100 Years of the RAF
Welcome to this latest edition of Die-cast Diaries and your regular look at all the news, updates and stories from the fascinating world of Corgi die-cast model collecting. With 2018 marking the Centenary of the establishment of the Royal Air Force, British aviation history will be receiving plenty of attention over the coming months with events both large and small taking place all over the country and this summer’s Airshows marking the occasion in some style. Indeed, BBC viewers will have enjoyed the recent TV spectacular presented by the McGregor brothers, which charted 100 years of the RAF and featured some of the most iconic aircraft to wear the RAF roundel. In this latest edition of Die-cast Diaries, we feature a recent Aviation Archive release which marks one of the aircraft types which played a significant role in the recent BBC RAF at 100 programme and takes its place in our own ‘Royal Air Force Centenary Collection’. We also look at a significant addition to the January to June 2018 aviation Archive range, which was announced too late to be included in the current printed catalogue and only appeared on the website in profile form – this fantastic release is well worth a closer look and we will be doing so whilst bringing our readers the latest exclusive images from the project.
With 2018 also being a significant anniversary year for one of Britain’s most distinctive and historic family cars, we will also be bringing you a series of images taken at the recent Classic Car & Restoration show, where a number of these vehicles were on display, in several different guises. We end this edition with the welcome return of our ‘What’s on the desk’ feature and a look at the latest sample models to arrive at Corgi HQ in advance of their anticipated release dates – It’s time to get ready for your latest instalment of Corgi die-cast model development news.
VC Catalina for RAF 100
This profile artwork was used to announce the existence of this fantastic VC Catalina release
The launch of the latest January to June 2018 Corgi model range saw the popular Aviation Archive range announce its scale tribute to the Centenary commemorations of the Royal Air Force, with a range of releases which marked significant aircraft from throughout the history of the force. This impressive collection was announced following many weeks of concerted activity by many people at Hornby HQ, as the weeks leading up to any range launch are always extremely busy and many Corgi Collectors will have noticed that two models in this range appeared to have only made it into the latest range by the skin of their teeth. Consolidated Catalina AA36111 and SEPECAT Jaguar T.4 AA35415 joined the other models in the range so late in the process that imagery and release details were not available in time for their inclusion in the Jan-June 2018 printed catalogue and only a profile image and product description were available for the Corgi website itself. Although this is not a common occurrence and would usually see these models simply held over until the July-Dec range was announced later in the year, both were part of our RAF Centenary Collection and it was felt that they really should be included. All the relevant release details have now been added to the Corgi website for both models and with new imagery now available, it is perhaps a good opportunity to look more closely at the first of these future releases – the magnificent and historic Consolidated Catalina Mk.IVA, which was piloted by John Cruickshank during his VC winning action on 17th July 1944.
As the crew of Consolidated Catalina IVA JV928 took off from their home base at Sullom Voe in the Shetland Islands on 17th July 1944, they knew that many hours of open ocean lay ahead of them and as usual, they would be relying on their rugged and reliable flying boat to bring them home safely. Their patrol area would take them to the west of the Norwegian Island of Lofoten, on the approaches to the port of Narvik and its German submarine bases, but their briefing had warned them of Royal Navy activity in the area, making positive identification of vessels essential. Five hours into the sortie and patrolling in their assigned area, the crew detected surface vessel movement below on their radar and informed pilot John Cruickshank to go and investigate. As they approached, it quickly became clear that they had discovered a surfaced U-boat and the crew immediately prepared to attack – in 48 previous missions, the crew had only ever seen one U-boat, which had quickly slipped beneath the waves before they could sink it, so on this latest mission, they were determined not to let this one get away.
Exclusive first look at this appealing hand decorated sample model of the Cruickshank VC Catalina
As they prepared their attack run, the anti-aircraft guns of the U-boat burst into life and sent shells hurtling in the direction of the Catalina. Despite the incoming gunfire, Cruickshank expertly positioned his aircraft, ensuring that the depth charges would have the best chance to inflict maximum damage on the German vessel. Passing over the U-boat, the weapons were released and they waited for the sound of explosions, but there was nothing other than the drone of the engines and the crackle of anti-aircraft fire – the depth charges had failed to release. Instructing the crew to find out what the problem was, Cruickshank immediately prepared the Catalina for another attack run, with all the depth charges still intact and determined not to let the U-boat get away. As they started their second attack run however, the U-boat gunners were now better prepared and had the opportunity to correctly sight their guns, bringing them fully to bear on the incoming Catalina, which was now flying into a wall of anti-aircraft fire. The aircraft suffered multiple hits, causing significant damage to the airframe and peppering the crew with bullets and shrapnel, but the Catalina defiantly held its course and pressed home the attack, with the depth charges this time releasing as intended and accurately straddling the target to devastating effect. U-361 was destroyed with the loss of all hands, but her gunners had left their mark on Catalina JV928 and her crew.
