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It's 1922. It's only four years since the end of the Great War, but great Britain is getting back on its feet. King George V is on the throne; Queen Elizabeth has not been born yet! Sutcliffe Pressings has been making model boats for less than two years, starting with a sturdy battleship, but by now had a small range of five boats, all powered by thier simple water recirculation engine which they refered to as a 'hot air' engine.
And it was in 1922 that Edward (Ted) Foster was born.
The 1920's was a magical era for toys; Hornby, Bowman, Triang, Meccano, Kellner, all making wonderful mechnanical toys. Ted grew up in this era, and in around 1931, when he was about 10 years old, he would become the owner of one of these magical toys.
By 1931, Sutcliffe had developed thier range of boats and was on the brink of thier 'Golden era' of the 1930's. The 'hot air' engines had been replaced by powerful (German) clockwork motors and whilst the two battleships remained alost unchanged, the two small motorboats and crude cabin cruiser had been replaced by a trio of splendid speedboats.
The 1922 line up....
It’s not known precisely how Ted got his splendid new boat, but its nice to think that he went to his local toy shop in leamington Spa and chose one... the biggest and grandest on of them all, the 20” Speedboat!
Ted’s boat is in amazing condition, thanks primarily to the box.... but it’s not actually the original box! It’s a box from a 20” clockwork ‘R Craft’ boat, also made in the early 30’s. Was Ted lucky enough to have one of those as well?! It has his name and address written on it (as so many Sutcliffe boxes do) so the mix up happened very early on; is there an R Craft out there in a Sutcliffe box?!
Another reason that the boat is in such good condition, is that Ted didn’t play with it much. In a few short years, Ted would be signing up to the Royal Air Force, at the tender age of 16. This was now 1938 and war was looming. This is an account of his life in the Air Force from a good friend of his..
“Ted joined the Royal Air Force from his home in Leamington Spa as a boy entrant from the age of 16. It was 1938 and already war clouds were beginning to build.
After an apprenticeship at Farnborough as an RAF photographer, Ted ended up, in 1940 in France on 12 Squadron with their obsolete Fairey Battle day bombers.
As the phoney war disappeared and more and more German aircraft were involved in combat with the Armee d'l Air of both Belgium and France and the Royal Air Force, Ted was given a job to go around and take photographs of any downed German aircraft within a certain radius of his base.
At one particular incident, a German Heinkel He111 had been on the receiving end of a couple of French Morane-Saulnier MS406s The Heinkel had gone straight in to the ground creating a crater with mangled bits of aircraft and young airmen spread around the area.
By now Ted had seen a bit of service and although the sight was not pleasant, being at the wreck did not really effect him. He took his pictures and started to look around the area at some of the bits and pieces - maybe a souvenir would be forthcoming.
Something made him go toward some long grass, a little way from the crater. Within its protective fronds he noticed a smallish, leather case, and, upon opening, he discovered a very nice, well looked after and expensive 35mm Leica camera, which went into his pocket.
After he had completed his photographic duties, he then set about looking at his newly obtained piece of quality, German technology. He could tell straight away that their was a film in it, so he rewound it and then opened the back and duly processed the film to negative. The only picture on the film was of three grinning young Luftwaffe airmen all aged, like Ted, around their early twenties. They and their other colleague, missing from the picture, were on a reconnaissance operation when shot down.”
After the War, life continued on Civvy Street, and Ted had children, and his children had children. All this time, for well over half a century, the treasured toy lay protected in its box, its German box in fact...
Today the boat and box reside in CJB Collection; apart from a very light clean, the boat (and box!) remain exactly as they were when Ted put the boat away, said goodbye to his childhood and embarked on his life as an adult.
And finally; Ted's boat alongside an almost identical 20" speedboat. Just the shade of cream differentiates them...
Ted's splendid Speedboat..
And the box it came in!
This is what originally came in that box... Did ted have one of those too?!
A couple more pictures of Ted's immaculate Speedboat...