About Me

My photo
No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 51-year-old Aspergic CAD-Monkey. Sardonic, cynical and with the political leanings of a social reformer, I’m also a toy and model figure collector, particularly interested in the history of plastics and plastic toys. Other interests are history, current affairs, modern art, and architecture, gardening and natural history. I love plain chocolate, fireworks and trees but I don’t hug them, I do hug kittens. I hate ignorance, when it can be avoided, so I hate the 'educational' establishment and pity the millions they’ve failed with teaching-to-test and rote 'learning' and I hate the short-sighted stupidity of the entire ruling/industrial elite, with their planet destroying fascism and added “buy-one-get-one-free”. I also have no time for fools and little time for the false crap we're all supposed to pretend we haven't noticed, or the games we're supposed to play.

Monday, May 15, 2017

R is for Run Yourself Ragged at the Royal Tournament

Back when we had an Army (not an manpower-lean, quick reactive, defence force in gravy-coloured pyjamas!) and a budget to match, there was a lot more KAPE (Keep the Army in the Public Eye) activity than there is now, and like any 'club-activity' it had a vague season, with local and regional 'happenings man' and used to culminate in a grand 'National' pageant held at Earls Court called the Royal Tournament.

The events which led-up to it included various one-day or weekend 'Army Shows' and Military Tattoo's including the Berlin Brigade and Edinburgh events; these could be up to a week long.

There were certain memes and standards associated with these shows among which were the four brightly coloured jeeps of the REME juniors from Shrivenham (? Or RE Arbourfield?), which would be driven into the arena, taken apart, moved in pieces, put back together again and driven off; as a race!

The RHA would always be on hand with their 'musical ride'; dragging the guns to music, the Royal Marines could usually be counted upon for a blank-firing arctic warfare scenario, outdoor events would usually include the Red Devils or their lesser rivals while the White Helmet motorcycle display and MP dog display always pleased.

The host unit always had to come up with something, friends from abroad became regulars like the RCMP 'Mounties' and the US Marines Pokey-drill display team (did West Point have a bigger team, all in grey?) and the whole would be interspersed with various bands or pipes and drums, with larger massed-bands or massed pipes & drums (often with guest or civilian bands participating) bringing the show to a crescendo with fireworks.

There was much more (a bit of clowning, some marching stuff, Lipizzaner horses . . . bull-fighting with horned-bicycles!) and another five minutes would drag more of them from the old memory-box - as I sat through enough of them! But the one I always looked-forward to the most was the competition between the Naval Academies.

It had elements of most of the above (no music), with an obstacle course greater than the RMP dogs had to face, broken and reassembled military equipment - each piece of which was heavier than the various jeep components - and spectacle which put the White helmets in the shade and made the Red devils look like cosseted show-offs!

The competition ran through the KAPE season but the climax (when two teams were usually ahead and vying for top spot) was the Tournament week, and each night they would heave, carry and swing their naval guns over, under and through walls, wooden-horses, imaginary canyons and water features in a race of epic drama!

They used various telegraph-poles and rope-jigs to create levers and swing-cranes and the whole thing was pretty awesome to watch. If they got something wrong the DS (Directing Staff) would make them do it again, while the other team crept-away up the course, heaving and yelling like berserkers!

Someone made a set for us to play with . . .

I say 'someone', I'm pretty sure it was Phoenix Model Developments, and if it wasn't, I 'know' who it was; as I have the paperwork in a 40' shipping container in Basingrad! But - I can't find them in the scanned catalogues, can't remember and know that while Phoenix had a range of 30mm ceremonial troops including bands, I just can't find these . . . or the set of White Helmets I think were also made - by the same maker; whoever it was, on Google?

In addition, I seem to remember there was a firm doing the London Shows about ten/twelve years ago who also had a range of 30mm ceremonials which may or may not have been Phoenix, or from Phoenix moulds, or 'after' Phoenix?