In the immediate aftermath of the engagement, the scene on board the Catalina must have been one of confusion and devastation as the crew assessed the damage to both aircraft and her crew. Despite being hit multiple times, the aircraft appeared to be operating normally, without any signs of immediate danger – the crew, however, had not faired quite so well. The navigator/bomb aimer had been killed during the attack and half of the remaining crew had suffered bullet or shrapnel injuries. Pilot John Cruickshank himself had been very badly wounded, with his crew believing that he may succumb to his injuries at any moment. With no less than 72 separate wounds, he had significant injuries to his lungs and lower body and was bleeding profusely, passing out from the pain almost immediately, with the injured co-pilot having to take control of the aircraft. Dragging him from his seat and resting him on a bunk aft of the cockpit, the able crew tended to his wounds as best they could and were about to administer morphine in the hope of make Cruickshank more comfortable, as he was clearly in severe pain. Passing in and out of consciousness, he refused the drugs and insisted on regaining command of the aircraft, needing to satisfy himself that the aircraft was airworthy and that a correct course for home had been plotted – even at this time, Cruickshank’s primary consideration was the welfare of his crew. With darkness descending and a perilous five hour journey across open water ahead of them in order to make it to their home base, Cruickshank finally accepted that everything was in hand and once again wrestled with consciousness as he attempted to cope with the agony of his wounds, but still refusing to accept any pain relief which he felt may impair his judgement.
A view of the development artwork which is used during the production of the initial pre-production model
To the amazement of everyone on board, Cruickshank survived the journey back to Sullom Voe and despite continual loss of blood and having severe difficulty breathing, he displayed exceptional leadership with one final act of bravery and devotion to duty. Once again caring only for the safety of his men, he knew that the co-pilot was not experienced enough to land the aircraft on open water and insisted he be dragged back to his pilot’s seat, where he could help to bring the aircraft safely home. With his injuries making this short journey agonising beyond belief, he eventually made it into position and regained command of the aircraft, immediately identifying that there was insufficient light for a safe landing and ordering his co-pilot to fly a holding pattern. This continued for the next hour, with Cruickshank fighting through the pain, having severe difficulty breathing and needing to be propped up in his seat by other crew members, but all the while passing instructions to the inexperienced pilot and checking the all important fuel levels. Finally, he judged that it was light enough for a landing to be attempted and he helped guide the damaged Catalina onto the water at Sullom Voe, even having the mental fortitude to safely beach the aircraft so it might easily be salvaged and returned to active duty in due course. Almost as soon as the base medical staff boarded the aircraft, Flying Officer Cruickshank finally collapsed and needed an immediate blood transfusion before he could be moved from the aircraft and taken to hospital.
Another look at the hand decorated sample of this beautiful new model
Miraculously, John Cruickshank was to survive his terrible injuries, although they proved so severe that he would never fly in command of an aircraft again. For his actions in sinking U-361 and selfless heroism in ensuring the safety of his aircraft and crew following the engagement, he was awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for gallantry in the presence of the enemy. Announcement of the honour was published in the London Gazette on 1st September 1944 and he was presented with the medal three weeks later by King George VI, at Holyrood House. His co-pilot during the action, Jack Garnett was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal at the same ceremony.
John Alexander Cruickshank was the only Victoria Cross recipient from RAF Coastal Command to survive the war and on leaving the RAF in 1946, he returned to his previous employment role in banking. In May 2018, the Centenary year of the Royal Air Force, John Cruickshank VC will be marking a significant celebration of his own - his 98th birthday.
Making an impressive die-cast commemoration of the actions of this brave crew and their distinctive aircraft, AA36111 – Consolidated Catalina IVA JV928 ‘Y’, F/Off John Alexander Cruickshank VC, RAF No.210 Squadron, Sullom Voe, Shetland Islands, 17th July 1944 – the sinking of U-361 is available for pre-order on the Corgi website and at your usual model suppliers now, with a scheduled release date of August 2018.
