers lingered, and requests to try-out various items soon had the
staff enthusiastic about demonstrating the efficiency of the gear. Men
clanking around the store wearing manacles or a strait-jacket became
part of the ambience. Don't ask how word got around in those pre-Internet
days - but 'The Brig' soon became something of a tourist attraction
for a certain kind of shopper - with occasional enquiries about renting
the space by the hour or overnight.
'Morgan' did a moody photo shoot around the place, pictures from the set
became classic. These first appeared in the banned-in-Britain
magazine Mister SM - and the ex-army lads who ran the store enjoyed having
their horizons widened.
IN MISTER SM MAGAZINE
"AT THE QUARTERMASTER'S STORE"
stores have always been happy hunting grounds for people who are into
the more energetic end of man-to-man game-playing.
Not only the uniforms, webbing and gear, but a whole world of useful
hooks, pullies, buckles and mysterious pieces of efficient-looking hardware
can often be picked up for less than they originally cost to make."
was the opening statement which introduced Morgan's photo set in the
heavy-SM Swedish magazine. My short text continued:-
... But be warned. There's a firm line between reality and fantasy.
The imaginative piece of fiction by "Morgan" (reproduced
below) is what he would
like to have happened to him when he dropped by the store, not what
did or could possibly happen to you.
you meet Badger, Big Dave, Micky or Danny when you visit "QUARTERMASTER
AT THE ANGEL", don't be afraid to admit what you're into but don't
expect them to share your interests. They're all honest, upright, masculine
guys and leading figures in the BATTLE RE ENACTMENT SOCIETY. The fact
that this involves them roaring around the British countryside at weekends
throwing thunder-flashes, firing guns, rolling around in the mud and
generally beating the shit out of one another doesn't mean that there's
anything kinky about them!
your step if you visit QUARTERMASTER AT THE ANGEL. You may not get what
'Morgan' imagined but you could get a knuckle-sandwich if you make a
DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ EVEN IN MISTER S/M.
a magazine feature by 'Morgan'
I recently visited the Brig at Quartermaster stores in the Angel, London
N1. I feel that you should warn your readers that the replica prison
equipment which this store sells is in completely working order as was
amply demonstrated to me when I recently visited the Brig. I was surprised
to find that entry to the shop is strictly controlled: I rang a bell,
a military-dressed man leaned out of the window above the door to check
me before releasing the electric lock on the door.
Inside, I was surprised to find the assistants wearing chemical protection
gear amidst the militaria which I'd seen before for sale in the outer
shop. After I'd said I wanted to visit the Brig and foolishly agreed
to take part in an equipment trial they said they were carrying out,
I felt the clammy and strong grip of the assistant's rubber gloved-hand
as my forearm was twisted behind my back in a half-nelson and I felt
myself propelled up and down some wooden stairs past various camouflage
jackets and trousers on hangers on the walls and unpolished boots littering
I was taken through
some iron gates into a small cell roughly decorated and usefully provided
with a slops bucket, was told to take off my leather jacket and ordered
to lie and stay face-down on a canvas bed with my hands at my neck and
knees bent, until someone arrived to deal with me. I had an uneasy feeling
that I was being watched, even after the gate had shut me inside the
cell and the soft sound of the assistant's rubber boots had faded so
I looked around with extreme caution and without moving my head. What
I could see confirmed the fears and sensations I imagined would apply
if I was being detained and intimidated before being interrogated the
realisation that I couldn't escape either from the Brig or from whatever
was in store for me, the many unfamiliar leather, chain and steel devices
adorning the cell walls, the cell floor well marked from previous boot
scuffles and the walls with graffiti I was just beginning to make out
"Service with a smile you serve, we smile" was one) when I
heard returning boots and the opening of iron locks and gates.
A military police
seargent introduced himself to me and brusquely ordered me to my feet,
turned me into a corner, legs apart but pushed out, leaning on my hands.
I was asked again in terms I could hardly refuse, considering the submissive
position he had put me into if I wished to help with some trials of
some of the Fetters equipment which they were going to carry out. I
agreed, and immediately found the sergeant ordering my hands behind
my back, fastened by handcuffs, which I soon learned were chained to
similar cuffs around and over my boots. He left me standing and closed
the gate behind him, challenging me to escape, secure with his knowledge
that I could not. I have to report that from this time onwards I was
completely under the control of the staff of the Brigg and was unable
to break out of any of the irons, strait jackets or scolds which the
Brig tried out on me as the bruises and strained muscles from my attempts
remind me still.
So, to your readers
and erstwhile customers: let the buyer beware!
the store closed before the end of the Eighties but Morgan's photos
(These thumbnails not expandable)
they get hold of a lot less moody genuine issue gear, but it is there
if you know where to look.
Silvermans, Lawrence Corner and Anchor Surplus are worth checking out
- but more particularly try
as both outlets are user-friendly.
Other army game-playing
texts and photos will be added gradually.
Many visitors to government surplus stores build their own special favourite
the gear / the men who wear the gear / the people who man these stores
and, with any luck, what could possibly happen
The original HOUDINI CONNECTIONS story (see 'Storylines') describes my
take on the subject.
More examples of surplus store fantasies or experiences will be welcomed,
Also check out other links from the main ARMY