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THREE WHEELS ON MY WAGON – A THOMPSON REFUELLER AT SYWELL Thompson Brothers was founded in 1810 in Bilston in the Black Country region of South Staffordshire and in 1882 it was purchased by Enoch Stephen Thompson based at the Bradley Engineering Works, Bilston. Initially they manufactured steam boilers, but during WW1 they made aircraft components. After the war the tax regulations lead to a boom in cyclecar production so the aircraft department produced a three-wheeled, open, two seater, cycle car.The main appeal of cycle-cars was they were cheap and easy to run but they only sold 150 cars as the price of four wheelers fell. After the demise of the cyclecar business Thompson became a leading manufacturer of commercial vehicles such as fuel tankers and airport fire tenders.In 1935, an unusual three-wheeled aircraft refueller was successfully introduced for servicing light aeroplanes at civil aerodromes. TB provided some for the Kings Cup Race at Hatfield giving great publicity and most civilian aerodromes, flying clubs and schools purchased at least one. Even Dinky Toys made a model of one!The Thompson P500 Mobile Refuelling Unit was a clever design. Powered by a 10hp Ford motor with 3×2 chain drive, it was sleek and low slung making it very manoeuvrable and easy to drive close to an aeroplane (despite being 18ft long and weighing 2.1 tons!) The chassis allowed the use of different sets of tanks of different configurations. The tanks were located above the front wheel, passed along the side and even surrounded the single driver’s seat. The initial design was somewhat bulbous but evolved into a more slab sided version which was easier to produce.In the Mk.I version, two longitudinal tanks with a total volume of more than 300 gallons (over 1350 litres) were used for filling fuel and oil.. There was also a Thompson proprietary pump with a 20 GPM (91 L / min) capacity. In further modifications Mk.II to V, other containers were used. The largest – the P505 Mk.V -carried 500 gal. (2273 l) of fuel in two separate tanks. There was also a 50 gallon (227 L) oil reservoir. Provision was made for the stowage of hoses and a tow hitch allowed it to pull small aircraft or trailers.1939 saw the first RAF orders for the Thompson Refueller (Tender Mk.1) and several hundred were used on airfields during WW2 albeit usually for single-engined aircraft and mainly at training aerodromes.Sywell Aerodrome had at least two on site, with a further example based at the Relief Landing Ground at Denton where former Museum, the late Eric ‘Tiger’ Gayton used to drive it. We imagine that driving it back to Sywell to be refilled would take a while! The attached photo from Frank Golding shows the Brooklands Aviation refuelling crew at Sywell in the snow c.1937/8.TB produced other fuel bowser equipment during the War and continued making bowsers well into the 1960s. Eventually the company became part of the Northern Engineering Industries Group which itself was acquired by Rolls-Royce in 1989.Many P500s remained in use at civil aerodromes and airports in Britain (and around the world as far away as the UAE and Australia) until the 1960s and 1970s with a few still used into the 1990s notably at Leicester and North Weald. Old Warden had their P500 Until the late 1990s when it was sold to Brooklands Museum. In excess of 20 units survive today, mostly in museums eg IWM Duxford & RAF Museum. See MoreSee Less
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The skies are lifting at Sywell just in time for more additions to the Piper Club Fly in! 🙂 See MoreSee Less
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WAS A SHERMAN TANK NAMED AFTER YOUR VILLAGE?THE NORTHAMPTONSHIRE YEOMANRY, JOE EKINS AND OPERATION TOTALIZEOccasionally the Museum page creeps into other aspects of local military history – and with the 80th anniversary of D-Day due to take place this week now seems a good time.The Northamptonshire Yeomanry was formed in 1794 as volunteer cavalry. It served in the Second Boer War, the First World War and the Second World War before being reduced to squadron level in 1956. It ceased to have a separate existence in 1971.On 7 February 1920, the regiment was reconstituted in the Territorial Army with a HQ at the Old Militia Barracks in Clare St, Northampton. It was initially established with three Squadrons. In November 1938, the formation of a Mechanised Cavalry Brigade (TA) was announced and the Northamptonshire Yeomanry was selected to form part of this Brigade. By early 1939, Regimental Headquarters and "A" Squadron were based at Northampton, with "B" Squadron at Daventry and "C" Squadron at Brackley. By 1939, it had become clear that a new European war was likely to break out, and the doubling of the Territorial Army was authorised and the NY was divided in May 1939 to form two Cavalry Light Tank Regiments:1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry (TA) – Regimental Headquarters and "A" Sqn at Northampton, "B" Sqn at Daventry and "C" Sqn at Brackley.2nd Northamptonshire Yeomanry (TA) – Regimental Headquarters and "A" Sqn at Northampton, "B" and "C" Sqns at Kettering.The Northamptonshire Yeomanry was heavily involved in Normandy in 1944 after the D-Day landings including Operation Charnwood – the capture of Caen.1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry was part of the 33rd Armoured Brigade lead by Lt. Col D Forster. It fielded three Squadrons of Sherman tanks, a total of 59 Shermans of which 12 were Fireflies.