Fellow Dutch/Belgian pipe-smoker forum member and friend Shaun is a lucky bastard. Besides having a drop dead gorgeous girlfriend and a model for a sister, the favour of the almighty pipe-smoking God also shines upon him.
Yesterday he was walking with his mother over a flea market in the Belgium city of Leuven, where he lives. Shaun likes to do that because he is always on the search for estate pipes. At a stand he saw 2 unsmoked pipes. Hmm.. Probably Bruyere Garantie, he thought. Until he saw the famous white dot on both pipes. No no no, this is not possible, raced through his mind. He turned over the pipes and read: Dunhill Shell Briar Made in England. *Gasp!!!*
The vendor already saw Shaun looking at the pipes and shouted: “5 euro a piece but because today the sun shines you can have them for 7 euro if you take them both!” Being a bit re-educated by us cheap Dutchmen Shaun managed to close the deal for 6 euro for both pipes! The only thing was, the stem of one of the Dunhills was broken. But nothing an expert craftsman couldn’t fix.
Enthusiastic Shaun told the story on the forum. But being a Dunhill lover I wanted to know how old the pipes were and asked for some pictures of the downsides and information. Soon I got just that. He posted pictures from the pipes and when I saw them my eyes went wide and my mouth fell open. Both stamps read: Dunhill Shell Briar Made in England Patent No. 417574/34. He actually bought two unsmoked Dunhill patent era pipes for 6 euro! I did some quick research, looked a bit better and discovered that the intact one came from 1948 and the broken one from 1942! A war pipe! Pretty rare!
In 1941 during the London Blitz in WWII Alfred Dunhill’s store, and many other in the surrounding area, was bombed and destroyed. A popular tale tells that when that happened, Dunhill employees called Sir Winston Churchill at four o’ clock in the night. This to assure him his private collection of cigars (which were kept in the store’s humidor) had already been relocated to safety. And with that attitude Dunhill continued to sell pipes from the debris and ruins of the store.
But that was not easy.. During the war briar and vulcanite for the stems were very hard to get. The whole Mediterranean region was swept up in conflict so the Algerian briar (which was used for Dunhill’s Shell Briar pipes) was difficult to get a hand on. The same went for the Italian briar that Dunhill used for the smooth-finished pipes. Vulcanite was either rationed or prohibited. Because of this Dunhill fitted most pipes from this decade with stems made of horn. Of course when vulcanite became more available they could be replaced.
During WWII the UK gave permission to make smoking pipes to only six firms. Dunhill was one of them. Briar was divided equally between the six firms. But… Not all of it was of high quality. The rationing plan of the government encouraged the making of so called “utility pipes”. This were low-cost pipes that could be made from poor quality briar. The internal management of Dunhill reported that only about a quarter of the equally divided briar supply was good enough for high-quality pipes. Auwtsch.. That really hindered the export of Dunhill pipes for years to come. It wasn’t until the early 1950s, when the reconstruction of the UK was really on its way, that Dunhill was able to expand once more at home and abroad.
I hope that Shaun can get that pretty unique pipe fixed so he can smoke it with a lot of pleasure until the end of his days.