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‘We have your fighter ace and he needs a new leg’

‘We have your fighter ace and he needs a new leg’

Welcome to this latest edition of Corgi Diecast Diaries and your regular look at all the news, updates and stories from the fascinating world of Corgi die-cast model collecting.

The Corgi development and marketing teams are currently immersed in their busiest period of the year, putting the finishing touches to the 2020 model range, which includes preparing and checking samples, photographing new hand decorated models and creating copy for production of the new catalogue and web pages. Unfortunately, even though we are all fully engaged in this fascinating work which we know you would all be interested to hear about, we are currently sworn to secrecy, even though we know you will be delighted with what we will be announcing in the first week of the new year – Corgi are in an extremely healthy state at present.

Despite this perfectly reasonable 2020 information embargo, we still have another feature packed edition of Diecast Diaries for your viewing pleasure and as usual, will be bringing you an impressive number of exclusive images, featuring several current and forthcoming Corgi model releases. You will be pleased to know that we have aeroplanes, classic cars and military vehicles in this latest edition, as well as confirmation of an exciting motoring event we will be attending later in the year, where we will also have a rather exotic ‘full size’ exhibit on our stand. There is much to get through, so let’s make a start.

Britain’s inspirational wartime airman is missing

The bomber which brought RAF fighter ace Douglas Bader his new leg on Corgi die-cast diaries blog

An exclusive look at the product artwork produced in support of the model project to produce an example of the Bristol Blenheim which was sent to deliver Douglas Bader’s new leg, in August 1941

As Britain and her Commonwealth stood alone against a seemingly invincible enemy during the early months of the Second World War, the nation was in need of inspirational leadership and the heroic actions of men and women who were determined not to falter in the face of adversity – people who possessed the famous indomitable British spirit and through their actions would help see us through our ‘Darkest Hour’. One man who certainly helped to steel the nation to its duty was Douglas Bader, an enigmatic fighter pilot who lost both his legs in a catastrophic pre-war flying accident, only to famously regain his RAF wings through determination, persistence and flying ability.

Serving as an aviation talisman for Britain’s defiance and fighting spirit, Bader would go on to serve throughout the Battle of Britain, helping the 'few’ overcome the onslaught of a numerically superior Luftwaffe, denying them superiority of the skies over southern England and preventing an amphibious invasion of the country. In the months which followed, Fighter Command went on the offensive and from their bases in southern England, began conducting offensive fighter sweeps over Northern France, protecting daylight strike raids and looking to challenge Luftwaffe fighter units in the area. It was during one of these operations on 9th August 1941 that Bader’s Spitfire collided with another RAF fighter, severing the tail of his fighter and sending him spinning towards the ground. Although managing to exit the aircraft and parachute to safety, one of his prosthetic legs remained stuck in the cockpit and crashed to earth with the stricken Spitfire.

Corgi Bristol Blenheim R3843 AA38409 Operation Leg Douglas Bader on Corgi die-cast diaries blog

This exclusive series of images features the signed sample of Bristol Blenheim Mk.IV R3843 ‘F for Freddie’, RAF No.18 Squadron. ‘Operation Leg’, 19th August, 1941 (AA38409)

Corgi Bristol Blenheim R3843 AA38409 Operation Leg Douglas Bader on Corgi die-cast diaries blog

Clearly a huge propaganda coup for the Germans, they were quick to contact the British with news of Bader’s capture and to request the delivery of a new leg for the RAF’s most famous fighter pilot, offering safe passage to any aircraft bringing a replacement leg for their illustrious guest. Clearly devastated at this development and not wanting to allow the Germans an even greater propaganda victory, the RAF did plan to deliver a new leg by parachute drop, but not by accepting the safe passage option promised by the Luftwaffe. ‘Operation Leg’ would be part of a full ‘Circus’ RAF strike raid.

On 19th August 1941, eighteen Bristol Blenheim Mk.IVs light bombers, including six from RAF No.18 Squadron, supported by a large force of Spitfires, launched an attack against the power station at Gosnay. One of the Blenheims, R3843 WV-F, was carrying a rather unusual payload, that of Douglas Bader’s new leg. The distinctively marked wooden box containing the prosthetic limb was unceremoniously bundled out of the Blenheim over the Luftwaffe’s St. Omer airfield, parachuting earthwards, where it would hopefully soon be in the hands of its intended captive recipient. All six Blenheims immediately turned for home with their bomb loads intact - heavy cloud cover over the intended target area made target acquisition impossible and the risk of causing civilian casualties prevented release of their bombs. The Spitfires which were providing protection didn’t fare so well and eight fighters would be lost in what proved to be a costly operation.

