Monday, 5 October 2015

Hot Wheels Mad Propz ... repainted!

I want you to imaging that you are reading the headline of the latest issue of THE TRUTH, the official newspaper of SPUR (the Soviet People's United Republics) ...

The latest addition to the all-mighty Army Air Force of our beloved Republics has been unveiled! Yesterday the Kordov FF-1 Fighter was shown to the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet and other distinguished guests at an undisclosed secret airbase. The aircraft was put through its paces in front of the Chairman and his entourage, and showed itself to be faster and more manoeuvrable than any other fighter aircraft currently in service. The Chairman was so impressed that he ordered that the fighter be immediately put into mass-production.

Long live the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet! Long live the Soviet People's United Republics!

In truth, the Kordov FF-1 Fighter is the repainted Hot Wheels Mad Propz ... and I think that it looks just like some of the proposed light-weight, point-defence fighters that were designed during the late 1930s.

If I find any more of these Hot Wheels Mad Propz on sale, I will certainly buy and repaint a few more.

Sunday, 4 October 2015


Over the past few days my blog has been subjected to a number of spam comments from one individual, who has been requested to stop ... but who has not. I have therefore introduced comment moderation, which will remain in place until this particular individual stops spamming.

I regret having to do this as it will affect my regular blog readers ... but I don't see that I have any alternative at present. Hopefully normal unmoderated service will be restored in the very near future.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Hot Wheels Mad Propz

I was walking around a local branch of Tesco's recently ... and saw that they were selling various Mattel Hot Wheels vehicles for £1.00. One particularly caught my eye ... an aircraft called 'Mad Propz'. It was so cheap that I could not resist the temptation to buy it ... so I did!

When I got home and opened the packaging I was struck by something ... the design seemed vaguely familiar. I did a bit of online research, and according to a Hot Wheels collector's website, the model's designer was inspired by the design of the Curtiss P-40. My first thought was 'No way!'; if the design takes any inspiration at all it is from the fuselage of P-51 Mustang and the wings of the Supermarine Spitfire).

Some days later I happened to be looking through a reference book about Russian fighter aircraft and saw an aircraft design that was quite similar to 'Mad Propz' ... a Bisnovat SK-2.

The SK-2 (Skorostnii Krylo – high speed wing) was a fighter aircraft designed by Matus Bisnovat's Design Bureau, and was a development of his earlier SK-1 design. The prototype was flown in October 1940 by G M Shiyanov, but the aircraft was not put into production.

The SK-2's characteristics were:
  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 8.28 m (27 ft 2 in)
  • Wingspan: 7.3 m (23 ft 11.5 in)
  • Empty weight: 1,850 kg (4,078 lb)
  • Gross weight: 2,300 kg (5,071 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Klimov M-105 (VK-105) producing 1,050 hp
  • Maximum speed: 660 km/h (413 mph)
  • Rate of climb: 19.23 m/s (3785.6 ft/min)
  • Armament: 2 × 12.7mm BS machine guns mounted above the engine.
It strikes me that this model aircraft could – after a simple paint job – take its place in the ranks of a 1940s era imagi-nation's air force ... and may well do so in the near future!

Note: None of Matus Bisnovat's aircraft designs went beyond the prototype stage, but he was subsequently heavily involved in rocket-propelled aircraft design, and oversaw the development of the R-40 (NATO designation: AA-6 Acrid), R-60 (NATO designation AA-8 Aphid), and R-73 (NATO designation AA-11 Archer) air-to-air missiles.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

I have been to ... Quebec House, Westerham, Kent

Back in early July, Sue and I paid a visit to Quebec House, Westerham, Kent. It is a National Trust property, and it is situated on the outskirts of Westerham in the western part of Kent.

Quebec House is the birthplace of General James Wolfe (he lived there from his birth on nd2 January 1727 until 1738, when the family moved to Greenwich in London), and is located on what is now known as Quebec Square. The house was originally called Spiers, but it was renamed after Wolfe's victory at the Battle of Quebec. The building is constructed of brick and its original structure was completed during the sixteenth century. However it was extensively rebuilt in the eighteenth and twentieth centuries.

We began by visiting an exhibition about General James Wolfe's life and achievements. This was housed in a building in the house's grounds, which is where the small tearoom was also situated.

The first part of the exhibition was a brief explanation about Westerham ...

.. and this was followed by a timeline of Wolfe's life.

The next section of the exhibition explained the background to the events that led to the Battle of Quebec ...

... and included some excellent illustrations of the troops who fought on both sides

There was also a glass cabinet containing 54mm-scale painted figures in the uniforms worn by the opposing sides.

