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179 vehicle and 3 aircraft converged on Corowa, NSW (10th-16th March, 2008) for Year of the Tracked Vehicle.  This event is now the largest gathering of ex-military vehicles in Australia and during the week we had a number of surprises including the arrival of a Replica Spitfire, Harvard and P-40 Kittyhawk, the Jet Blitz from Darwin and a visit by the ‘Queen’ who was seen in a Jeep on Saturday morning. We were able to gather a number of tracked vehicles including a T34, Stuart Tanks, M113’s, Carriers and a number of other tracked vehicles. Corowa Airport was successfully used as an annex to Ball Park and fortunately many of the tracked vehicles stayed at this location. This venue will be used again in 2009. A large amount of discussion and work took place to ensure the event would be successful. Thanks to the many people who assisted in making this such an impressive year. We had representatives from all states and territories. Bob & Jenny Dimer, Rod Diery, Alex & Carol McDougall, Bronwyn and Bruce McDougall from WA, Jared Archibold and Ron Laycock from NT.

At Corowa Airport Accommodation was available in the Jump Shak and there were camping facilities for those requiring powered and non-powered sites. It also appears that the airport was used as nearly a 24 hour workshop for those having mechanical problems with their vehicles. Both the Stuart Tanks went through some major mechanical repairs during the week and the owners appreciated the assistance provided to ensure they were able to participate in the activities during the week and the parade. There was not a dull moment as people assisted each other. Tim and Tabitha Hughes and their family provided participants who stayed at the airport with meals, excellent facilities and were great hosts. For next year they will organize for extra toilet and shower facilities. So they are more aware of expected numbers they would appreciate people pre-booking their sites. With the event now in 2 locations the townspeople saw more movement of vehicles throughout town.

One of the surprises was the arrival of a Replica Mk 26b Spitfire owned by Mike O’Sullvan from Moggill in Qld. He contacted me 4 days prior to the event after having a discussion with Keith Webb involving Blitz’s and it turned out that Mike was the owner of the business Supermarine Aircraft Factory. He produces kit form Mk26 and Mk 26b Spitfires that are 90% scale aircraft for the Australian and export market. He also owns vehicles such as Dodges and a Blitz. Mike’s website is http://supermarineaircraft.comHere is some information provided by Mike O’Sullivan for this report:

I started Supermarine aircraft over 17 years ago. I first built a Spitfire for myself then I found that the Britts (Poms) wanted one themselves, this took some seven (7) years after testing to get approval in the UK.  It is extremely difficult to get approval over there (we are one (1) of only seven (7) to be approved in Ten (10) years), were USA 300 to 400 approved in the same time. My spitfire is all aviation grade aluminium (metal) and has power to weight the same as original also 2 seats. I now have Supermarine aircraft Spitfire in every leading country and have sold to date 92 Spitfires. I very much enjoyed the whole show at Corowa and hope it only gets bigger like Beltring in the UK. We are based in Brisbane Australia, and I live my dream of flying the legendary WW2 Spitfire, there is nothing that compares’ with the freedom.

Some people unfortunately had dramas prior to getting to Corowa. One of these was Todd Vail from Sydney who rolled his tank while loading the vehicle on a transporter the weekend prior. Len McCready had plenty of photos to show people. I am sure Todd will never live this one down and fortunately he was not injured and the vehicle had some maintenance done upon arrival at Corowa. It was definitely the talk of the week.

This year at Ball Park our site office was a Council caravan and Maureen Bell’s gazebo. It was great that we could have a lockable facility and we appreciate the assistance provided by the Council and Ball Park managers There were a number of people who are not members of KVE that assisted at the site office including Geoff Giles, Phil Rider, Jill Starkey, Maggie Mottram, Katrina McDonald and Cecilia O’Reilly. Many positive comments came from those who assisted at the office as they met many new people and had the opportunity to find out more about where they are from and their vehicles. The opening up of membership to Khaki Vehicle Enthusiasts during the year shared the load of work that is now a part of running the event. There was definitely more mingling than in past years between different states and people.