The bomber which brought RAF fighter ace Douglas Bader his new leg on Corgi die-cast diaries blog

Historic image showing the wooden case which housed the new prosthetic leg delivered to St. Omer airfield, for the attention of Wing Commander Douglas Bader

For a man of Douglas Bader’s wartime stature, his loss on operations over Northern France was nothing short of a national disaster for the British and a great propaganda coup for the Germans. After a period of hospitalisation, Bader was collected and entertained in some style by Adolf Galland and the pilots of JG26 – they even rescued his missing leg from the crashed Spitfire and returned it to the British airman, after undertaking some basic renovation work. As RAF plans were already being drawn up to deliver a replacement leg, Bader was working on plans of his own, escape.

Not intending to remain a guest of the Germans for long, no matter how well he was being treated, Bader famously escaped from his hospital room by climbing down a rope made of knotted sheets and was spirited away into hiding by members of the French resistance. He was hidden and cared for by an incredibly brave local family whilst arrangements could be made by the French underground movement to get him well away from the area. It is reported that unbeknown to Bader, he actually saw the Blenheim and Spitfire force dispatched to bring his new leg, engaging in combat with the Luftwaffe from the garden of his partisan protectors.

Later that same day, as the newly delivered artificial leg was being collected by German troops, so Bader himself was being taken back into custody. The escape of such a high profile prisoner had resulted in the entire local military and police forces looking for him and it was not long before they had information on his whereabouts, with his captors much clearer about the airman’s repatriation intentions. Under armed guard, Britain’s most famous fighter ace was almost immediately sent to a more secure detention facility in Germany, this time without access to his artificial legs, just in case he got any more ideas about escaping.

Corgi Bristol Blenheim R3843 AA38409 Operation Leg Douglas Bader on Corgi die-cast diaries blog
The bomber which brought RAF fighter ace Douglas Bader his new leg on Corgi die-cast diaries blog

The latest release from our popular Bristol Blenheim tooling AA38409 not only marks a fine example of this Mk.IV variant of the bomber, but also a scale representation of the actual aircraft which was sent to deliver Douglas Bader’s replacement artificial leg on 19th August 1941. The Blenheim was an incredibly important aircraft for the Royal Air Force during the early months of the Second World War and carried a heavy burden as Britain struggled to oppose Germany and stay in the war. This latest release marks a particularly fascinating episode in Bomber Command history and its links to one of Britain’s wartime heroes – if you are lucky enough to have one of the Aviation Archive Douglas Bader Spitfire releases (49002) from back in 2000, this Blenheim is crying out to be displayed next to it.

Tragically, this Blenheim would be destroyed only a few weeks after its unusual bombing mission, lost during a shipping strike off the Dutch coast on 20th September, underlining the bravery of the RAF’s Blenheim crews during WWII. ‘Operation Leg’ Blenheim AA38409 is available now, although now in very limited quantities.

The people will have their Mosquito

Corgi Aviation Archive large scale De Havilland Mosquito model on Corgi die-cast diaries blog

One of the original artwork files produced to support the release of the fourth 1/32nd scale Corgi De Havilland Mosquito (AA34604 – Amiens Raid) back in 2005

If you were to ask aviation enthusiasts the question, “Which aircraft type would you like to see performing on the UK Airshow circuit?”, most would reply the De Havilland Mosquito. One of Britain’s greatest wartime aircraft and the one which could legitimately claim to be the world’s first true multi-role aircraft, the Mosquito was the envy of the Luftwaffe and excelled in every role it was tasked to perform. A beautifully streamlined machine, it is incredible to think that the magnificent mosquito was constructed mainly of wood, using advanced bonding techniques to produce an incredibly strong aircraft, whilst at the same time not placing a strain on materials used in the construction of Spitfires, which were so crucial to Britain’s survival – it would, however, be needing Rolls Royce Merlin engines, which endowed the aircraft with spectacular performance.

