Commemorating the 75th anniversary of the ‘Dambusters Raid’
We are pleased to be bringing you this latest edition of Die-cast Diaries and your regular look at all the news, updates and features from the fascinating world of Corgi die-cast model collecting. In this latest update, we look forward to bringing you details of a forthcoming Aviation Archive release which commemorates one of the most audacious bombing raids of the Second World War, before moving on to discuss why the subject of community ‘Presentation Spitfires’ have an enduring fascination which continues to this day. We continue our regular series of Vanguards features by once again visiting this year’s significant Morris Minor 70th Anniversary and look at how this classic British vehicle continues to gain popularity as a relatively affordable restoration project and how the Vanguards model range perfectly captured this back in 2004. Courtesy of our talented researcher Paul Isles, we will also be bringing you the first instalment of a magnificent two part review from the recent South East Bus Festival at Detling, before ending with an interesting and rather topical recent social media post, which confirms ‘Here comes the summer’ and that Corgi models bring back fantastic memories for some rather famous people. Yet another bumper edition awaits, so we had better make a start straight away.
New Squadron for a ‘Special’ task
Profile artwork which clearly shows the modified bomb bay needed to carry one of the famous dam busting Upkeep mines
Although the current RAF centenary commemorations are taking all the headlines as we gear up for what is destined to be an important year of Airshows across the UK, this month also marks the significant 75th anniversary of arguably the most famous and certainly the most audacious bombing raid in the history of aerial warfare – ‘Operation Chastise’ and the raid against the great Ruhr dams. An impending Aviation Archive release provides a magnificent 1/72nd scale die-cast tribute to one of the nineteen specially modified Avro Lancaster B.llls and the 133 brave airmen who took part in this famous raid and we will be taking a closer look at this model now. Our sister Workbench blog over on the Airfix website included a more detailed look at the raid, which may be of interest to some readers.
As one of the most significant bombing raids in the history of warfare, the audacious ‘Dambusters’ raid was the culmination of months of planning and weeks of intensive flying training. When the nineteen specially modified Avro Lancaster B.III bombers of No.617 Squadron took off from RAF Scampton on the night of 16th May 1943, they were not only carrying specialist equipment designed to help them achieve their objective, but also the ability to score a huge propaganda victory with a high-profile Allied military statement of intent. Striking at the very heart of the mighty German industrial manufacturing base in the Ruhr valley, their aim was to disrupt war production by breaching three of the huge dams in the area, depriving factories of water and power generation, whilst also wreaking devastation on an unprecedented scale. If they were successful, the torrent of water flooding the entire region would clearly indicate to the German people that the Allies had the ability to strike at the heart of their nation and that they would ultimately prevail in this war. Devastation on this scale would both seriously affect Germany’s ability to keep its armed forces supplied with weapons and ammunition, whilst also making a mockery of Hitler’s propaganda messages.
Collectors are always interested to see the decoration guides, which are used in support of every new Aviation Archive release
The crew of Avro Lancaster ED929 AJ-L took off from RAF Scampton at 21.47 on the night of 16th May 1943, as part of the first attack wave heading for the Mohne Dam. Heading out over East Anglia and then on to the Dutch coast, the aircraft and its crew were orbiting the Mohne Dam awaiting the instruction to begin their attack run, when it was successfully breached. They immediately set course for their secondary target, the Eder Dam, which was a further 45 miles deeper into German territory and a notoriously difficult target to attack. With steep wooded hills surrounding the dam, the pilots would have to make steep dives and severe turns to line up correctly on the target, before dropping their ‘Upkeep’ bomb at the optimum height to affect a breach. Fortunately, the Eder was not defended by Luftwaffe anti-aircraft units and the Lancaster crews even had the luxury of being able to drop flares to mark the optimum route to target. In spite of this, the pilot of ED929, Dave Shannon, was forced to make at least five aborted attack runs before finally releasing his bomb at around 01:40, which struck the dam at the extreme right-hand side. The Eder Dam was finally breached minutes later following the successful attack by fellow pilot Les Knight in Lancaster ED912, with both aircraft managing to make it safely back to Scampton.
