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The RAF's most prolific fighter aircraft

The RAF's most prolific fighter aircraft

Welcome to this latest edition of Die-cast Diaries and your regular look at the fascinating world of Corgi model collecting. In this final edition before the Christmas holidays, we look forward to the launch of next year’s Centenary commemorations of the Royal Air Force by looking at an impending release in the Aviation Archive range which presents an aircraft which could be described as the most successful fighter in the history of the RAF. As 2017 marked the 60th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, we also include a feature looking at how the Aviation Archive range has immortalised many of the Flight’s aircraft as die-cast collectables, with the help of some stunning pictures supplied by one of our readers. We have the latest instalment in our Vanguards 21 series, which ends with the announcement of a fantastic competition, offering the chance to win a prize that every Vanguards collector will be desperate to get their hands on. We will be taking a look at some festive Corgi Christmas Crackers, before ending the blog with one final sweep of the development desks at Corgi HQ searching for pre-production sample models for the last ‘What’s on the desk?’ for 2017. Let’s not delay any longer and dive straight in to this latest assemblage of die-cast delights.


Classic Camel is RAF’s finest

An unusual representation of the Barker Sopwith Camel box artwork produced by Michael Collins


As next year marks the significant Centenary commemorations of the establishment of the Royal Air Force, the subject of aviation is certain to receive plenty of media coverage across multiple channels, with many RAF aircraft both past and present coming in for close scrutiny. Enthusiasts will undoubtedly have their personal favourites but significant aircraft such as the Spitfire, Lancaster, Lightning and Vulcan will be familiar to most people and could almost be described as household names. They are undoubtedly amongst the most famous machines created by Britain’s aviation industry.

As the airborne manifestation of the power, professionalism and effectiveness of a modern Royal Air Force, the fighter aircraft has always been at the forefront of aviation technology and a source of fascination and national pride for the British public over the past 100 years, covering both RAF and RFC history. It is interesting to note that despite many aircraft fulfilling this famous role over the years, if you were to ask anyone to name the most effective fighter aircraft to ever see RAF service, the vast majority of respondents would instantly reply 'Spitfire'. Although few would argue that R. J. Mitchell’s fighting masterpiece does not deserve this popular notoriety, it may surprise people to learn that the individual aeroplane which qualifies as the RAF’s most prolific fighter aircraft earned its victories in the savage aerial duels from an earlier conflict, in the skies above the trenches of the Great War. This historic British aircraft is about to take its place in the Aviation Archive range and it is worth taking a closer look at the RAF’s most prolific fighter and the ace who flew it.


AA37907 – Sopwith Camel F.1, B6313, Major William George ‘Billy’ Barker, C/O RAF No.139 Squadron, Italy September 1918.


From relatively humble beginnings as an observer with the Royal Flying Corps, Canadian William George ‘Billy’ Barker went on to become one of the most accomplished fighter aces of the Great War and celebrated recipient of the Victoria Cross. Following successful completion of his flying training in England, Barker was posted to the Western Front flying the Sopwith Camel, an aircraft with which he would become inextricably linked. During the course of the next twelve months, Barker would shoot down 50 enemy aircraft whilst serving with Nos 28, 66 and 139 Squadrons on both the Western and Italian fronts. Incredibly, no fewer than 46 of these victories were scored whilst Barker was flying the same Sopwith Camel F.1 fighter B6313, which has been described as the single most successful fighter aircraft in the history of the Royal Air Force. An aggressive flyer and accurate marksman, Barker was awarded the Victoria Cross for engaging a force of what was reported to be as many as 60 enemy fighters in his new Sopwith Snipe, shooting down four of them, despite suffering wounds himself. He eventually had to break off the combat, succumbing to his injuries and crash landing his fighter behind friendly lines.