Britain was fortunate enough to have an airworthy example of the Mosquito on the Airshow circuit for many years, an aircraft which was a real crowd favourite and with the Lancaster, probably the most popular historic aircraft in the country. Tragically, this aircraft was lost back in 1996 and Britain’s skies have been without a Mosquito since that date. Over the past few years, Airshow attendees will have become aware of a group called ‘The People’s Mosquito’, who take a display stand to many shows and events across the country and are dedicated to returning a Mosquito to UK skies once more. Their website is full of information about the team, the project and how you can help them in their quest, which appears to be really gathering some support momentum over recent months.

The People's Mosquito Aviation Archive Corgi Mosquito models on Corgi die-cast diaries blog

The impressive People’s Mosquito project is gathering pace with each passing week, as they bid to return an example of this magnificent aircraft to Britain’s skies. Their display at last weekend’s LLA Members Day included two examples of the 1/32nd scale Corgi Mosquito

The People's Mosquito Aviation Archive Corgi Mosquito models on Corgi die-cast diaries blog

Last weekend’s Lincolnshire Lancaster Association Members Day, which was held at the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s visitors centre at RAF Coningsby, was the latest opportunity to catch up with The People’s Mosquito team and their stand was a hive of activity all day. Their impressive display was made all the more interesting for Aviation Archive enthusiasts as it included two examples of the huge Corgi 1/32nd scale diecast De Havilland Mosquito, one of the most impressive models in the history of diecast aviation collecting. Along with our 1/72nd scale Avro Vulcan, these two models represent two of the largest diecast model tooling projects ever attempted in this hobby and readers who are fortunate enough to have one of these massive Mosquitos in their collection will no doubt confirm just how impressive they are.

Unfortunately, these beautiful models have not appeared in a Corgi range for some time now and people who can boast one amongst their collections can be confident that they have a model which enjoys almost legendary status within the hobby. One thing which is absolutely certain, the two models on display with the People’s Mosquito team at Coningsby last weekend received plenty of attention and were a real draw to their stand, hopefully attracting one or two new supporters to this fantastic project in the process.

Unique MGB reunited with its famous former owner

Father of the MGB Don Hayter and his Corgi Vanguards model VA13005 on Corgi die-cast diaries blog

Mr Don Hayter sitting in the MGB Roadster V8 he used to own, holding the 1/43rd scale Vanguards representation of the same vehicle

A recent release in the Vanguards range has presented the collector with an opportunity to add a very special model to their collections – the personal car of the man who is regarded as the father of the MGB.

Don Hayter is often described as the father of the MGB and was closely involved with its styling and development after joining the MG design office in February 1956, after previously performing a similar role at Aston Martin. He rose to become MG's Chief Engineer, and kept the MGB one step ahead of the ever-changing safety legislation in the seventies, while making a profit for BMC/BL at a time when many other divisions didn't.

When MG's Abingdon factory closed in 1980 he sold himself an unused 'development' bodyshell (for £939.55) and 3.5-litre V8 engine, then built himself the only factory-made MGB V8 roadster (factory V8s were all GTs), the last MGB to leave Abingdon. Although the MGB was eighteen years old when MG was unexpectedly closed, Don and his team had been working on an update for the profitable US market using the O-series 2-litre OHC engine (including a very quick O-turbo), larger brakes and other modifications. Twenty or more redundant pilot-build bodyshells were left from this project and it was one of these that Don bought; identifiable because the inner-wing was reshaped for fuel injection. The car also features the first MG-badged rocker covers cast, which had been left unused in the development department.

This famous car has appeared in many magazines and TV programmes whilst it was still in Don's ownership, including an episode of Clarkson's Car Years. It is now owned by long standing MG enthusiast, Berkshire-based Edward Vandyk.

Father of the MGB Don Hayter and his Corgi Vanguards model VA13005 on Corgi die-cast diaries blog

A classic British motoring thing of beauty. Don Hayter’s former MGB Roadster V8 has been the star of several media features over the years

Father of the MGB Don Hayter and his Corgi Vanguards model VA13005 on Corgi die-cast diaries blog

Owners old and new. Current owner Edward Vandyk (left) with former owner Don Hayter and the car which means so much to both of them

Real versus Corgi Father of the MGB Don Hayter and his Corgi Vanguards model VA13005 on Corgi die-cast diaries blog

Real versus Corgi. The recent Vanguards model release, which immortalises this beautiful car in scale diecast

In an exciting recent MG development, passionate MG enthusiast and Vanguards model copywriter John Lakey arranged for the current owner of this beautiful car to allow it to be reunited with its famous former owner for just a few short hours, but long enough for a series of historic images to be taken. A Corgi representative was also present on the day, with several of the 1/43rd scale Vanguards versions of the model in hand. In an operation which was planned with military precision, Don Hayter’s former MGB Roadster was collected from the home of its current owner and loaded onto the back of a trailer, before embarking on a road trip to British Motor Heritage. Once there, the car was unloaded and prepared for the short journey to Mr and Mrs Hayter’s home and what turned out to be an emotional motoring reunion.

