An old hero

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didache

Senior Member
Feb 11, 2017
481
2
London, England
Hi all
Folks seemed to have enjoyed my last couple of stories about pipemen I have met over the years. Here's another one, this time concerning the manager of the factory where I worked in the years surrounding 1980.
Bernie, to give him the name everyone knew him as, was not a big man: if he topped 5-7 I would be surprised. Nor was he heavy set but tended more to a wiry kind of figure. Even so, there was something about Bernie which would have prevented even a big man from taking him on - there was something very hard about him, even though he was the most gentle of men. He managed a factory which employed over 600 people, but I never once heard him raise his voice.
This all becomes much more understandable when you learn that Bernie was, in fact, a retired Colonel in the Royal Marines (and woe betide anyone who forgot the 'Royal' part of it in his presence!) He had served as a Royal Marine in the last few years of the war, then risen to the rank of Colonel before retiring and going to work in industry. Like many of the 'real' heroes (and unlike many of the armchair ones!) he would never talk about the things that happened to him during the war. However, as a Royal Marine is a kind of Commando warrior, you could guess it to be on the darker side of warfare. It is probably best he never told us about it.
Bernie was a pipe man. He preferred a small billiard shape and half a dozen of them resided in a rack on his desk.
As for tobacco ... ahhh! That was a mystery as deep as his wartime experiences. All we could work out was that it was a mixture of three commonly available blends. What the blends were and what the proportions were was unknown, except to two people: Bernie and his secretary.
Indeed, she was the one normally entrusted with mixing and blending. I remember seeing a big pile of tobacco on her desk which she was mixing and folding. When she was done she would put it into the jar which Bernie kept on a shelf close at hand. The secretary evidently did not mind performing this task: she adored Bernie and would have done anything for him.
I do not know why nobody thought to ask Bernie what the mixture was: he may even have told us. But isn't life a little more interesting for its mysteries?
I imagine Bernie is gone now. But I remember him fondly.
So, here's to Bernie, and all those brave souls who served their country without boasting or bragging, and for no other reward than knowing they did their duty.

 

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didimauw

Moderator
Staff member
Jul 28, 2013
4,563
3,619
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WI
I love stories like that! Makes me want to go smoke now!

Thank you !

 

alexnorth

Preferred Member
Apr 7, 2015
602
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Very nice didache, thank you. I always find it kind of comforting in some strange way to hear about these old pipe smoking men. Like you're getting to spend some time with someone else's kind grandfather.

 

didache

Senior Member
Feb 11, 2017
481
2
London, England
deniz - the company I worked for then was WD & HO Wills - part of the Imperial Group which then owned Wills, Players and Ogdens. Every 4 weeks each employee got a free tobacco ration (cigs, cigars or tobacco). For us pipe smokers it was four tins which, for a moderate smoker, was enough to keep the pipe puffing!
As I said, I do not know what tobaccos Bernie put into his blend, but they certainly would have been from the three companies I mention. From memory, none of them produced English type mixtures - they produced mainly Virginia or Lakeland type blends. So, whatever Bernie smoked, it was most likely some kind of a Virginia blend.

 
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