I attempted to photograph these figures ... but my attempts met with varying levels of success.

The final part of the exhibition contained a copy of the famous painting THE DEATH OF GENERAL WOLFE by Benjamin West ...

... and examples of other painting and illustrations that were influenced by its composition.

We then made our way to the front entrance to the house ...

... where we saw a plaque that commemorated Joseph Bowles Learmont, the Canadian who bought the house and presented to the National Trust on his death.

The inside of the house has been restored to reflect how it would have looked during Wolfe's lifetime, including examples of the sorts of toys and games he might have played with ...

... and the sort of room where he would might sat and read.

One room contains items that relate to Wolfe's military career ...

... including replicas of a Tower musket, infantry grenades, and the uniform of an infantry grenadier ...

... and his dressing gown.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent: Odds and Ends

Besides the exhibits covered in my earlier blog entries about The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent, the museum has numerous 'one off' items on show that are less easy to group together or to categorise.

These 'odds and ends' include ...

Royal Navy soft-skin motor vehicles

0-4-0 Locomotives

XE-8 Miniature Submarine
This miniature submarine was built for the Royal Navy in 1944 by Thomas Broadbent of Huddersfield. It was used operationally in the Far East, and was sunk as a target off Portland in 1952. It was salvaged in 1973 and is believed to be the only example of an XE-class miniature submarine in existence. XE-8 now forms part of the Imperial War Museum's collection.

CMB 103 Coastal Motor Boat
Wooden coastal motor boats had been used during the First World War and had proven very successful. This example was built by Camper and Nicholson, Southampton, in 1920, and was designed to be used as a fast minelayer or torpedo boat. In the latter case she could be armed with up to six torpedoes. The hull was built of mahogany and featured a stepped hydroplane shape.

On completion CMB 103 went into reserve, and remained there until 1942. CMB 103 was then brought out of reserve and saw active service in the English Channel from 1942 until 1944, including service during the D-Day landings. She was laid up again at the end of 1944, and eventually displayed at the entrance to the former Coastal Forces Base (HMS Hornet) at Haslar, Gosport. CMB 103 now forms part of the Imperial War Museum's collection.

Westland Dragonfly Helicopter
The Westland WS-51 Dragonfly helicopter was built by Westland Aircraft and was a license-built version of the American Sikorsky S-51. From 1950 onwards the Royal Navy used their Dragonfly helicopters in the air-sea rescue role, and it remained in use until it was replaced by the Westland Whirlwind helicopter in the late 1950s.

QF 3.7-inch Anti-aircraft Guns
The QF 3.7-inch anti-aircraft gun was Britain's main heavy anti-aircraft gun during World War II. It was mounted on either mobile or fixed mountings, and nearly 10,000 were produced between 1937 and 1945. It remained in service with the British Armed Forces until the late 1950s, when it was replaced by anti-aircraft missile systems.

VIC 56 Victualling Inshore Craft
The Victualling Inshore Craft were used by the Royal Navy as supply vessels in almost every port and anchorage used during the Second World War. The design was based upon that of the Clyde 'Puffer', and 98 of them were built to the orders of the Ministry of War Transport between 1941 and 1945. She was laid up and put up for disposal in September 1978, and then bought for preservation.

VIC 56 was built in Faversham, Kent, and launched in 1945. By 1947 she had been allocated to the Victualling Store Officer, Rosyth, and stayed in the Rosyth are for the next thirty years of her active service. Her first long-term berth was in Rotherhithe on the Thames, from where she later moved to at Trinity House Buoy Wharf, near the East India Dock. In late 2005 VIC 56 was moved to her current berth in The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent.

Of particular interest is the fact that when she was built, VIC 56 was fitted with a boiler that was of a convertible coal/oil design. Due to the high coast of diesel oil, her boiler has now been converted to be purely coal-fired.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent: The Royal Engineers heavy vehicle display

The Royal Engineers have a museum at Gillingham, Kent but it is not large enough for all the heavy vehicles in its collection to be displayed on site. To make them accessible to the general public, these heavy vehicles are currently on display inside on of the covered slipway buildings at The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent.

The vehicles and equipment on show included ...

Chieftain (Willich) AVRE (Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers)
In 1986, when the planned Chieftain AVRE did not materialise, the Engineer Workshops of 40 Army Engineer Support Group based in Willich, Germany, converted 12 Chieftain gun tanks into Chieftain AVREs for use by the Royal Engineers of BAOR (British Army Of the Rhine). They were an interim design, and were later replaced by vehicles that were converted by Vickers Defence Systems at Newcastle-upon-Tyne from 1991 to 1994.