(the 2nd Northamptonshire Yeomanry was converted to an Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment and assigned to the 11th Armoured Division. The regiment landed in Normandy in June 1944. In August, it was disbanded and its members were drafted to other regiments, a ‘4th’ Regiment did not exist and was used to fool the enemy as a dummy unit).On 8 August 1944, the 1NY was involved in perhaps its most famous action – Operation Totalize, a breakout from the Caen Salient. It was during Operation Totalize that Joe Ekins, a Firefly tank gunner of the 1NY, gained recognition for being the man who possibly killed the renowned German SS tank commander, Michael Wittmann (the 4th top scoring tank ace in history) near Saint-Aignan-de-Cramesnil, France.Indeed it is said that Joe shot at , and destroyed, 3 Tiger tanks that day using only 5 rounds of ammunition. No NY vehicles were destroyed in the engagement. After service during the Battle of the Bulge the regiment was re-formed and re-equipped with LVT-4 Buffalo amphibious armoured fighting vehicles for the Operation Plunder -the Rhine crossing – under the command of the 79th Armoured Division. After the war the unit reverted to a TA regiment before being disbanded in 1971. Post war there has been some debate as to whether the 1NY – and Joe Ekins – was responsible for the death of Wittman, though there is no doubt he destroyed several Tiger Tanks. In recent times it has been claimed that a Canadian Unit – the Sherbrooke Fusiliers may have delivered the fatal blow. This controversy may endure but all we know is that after the war Joe Ekins moved to Rushden where he worked in a shoe factory, married and had two children. He spoke little about his wartime experiences until his later life when the action became newsworthy again and the spotlight fell on him.We were privileged to welcome Joe to the Museum on several occasions, a quiet, unassuming, and very brave man. Joe died in February 2012. What is little known is that many of 1NY’s vehicles had a Northampton connection emblazoned on the side – A Squadron’s tanks were named after Soviet towns, B Squadron’s after American states and C Squadron after Northamptonshire towns and villages beginning with certain letters (1 Troop ‘C’, 2 Troop ‘S’, 3 Troop ‘H’, 4 Troop ‘S’ and HQ Troop ‘B’ ). At the time of Totalize – they were:Known- ‘C’ Squadron tank names – 7th/8th August 19441 Troop43 – COTTESBROOK 44 – CULWORTH 45 – CATESBY 46 – CHIPPING WARDEN 2 Troop47 – SULGRAVE 48 – SPRATTON 50 – STONY STRATFORD* 3 Troop51 – HELMDON 53 – HELLIDON 54 – HANGING HOUGHTON 4 Troop55 – LILLINGSTONE *56 – LAMPORT 57 – LITCHBOROUGH 58 – LONG BUCKLEY HQ Troop59 – BUCKINGHAM* 60 – BRACKLEY 61 – BRIXWORTH *not actually in Northamptonshire! For more about the Northamptonshire Yeomanry why not visit the excellent Abington Park Museum where an exhibition also charts the history of the Northamptonshire Regiment. www.northamptonmuseums.com/homepage/58/northamptonshire-yeomanry See MoreSee Less
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Joes magificent machine made it! What a lovely bit of kit! Thanks Joe🫡 See MoreSee Less
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SATURDAY’S SPECIAL VISITOR! Keep an eye out at the Museum this Saturday, 1st June, as our friend Joe Doherty will be bringing his fabulous Aveling Barford PV8 Road Roller up to the Museum for a visit! Don’t forget to give him a wave if you see him chugging down the road! Built in 1944 for airfield construction she is a rare beastie nowadays and we’ve very grateful to Joe for bringing her over for people to see. Actually the car park could do with a good flattening! 🙂 See MoreSee Less
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Our good friend Sylvain at Air-pictures.Fr has completed this superb cartoon ready for future ‘flights” in our new Rapide cockpit which is being restored in the colours of G-AJHO the former Brooklands Aviation machine. Kids will get a free sticker after they’ve ‘flown’ in her as they do in Clare the Chipmunk! Thanks Syvain- top job as ever! 🫡www.air-pictures.fr See MoreSee Less
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Just a reminder that the Sywell Aviation Museum will also now be open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays between 1200-1600hrs from Tuesday 28th May to Wednesday 2nd October in addition to our usual weekend and bank holiday opening times of 1030-1630 until the end of September – so no excuse for not coming for a peek! 🙂 See MoreSee Less
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THE GENERAL MOTOR RADIATOR COMPANY, SYWELL AERODROME – DO YOU KNOW MORE?Morning folks, a question for you all on this rainy Wednesday!We’ve recently been contacted by a gentleman enquiring about this car radiator which displays the following dataplate:THE GENERAL MOTOR RADIATOR COMPANY CO. LTDSYWELL AERODROME WORKSSYWELL NORTHAMPTON We’ve come across a similar plate before (on an exhaust muffler) but we know nothing about the company – any information ie where it was located on the airfield, dates it occupied the site etc would be much appreciated!Many thanks SAM See MoreSee Less
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