Training the RAF’s elite
This latest Eurofighter Typhoon release is a fine modelling way to mark the Centenary of the Royal Air Force
Although the current RAF 100 commemorations are charting the entire history of the world’s first independent air force, through two global conflicts and the tension of the Cold War, today’s Royal Air Force will undoubtedly be thrown into the spotlight as many consider if it has access to such ground breaking aviation technology as the Sopwith Camel and Supermarine Spitfire were in their day. Helping to train today’s elite fighter pilots, the Eurofighter Typhoon T.3 is the two seat version of Britain’s most potent interceptor/multi-role aircraft and is undoubtedly one of the world’s most capable aircraft of its kind, with this training aircraft retaining the full mission capabilities of its single seat fighting stablemate. With the successful airing of a recent BBC programme commemorating 100 years of the RAF, this training version of the Typhoon was thrown into the media spotlight, as both of the McGregor Brothers (who jointly presented the programme) were taken for an exhilarating flight in one of these magnificent aircraft. They also stood inspecting a No.2 (AC) Squadron aircraft, similar to the one just released in the Aviation Archive range, as it is brought back into one of the hardened aircraft shelters at RAF Lossiemouth, at the beginning of the programme.
AA36511 – Eurofighter Typhoon T.3 ZK380, No.2(AC) Squadron, RAF Lossiemouth, Moray, Scotland 100 Years of the RAF
For the RAF student pilot hoping to eventually fly the capable Eurofighter Typhoon, he or she will first have to successfully negotiate training in such aircraft as the Grob Tutor, Shorts Tucano and BAe Hawk before arriving at either RAF Coningsby or Lossiemouth to continue working towards their goal. The final stage of this training could be a seat in a Typhoon T.3, which is the latest twin-seat pilot conversion training aircraft for the RAF’s Eurofighter Typhoon force and one of the most advanced aircraft in the world. Whilst this aircraft is specifically designed to allow student pilots to gain experience in flying the RAF’s premier air defence fighter aircraft, it retains full combat capability and in times of conflict will join the rest of the Typhoon force in defending Britain’s airspace. As the Typhoon platform continues to develop into an effective multi-role aircraft, the T.3 will be training future RAF Typhoon pilots for many years to come.
Eurofighter Typhoon T.3 AA36409 is the second release in our Royal Air Force Centenary Collection
In this centenary year of the Royal Air Force, No.2 Squadron holds the distinction of being the oldest fixed wing flying squadron in the world. It was the first fixed wing aircraft squadron to be deployed to the Western Front in August 1914, initially flying reconnaissance missions, but soon perfecting air to ground attack techniques in an Army Cooperation role. Continuing to enhance the reputation of this famous unit, No.2(AC) Squadron became the fifth of the RAF’s front line Typhoon Squadrons on 9th January 2015 at Lossiemouth in Northern Scotland, where it helps to provide Quick Reaction Alert support for Britain’s northern sector. The white triangles used on the squadron markings are associated with early operations over the trenches of the Western Front and were applied to identify the aircraft as friendly to trigger-happy Allied troops – it is used in conjunction with the Wake Knot symbol, which appears on the tail of the aircraft. The Typhoon T.3 is the latest incarnation of this effective two-seat trainer and incorporates a number of updates and enhancements, including the PIRATE FLIR infra-red target acquisition system, which helps to detect Soviet aircraft utilising stealth technology, over long distances.
Motoring classics on show at the recent Classic Car & Restoration Show
The distinctive Morris Minor is celebrating its 70th birthday this year
The Royal Air Force are not alone in celebrating a significant anniversary in 2018, as a number of classic British motor vehicles also mark important landmark years since their market introductions. At the head of this group and undoubtedly qualifying for the title British motoring classic is the venerable Morris Minor, which is celebrating its 70th birthday this year and is arguably one of the most popular restoration subject vehicles in the country today. The car was actually conceived back in 1941, as the world was enduring the darkest days of the Second World War and British manufacturing companies were engaged in full time war production. Forward thinking executives at Morris Motors were already giving thought to life after the war and how they could quickly take advantage of such a situation, effectively maintaining their production capacity. Whilst diverting little from their concerted war effort, they gave the go ahead for the development of a new small family car, which would go on to become a familiar sight on Britain’s roads and one which holds a special place in British motoring history.
The Morris Minor has long been a popular subject for a motoring restoration project
Launched at the Earls Court Motor Show in 1948, the new Morris Minor MM was initially available in just two versions, a two door saloon and a two door tourer (convertible), both utilising a 918cc engine and costing the princely sum of £358. The design philosophy behind the new car was to make a practical, economical and affordable family vehicle which the average man in the street would take some pride in owning and not just think that this was the only car he was able to afford. With generous curves and a tall body shell, the new Morris was to benefit from good road holding and was designed to maximise interior space, making it an instant hit with families looking for a practical motoring solution and effectively getting the population moving independently of public transport. The effectiveness of its design and its overwhelming popular appeal saw the Morris Minor become Britain’s first car to sell over one million vehicles, in a production run which lasted from 1948 until 1971.
