The 161 Mobile Anti-Aircraft Unit, which was available between 1939 and 1941, contained the 161a, Lorry with Searchlight and 161b, the Anti-Aircraft Gun on Trailer.
In this post I am only concerned with the Anti-Aircraft Gun on Trailer because I believe I have a version which has not been recorded before. I have looked through various references including the posts on the TalkModelToys site, Jacques Dujardin's Dinky Toys CD and various other references but have not found any mention of it.
Going back to 1991 I bought a boxed set of the 161 Anti-Aircraft Unit (see photo 1) from a well known London auction house. The date on the box is 11-39 (November 1939). Unfortunately, when it arrived both pieces had been damaged in the post due to inadequate packing. I was able to recover the cost of the item through insurance however. I then set about trying to attach some of the pieces that had come loose. The gun on the trailer had become loose from the trailer and when I looked at it I found that there was a round hole in the middle and that there should have been a bar across the middle of the hole to which the gun would be attached so that it could swivel but this was missing. Not having any other example of this trailer to compare with, I fitted a bar, (see photos 2,3 & 4) though you will see that it is not quite accurate in the next photos. It should have a semi-circular shape around the middle where the gun is fixed.
It has only been recently that I have seen two complete versions of this same trailer which have the same hole and original bar across the middle (see photos 8,10). Unfortunately I was not able to find out if there was a date for them.
My theory about this version of the gun trailer is that it is the first production version and that it was found that the bar across the open circle was not strong enough to hold the gun when played with. A change was then made and the open circle was filled in. Compare these with the other version which has a solid circle in the middle of the trailer to which the gun is fixed (see photo 6).
However I would be interested to see what ideas other members have about this version and look forward to your comments
It has also come to my attention (thanks Jacques) that there is a difference in the casting on the underneath of the trailer between my early version and later ones. On the early version there are slightly higher areas where the tinplate tabs for the folding platform come through, whereas on the later version that area is smooth.
Chris--Thanks for posting this most interesting comments about the Anti-Aircraft Gun, and the differences in the base, between the pre-war and post-war models. I also have both versions and had earlier notice the very different mounting hole on the base, and had intended to post something here also....but you beat me to it. I looked around and did not see any mention of it previously. I had not noticed the additional thickness of those areas around the tabs, but mine also has that feature. Attached are some high definition photos of both bases....not sure if they add anything new to the discussion, but it would be interesting to see if any later pre-war versions had the later design incorporated, or was that a change made right before re-introducing it right after the war. I am guessing the later..............
Best regards, Terry
I hadn't noticed this thread until today, and checked my example of this remarkable, dated model. Mine is rather fatigued and shows many other traces of corrosion and repairs. Still, it's complete and displays very well because of its almost pristine and complete box and the bonus of four accompanying soldiers, which do not really belong to the set. One is the no. 160c Royal Artillery Gunlayer, acting as a driver, assisted by three no. 160b Royal Artillery Gunners, to be seated wherever the many holes in the seats of this combination allow.
To be fair, it is not fully complete, exactly the bar below the gun, discussed in this thread before, is missing. So the gun is sitting loose on its four wheeled base. In my opinion this is exactly the clue as the later adjustment of this mounting construction is concerned. The attachment is too weak and certainly when fatigue attacks this model it breaks very soon. So, post-war, when the mess fatigue had caused after a few years time became very obvious, both the quality of the zamac and the construction of this mounting were considerably improved. I do not intend to repair the mounting of my AA gun and leave it as it is: a testimony of pre-war production problems. This example can be dated as making part of an early production batch as the box (BW5185), is dated: 3-39.
The inside look of the broken gun mounting also allows for the conclusion that the painting of the AA Gun was done in at least two phases. The 'shadow' below the gun mounting - caused by the mounting bar - and the paint free area within the gun mounting circle of the base demonstrate that the complicated, hard to cover gun itself got a preliminary paint layer before being attached to the base. Then the combination of base and gun got a final paint layer (the base for the first time) as a whole.
Kind regards, Jan
In 1932 a small business called SKYBIRDS began making a series of model aircraft in 1/72 scale. However it was not long before they introduced metal figures and accessories, including military equipment. The first in this range was an Anti-Aircraft gun in 1934. Later in 1937 came an Army Lorry with a wire tilt frame,and in 1938 an Electric Searchlight. In 1938 these items, plus some other items of equipment, were combined into an Anti-Aircraft Gun Unit and a Searchlight Unit.
In comparison, similar items produced by Meccano under the Dinky Toys label were not available until slightly later – the Anti-Aircraft Gun (161b), the Lorry with Searchlight (161a) and the Mobile Anti-Aircraft Unit (161) all in the same year, 1939.
So it is interesting to compare the models produced and one can speculate whether the Skybirds items were the inspiration for the equivalent Dinky items
When looked at closely the two lorries have several differences. The Skybird item is made of lead and does not have the same detailed finish as the Dinky. It also does not have a towing hook – the AA Gun Trailer has a wire hook which attaches to the rear axle of the lorry, and there is no driver figure, or spare wheel on the side of the cab. The most obvious difference is that the Dinky lorry has the searchlight fixed into the rear bed, whereas the Skybird model has a lorry with wire tilt frames and the searchlight is a separate item. This is a much more accurate representation of the real unit.
The small searchlight made by Skybirds is a very good replica of the 90cm searchlight used before and during World War 2. It has an electric globe which can be connected to a battery. It is also more accurate than the Dinky searchlight fixed into the rear tray of the lorry. This is because the searchlight was mounted on small caterpillar tracks and designed to be carried by the lorry, then demounted to its operational site.
This photo shows the searchlight being unloaded from the lorry down the ramps at the rear. The long arms and control wheel can be seen lying on the ground beside the lorry waiting to be to be fitted to the searchlight.
Both Skybirds and Dinky made excellent models of the Anti-Aircraft Gun. This was the Quick Firing (QF) 3”, 20cwt weapon, introduced in 1914 and used until the end of WW2.
Both have gun barrels which can be elevated by a small knob on the side and it can be turned on its axis. The Dinky version (161b) has the gun fixed to the trailer but the Skybirds version is loose and can be removed. While the Dinky version has tinplate folding extensions to the trailer platform the Skybird version has removeable extensions which can be put in either the folded or extended position.
So, while there are certainly differences between the models the Skybirds set could have been the basis for producing the Dinky version given that the Skybirds models came out earlier than the equivalent Dinky versions. However this is only speculation on my part and it is probably impossible to find out.
(1) “Skybird Notes”, A.G.Sinclair, 1994.
(2) “The Great Book of Dinky Toys”, Mike & Sue Richardson, New Cavendish Books 2000.
Some additional pictures on this subject :
Vickers AA gun Photographed at the Royal Artillery Museum Woolwich on April 25, 2012.
Photographed at the Royal Artillery Museum Woolwich on April 25, 2012.
Photographed at the Royal Artillery Museum Woolwich on April 25, 2012.
Coat of arms stamped onto the barrel.