A really interesting pair of images, firstly showing the prepared Lancaster image for use in the latest catalogue and on the Corgi website and secondly, something of a personal lunch-time project for one of our talented graphic designers
AA32625 is the latest release in our hugely successful series of 1/72nd scale Avro Lancaster models, which is undoubtedly regarded as one of the most significant models in the history of die-cast aviation collecting. One of the images above is being shown for the first time as an exclusive for Die-cast Diaries readers and will never be used in relation to this popular release. It is interesting to compare the dramatic attack run image with that of the standard product shot used in the production of the current January to June Corgi catalogue – although this image is just something of a lunchtime project for one of our talented graphic designers, it shows what they can do when applying their skills to a Corgi model shot against a white background, when their creative juices start to flow. AA32625 is currently scheduled for a May release.
Renaissance for British motoring classic
In its 70th anniversary year, it is amazing where you can find restored examples of this classic British vehicle
In the previous edition of our blog, we featured a series of pictures from the recent Classic Car & Restoration Show at the NEC, focusing on the quintessentially British Morris Minor in this, its 70th Anniversary year. Many readers will be fully aware that the humble little Morris Minor occupies a significant position in the history of British motoring and we could not let its birthday year pass without taking another look at this popular vehicle and how its distinctive good looks are attracting plenty of new admirers. Introduced from the outset as a vehicle for the masses, the Morris Minor was never really intended to be an object of desire or something you lavished time and attention on, it was a practical, reliable motoring solution, intended as an everyday use vehicle and one which would not let you down. Utilising simple, reliable technology, the Minor was always there when you needed it, be that for work or pleasure and in a strange way, this reliability endeared the vehicle to its owners, who became attached to Britain’s first 'million units produced' car.
Over the years, motoring technology has advanced at some pace, to a point where modern vehicles are almost like computers on wheels and what they gain in practicality, safety and comfort, they arguably lose in character. Perhaps it is for this reason why relatively affordable classic vehicles like the Morris Minor are making something of a comeback, not only as restoration projects but also appearing back on Britain’s roads, as well as making unusual landmarks in our towns and cities. The pictures of the distinctively liveried Co-op Morris Minor van above were taken in Rochdale town centre, close to No.31 Toad Lane, which is home to the Rochdale Pioneers Museum on the site of the original Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society from 1844, better known as the birth of the Co-operative movement. The Minor Van is presented featuring the distinctive logo of the Co-op first introduced 50 years ago and is intended not only as a high profile indicator of the site of the Pioneer Museum, but also the enduring link between business, industry and this reliable little van – the fact that is it now used as an unusual flowerbed is neither here nor there.
This striking Morris Minor van is positioned outside the Rochdale Pioneers Museum, home of the Co-op
Created by famous British designer Sir Alec Issigonis, who went on to be the produce the incomparable the Mini, the Morris Minor undoubtedly took some design inspiration from American styling and despite being functional and reliable, it was quite a pleasant vehicle to look at, with its generous curves and almost face-like frontal appearance. Indeed, the Minor has always been viewed as something of a happy car, with its smiley face unwittingly contributing to many owners giving their cars names – if you see a Morris Minor either on the road or at a local car show, you will undoubtedly see people admiring it with involuntary smiles on their faces. This could also be why the car is enjoying something of a renaissance amongst car enthusiasts young and old and is viewed as a reasonably priced classic offering a genuine option as a restoration project – these workmanlike vehicles are now not being allowed to simply rust in peace and are being lovingly returned to their former glory and in some cases, used once more on a daily basis.
VA05804 is one of the more unusual releases in the history of the Vanguards range
The subject of Morris Minor restoration got us thinking about an unusual Vanguards model release from 2004, which seemed to pre-empt this renewed popularity in returning these classic vehicles to their former glory. VA05804 was apparently the brainchild of the then Corgi Development Manager, in the days when the company’s head office was at Meridian Business Park, in Leicester. He had the idea of utilising the established Morris Minor tooling and combining it with a specially produced, bespoke cold cast accessory part, intended to fit over the rear half of the model and represent a protective cloth covering the vehicle, which has been pulled back to reveal the front end of the restoration project. The car appears to be in very good condition, with just the passenger side wing appearing to require further renovation, unless this was the result of an accident following the completion of the restoration.