Giant Viper Mine Clearance System
Giant Viper was a trailer-mounted, mine clearance system, that was designed to clear areas that containing land mines. The system used rockets to launch a 250-metre-long hose, packed with plastic explosive, across a minefield. The explosive was then detonated, and the resultant explosion cleared a 200-metre-long, 6-metre-wide path through the minefield using sympathetic detonation.

Motor Tug Mk.VII and Trailer
The Motor Tug Mk.VII was used as a motor tug during bridging and rafting operations. This steel hulled boat was powered by a Rolls Royce marine B80 petrol engine, and was capable of reaching just over 10 knots.

M2D Amphibious Vehicle
The M2D was developed in Germany and used by BAOR. Individual vehicles could be used as ferries and several vehicles could be joined together to form a bridge capable of handling the heaviest armoured fighting vehicles.

Caterpillar D8 Crawler Tractor
The Caterpillar D8 Crawler Tractor was developed during World War II and used by the Royal Engineers during and after the war. It could be used for all sorts of engineering tasks such as repairing or building roads and airfield runways, removing debris, or pushing pontoons. This example has some armour plate to protect the driver and a push plate for pushing bridging pontoons into a river.

Friday, 25 September 2015

The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent: Ship models

Although the vast majority of the ship models held at The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent are not on public display, a selection can be seen in the building that houses the 'Steel, Steam, & Submarines' exhibit.

HMS Achilles
HMS Achilles was an armoured frigate. She was completed in 1864 and served with the Channel Fleet until 1868, when she was re-fitted and re-armed. She then served as guard ship of the Fleet Reserve in the Portland District until 1874, when she was again re-fitted and re-armed. She then served as guard ship of the Liverpool District unit 1877, after which she spent a year with the Channel Fleet. From 1878 until 1880 Achilles was part of the Mediterranean Fleet, when she returned to the Channel Fleet.

She was decommissioned in 1885 but re-commissioned in 1901 to serve as a depot ship in Malta. (Whilst in Malta she was renamed Hibernia (1902) and then Egmont (1904).) She remained there until 1914, when she moved to Chatham, where she stayed until she was sold for scrapping in 1923. (Whilst in Chatham she was renamed Egremont (1916) and then Pembroke (1919)).

HMS Cressy
HMS Cressy was a Cressy-class armoured cruiser. She was commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1901. She served on the China Station from 1901 until 1907, when she transferred to the North America and West Indies Station. She remained there for two years, at which point she returned to the UK and was placed in reserve. HMS Cressy was re-commissioned shortly after the outbreak of World War I in August 1914 and assigned to the 7th Cruiser Squadron.

On 22nd September 1914, HMS Cressy and her sisters, HMS Aboukir and HMS Hogue, were torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-9, which was commanded by Kapitänleutnant Otto Weddigen. 62 officers and 1,397 enlisted men were lost, of whom 560 served aboard HMS Cressy.

HMS Shark
HMS Shark was an Acasta-class destroyer. She as built in 1912 and was sunk during an unsuccessful torpedo attack on the German 2nd Scouting Group during the Battle of Jutland. She sank at approximately on 31st May 1916 and only 6 of her crew survived.

HMS Cumberland
HMS Cumberland was a County-class heavy cruiser. She was commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1928, and before World War II broke out she served on the China Station (1928 to 1935) and – from 1938 onwards – on the South American station. (HMS Cumberland was re-fitted between 1935 and 1938.)

After the Battle of the River Plate (which she just missed, having sailed at high speed from the Falkland Islands to join the rest of 2nd Cruiser Squadron off the River Plate), HMS Cumberland escorted convoys along the African coast and took part in the hunt for the German commerce raider Thor. She also took part in the attack on Dakar (in September 1940) where she suffered damage gunfire from a French coastal battery.

By October 1941 HMS Cumberland had joined the Home Fleet as part of 1st Cruiser Squadron. As a result she acted as an escort for numerous the Arctic convoys until January 1944. She was then transferred to the Far East, and became part of the Eastern Fleet's 4th Cruiser Squadron.

HMS Cumberland returned to the United Kingdom in late 1945, and in 1946 she was placed in reserve. From 1949 until 1951 she was refitted at Devonport to act as a gunnery trials ship, and she remained in that role until she was sold for scrapping in 1958.

