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Over the last 54 years of me collecting military memorabilia, family, friends and fellow collectors, have asked me how I started, what got me interested in it. I honestly don’t know, but can only imagine it was the photos of uniforms I saw in the many military books I took out the libraries, saw the badges on the uniforms and wanted some for myself.

I started collecting military items at the age of ten, way back in 1967, by asking anyone that looked old enough to have served in WW2 for any badges, medals, buttons, helmets, webbing, etc. When, a couple of years later, I started a paper round, delivering newspapers for the Central News Agency it gave me the opportunity to meet more of the older chaps who had served, and to whom I was now delivering newspapers, and my collection grew steadily. They enjoyed telling me war stories and I enjoyed going back to see what badges they had scratched out since we last spoke.

The paper rounds also helped in that I was now getting some pocket money and would use portion of it to take the train from Muizenberg to Cape Town to visit the Military Museum at the Castle and the flea market on the Grand Parade, in front of the City Hall, every Saturday.

The SA Navy Officer in charge of the Military Museum was Mac Bissett. I don’t remember his rank at that stage, but he retired as a Commander and was awarded the Southern Cross Medal for his outstanding service to the South African Navy.

A thorough gentleman, who would take the time to walk with me through the museum, point out interesting things, giving me more information about them, and sometimes sit with me in his office and show me new items that had been donated but were not yet on display. He would call me, at the age of 12, “Mr. MacKenzie”, and still does whenever we meet. I think he provided the most encouragement to my collecting hobby.

Cmdr Mac Bissett and myself at the Military Veterans Dinner, Kelvin Grove, November 2021

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