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Corowa 2008 - MVs well cooked!
   (Ver 2)



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Corowa.


 

For many years I have known about the annual meet at Corowa, NSW Australia. Despite having visited Corowa quite a few times over the years, even in March when the meet is held, I never quite managed to be there at the right time. So this year myself and family decided to make the effort and made the trip.
Most of the reason why I have not made the effort prior to this, is that every time I have been to Corowa in March it has been VERY hot, well, this year was no exception.

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"Corowa" is a small town on the NSW/Vic border whose main claim to fame is it's place in history concerning Australian Federation. It also became the site of the annual "Amphibious ex-military vehicle swim-in" and was originally a DUKW and Seep (Amphibious Jeep) event. Given the scarcity 30 odd years ago of those vehicles in private hands it became the defacto Aussie MV meet and still is. I saw no DUKWs this year and only one Amphibious Jeep. The event goes for a week starting on a weekend, in reality most participants don't arrive till the following Friday, with the main day being the Saturday (main street parade) and departure on the Sunday. We got there on the Tuesday and were surprised how many others arrived by mid-week.
There are side trips and group runs on a come-as-you-please basis during the week.

This year, due to the theme being "Year of the Tracked Vehicle" it was decided to break with tradition and not have the Ball Caravan Park as the central location (marked with a letter "B" on the map above). Despite much controversy, having the dual locations with the airport as the camp site for the tracked armour and site of the swap meet does not appear to have been a problem (marked "A" on the map above).

Having been able to visit Beltring in the UK, I had the preconceived notion that Corowa would be a disappointment armour wise, in past years this may have been the case. A factor in deciding to go this year was that the theme was "Year of the Tracked Vehicle". Up till 2 weeks before the event the organisers were expecting to have a Centurion, Grant, Staghound, Matilda as well as other tanks and APCs. The 4 named vehicles were not to eventuate, however there were:

2 Stuarts
T-34/85 (Australian Army)
2 x M113 MRVs (Australian Army)
1 x M113 FSV (Australian Army)
M113A2 prototype (Australian Army)
M113 Rapier
3 x Halftracks (1 x US, 2 x Israeli version)
Sundry Bren Carriers (Oz built)
1 x Oz prototype front steer Bren Carrier (Oz built).

Wheeled armour consisted of:

1 x M8 Greyhound
1 x M3 White AOP Scout Car
3 x Ferrets (2 x UK, 1 x Oz)

Remarkable by their complete absence were Dingos and Lynxs.

I heard counts of 170 ex-military vehicles being present, including a folding bicycle. Which is probably the best turn out in the event's history.

During the week.


I was told of a "not scheduled" trip to view (and be able to purchase) from a warehouse that has always been thought to exist, but up until now has been a mystery. It belongs to a surplus/disposal dealer who is downsizing his business. Sensing an adventure I followed the instructions (which included "look for a Nissan Hut") and duly arrived at the location: over the next 1/2 hour being joined by about 25 other hopefuls.



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Into Alladin's Cave!
The days of finding vehicle parts are almost gone, predominately the contents were clothing and kit related: there were many tarps, most being of unknown fitment.
However, it was all very reminiscent of the military warehouses of legend and we all had fun poking into lots of stilages and boxes.
I came away with a couple of British AFV helmets and a goodly quantity of straps, so it was both worthwhile and rewarding.
The following pics have all had to be computer enhanced as the lighting was fairly poor in there, likewise a flash only carries about 15 feet and I was trying to get pics of as much of the stock and warehouse as possible.

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The entrance view.


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Note the curved Nissan Hut frame.


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Goodies piled high.


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Lots of ammo boxes - this pic has suffered due to having
to be tweaked heavily as it came out very dark.


Back to Corowa.
There was a story going around about a mishap with one of the Stuarts when it was being loaded onto a transporter before departing for Corowa. Supposedly it was driven onto the transporter too fast and slid over the side rolling over and coming to rest on the opposite side (ie. it went upside down then onto the other side). The damage was said to be limited to a hatch and the left rear mudguard - and the driver's nerves! Luckily nobody was hurt.

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M3A1 Stuart.




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Stuart with roll over damage to rear mudguard.




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On the day it happened.




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The other Stuart at Corowa, an M3.




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One of the many local pattern carriers.


Recently a life long VW collector sold off his collection, Manfred heard about it and purchased the Kubelwagen you see in the picture below. He contacted VW in Germany and asked if they could trace the serial number. Much to his surprise back came the answer identifying it as having been supplied to the SS in 1944 and thought to have been in the battle of Kursk. Quite a history.

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Kubelwagen, Manfred and obliging dog.