Making a striking addition to any Vanguards Morris Minor collection, this ‘Restoration Progress’ release includes a cold cast cover (and black cat) which only ever appeared on this release
Speaking to Vanguards supremo Mark Pinnigar, he told us that he had little to do with this particular release, other than producing the artwork file, badge and number plate for the hand decorated sample model. He would have also produced four hand painted sample models, including four versions of the cold cast cover, one of which would have been sent as a reference to the factory selected to produce the model in the Far East. A really interesting addition to the Vanguards range, the model cover features a number of items you may expect to find in a garage, including an old suit case, oil drum and a spare tyre – it even includes the family cat, which is sitting majestically on the roof of the car, protecting the vehicle from unwanted attention. VA05804 is a fascinating addition to the Vanguards range and one which must be a real conversation point in any model collection – unfortunately, it is now quite difficult to find an example of this model, but those who are fortunate enough to own one have a really unique model with which to mark the 70th Anniversary of the classic British Morris Minor.
One day at Detling: The 2018 South East Bus Festival
1967 AEC Regent V in East Kent livery, wearing a rather appropriate Scalextric advertisement panel
Hornby research expert Paul Isles recently enjoyed a day surrounded by classic buses and thousands of fellow enthusiasts and we are extremely pleased to be bringing Die-cast Diaries readers the first instalment of a two part review of this fascinating show – over to Paul.
Spring is a busy time for bus and coach rallies, with a number of events taking place across the United Kingdom during March and April, but for me, the start of the season begins with the South East Bus Festival at Detling Showground in Kent. Now in its eighth year, the 2018 show attracted 150 buses and coaches, which was the largest entry in its history, beating the 2017 total of 139 vehicles and featuring seventy-seven vehicles which had never previously attended the event. Billed as part of the Heritage Transport Show, there can be no doubt that Detling is definitely more than a bus festival, yet despite the fact that there are over 800 additional cars, motorbikes, commercial vehicles, military vehicles, tractors and steam engines present, it is the buses and coaches that define the event, giving it such a unique atmosphere. It is, I guess, the fact that bus and coach enthusiasts are so, well, enthusiastic, that it feels more like attending a convention. In terms of comparison, the South East Bus Festival is the Comic-Con for bus and coach fans; a gathering of the predominantly over-50 male population pursuing their hobby and stalking their favourite and ‘star’ vehicles with camera and notebook to hand. And yet, it isn’t.
Standing between the Conference Centre and the Exhibition Hall to get some ‘crowd’ shots for this article, what struck me was the diversity of visitors to the show; young couples walking hand in hand, single mothers and groups of females with their children, three generation families laughing and fighting over the last custard cream and a wide age range of both males and females, just wandering around, content in their own company. This wasn’t just a gathering of transport enthusiasts, it was actually a day out, an event, a reason to get out of the house.
These fantastic events are as much about the people, as they are about the vehicles. Here is a selection of images showing some of the Detling characters
I’ve wanted to cover this event for Corgi over the last couple of years, but work and family commitments have conspired to ensure that I’ve been unable to attend the last two events at the Kent Showground, so I was relieved to see that the weather gods were smiling that Saturday morning; there were several points during the preceding weeks where I wondered whether it would be the first snowbound Bus Festival! I had browsed through the list of entries the previous evening, looking for an unusual vehicle or livery that might yield an unusual story to include in this article and my trip up the M20 gave me some time to consider how best to approach those subjects on my short list, but more of that later.
Turning off the M20, up and onto the A249 Detling Hill, it is clear to see why the Kent Showground was selected as the venue for the first event, in 2011. Intended as a purely ‘one-off’ event, the 'M&D 100' was organised to celebrate the centenary of the formation of Maidstone & District Motor Services on March 22, 1911 (the present Arriva Kent & Surrey Ltd, who are major sponsors of the South East Bus Festival, took over the business of the original M&D company). The event featured seventy-five former M&D buses and coaches on display, a ten-minute free bus service that operated around the showground that was so popular it had to be increased in frequency to cater for demand, slide shows about the company, talks by two former directors on running the company in private ownership during the late 1980s and early 1990s and featured an M&D Reunion Tea Room for former M&D staff to meet up, renew old friendships and reminisce about their time with the company.
The format proved to be a popular choice, with feedback from visitors encouraging the organisers to run a similar event the following year, in 2012, focussing this time on the 60th anniversary of the M&D and East Kent Bus Club. This served to increase the number of vehicles entered to ninety-eight, as well as encouraging former employees of the East Kent Road Car Co to attend, joining their M&D colleagues in the reunion room. The same format of static displays, vehicles ‘in service’, guest speakers, slide shows, sales stands and model bus displays was adopted, to popular acclaim, setting the standard to which all subsequent shows have met.