There has been far better promotion of the event than in previous years by local radio stations, newspapers, Corowa Council and the Corowa Tourist Information Centre. The Border Mail did two stories during the week. http://bordermail.yourguide.com.au/articles/1199486.html?src=topstories  and http://bordermail.yourguide.com.au/news/local/general/military-history-to-roll/1202783.html There was even a banner welcoming our participants in the main street. We all appreciate Keith Webb’s DVD’s. He released the 2007 theme DVD – Year of the Cycle and Staff Car upon arrival at Corowa. He did numerous interviews with participants and we should see some of these in his next DVD, Year of the Tracked Vehicle. It is great to have people’s experiences and memories recorded. Also in attendance were Peter and Lynda Toohey from Jeep Action Australia Magazine and Martin Grant covered the event for Truckin’ Life Magazine. Thanks to Geoff Winnington-Ball from Canada we now have our own website www.corowaswim-in.org Ian Pullen and myself were interviewed by the ABC radio. To view this www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2008/03/13/2188232.htm

This year Bill Toole from Tooles Disposals offered participants the opportunity to visit his warehouse on the outskirts of Wodonga. As usual many purchases occurred from both the shop and the warehouse. Participants were also able to visit the 8th/13th Victorian Mounted Rifles Museum at North Bandiana along with the Bandiana Army Museum.

On Wednesday we had our ‘community event’. Approximately 20 vehicles made their way to Karinya Apartments and displayed their vehicles. This is an aged care facility in Corowa. Some residents viewed the vehicles from the main entrance while others chose to be escorted around the vehicles. Maria, the events co-ordinator, shared a story about a veteran who will only say about 4 words each week. He said to her “Can you take my photo in front of the tank?” He was referring to Stephen Davis’s M8 Armoured Car. The visit was well received. On Wednesday evening Lang and Bev Kidby gave participants an informative talk on their trip in 2007 – Fiat 500 – Around the World Expedition and discussed their next trip to Normandy in 2009.

Negotiations with Maurice Wilson who has a river frontage property a few kilometers from the airport proceeded positively with a trip on Thursday morning. The convoy was led by Alex McPherson and enabled the two Stuart Tanks, some of the carriers and an assortment of other vehicles the chance to do an approved road run. Keith Webb and his sound assistant, Brian Laurence were in the lead vehicle so obtained some ‘close’ and good footage of the vehicles including a Stuart Tank that ended up only a few centimeters off their tails. Maurice had spent time preparing for our visit and everyone appreciated the opportunity of driving on his property. We ended up at a location on the river and might use this again next year. It is about 18kms downstream from Ball Park so it would be an ideal cruise for the amphibious vehicles and a good 4WD property for the other vehicles. Due to the heat a number of vehicles suffered from problems – the majority of these were vapor locks. Steve Dietmann followed the tracked vehicles in his International Wrecker and ensured all arrived back at the airport. His assistance was very much appreciated. He was kept extremely busy while on this run and for the entire week. I was on my way back to the airport with Donna Plumridge when we received a call after Tim’s Stuart failed to proceed. She had the only heavy duty jumper leads.  

Our trip on Friday commenced at 8.45am and was led by Ben Hemmings. The first stop was the historic town of Yackandandah where Greg from the Tourist Information Centre gave participants a talk on the history of the area. We then had a look at the town, some lunch and at 12.30 proceeded onto El Dorado. Lang Kidby had a few problems getting to Yackandandah. He changed the fuel pump and did not put the heat shield back on it so the heat from the exhaust manifold caused it to vaporise. They got to Yackandandah by jumping out and pouring water on the pump about 6 times (until they ran out of water). At lunch time he bought an alfoil pie dish and shaped this on top of the pump to stop the heat and then sailed home OK. We visited the El Dorado Museum where Maureen Hearn showed us through the museum and a video of the Historic Dredge. Participants were also able to view the dredge. It was an extremely hot day and I had received an early morning call from the owner of the Buffalo Brewery at Boorhaman inviting people to have a drink at the end of the day. It is the smallest commercially registered brewery and also the oldest brewery still operating in Victoria with continuous operation since 1902.

I headed back to Corowa, after viewing the museum and arrived just prior to the T-34 Tank from Bandiana. This vehicle is on loan from the Australian War Memorial and Ian Pullen and Dave West have spent many hours of blood sweat and tears working on the vehicle to get it running. It was a real highlight to have the vehicle at Corowa. Bandiana also had 2 M113’s amongst their display for the weekend. It is great to have the support of Bandiana Army Museum. When unloading the tank Doug Draeger from SA did a performance dressed up as a Russian Soldier. This tank was built in 1944 in the Ordinance Factory 183 and was believed to have fought against the German Army in WW2. It was a gift from the Russian Government to Australia.  

