A Hypothetical WWII Pipe

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Written by John C. Loring
Contributed by Jean-Christophe Bienfait

I have just written about how on rare occasion a single numeric date code on a pipe can be confusing, that is when it was intended to indicate a repair on a pipe carved before the numeric date code system was introduced in 1922. While I’m not sure I have seen an actual example, there is likely a similar situation involving post war repairs of some pipes carved during World War II.

In America we have long forgotten just how great the impact of World War II was on Britain and most certainly on Dunhill. In fact for all intents and purposes it put a full decade of pipe making on hold, so much so that in addressing the overall history of Dunhill pipe making one moves from the late 1930s to the early 1950s barely noting the intervening decade. This is quite in contrast with the Great War (World War I for younger readers) where Britain controlled the sea lanes. Thus from all appearances in that first World War pipe tobacco was readily available, pipe making while perhaps limited to some extent if only because most bowls were rough cut in France, seems to have continued apace, and the post war quickly blossomed into a quite remarkable worldwide Dunhill expansion.

World War II was a sharp contrast, sea lanes were much contested, briar fields for Dunhill pipes were part of the front lines, as was the Duke Street shop itself which was bombed during the 1941 blitz, and war time rationing was both draconian and continued post war into the early 1950s. To wit: Dunhill published pipe catalogs for every year of World War I, each progressively more elegant, but none at all from 1940 through 1950 (there was one ‘gift’ catalog independently published in America circa 1943, and two ‘gift’ catalogs published at the end of the 1940s in Britain).

Few, and for the most part uninteresting, Dunhill pipes were produced during the 1940s. It would appear that during World War II and for a good bit afterwards the Italian briar necessary for Dunhill smooth finished pipes was in extremely short supply while the situation for Algerian briar necessary for the Shell finish was only somewhat better. Likewise vulcanite for bits was either a rationed or prohibited material, so that many, if not most, and perhaps all war time pipes were fitted with horn bits. (Horn is a very comfortable bit material but begins to crack almost immediately and to the best of my information it was never used or offered by Dunhill other then in World War II. My suspicion is that most likely a war time pipe found today fitted with a vulcanite bit probably has a replacement bit and indeed I would not be surprised to learn that after the war Dunhill routinely replaced horn bits with vulcanite at little or no charge.)

All that lengthy aside is to explain that the Second World War also limited Dunhill’s ability to have new nomenclature stamping tools made up. Dunhill nomenclature was (and is) stamped by blocks of words, numbers and symbols rather then individual letters etc. and prior to the war new stamping tools were ordered at the end of each year to reflect the pending date code change. While this continued to a limited extent during the war, a great many Shells between 1941 and 1943/1945 were stamped without a date code with a tool that read:

PATENT No 1341418/20

Since the usage of this particular stamping tool was only during the war, the stamp in and of itself serves to date a pipe to the handful of war years (this may also be true of smooth finished pipes stamped MADE IN ENGLAND [/] PAT No 1343253/20 without either a date code or an INNERTUBE stamping.)

Thus should you run across a Shell with the exact above stamping and a date code, it is most likely that you are looking at a war time carved pipe with a date code that indicates the year of a repair (perhaps bit replacement) and not the year of manufacture.

A PostScript To My LC Paper: In a previous Ephemeras I wrote at length about the LC so I add this postscript here. It appears that pipes stamped LC and 128 were never fitted with an inner tube, while pipes stamped 120 including what I term ‘120LC’s always were. Length per se cannot be the reason for Richard Esserman reports that a number of his straight magnums (including his enormous ODG Bulldog) but not his bent magnums, are. This suggests to me that there was a difference between the way LC, 128 and bent magnum air holes were drilled and the way 120, 56 and small bent shape air holes were drilled and that that difference precluded fitting the larger bents with inner tubes.

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