Final sample model of Barker’s Sopwith Camel, scheduled for release in January


The agile and highly manoeuvrable Sopwith Camel was without doubt one of the most successful fighter aircraft of the First World War and accounted for more enemy aircraft destroyed than any other British type. Named Camel as a result of the hump shaped fairing that housed the two 0.303 in Vickers machine guns, this supreme fighter aircraft was a real handful to operate effectively, with the torque from its powerful rotary engine constantly trying to flip the Camel into a potentially life-threatening spin. If tamed, the Camel was the finest fighting aircraft yet produced and was superior to all contemporary German fighters. During the 17 months of its operational service at the end of WWI, Sopwith Camel pilots would claim an average of 76 aerial victories each month, helping the Allied air forces wrestle air supremacy from the Luftstreitkrafte.


Sopwith Camel F.1 B6313 was the most successful fighter in RAF history


Sopwith Camel B6313 proved to be the scourge of the German Air Force in the final months of WWI and with an impressive tally of 46 aerial victories to her name, is arguably the most important individual fighter aircraft to ever see RFC/RAF service. In the Centenary year of the Royal Air Force, this magnificent new 1/48th scale model is surely destined to become the centrepiece of many an Aviation Archive collection.


Aviation Archive and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight

A beautiful picture of Corgi BBMF models taken by Darren Wooding


Since the Flight was first formed at RAF Biggin Hill in July 1957, the aircraft of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight have become some of the most famous historic aircraft in the world, earning a place in the hearts of millions of aviation enthusiasts over the past sixty years. Established as a flying memorial to the brave pilots of the Battle of Britain, this collection of preserved aircraft would be used for official RAF ceremonial duties and during various state occasions, ensuring the aircraft came to the attention of many millions of people around the world and becoming a much loved focal point for RAF commemorations past and present.

Over the years, these magnificent aircraft have slowly grown in numbers and represented RAF heritage at countless Airshows across the UK. Regarded as one of the highlight acts on any display programme, the Flight can now boast Britain’s only airworthy Avro Lancaster, a Douglas C-47 Dakota, two Hawker Hurricanes, no fewer than six Spitfires and a pair of De Havilland Chipmunks which are all based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, the Flight’s home for the past 41 years. As 2017 marks the 60th Anniversary of the establishment of the Flight, we thought this would be the ideal opportunity to explore the enduring link between the BBMF and the Corgi Aviation Archive range and how these magnificent aircraft continue to inspire popular die-cast collectable releases.


Darren Wooding has arranged his Corgi BBMF collection on a rather appropriate backdrop


The first time aircraft of the BBMF received the Corgi treatment was back in 1999, with the release of a special commemorative trio of models in 1/144th scale, featuring the Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane, presented in a clear acrylic case, with map base and RAF crest of the Flight. With the undoubted popularity of these aircraft, it came as no surprise that this set proved to be a real hit with die-cast collectors, but only served as a precursor to the impressive die-cast delights which lay ahead. The launch of Corgi’s 1/72nd scale range of models in 2000 saw the Aviation Archive range going from strength to strength and arguably heralding the beginning of the die-cast aviation collector market we know today. The enduring popularity of the BBMF meant that it would not long before a new and altogether more impressive three model set was released to market, featuring the Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane in this larger scale and collectors could not get enough. Released in 2001, AA32602 was a limited edition run of an impressive 5,600 sets and featured exclusive artwork on the box lid entitled ‘Millennium Flypast’ by Robert Calow, presenting a classic image of the BBMF three aircraft formation flying over London at twilight, with Lancaster PA474 wearing the colours of ‘Mickey the Moocher’.