In what must have turned out to be quite an interesting day for Mr Hayter, not only was he presented with the fantastic sight of his former MGB Roadster, but he was also given a 1/43rd scale Vanguards model representation of it. For MG enthusiasts all over the world, the magnificent pictures taken during the day will undoubtedly be of great interest to them and we are pleased to be in a position to show our blog readers an exclusive selection of them within this feature. Understandably, the team did not want to impinge on Mr Hayter’s valuable time for too long, but after the impromptu photoshoot, he kindly agreed to sign a couple of our Vanguards model releases VA13005, which we will discuss a little later.

The Corgi team would like to thank everyone involved in making this such a special occasion, particularly Mr and Mrs Hayter, who were only too happy to be involved.

Own a Don Hayter signed Vanguard MGB Roadster

Win a rare signed Corgi model of Don Hayters MGB Roadster V8 on Corgi Diecast Diaries Blog

Rather than keep the ultra-collectable signed examples of Don Hayter’s beautiful MGB model in the Corgi archives, we have decided to give one lucky Vanguards collector the opportunity to own this model and will be launching a 'closed bid auction' to coincide with the publication of this latest blog. In accordance with Don Hayter’s wishes, all proceeds from the auction will be going to Macmillan Cancer Support, which is his chosen charity – we hope to be passing on a decent amount to this extremely worthwhile cause.

Win a rare signed Corgi model of Don Hayters MGB Roadster V8 on Corgi Diecast Diaries Blog

By the time this blog is posted, the signed Don Hayter MGB Roadster V8 blind auction page will be up and running and it is intended that the auction will be active until 30th November, to allow for forthcoming features in several motoring publications. Get your bids in now for your chance to own this fascinating piece of motoring memorabilia.

Breaking News: The Corgi events team will be attending the Classic Motor Show at Birmingham’s NEC over the weekend of 8th – 10th November and Don Hayter’s beautiful MGB Roadster (courtesy of the car’s current owner, Mr Edward Vandyk) will have pride of place on our stand. Please come along and meet the team, whilst enjoying this classic sports car at the same time.

Military Legends enter the diecast model battlefield

Corgi Military Legends the finest diecast scale model tanks on Corgi Diecast Diaries Blog

Regular visitors to the Corgi website will have spotted that over the past few days, the first model in our Military Legends range have been released and with them, marked the return of this extremely popular range of 1/50th scale tank and military vehicles after something of a long hiatus. The release of these first two models is the culmination of significant effort by the Corgi development team, as they attempted to resurrect a series of model toolings which had never been released whilst the brand had been under the ownership of Hornby Hobbies and had simply been stored at manufacturing facilities in the Far East.

Once all the tooling had been located and exhaustively assessed, people who had never been involved in the prior release of these models had to quickly find all the information they needed to allow the range to rise once more, like a diecast military phoenix from the ashes, enabling these once popular models to take their place in the latest Corgi range. In line with current trends, these latest releases have been produced in much smaller quantities than in previous years, further enhancing their collectability, but also allowing a little sales latitude in re-establishing the range and attracting new and previous collectors of these fantastic scale models. Importantly, the new team are determined to make them as accurate a representation of the real vehicles that they possibly can and produce a series of tank and military vehicle models which collectors will be suitably impressed with and happy to add to their collections.

Thankfully, after many months of hard work, the first two models have finally arrived and some of the finest scale diecast tank models are now back on the market – it is now over to the collector to see if these models will become an established feature of future ranges to come. With the ambitious plans the Corgi team have for the range, it is hoped that these beautiful models will find favour with the collector and hopefully result in some new tooling investment heading in this direction.

