By Rob Morgan
The splendid UK discount bookstore The Works, which has over 150 branches across the country is selling ( Summer 2012) an interesting book, in hardback at £5.99, Called “Classic Kits,” written by A.Ward; the publisher escapes me for the moment. It’s a full-colour volume and deals with many ranges, Airfix, Tamiya and Revell among them, even as far back as the 1930s SkyWave kits (before my time!), but there’s a gem hidden in the pages of the book, and plenty of copies on the shelves by the way.
Eaglewall was a Sussex-based company which operated around the period 1960-1963, perhaps a little either side of that. This book provides some interesting information about the splendid range of 1/1200th WWII waterline, with full hull option, warships the company made in plastic kit form, boxed at around 2/6d ( a substantial sum in terms of pocket money then!) about 12p today.
The book provides full-colour box art work for a dozen of the kits, some are well known. The Battle of the River Plate trio of RN cruisers, and the Graf Spee of course, Bismarck and many of the vessels involved in her demise. In fact, I’ve still got an Eaglewall HMS Ajax somewhere, but there are others in the list new to me, having first encountered the ships as a schoolboy long ago. I had no idea that a 1/1200th British merchant tanker was in their list. Altmark, the Nazi supply ship, I knew of, and also Saar and Acheron, the U-boat depot ship and tender — I once bought them. Nor did I know about the twin pack of a British corvette and US Lend Lease destroyer escort. One kit I can recall buying was a rack of 5 U-boat models, tiny models they seemed then, and the set covered most classes, I can’t remember any more about them, they vanished donkey’s years back, but the company made U-38, seemingly as a single model? The box art’s in “Classic Kits!”
I remembered that by the time Don Featherstone wrote “Naval Wargames” in 1965, they had stopped trading and were by then wargaming and modelling history. Don said of them that the kits had to be “searched for in small shops in back streets” — true! He however extends the range, to British escort carriers, and also provides what I take to be a reference to fleet carriers, perhaps he means HMS Ark Royal which would fit in with the Bismark chase.
There’s also a suggestion by Don that some Italian WWII naval vessels were issued, but that’s as far as it goes.
The author of “Classic Kits” suggests that there was a duplication of models under different box names for the same kit and class of warship, which is entirely possible. For HMS King George V in 1941, you could have five named vessels, and Bismark and Tirpitz likewise. Though a number of British County class cruisers are shown, there’s no mention of a Tribal class destroyer, like HMS Cossack which captured Altmark in a Norwegian fjord. I can recall an illustration and letter in old Airfix Magazine in the ‘70s which showed a box cover for HMS Rodney, the Battleship which saw off Bismark, but the Eaglewall range at that point slips into legend.
I was too young to have made serious notes on the range and I don’t even know if Eaglewall issued a catalogue or list. I can’t find an advert in the issues of my early collection of Meccano Magazine or Airfix Magazine, but possibly Model Boats carried a review. Tantalisingly, the book says that in a model shop in Surrey there’s a complete collection of Eaglewall models on display. If there is, then this is a treasure which deserves better publicity. What an article that would make!
Anyone know anything?