Paul managed to show off his panning technique during the show, as a number of the exhibits were available for a rather nostalgic trip around the showground
Such was the feedback and goodwill generated by the first two events, the organisers decided to continue with the format, establishing the event as the South East Bus Festival. Entries for the 2013 festival dropped slightly, to ninety-one vehicles, but the inclement weather in the lead up to the show may well have been a factor in this, especially as the 2014 festival attracted a record of 121 entries; establishing the South East Bus Festival as one of the largest events on the national show calendar. Since then, vehicle entries have increased year on year; this year saw 150 vehicles entered, but it is the also the increasing number of new vehicles making an appearance that sets the festival apart, giving enthusiasts a reason to return to the festival year after year.
Entering the showground, the visitor cannot help but be impressed by the efficient marshalling of the static bus displays, with the majority of the vehicles having a reasonable space around them. Being aligned on a south-west axis made the most of the early spring sunshine (on the occasions it broke through the cloud cover) and it was certainly possible to get unhindered three-quarter photographs of many of the vehicles and, with care in framing, it was even possible to isolate some vehicles for a more pleasing composition. On the whole, bus enthusiasts are a thoughtful bunch and I witnessed many examples of thoughtfulness and cooperation between people when it came to photographing the vehicles. Of course, as the day wore on the showground became busier and opportunities for photographs became harder to come by, but patience (and politeness) was the key.
This beautiful 1951 Bedford SBG coach in H.R Richmond Ltd livery was transporting enthusiasts on something of a showground mystery tour
Quite an eye-catcher. This 1959 AEC Routemaster is part of the Arriva London Heritage Fleet
Another East Kent double-decker, displaying the county’s links with Britain’s most famous hobby company
This Dennis Lancet III was built in the late 1940s and was a popular choice for a quick trip around the showground
Having visited the show on several past occasions I was aware of this, so I took the opportunity to get as many static shots as I could early on. This also gave me an opportunity to talk to several owners and club members before things got too busy; I noticed that many of them wandered away during the middle part of the day to avoid being besieged by enthusiasts, returning later as the event wound down. Unfortunately, such was the case with the drivers/owners of the buses being displayed under the auspices of the North Kent Vehicle Preservation Group, who are celebrating their 40th anniversary in 2018; a shame as I felt the opportunity was missed by the Group to engage with a sizable crowd on the day.
With many of the static bus shots that I wanted to capture ‘in the bag’, I turned my attention to capturing the details of design and livery that interest me. Although, as a teenager, I worked as a ‘clippy’ for the local bus operator of Carters of Foulden and that both my father-in-law and my father worked ‘on the buses’ (the former for London Transport, the latter for Carters/National Express/East Kent/Stagecoach), I have to confess that this is where my affinity with the subject ends. My particular interests revolve around the liveries and signwriting skills that feature on commercial and passenger vehicles and as I wander around the displays it is invariably these aspects that catch my eye. It is difficult to pick out particular favourites of mine, but bus details such as the marque badge of a Leyland Royal Tiger, the radiator badges of a Leyland Titan or Guy Special, or the Lee’s of High Barnet livery and the way it integrates with the body design of the Dennis Lancet III, all stand out to me.
An eye for detail. A Corgi researcher is always on the lookout for interesting schemes and information
It is always interesting to read any article written by someone who is passionate about his work and his hobby and we think you will agree that Paul has managed to expertly convey a flavour of this magnificent event. We thank Paul for this excellent feature and look forward to the next instalment in four weeks’ time.
The people of Belfast buy seventeen Spitfires
AA39213 marks one of the seventeen Spitfires purchased through the Belfast Telegraph Spitfire Fund
An impending Aviation Archive release not only presents collectors with the latest model in the successful 1/72nd scale Corgi Spitfire series, but in this RAF centenary year, also serves to commemorate the fascinating story of ‘Spitfire Funds’ during the Second World War. One of the more unusual aspects of aerial conflict during the WWII was the subject of ‘Presentation Spitfires’ and despite the fact that many other aircraft types were also procured in this manner, the Spitfire was regarded as the fighter of the moment and the one which would bring Britain and her Commonwealth deliverance against their enemies. Desperate to do their bit and support the war effort, communities throughout Britain and the Commonwealth nations put aside the hardships of their wartime existence and enthusiastically gave what they could to their local Spitfire fund, often in competition with local towns. Taking great pride in the knowledge that their community could fund and put their name to a new Spitfire which could represent them in the battles raging in the skies above Europe, these aircraft helped to galvanise the nation in her time of greatest need. The aircraft themselves were simply taken from the current production lines, but were allowed to bear the names of the individuals, companies and communities who had purchased them, whilst being careful not to compromise the standard camouflage scheme applied to RAF fighter aircraft.