CC51031 – Sherman M4A3 (late) USA-30100145-S, B Company, 2nd Tank Battalion, 9th Armoured Division, Battle for Clervaux Castle, Luxembourg, December 17th, 1944.

Battle of the Bulge US M4A3 Sherman Tank Clervaux Castle CC51031 on Corgi Diecast Diaries Blog

This magnificent artwork will adorn the box of this latest release from our 1/50th scale M4 Sherman collectable and helps to give some idea of the frantic actions this tank was involved in during the savage fighting of the Battle of the Bulge

As the rest of these fantastic models advance towards release, we are pleased to be in a position to bring you the latest exclusive box artwork from the series, which this time features the M4A3 Sherman and a fine representation of the actions in which this tank was involved.

The first tank battle of the major German Ardennes offensive, which would go on to be referred to as the ‘Battle of the Bulge’, proved to be something of a disaster for Allied forces. Taken almost completely by surprise, outnumbered American units attempted to hold back attacking elements of the German 2nd Panzer Division and prevent them from speeding towards their ultimate objective, the port of Antwerp and effectively splitting American and British/Canadian forces in the process. With most of the other US Sherman tanks involved in this savage fighting either being destroyed or disabled, Sherman USA-30100145-S took up an ambush position next to a medieval building in the grounds of Clervaux Castle, moving forward periodically to fire on the German armoured column advancing up the approach road to the castle grounds, before concealing itself once more.

Holding up the advance for several hours, the Sherman was eventually disabled by three incoming rounds from German StuG III tank destroyers and was abandoned by its crew, where it remained in the same position until 1956, when a recovery team from the Luxembourg Army dragged the tank inside the castle grounds. A restoration project was undertaken many years later and the tank is now preserved and accessible to the public in the courtyard of Clervaux Castle, where it serves as a memorial to the men who took part in D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge. It is thought that this historic vehicle is one of only two original tanks still in existence, which took part in the Ardennes Offensive.

One of the most famous military vehicles of the Second World War, the M4 Sherman was an American built medium tank used by many of the Western Allies and produced in huge quantities. With the prototype M4 only being available in September 1941, it is incredible to think that these tanks would flood the battlefields of Western Europe, North Africa and the Pacific in the months to come, with almost 50,000 examples being built by the end of July 1945. The Sherman was first used in combat by the British Army at the Second Battle of El Alamein, where it would face German armour for the very first time.

Battle of the Bulge US M4A3 Sherman Tank Clervaux Castle CC51031 on Corgi Diecast Diaries Blog

This image of a hand decorated sample of the impending Corgi M4 Sherman tank release was updated from the image used to illustrate the catalogue at the beginning of 2019, but will still be significantly improved from this for the final model release

One of the many interesting features of the Sherman’s design was that each tank manufactured in the US would have to be shipped around the world and therefore included four lifting rings, one at each corner of the tank. This also had an impact on the tanks weight, as dockside cranes around the world would have to be strong enough to lift them. Large numbers of Sherman Tanks would be used during the invasion of Normandy and in the months following the breakout from the D-Day beachheads, including a small number of tanks specially modified to be amphibious and swim towards the beach battlefields.

Our new 1/50th scale US Sherman M4A3 (late) CC51031 is scheduled for a winter 2019/2020 release and is available for pre-order now.

That’s all we have for you in this latest edition of Corgi Diecast Diaries, but you can be sure we will be back as usual with more updates and exclusive Corgi content in four weeks’ time. In the meantime, we are always interested to hear from our readers, especially if you would like to suggest a subject for future inclusion in our blog. Better still, if you would like to send us pictures of your own model collection, or details of a Corgi model release which is special to you, you may even find yourself featuring in a future edition of Diecast Diaries. As always, we would be grateful if you would address all correspondence to our usual diecastdiaries@corgi.co.uk link for all correspondence. 

If you can’t wait for the next edition of our blog, there is always plenty of Corgi model related news, views and conversation taking place on our official Facebook  and Twitter  social media pages, which welcome your contributions. We look forward to reading about all the latest Corgi collecting discussions and pictures of your favourite models over the coming few weeks.

Finally, we would like to thank all our readers for their continued support. We look forward to bringing you much more Corgi related news, features and updates in future editions of our blog. The next edition of Die-cast Diaries is scheduled to be published on Friday 1st November.

 

The Corgi Die-cast Diaries Team

 

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