We also were fortunate to have the Puckapunual Tank Museum participate with 2 M113’s and a White Half Track. This is the first time that they have supported us and we hope they continue to come in the future. Their arrival during the day was also spectacular.

At 6pm on Friday evening a driver’s briefing was held at Ball Park Caravan Park. Ian Pullen and Alex McPherson explained the Traffic Management Plan (TMP) for the parade to drivers and made them aware that the vehicles would be divided into 3 packets. The tanks, then carriers and followed by the rest of the vehicles.

Ron Laycock fired up his Jet Blitz at the Corowa Airport and enabled people to listen to the engine and watch the flames. This was followed by an extremely informative talk and power point display on tanks and armoured vehicles from Major Paul Handel from the Puckapunual Tank Museum. Over 100 people listened to the talk that was divided into 3 sections. Most people were so interested that they listened to the whole talk.

Saturday is the main day of the event. People arrive even up until Saturday morning to be part of the parade and attend the swap meet. The day commenced with a fly past by the Spitfire shortly after 7am. The vehicles at the airport departed for Ball Park with Alex McPherson leading. The Volunteer Rescue Association assisted with the Traffic Management Plan (TMP) set up by Alex McPherson and approved by the Council, RTA and Police for their convoy to Ball Park and then the parade to the airport.

Bob Dimer and I continued to register vehicles in and then found our way to a good photographic spot. The first packet actually left Ball Park a few minutes prior to the designated start time of 9am. Some people in town thought that this was all until the next packet rumbled through town a few minutes later led by Tim Scriven’s Stuart that had suffered a few mechanical problems over the week. More of the townspeople viewed the parade this year and Russell Hughes from the VMVC saluted to all the vehicles as they passed by the Royal Hotel. The ‘Queen’ was also seen in Cameron Stacey’s Jeep. In all 153 vehicles participated in the parade. It was good to see one of the original founders of this event, Alan Newton on a pushbike this year. He must be extremely impressed with the efforts people go to so they can be apart of an event that he assisted organizing 29 years ago.

This year there was a larger than normal number of Land Rovers. With the  Landrover 60th celebrations at Cooma over Easter people chose to attend both events. The majority were Series 2 & Series 3 and also included a Reconnaissance, Lightweight, 101 and one from the Swiss Army. We had a contingent of 12 Austin Champs. The number of Dodge Weapon’s Carriers increased this year to 10. On Friday afternoon a local person, Cliff Broderick asked if he could enter his 1941 International Tractor. It was a great addition to our parade.

The majority of Carriers were LP2s. It was good to see Doug Draeger’s incomplete 2 pounder. Colin Jones from SA had a carrier he purchased off Ebay. It was one of several prototypes for what was intended to be an improved version of the carrier, with revised front wheel steering and the central track warping deleted. The front wheel steering it shared with the Australian designed softskin 1 Ton Tracked Truck.    The Strickland family participated with their Strickland Tractor. After seeing John Belfield’s Strickland Carrier in 2005 the family managed to restore one prior to this year’s event. John Belfield arrived with a Linn Catruck. It was a ½ Track truck and was a very unusual vehicle.

At the conclusion of the parade John Oldenmenger lined the vehicles up at the airport. He did a great job. With this section of the airport now fenced participants had to follow the vehicle in front and most took notice of John’s directions. Next year we may try sectioning off the vehicles prior to the parade so they initially line up with their particular type of vehicles and parade as a group. We will require more assistance for this to be successful so if you can assist please let us know.

This year, due to the theme, the Swap Meet was run by the Corowa Rotary Club and was located at Corowa Airport. We are appreciative of their ongoing support. I am sure some great purchases of goods and friendships were made and extended. There ended up being more advantages with people not being in so much of a rush to get back to the Swap Meet after the parade. The photo shoot was very successful and Ian Pullen used his loud voice to get people to move away from the vehicles. Keith Webb’s wife, Belinda, was embarrassed when Ian commented loudly about her still being in front of the vehicles. She then went up to Ian and suggested she might do a cricketing-style streak. The Carriers were in the front row and the Tanks and other tracked vehicles were behind them. Andrew McIntosh’s Blitz provided a good photographic location.