The Ulster Aviation Society own a replica of the Down Spitfire, which is a regular attendee at events all over the country
When the Belfast Telegraph newspaper launched their own initiative to raise funds to buy a Spitfire for the war effort, local communities rallied around the call with some enthusiasm. Initially hoping to raise £5,000 from all sections of the local population, their campaign slogan of ‘A Spitfire a day keeps the Nazis away’ captured the imagination of readers, who eventually raised enough money to buy no fewer than seventeen Spitfires, a sum equivalent to around 3 million pounds in current terms. Each aircraft carried the name of the fund that purchased the aircraft, along with the Ulster name of the area that had contributed to its phenomenal success. Supermarine Spitfire Mk.IIa P7823 was one of these seventeen presentation Spitfires and proudly carried the name ‘Down - Belfast Telegraph Spitfire Fund’ after the communities in County Down who helped to finance her. Flying with RAF No.504 Squadron, this Spitfire proved to be significant as it was the only one of the seventeen aircraft purchased through the fund to be based in Northern Ireland, as it was stationed at RAF Ballyhalbert. It was involved in a tragic accident on 7th January 1942, when young Canadian pilot Walter McManus was killed when the aircraft crashed during a flight back to his home station. Illustrating the human cost of conflict, Walter McManus had only left his native Canada six months earlier, four days after celebrating his marriage to his sweetheart Kate – although promising to return to her at the earliest possible opportunity, the couple would only have those four special days together. A full size replica of P7823, the ‘Down Spitfire’ was commissioned by the Ulster Aviation Society in 2013 and this popular aircraft serves to commemorate the sacrifice of P.O McManus and his wife, along with the fascinating story of when the people of Northern Ireland raised the money to buy seventeen Spitfires. For more information regarding the Down Spitfire and Pilot Officer Walter McManus, please head for the Ulster Aviation Society website.
The replica ‘Down Spitfire’ P7823 in the process of being dismantled at the museum and resplendent outside Belfast St. Annes Cathedral the following day
The images above feature the Down Spitfire replica owned and displayed by the Ulster Aviation Society. They were taken during a recent trip to Northern Ireland for a very special aircraft unveiling event (to feature in a future edition of our Aerodrome blog) and show the replica being prepared for transportation to an RAF Centenary commemoration the following day, at Belfast St. Annes Cathedral. Interestingly, the service was taking place around 200 metres from where the original Belfast Telegraph offices were located. The ‘Down Spitfire’ AA39213 is due for release later in the year.
And finally, …. ‘Here comes the summer!’
Corgi Ford Escort van C497 is a release from October 1983
Although the various Corgi social media sites are usually alive with all sorts of information, questions and general collecting banter from committed model collectors, every now and then we are lucky enough to receive a celebrity post, commenting on a particular model which has significance for them. One such post occurred recently when Feargal Sharkey, the famous former frontman of 70s punk/new wave band ‘The Undertones’ proudly shared his recent Corgi acquisition with fellow Twitter members. Secured from a source in France, Mr Sharkey had managed to obtain a fine example of our Ford Escort van (C497) which was released in October 1983. The model is presented in Radio Rentals TV and Video livery and it transpires that Mr Sharkey was working as a TV repair and delivery driver for the company during the rise of the Undertones – allowed to use the vehicle outside working hours, this van would regularly carry the band’s equipment from venue to venue as they began to increase their following around the music scene in Northern Ireland, before they found fame on a much wider scale.
It was nice to be able to give Feargal a little more information about his purchase and we are certainly pleased that this little piece of Corgi die-cast history brings back some pleasant memories for him. Although he claims that this is not going to be the start of a burgeoning die-cast collection, we do have to let him know that these models can be quite addictive and in the words of one of your own songs, ‘It’s going to happen!’ We would like to thank Feargal Sharkey for taking the time to share his tweet and for causing something of a stir around Corgi HQ – it has been great listening to all those classic Undertones tunes, for those of us cultured enough to remember them.
That’s all we have for you in this latest edition and we sincerely hope we managed to include a feature which was of interest to you. 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 – after this edition, we are especially keen to hear from any Rock and Pop stars. 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 1st June.
The Corgi Die-cast Diaries Team
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