This attractive collection of Corgi BBMF models includes the original AA32602 three model set and a non-Corgi Spitfire interloper


Since that date, many of the Flight’s Spitfires, Hurricanes, Lancaster and Dakota (in their various liveries) have taken their place in the Aviation Archive range, to the delight of collectors who have always been keen to add these famous aircraft to their growing collections. The fact that these iconic aircraft continue to thrill millions of people at Airshows and flypast events each year ensures that these beautiful models are not only of interest to committed die-cast aviation collectors, but also to more casual collectors looking for highly detailed scale representations of the aircraft that bring them so much pleasure. Interestingly, the range has benefitted from the addition of another fantastic three model set, although this time it was produced in such low numbers that it proved incredibly difficult to get hold of. With a limited edition run of just 250 sets worldwide, this second 1/72nd scale BBMF trio (AA39911) was guaranteed to become one of the most sought after releases in the Aviation Archive range, with a relatively small number of people able to boast this set as part of their collection. Again including the classic Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane combination, the mighty Lancaster is this time presented wearing the markings of the popular ‘Phantom of the Ruhr’, with its sinister bomb dropping skeleton artwork.


Latest BBMF Corgi Classic 

The latest release in Corgi’s successful BBMF series is Douglas C-47 Dakota ZA947


Continuing the popular trend of basing model releases on the regularly changing liveries of aircraft operated by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, the latest Aviation Archive release in this series presents collectors with an impressive 1/72nd scale example of Douglas Dakota ZA947, the second largest aircraft in the Flight’s inventory. Marking one of the most important Allied aircraft of the Second World War and one which saw extensive service during Operation Overlord, the aircraft serves as a flying memorial to the men and women who built, maintained, flew and were carried on this aviation classic, which was something of an unsung workhorse of an aircraft. Joining the Flight in March 1993, the Dakota receives continuous renovation, as BBMF engineers attempt to bring the aircraft to as authentic a wartime condition as possible, using genuine wartime components as they are located or donated to the project via their legions of committed followers. As well as becoming a popular Airshow display performer in her own right, the Dakota also provides the Flight’s Lancaster pilots with vital multi-engined tail wheel conversion and currency training, essential in the continued operation of these much loved aircraft.


In 1/72nd scale, the Corgi Dakota is an impressive model indeed


This popular aircraft is currently presented as Dakota FZ692 ‘KWICHERBICHIN of RAF No.233 Squadron, which flew numerous flights in support of the D-Day landings, Operation Market Garden and the Rhine crossing. Operating from her base at RAF Blakehill Farm, near Swindon, FZ692 delivered paratroopers and supplies in support of the Allied invasion of Europe, before transferring to forward operating airfields in France as they became available. Once troops and supplies had been delivered, the aircraft would be used to transfer casualties back to the UK, where they could receive the more specialist medical attention they could not obtain in the field. The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Douglas C-47 Dakota is a fitting tribute to the work of this magnificent aircraft and the unsung heroes of the RAF’s transport squadrons.

We would like to extend our grateful thanks to Darren Wooding for sending us his magnificent BBMF model collection pictures and allowing us to share them with fellow Die-cast Diaries readers.


Thunderbirds are WON!

With boxes signed by Dee Anderson, this is a prize any Thunderbirds fan would love to have


Regular Die-cast Diaries readers may recall that edition 30 of our blog commemorated the first international ‘Thunderbirds Day’ and offered one lucky reader the opportunity to win a FAB collection of Corgi Thunderbirds models. To make this prize all the more desirable, each of the boxes had been signed by Dee Anderson, daughter of Thunderbirds creators Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, making these highly desirable items for any self-respecting International Rescue fan.

We are pleased to announce that the winner of our competition, selected at random from the hundreds of correct entries received is Shirley Giles. Congratulations Shirley, a confirmation e-mail has already been sent and your models will be on the way to you very soon – unfortunately, we had to use Royal Mail, as Lady Penelope and Parker were otherwise engaged at this busy time of year. We would like to extend our sincere thanks to Dee Anderson for helping us to offer such a fantastic Thunderbirds prize – you are truly F.A.B.


Colourful Capri for Vanguards 21


With the end of this 21st Anniversary year of the Vanguards model vehicle range fast approaching, we can honestly say that it has been an absolute pleasure to chart the history of the brand and feature some of the significant releases within Die-cast Diaries throughout 2017. Many readers will be pleased to hear that we still have plenty of stories to tell and our Vanguards features will carry on into 2018 and beyond as we continue to look back at the heritage of the brand and chart the future of this extremely popular range. The big news for this latest instalment is most definitely the unique prize we are offering readers in our spectacular Vanguards 21 competition, which we planned to be a fitting way to end this anniversary year – we will have more on this later.