The airport was a buzz of activity with the people being able to attend the Swap Meet, watch the parachuting, see display vehicles on the arena, watch the Jet Blitz at full throttle, see the arrival of the Harvard and P40 Kittyhawk and take a closer look at the vehicles in the parade. A group photo was taken at 12.30pm of some of the people who belong to the Maple Leaf Up Forum. Keith Webb hopes to attract more people with Warbirds to the event in the future. The townspeople came out by the car loads and the Rotary Club did a roaring trade. 

Unfortunately the water in the Murray River was down again this year and only Mitch Groves (Reg Butler’s grandson) arrived in their GPA. Mitch has attended most of the Corowa events with Reg. We missed Reg not being able to attend due to ill health. We continue to acknowledge that this event was originally for amphibious vehicles and more would attend if the river was higher. Let’s hope for 2009 the river level rises so we can see more action in the river by the amphibious vehicles.

The Saturday evening Auction and Presentation night was well attended. The KVE President, Ian Pullen commenced the evening welcoming people and discussing what occurred this year and a brief run down on events planned for next year and in the future. After looking at participant voting forms the theme for 2012 will be Year of the 6X6 and the Friday trip will be to Milawa. Maureen Bell did the award presentations. The Mal Mackay Award (awarded to an individual who appears to get the most enjoyment out of being at Corowa) went to Andrew McIntosh. The Hard Luck Award was presented to Tim Scriven for experiencing difficulties with his vehicles. Todd Vail received the Turtle Award for his Tank Rollover and knowing tanks inside out and upside down. Steve Dietmann was given a Recovery Award for all his assistance recovering vehicles that had problems. The people’s Favorite Choice Award went to Mike O’Sullivan for his Replica Spitfire. The Longest Distance traveled Award was given to Bill Campbell who drove from Bribie Island to Corowa in a Land Rover. Ron Laycock received an award for the fastest Blitz and Donna Plumridge was given an award for her assistance to a breakdown. Both Lang Kidby and Paul Handel received certificates for their informative talks. Peter Toohey from Jeep Action presented an award to Bayden Stephens for encouragement. We presented Sandra and Terry Johnston, the outgoing managers of Ball Park with pictures of our past themes as a thank you for their great hospitality.

KVE are grateful of all donations received for the auction. Thanks to Bay for being our Auctioneer. We had some different donations including 2 X 205 litres if Premium Unleaded Fuel donated by Euan McDonald which raised $260 each, the Year of the Tracked Vehicle Banner donated by Tony Dwyer which raised $200, 2 prints from Barry Spicer that raised $160 and $220, a Year of the Tracked Vehicle Plate made by Donna Plumridge raised $100 and a local road sign driven over by the T-34 tank raised $120. Thanks to Andrew McIntosh who donated a number of books and photos and other participants who provided donations. We appreciate Peter McNeil offering assistance to collect the money and hand out the auction items. If Peter was going to receive an award it would have been for the loudest Half Track at Corowa.

The Corowa people and Council were very supportive this year. At the airport the council allowed us to use the loading ramp, have an arena for the tracked vehicles and allowed participants to camp. John Babbs, the Director of Engineering Services at Corowa Council was an important link in ensuring a successful parade.

The week passed extremely quickly and we are now preparing for 2009 – Year of the Amphibian and Year of the Blitz 2. We will be celebrating 30 years of this event and if anyone has photos, video of stories related to the event since 1980 please inform Keith Webb or myself. If you are able to assist in any way please contact me. To view this www.corowa30.org The more the duties are shared the lighter the workload on everyone. We are now open to pre-registration for 2009. The donation will continue to be $10.

It has been mentioned that very few vehicles had an attached information sheet regarding their vehicle. It adds more interest to the display when people can read up on vehicle details and usage. It would be great to see more of these in 2009. It benefits both the enthusiasts and the public. Refer to www.cmvmag.co.uk/pdf/cmvlogsheet.pdf This website was suggested by Richard Farrant provides some suggestions.

On behalf of the KVE Committee I would like to express my thanks to all who have assisted with the event this year. There have been many phone calls and emails from people since the event and some extremely positive reports. People appear to understand that with an event that is increasing in size each year some changes will have to occur. KVE are representing the participants requests. There are times when it is difficult to please everyone all the time. We are open to new ideas and constructive criticism however there are people who don’t think about things from another person’s perspective. Many of you are not as aware of the way the event ran for the first 10 years. Fortunately those that attended from 1980 to 1990 can see the progress and understand that things need to change over time. In another ten years what will this event be like?

 

 

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