The Morris Minor was manufactured in three distinct production series – the original Minor MM, which featured split windscreen and headlights placed low to the ground, positioned either side of the front grille, the Minor Series II (from 1952) with a re-designed front profile and headlights placed higher on the top of each wing, in what became a distinctive feature of these vehicles and finally, the Minor 1000, which introduced a curved single piece windscreen and larger rear window. Interestingly, the original codename for this entire motoring project was ‘Mosquito’ and many felt that this would be carried through to the production vehicle itself and was only changed during the final stages of development – I wonder if the Morris Mosquito would have been viewed with the same affection as the Minor is to this day.
This rather dishevelled looking Morris Traveller is just embarking on a restoration project to its former glory
A practical car for British families, these beautifully restored vehicles are now real head-turners whenever they are seen
During its long production life, many different versions of the vehicle would be released, including the distinctive estate version which will be familiar to many readers of a certain age. Known as the ‘Traveller’, this eye-catching vehicle featured an external structural frame for the rear bodywork which was made from ash, with two large doors at the back, side hinged on the wooden frame to ensure maximum opening for loading. The frame itself was varnished as opposed to being painted and gave the Morris Traveller a much loved style all of its own, even if its manufacture was a little more protracted than the usual saloon and touring versions – the half completed vehicles would be sent from the Cowley factory to the MG plant at Abingdon, where the bodies could be attached to the chassis and final assembly carried out (including the woodwork), as this type of work could not be completed at the Oxfordshire plant.
For readers of a certain age, these Morris Minor vans will bring back fond memories, as they were in widespread use on Britain’s roads
There is something rather attractive about this Morris Minor pick-up truck, which is now lovingly cared for by a careful owner
For such a successful vehicle type, it will come as no surprise that the Morris Minor also enjoyed great success as a small van and business vehicle, with its no-nonsense, practical construction lending itself to the production of a reliable and affordable working vehicle with many applications. Retaining the distinctive styling associated with this famous vehicle, it was produced as a quarter ton closed van and flatbed pick-up truck from 1953 and was originally intended for use by the many thousands of sole traders and small businesses around the UK, although many would also be used by larger organisations, such as the Automobile Association and Royal Mail. These fantastic little vans quite simply powered Britain’s small businesses and whether you needed to deliver groceries, car parts or TV sets, the Morris Minor was always ready to be pressed into service.
The pictures used throughout this section were all taken at the recent Practical Classics Classic Car & Restoration Show at Birmingham’s NEC, but with a number of high profile events scheduled this year to commemorate the 70th birthday of the Morris Minor, you should not have to travel too far to pay your respects to this legendary product of the British motoring industry – 2018 could well be remembered as the year of the 'Moggie'.
Two of the latest Morris Minor releases in the Vanguards range
If any of our readers have a collection of Vanguards Morris Minor models they would care to photograph and send in to us, this would be greatly appreciated, as we have a couple of features planned to mark this year’s 70th Anniversary of this significant British car – please use our usual email@example.com address for all pictures and correspondence.
What’s on the desk?
We are pleased to end this latest edition of our blog with the welcome return of our popular ‘What’s on the desk?’ feature, following an early year hiatus due to the disruption caused by the Chinese New Year. We have three new models to feature this month, one classic Vanguards release, one Original Omnibus which only made it into the current catalogue in artwork profile format and an Aviation Archive release which adds some historical balance to the current RAF centenary commemorations. Before we begin, can we please take a moment to remind readers that these are pre-production model samples and whilst we know you do love to see pictures of future releases as soon as they become available, they may include errors and inaccuracies which will have already picked up by the development team and will not appear on the production model. Despite potential imperfections, they are such an important stage in the development process and a fascinating insight for Corgi collectors, so please enjoy your latest selection.
VA09523 – Ford Escort Mk.1 Mexico in Sebring Red
Ford produced 10,352 Mexicos at their Advanced Vehicle Operations (AVO) facility in Aveley, Essex, between late 1970 and early 1975. It utilised the heavy duty Type 49 bodyshell of the Boreham built works rally car but substituted their powerful, complex and expensive engine with the simple, reliable ‘Kent’ unit. The Mexico was named in tribute to Ford’s win during the 1970 London to Mexico World Cup Rally with an Escort of that specification. Few have survived in original condition, because many were used for motorsport, however, the custodian of the immaculate car modelled here, Emma Balaam (Secretary of the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs) believes it has never been comprehensively restored or seriously damaged and is a rare survivor.
VA09523 will be the latest successful release in the Vanguards Ford Escort Mk.1 series
Vanguards releases featuring Ford cars always tend to be amongst the most popular models in any range and this striking Ford Escort Mk.1 Mexico will be no exception. With a scheduled release date of May 2018, we will not have to wait long for this beauty.