Catalogue picture showing Ford Capri 2300GT Mk.I AV13312


With the recent launch of VA13312 Ford Capri 2300GT Mk.I in its striking Tour de France Automobile livery, we thought we would bring you pictures of the deconstructed model components of the Capri, so you can gain a better understanding of the work that goes in to producing these delightful little models. Once again, we are indebted to Vanguards research guru Mark Pinnigar for allowing us to visit his offices and to access the treasure-trove of models, components and information he has regarding the Vanguards range. As one of the most recognisable vehicle shapes to grace Britain’s roads over the past 48 years or so, the Capri became the aspirational vehicle of choice for thousands of image conscious motorists and many of our readers will probably admit to drooling over a 3.0 Ghia, or 2.8i version of this beast at some point.


This detailed artwork file was used in the production of the latest Capri release


During our last visit to see Mark, the Tour de France Capri was scheduled to be released over the next few weeks and with this in mind, the sight of a Capri body shell on the workshop table prompted an obvious question, “could we possibly have pictures of the model components for our readers to see?” Mark was happy to oblige and after a few minutes rummaging through a rather extensive wall of boxes, he came back with everything we needed. As you can see from the images, the main shell of the model comes in three sizeable die-cast parts, with separate components for wheels, axels and hubs. These are complemented with sprues of clear and plastic parts, including components to allow several versions of the Capri to be completed. Mark will often use these components to construct and hand decorate sample models when making range suggestions for forthcoming catalogues, but when the model progresses to manufacturing, the factory in the Far East will do this on an industrial scale – labour intensive work, requiring a fair amount of manual dexterity.


A selection of component images used in the production of a Vanguards Ford Capri Mk.I



Many of the components shown in the picture above will have been used in the production of the latest Capri release, one of the most colourful Capris in the Vanguards range. Its catalogue description reads – ‘In 1968 Ford of Germany created a Motorsport Department in Cologne in an attempt to change their previously staid image. Managed by successful racing driver Jochen Neerpasch (who later founded BMW's M Division), and engineers Mike Kranefuss and Martin Braungart, the small team soon concentrated their efforts on the new Capri. Their first entry was an ambitious 3-car team for the Tour de France Auto, a ten day event which involved races, speed hill-climbs and long-distance rallying. Although two Capris retired, one with fuel injection problems and the other after an accident, the Piot and Behra Capri came a fantastic sixth overall, behind 4 Porsche 911s and a Chevrolet Corvette, and won its class’. This attractive new Capri model is available now.


A unique Vanguards prize worth winning

And now for the moment all Vanguards collectors have been waiting for – how would you like to be in with the chance of winning a unique piece of Vanguards memorabilia, a model which would instantly take pride of place in any model collection and make you the envy of every Vanguards collector in the world?


Artwork files showing the unique representation of our very special one of one 1977 Ford Escort Mk.2 Mexico


Working with our extremely talented Vanguards research supremo Mark Pinnigar, he is going to hand produce a model that is both visually striking, unique in its presentation and unbelievably collectable – a limited edition one of one release. Coming with its own certificate and fully authenticated by Mark and the Corgi team, this model will be based on a 1977 Ford Escort Mk.2 RS Mexico, but modified in a way that has never been seen previously. Taking a ‘Group 4’ wide arch body version, this beautiful looking car is going to be finished in the new Ford RS Nitrous Blue, as used on the stunning new Focus RS. We have included our initial scheme profile images to give you an impression of what this magnificent model will look like, but we already know this is going to be just a little bit special.