HMS Ajax
HMS Ajax was a Leander-class light cruiser. She was commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1933, and except for periods when she was being re-fitted and repaired, she served until she was paid off in 1948. HMS Ajax was scrapped in 1949.

She is most famous for having taken part – along with HMS Achilles and HMS Exeter – in the Battle of the River Plate.

HMS Achilles
HMS Achilles was a Leander-class light cruiser. She was commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1933, and from 1937 formed part of the New Zealand Division. She was transferred to the Royal New Zealand Navy in 1941 and remained a New Zealand ship until 1946, when she was returned to the Royal Navy. In 1948 she was sold to the Indian Navy, and remained in service until she was scrapped in 1978.

She is most famous for having taken part – along with HMS Ajax and HMS Exeter – in the Battle of the River Plate.

HMS Exeter
HMS Exeter was a York-class heavy cruiser. She was commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1931, and served with the Atlantic Fleet between 1931 and 1935. In 1934 she transferred to the America and West Indies Station and remained there until 1939. As a result of the damage she received during the Battle of the River Plate she was modernised at Devonport between February 1940 and March 1941.

When re-commissioned HMS Exeter joined the Home Fleet, and undertook escort duties for Atlantic convoys until after the hunt for the Bismarck, at which point she was transferred to the Far East. HMS Exeter formed part of the ABDACOM (American-British-Dutch-Australian Command) naval force that was intended to defend the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) from a Japanese invasion. On 27th February 1942 HMS Exeter was damaged during the Battle of the Java Sea, and two days later – whilst on her way to Surabaya for repairs – she was sunk by a Japanese force of heavy cruisers and destroyers.

She is most famous for having taken part – along with HMS Ajax and HMS Achilles – in the Battle of the River Plate.

Admiral Graf Spee
Admiral Graf Spee was a Deutschland-class heavy cruiser (originally termed a Panzerschiffe or armoured ship). She was commissioned into the Kriegsmarine (German Navy) in 1936, and after working-up she participated in five non-intervention patrols during the Spanish Civil War.

Just before war broke out in 1939 Admiral Graf Spee was deployed to the South Atlantic, and between September and December 1939 she sank nine Allied ships. She was eventually intercepted by HMS Exeter, HMS Ajax, and HMS Achilles on 13th December 1939 off the mouth of the River Plate, and during the ensuing battle all four ships suffered damage. The Admiral Graf Spee sought refuge in Montevideo in neutral Uruguay, where she remained until 17th December, when her commanding officer – Captain Hans Langsdorff – scuttled her in the River Plate estuary. He subsequently committed suicide on 19th December.

HMS Cavalier
HMS Cavalier was a Ca-class destroyer.

HMS Hermione
HMS Hermione was a Leander-class frigate. She was commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1969. In 1980 HMS Hermione was modernised in Chatham Dockyard ... and she was the last warship to leave the dockyard before it closed. Her twin 4.5-inch guns were removed and replaced by Exocet anti-ship missiles and Sea Wolf anti-aircraft missiles. She was decommissioned in 1992 and sold for scrapping in 1997.

HMS Chatham
HMS Chatham was a Batch 3 Type 22 frigate. She was commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1990. After having a very active career (she took part in NATO operations off the coast of former Yugoslavia from 1993 to 1994, acted as guardship to the royal yacht HMY Britannia during the withdrawal from Hong Kong in 1997, and fired her guns in anger during Operation Telic in 2003), she was decommissioned in February 2011 as part of the programme of defence cuts and sold in July 2013 for scrapping.

HMS Endurance
HMS Endurance was a Royal Navy ice patrol vessel that served from 1967 to 1991. She was originally built in Denmark in 1956 as the Anita Dan and bought in 1967. She was converted into an ice patrol vessel by Harland & Wolff and commissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS Endurance in 1967.

She was scheduled to be withdrawn from service as a result of the 1981 Defence White Paper, but the outbreak of hostilities with Argentina when the latter invaded the Falkland Islands and South Georgia changed that decision. She took part in retaking of South Georgia (her two Wasp helicopters attacked the Argentine submarine Santa Fe, which was later abandoned by her crew) and subsequent operations in the South Atlantic.

A survey of HMS Endurance's hull in 1991 found it was not sound enough for her to continue to operate in Antarctica, and she was decommissioned.

Nuclear submarines
In 1968 a nuclear submarine refitting complex was built in Chatham Dockyard. The complex had special refuelling cranes and a health physics building. In June 1981 it was announced that, as a result of the 1981 Defence White Paper, the dockyard – including the nuclear submarine refitting complex – would be run down and the dockyard closed by 1984.