OM46313A – AEC Type RM, London & Country, Two-Tone green, 406 Epsom (Dual destination release)
As a consequence of bus deregulation in 1986, many new operators outside London, as well as several traditional operators, took to the iconic AEC Type RM as a cheap and reliable vehicle to protect or develop their routes and services. By 1900, London & Country South West had adopted the fleet name of ‘London & Country’, but the name of the company was not officially changed until 1993. London & Country acquired RM1183 from Southend Transport later that year and used it on Surrey Schools’ route 418 initially, whilst still in Southend livery. Graduating to Christmas shopper services on routes 406 and 408, the full London & Country two-tone green livery was applied, in probably the finest livery carried by an AEC. Operating on the Leatherhead based routes 406, 408, 410,414 and 473 during 1994, as well as the Surrey Hills leisure buses, at the end of 1994 183 CLT was overhauled and repainted into Lincoln Green. Sold on to Nostalgiabus for use on route 306, Kingston to Epsom, it was destroyed in an arson attack during December 1997.
AA27107 – Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 ‘Red 8’, Kurt Gabler, Mosquito Hunter, III./JG300, Juterbog-Waldlager, July 1944
The Messerschmitt Bf 109 series of fighters were produced in greater numbers than any other fighter aircraft in history and saw service throughout the entire Second World War. The final K-4 version was the fastest of the Daimler Benz powered 109s, capable of speeds in excess of 440mph, compared to the 330mph of the Battle of Britain era ‘Emil’. Constantly developed and upgraded, the sleek and cultured late war machines bore little resemblance to the angular fighters that swept across Europe in the early months of WWII, despite the basic airframe remaining almost identical. Contrary to common misconception, the Messerschmitt remained an extremely competent fighter aircraft throughout WWII and in the hands of an experienced pilot was more than capable of challenging the very latest Allied designs. Unfortunately, by the later stages of WWII, the Luftwaffe was simply unable to call on the services of experienced fighter pilots and was running out of new aircraft, spares and fuel. Despite this, history will note that some of the world’s most successful air aces used the Bf 109 to gain many of their victories.
This latest Messerschmitt Bf 109 release is without doubt one of the most distinctive in the series
One of the more unusual late war Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters was ‘Red 8’ flown by Oblt. Kurt Gabler, interim Gruppenkommandeur of III./JG300. Gabler was specifically tasked with trying to shoot down the fast De Havilland Mosquito reconnaissance aircraft of the Royal Air Force, but as the Mosquito could outrun most Luftwaffe fighters of the day, Gabler tried to give himself as much chance as possible in catching these elusive aircraft. It appears he may have instructed ground crews at Juterbog-Waldlager to sand back the wings and fuselage of his Messerschmitt to bare metal and may have even had the machine polished in an attempt to gain valuable additional speed. The rudder and wing tips retained white paint and the black spinner had a spiral white band around it, whilst the aircraft retained its ‘Red 8’ and red unit identification band around the rear fuselage. The tail of Gabler’s Messerschmitt carries 17 victory marks, achieved in just 23 combat sorties, with only one of these victories coming against a British Mosquito.
Many will be looking forward to the release of this extremely attractive model
This magnificent Messerschmitt is already looking like being one of the most distinctive Bf 109s ever to appear in the Aviation Archive range and will be a popular addition to many a collection following its scheduled release in May.
This latest look at the pre-production sample models arriving at Corgi HQ brings this latest edition of Die-cast Diaries to an end but hope we have managed to include some news and updates which were of interest to you and your collecting. As usual, we are always interested to hear from readers who may like to suggest a subject they would like to see covered in a future edition of Die-cast Diaries, or those who might like to send in pictures of their own model collection. If you would like the chance of playing a starring role in a future edition of our blog, please let us have your ideas using our usual firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail address, where we very much look forward to hearing from you.
If you can’t wait for the next edition of our blog, there are plenty of Corgi model discussions taking place over on our Die-Cast Diaries forum along with the news, photographs and collecting banter on our ever popular Facebook and Twitter social media accounts – could we please ask that you use the #CorgiDiecastDiaries when posting, as this helps direct new collectors to our blog pages. We look forward to reading all your latest Corgi collecting discussions and pictures of your favourite models over the next few weeks.
Finally, we would like to thank each and every one of you for your continued support of our blog and we look forward to bringing you plenty of Corgi related news, features and updates in the months to come. The next edition of Die-cast Diaries will be published on Friday 4th May.
The Corgi Die-cast Diaries Team
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