Die-cast Diaries will be following the progress of this model’s production over the next few editions, bringing you the latest information, pictures and details of this exciting project. We intend to make this a prize every Vanguards collector would be overjoyed to win, so please keep checking future editions of our blog as we bring you more details on what our lucky winner is going to receive.


The colour of our model is based on this striking new Focus RS ‘Nitrous Blue’ – Image courtesy of Ford UK


Now for the all-important question – How can you be in with a chance of winning this unique piece of Vanguards memorabilia and the culmination of our Vanguards 21 celebrations? Simply head over to the Corgi Competitions Page, where you will be presented with a Ford Escort Mk.2 RS Mexico related question to answer. For a prize of this magnitude, the question may require a little research before you answer, but with three possible answers to select from, we do provide a little guidance and may give you more clues in our annual review edition of Die-cast Diaries, due to be published on 3rd January 2018. From the three options provided, please make your selection, enter basic contact details, allowing us to get in touch with you should you be lucky enough to win and sit back – there is nothing more you can do. The competition will run until midnight on Wednesday 31st January and we will announce the extremely lucky winner in February’s edition of Die-cast Diaries.

Marking the end of an extremely successful series of features produced in celebration of our Vanguards 21 anniversary, this unique model is arguably the most significant prize we have ever offered at Corgi and we would like to wish everyone who enters our competition good luck. Someone reading this blog will win this magnificent prize, so make sure you don’t miss out on your chance and entre today.


Corgi Christmas Crackers



As this will be the final edition of Die-cast Diaries before the Christmas holidays are upon us, we thought it might be a nice idea to feature some of the latest Corgi releases which may be of interest to the die-cast collector in your life. We have tried to include a selection of models that would appeal to a wide range of collecting tastes and hope that anyone lucky enough to receive any one of them would be full of festive Corgi good cheer.

As we featured the enduring connection between the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and the Aviation Archive range, we had to include the latest release in this popular series, Douglas C-47 Dakota ‘KWICHERBICHEN’ AA38208. The 1/72nd scale Dakota is without question one of the finest toolings in the Aviation Archive range and when combined with a BBMF subject aircraft, this really does make for an irresistible die-cast combination. If uniquely presented buses are more your style, there are few vehicles that can compete with one of the attractive Wright Eclipse Gemini 2 buses which transport Harry Potter fans from their pick-up locations to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour. Ensuring that your Harry Potter experience begins from the second you spot one of these handsome buses approaching, these models have proved to be a big hit with fans of these iconic films, especially if you have been lucky enough to take a trip on one prior to your studio tour.

Speaking of popular combinations, the Vanguards range of classic motor vehicles and Ford subject matter have always found favour with the collector and the latest release in this series is a boy racers dream car. VA11011 presents us with a Ford Escort Mk.3 XR3 in striking Prairie Yellow colour scheme, which would have been a popular sight on UK roads during the early 1980s. An affordable way to ensure you travelled in some style, these beautiful vehicles are now becoming quite collectable and can regularly be spotted at car shows around the country being exhibited by their proud owners.

If you are thinking of a classic Christmas gift for any die-cast collector or film enthusiast, then James Bond’s ‘Little Nellie’ Gyrocopter is certain to come with a licence to thrill. Produced to mark the 50th Anniversary of ‘You only live twice’, this iconic aircraft was featured extensively in Die-cast Diaries 26, where we looked at the famous inventor and pilot of this distinctive aircraft and how he was kept extremely busy during the filming of the movie – unfortunately we do have to confirm that Sean Connery is not the Gyrocopter pilot you thought he was. Any one of the models featured above would make a fantastic die-cast collectable gift this Christmas and all four are available for immediate dispatch from the Corgi website and all good model stores.


What’s on the desk?

We end this festive edition of Die-cast Diaries with a final look for 2017 at the models currently residing on the development desks at Corgi HQ and will shortly be lining the shelves of your favourite Corgi supplier. As we are fast approaching the end of the current July to December 2017 catalogue range, the two models we are going to be featuring this time are both final production samples and should be available over the coming few weeks, so please keep checking the Corgi website for the very latest release information.

