by Dan Shea
As General Manager of Small Arms Review, I am exercising my prerogative to take a little space, to say a few words about a friend. Herb Woodend was a friend to many of us.
I really can’t say how long a period of time I knew Herb, it seems that as long as I can remember his name lingers in the background. Back at the old Machine Gun News, Herb would contact me and go on and on about the “Mystery Photo of the Month”, and he always knew what it was. He frequently chastised me if I couldn’t identify the correct screw for a trench gun scope mount, or name some bizarre Madsen LMG magazine. Once I called a 1931 Darne a “Darné”, Herb glared at me and said with that light Irish lilt to his voice “And, Daniel, I thought you spoke French. Do you see an accent over that letter?” Today, I know that it is a “Darn”, not a “Darn-ay”. All of us who knew Herb have countless things we now know, due to his seemingly depthless knowledge.
In the many visits that we took to the UK, at War and Peace, at Nottingham, on trips with other members of the “SAR Expeditionary Force”, we spent many an hour with Herb pouring over arcane manuals and strange weapons. He was amazing. It is impossible to explain to anyone else just how deep his knowledge of weaponry was, it spanned many centuries and countless weapon systems. He knew all the accessories and was never happier than when he found some ancient magazine pouch or bayonet sheath for some obscure firearm, unless it was the magical glow he had when he found a rare belt or link. Strange fetish, that, and even stranger the variation of an Irish Jig he would dance when he tied together two bits of firearms trivia. Herb once told me that in the entire world there were five or six belt and link collectors as obsessed with the subject as he was, and they were all in competition to find certain links. He then handed over a non disintegrating metallic belt for 9mm Parabellum ammunition that the Germans had made for a tank gun they had only made a few prototypes of. It seems that belt had been in Sam Cumming’s desk drawer, he couldn’t identify it but knew it was special. When Herb came along, Sam gave it to Herb, who then told him what it was, and left with the belt.
I am a little unclear as to whether Sam was cognizant that the belt was headed out the door or not. Friends of Herb will understand.
Herb will be missed by many. His daughters Sarah and Arlene, and their many children, were on Herb’s mind constantly, and were a frequent subject of discussion. His many friends will remember him fondly.
In this issue of SAR, we are bringing you a glimpse of Herb, and the Pattern Room as it was. I hope you enjoy this, and that is sparks a certain something, a desire to learn about small arms, the collector’s bug, the gun tinker’s trade, and perhaps a passion for the military history represented there. Human history is never as deep or as rich as in how we have faced our challenges, and more often than not, these are represented in the weapons we used. Herb could sit and tell a story of a people, of a struggle they were in, of the designs the men made to overcome their opponents; all inspired by picking up a piece of metal and wood, and seeing the history behind it. I know that I will miss him terribly; he was a wonderful mentor, and a great friend.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V7N4 (January 2004)