Asking Phoenix - who still exist but now concentrate on 1:12th dolls house accessories and larger bronzes (although they do still carry some of the costermen's carts which so pleased JG Garratt) was fruitless, so I'm hoping one of the 'metal guys' (Tim, Doug, Ross, et al?) might have the definitive answer, as it'll be years before I get my stuff out of storage I fear!

Anyway, I'll list them as Phoenix as they are 'in the style' of their 30mm ceremonial figures, on the presumption (far worse that a mere assumption!) that they are late-catalogue or un-catalogued Phoenix - until I know otherwise.

The above shots are of a vignette of the 'run down' after the final firing - they did two circuits if I remember rightly, slightly different order each time, with (obviously) reverse order on the second run down the obstacles, assembling the guns and firing a blank round at the end of the run-up, they then disassembled them again, did the 'part two' and then reassembled the guns, fired another blank and then ran them as fast as they could (with their effort-withered lungs) to the other [mid-point or] turn-end for a finish time.

The DS is looking carefully for infringements!

These all came - I believe - from a deceased collectors estate about 10 years ago, and I don't know what he's trying to do here, two men couldn't pull that gun and limber, that casually, and the paint treatment is very different (compare with the wonderful gun-metalling on the race vignette), while the gun doesn't have the race carrying-pole wedged in the breech, or the rope hand-hoops in the muzzle?

I think he was going to finish this as an in-service piece for shelf-display?

These were also in the set, I think maybe they were going to be the 'march-on' group. There are only three figure types in all these pictures; an officer or ensign, a running man and a marching/walking man, everything-else is done with moveable arms and paint.

One of the arms has gone AWOL, but then . . . one of the features of the race used to be the announcer telling the audience about the worst of the injuries sustained in races and training that year, how many were unable to attend the final race because they were in hospital, or - occasionally - if anyone had died. Both teams in each race had a couple of supernumeraries on the team to allow for injuries while under the stop-watch!

If that's not enough for you; on the last night of the Royal Tournament, after the final race, all the teams would parade for the prize-giving - with all the injured; arms and legs in plaster, a couple in wheelchairs and the hospitalised would get another name check! Those in plaster were also visible working the recruiting stands during the week and manning displays outside the arena - "Join the Navy and you can break you femur in three places, on training, too!"

The past is a not just a different country, it's a bloody rough place! But it helped us win the Falklands back, vastly outnumbered, from thousands of miles away.

Maybe that helps explain Brexit and the apparent (very apparent) popularity of the awful Mrs. May means Maybe, Maybe Not, but another thing about the past is that you can't return to it, progress is inevitable, for good or ill, and anyone who thinks differently is deluding themselves.

The previous owner had started to scratch-build the obstacles, one day I'd like to finish the project but time waits for no man! The limbers were levered over the wall like this, but in reality the wheels would have been removed and they had to be rolled through the hole in the middle of the wall - if the two wheel sub-teams got their timing out, they would wedge-tight as it was only wide enough for one, while if the receiving sub-teams got their part wrong the wheels would be the wrong way round to go back on the limber (or gun) and time would be lost - precious seconds.

Also a close-up of the movable arm, you simply press the receiving stud with a screwdriver blade or something similar to burr it back against the shoulder, which holds the arm on, but allows movement.

The paint difference between the two main elements of this collection, it's not that he hasn't finished the one; it's a different treatment, a different blue. So I suspect he was doing one as a race team from the collages, the other as a WWI or WWII era parade piece?

Anyway, if I ever finish them, they will be a hell of a sight, and can anyone cast firmer light on the maker? I've just Googled both these and the White Helmets (being scrapped this year!) again with no luck, yet can picture the paperwork in my head!

1 comment:

Hugh Walter said...

Tim/Gisby confirmed Phoenix - set; T1 Royal Navy Gun Team

There was one sitting there on evilBay, ain't it typical!

H