This final signed sample suggests that VA01317 is close to its scheduled January release



As far as classic motor vehicles are concerned, what could be more quintessentially British than the shape of this Austin Se7en Deluxe Vanden Plas Mini? The name Vanden Plas is associated with top end luxury motoring and dictated that a car carrying this wording was the vehicle belonging to a driver of taste and sophistication. VA01317 presents Vanguards collectors with an Austin Seven which was built at Longbridge on April 11th 1960 as a special order for Irene Waite, née Austin, eldest daughter of Lord Herbert Austin. It was fitted with a fresh-air heater, which at that time was for export market orders only. On April 28th, it was sent to another section of the BMC empire, coachbuilder Vanden Plas in Kingsbury to be painted metallic blue over the original white, trimmed in VM3230 grey hide and Evlan Birstall VDP C2 grey carpet. This was done to match the Vanden Plas Princess IV DS7 A135 Limousine owned by Irene's husband, Arthur Waite, a BMC director who had joined his father-in-law's company after the Great War.

Gloster Sea Gladiator AA36211 marks an aircraft with a glorious history


Final signed sample model of this much anticipated naval Gladiator release


Representing the very pinnacle of biplane fighter design, the beautiful Gloster Gladiator entered RAF and RN service just as the first of the modern monoplane fighters were beginning to emerge and as such, did not enjoy the notoriety the aircraft probably deserved. Having said that, of all the 747 Gladiators produced, the subject of this latest release, Gloster Sea Gladiator N5519 AA36211 was without doubt one of the most famous of its kind. Left behind on the Island of Malta when the rest of No.802 NAS returned to the UK aboard HMS Glorious, N5519 was one of the celebrated ‘Defenders of Malta’, a handful of Gladiators which provided air cover for the Island against significantly superior numbers of Italian Air Force aircraft. Based at RAF Hal Far, these Gladiators fought valiantly and took on almost mythical status when they were later christened ‘Faith, Hope and Charity’ by a Maltese newspaper – N5519 was the aircraft referred to as ‘Charity’.

This famous Sea Gladiator claimed a number of aerial victories during the battles that raged in the skies over Malta, but was to eventually fall victim to a fighter of the Regia Aeronautica. In late July 1940, N5519 ‘Charity’ was being flown by F/O Peter Hartley during heavy fighting above Grand Harbour when his aircraft was hit in the fuel tank by an Italian Fiat CR.42 Falco. The Gladiator burst into flames and crashed into the sea just off the south-east coast of the Island – although badly burned, the pilot parachuted into the sea and following a lengthy period of treatment and recuperation, returned to flying duties. Gloster Sea Gladiator N5519 ‘Charity’ was the only Malta Sea Gladiator to be shot down during aerial combat over the Island.

As usual, for all the latest information regarding release dates and availability, please head for the Corgi website and the individual product page of the model you are interested in.


That’s all we have for you in this final edition of Die-cast Diaries before Christmas, but we hope we managed to include something which was of interest to you. If you have any time over the Christmas holidays and need a break from all those cold turkey sandwiches, please do drop us a line with your thoughts about our blog and any suggestions you may have for subjects you would like to see covered in 2018. Please send your ideas or pictures of your own Corgi model collection, to our usual diecastdiaries@corgi.co.uk e-mail address, where we would be only too pleased to hear from you.

If social media is more your style, all the latest Corgi model discussions are taking place over on our Die-Cast Diaries forum along with the news, photographs and collecting banter on our ever popular Facebook and Twitter  accounts – could we please ask that you use the #CorgiDiecastDiaries when posting. We look forward to enjoying all your latest Corgi collecting discussions.

Finally, we would like to thank all our readers for your continued support of our blog and to wish each and every one of you an extremely Merry Christmas. The next edition of Die-cast Diaries will be our annual review edition, which is scheduled to be published on Wednesday 3rd January.


Corgi Die-cast Diaries Team


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