It was on Fathers’ Day in mid-June that many of us made the pilgrimage to Duxford, the site of the Imperial War Museum (IWM) in Cambridgeshire, for the dual military vehicle event of IWM Duxford’s Military Vehicle Day and the MAFVA (Miniature Armoured Fighting Vehicle Association) National Competition. The combined shows had been moved to a slightly earlier date this year.
I think the best way of covering the day is to split it into three. For those readers who have never been lucky enough to visit Duxford, a few remarks about the IWM site there, then some coverage of the real equipment on display at the Military Vehicle Rally, and finally the comments regarding
The IWM at Duxford
The Imperial War Museum has its original building at South Kennington in London, south of the river and not too far from the Kennington Oval, one of the homes of English Test cricket. Perhaps still unknown to some, it was originally the ‘Bedlam’ hospital, the original lunatic asylum in London, and the origins of the saying of ‘being in Bedlam’. However, the museum had many much larger exhibits, which simply could never be displayed there, so some years ago they acquired the site of the wartime airfield of Duxford. This was home to 19 Squadron, the first Spitfire equipped unit in the Royal Air Force. During the Battle of Britain it was included within 12 Group, from where the idea of the ‘Big Wing’ was put into practice, and they played a significant part in the battle, supporting the southern airfields of no 11 Group, south of the Thames. In 1968 it featured greatly in the motion picture of the Battle of Britain, during the filming of which one of their old hangers (a listed building) was blown up for a bombing raid scene! Today the concrete base is still there, but only three of the four original hangers therefore survive.
Duxford is home to many aircraft, including such as the Old Flying machine Company and for the B17 Sally B, which starred in the film Memphis Belle. New development is underway this year with a ‘super hanger’ in order to put more of their large aircraft under cover. It doesn’t take much to say that Concord itself makes it worth a look. It is the further end of the airfield where a The United States Air Force Museum in Britain was built in the 1990s, and where a superb collection of exhibits is on display. Here you will find a massive B52, examples of Blackbird, Phantom, F111, Liberator and even a Cruise Missile launch trailer among many others.Close behind this modern building are a couple more interesting exhibits, with a Second World War German Würzberg Radar and behind that, a V1 and launch ramp. They rightly advertise Duxford as ‘more than you can see in a day’ and I can only say how true that is. Everywhere you look seems to have some other fascinating exhibit lurking around the corner.
A short distance further over is the site of the Land Warfare Hall, where another fine collection is on display. Imaginatively, this only has a concrete floor down the centre of the building, and the sides are earth. This has allowed some displays, such as gun positions, to be actually ‘dug-in’. At the far end of the hall are the D-Day displays, which even include Monty’s three famous caravans and a fine cased model diorama made especially for the museum by the London MAFVA branch.
Military Vehicle Day
On the grass behind the Land Warfare Hall, and on another area between the Land Warfare Hall and the US Air Force Museum were parked all the visiting military vehicles. Not unexpectedly there are a huge number of jeeps, Dodge Weapons Carriers, GMC Trucks and Land Rovers of various ages and types. Amongst them though, are many other more unusual types.
Having attended so many shows over the years, I suppose I have to admit to tending to give a cursory glance to the myriad of jeeps and Land Rovers, and look more for the rarer types which are less commonly seen. Prime for many I suspect this year was a beautifully restored Steyr. I gather the owner has actually acquired four and this one is already done, and another, which is the Command Car variant, will also be restored. The other two are for sale as restoration projects.
Naturally there were many other interesting vehicles on show, and some that come to mind were a very neat Morris 30cwt GS, a Ford WO2, a Humber Utility, the two Ford 3-tonners (one a bomb truck with trailer and the second a GS truck in US Navy grey). It was the first time I can remember seeing two complete Diamond ‘T’ and Rogers’ trailers combinations together. One had the open cab and the other the enclosed, which I actually passed on the road as I travelled to the show. Seeing it moving slowly along did give a good idea of how impressive a complete convoy of these must have been when they were on the move.
Finally for the real thing, there is the workshop and display area at the far end of the Land Warfare Hall. In the workshop was a Russian built 2S1 SP gun, which was opened up for maintenance and a repaint job. This offered a great chance for detail photos in the back compartment, and with the open engine deck and transmission and provided a great photo opportunity for any interested modeller. The afternoon saw many of the Museum’s own collection being driven round on display. Duxford has one of the best collections of ex-Warsaw Pact machines, and some of these were on show. The large SA8 Gecko made an impressive start, followed by electronic warfare vehicles before the likes of the T-34 were driven round.
The MAFVA Nationals
A large marquee erected alongside the US Air Force Museum housed yet another fine show. The interior had traders all around while the table that filled the centre housed the many club displays and the competition tables. The traders enabled you to see and buy not just the huge selection of plastic kits available today, but also resin and metal models, along with paints, tools, bases and diorama accessories and figures.
I was especially impressed by the club displays by both MAFVA and IPMS groups and the standard of modelling on display was really superb, with the club members there to happily pass on help and advice to anyone who asks. The friendly nature of the whole event is reflected so well by the time and effort that these clubs put into their displays.
The standard in the competition was generally high, however, one or two classes would have benefited from some additional entries. I wasn’t surprised to see one of the new 1:35 scale Trumpeter railway engines in one of the dioramas, and perhaps a bit surprised not to see more 1:48 scale armour entries with the recent popularity of the new Tamiya series of kits. I’m not going to say much more about the competition entries, other than to say well done to everyone who took part. Andy Lang won Best of Show (and did last year too) is a very fine small-scale modeller. I must mention John Ham who won a number of prizes and who accepted in good humour the comments about his t-shirt that had ‘Chief Judge’ emblazoned on it! Can I just quickly add that obviously John was not judging in the classes where he had entries!
Finally I’d like to say ‘well done’ to all those junior modellers who entered the competitions. I was really pleased to see every junior entry be given a prize of some model kits to take away, donated by the various sponsors. Thanks to them all for their generosity, and well done to MAFVA for this encouragement at the show for our junior modellers, who will hopefully bring their prizes back again next year, suitably made and painted for entry into the competitions.
I can’t list all the helpers who work so hard to make these shows possible for us, as visitors, to enjoy, but thanks go to all and especially the ladies on the tea stand (or was that really a bottle of Bud?) and for looking after the Tombola.
All in all, it was a great day out, the weather was fine and hot and the show was well attended once more. I can remember shows at Duxford in recent years that have not been as well attended as you’d expect, but it seems that more are coming back as the last couple of years have seen a marked increase in numbers of visitors, with the model marquee itself being busy all day, despite the other attractions. What a great location for a well-organized event. I am looking forward to the next one.(First published in Military Modelling Issue 11 - September 2006)
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