Thursday
Although offered a ride in a Bren Gun Carrier in thursday's tracked vehicle outing I decided to give it a miss. The thought of spending several hours being slowly barbequed in the back of a carrier in the hot conditions overruled the appeal of a unique ride. I arrived at the airport as the vehicles were returning in dribs and drabs. It seemed that all the BG Carriers had suffered from fuel vapourisation to some degree, with several having to be towed back by a kind hearted wrecker owner. This has been put down to the difference between higher octane modern petrol and the 87 octane (or lower) specification of the original petrol these vehicles were designed to use. I know the British have the opposite problem with modern fuel with it being very prone to causing carburetor icing.
The M3 Stuart had returned early with suspected vapourisation problems: we were then treated to the M3A1 making an appearance banging and missing badly. It made it under it's own steam to the airport, but only just.
The owner of the M3 subsequently did an engine pull in order to fix a bad leak on the oil reservoir, the in demand wrecker providing lifting services. They managed to get it all back together again just in time for Saturday's street parade.

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The wrecker backing up to the Stuart for the engine pull.
Bits of Stuart just visible to left of wrecker.




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A BG Carrier that completed the Thursday run without assistance.


One of the BG Carrier crews told me that upon their return they all drank a litre of water immediately, they were that dehydrated.

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The foot tangle of pedal controls in a BG Carrier.




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The M3A1 Stuart making it's noisy return.




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The wrecker returning with another hapless carrier.




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Front steer prototype BG Carrier.


I had noticed the above carrier and commented to some of the carrier fraternity about it. I knew that there had been a prototype of that design built, but was not aware that they had been produced. Back came the answer "that is the prototype, there weren't any others built". You can't get much more unique than the only example ever made. 100% type survival!

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Mk1/2 British Ferret.




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Mk 2/3 British Ferret.




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M8 Greyhound.




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2pdr Carrier.


The above carrier is partially restored, the gun and other missing parts being back in Adelaide. This vehicle was sold whilst at the meet.

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A nice halftrack.




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One very neat looking carrier.




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An Austin Champ - one of several at the meet.




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A rather rare Blitz dual cab.




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M113s arrive.




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M113s offloading.


It was interesing to watch the offloading process for the M113s. Only the trailer had ramps, so when it was parked, the driver jacknifed the trailer boggie and then uncoupled. The trailer was unloaded and then the truck that hadn't been towing a trailer was backed up to the trailer and its APC offloaded across the trailer and down the ramps. The same procedure for the truck that had towed the trailer. Economy of resources!

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Bandianna Museum's display - no T-34 yet.


From L to R: M113A1 Medium Reconaissance Vehicle, M113 Rapier Anti-aircraft Missile vehicle and an M113A1 Fire Support Vehicle. Note the bollards and red rope - no touching!

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Puckapunyal's prototype M113A2 and M113A1 MRV.




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Pucka's M113A1 MRV and ex-Israeli halftrack.


Civilians were welcomed to climb on Pucka's exhibits and I spent quite a bit of time in their M113s. I was surprised that more people didn't take the opportunity to climb inside the vehicles, perhaps the heat put them off.

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The T-34 arrives.




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T-34/85 underway.


After much work behind the scenes, Bandianna were finally able to get the T-34 up and running. If I recall correctly, it arrived late on Friday afternoon. A clutch problem and a bad oil leak nearly meant that it wasn't able to make the trip to Corowa.

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T-34 track, note the pins working their way out.




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T-34 track pin striker plate.


An interesting concept: on Russian tanks of its era the track pins only had swaged heads on one end. This prevented the pins working their way outwards, but not inwards. To push the pins back into position a striker plate was welded to the hull. This design, although seemingly crude, got over all the problems associated with pin retention normally encountered with "dead" track. The downside is the noise, very distinctive and quite loud.

Saturday
I was faced with a dilema on Saturday, accept a ride in a BG Carrier in the street parade or go straight to the airport to suss out the swap meet tables (there was no selling until the parade vehicles finished arriving) and help a friend set up his stall. In the end I opted for the latter as the desire for parts overcame the desire for a carrier ride. Hence I have no pics of the street parade.

There were several blokes walking around dressed in what appeared to be reproduction WW2 German camoflage smocks (and with the rest of the uniform to go with it). The only relevant vehicle at Corowa was Manfred's Kubelwagen: he wasn't dressed that way and they didn't appear to be associated with him, it was rather bizarre. What relevance to an ex-MV vehicle meet is there in having people dressed in uniform who aren't crewing an appropriate vehicle?

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Roughly 170 vehicles lined up after the parade on Saturday.


One of the major topics of discussion at the meet was the parts shown below, all in new condition. The scrapyard refused to sell anything. By the time you read this they will all have gone through the shredder. What a waste.....

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Tank parts at a scrapyard.




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More tank parts.


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Front mudguards.


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Fuel tank.


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Exhausts and heat shields.


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Unused return rollers. A keen eye will spot main gun mounting and turret parts in the crate behind.




Well, that's it, we left first thing Sunday morning, so did not stay for the wind down.

In Summary:
I am glad I went, but also glad it is over. By midday Friday I was Corowa'ded out - too much heat and sun. I had found that by about 2pm most days I was running out of grunt and had to head back to our aircooled accommodation for an hour or 2. I had been thinking age was catching up with me. In discussions with others, I have been told it was the same for most. Around that time of day at the caravan park everyone went into something of a heat daze - perhaps the Mexicans do have it all worked out with the "siesta", one thing I do know: it was far too hot to sleep.
The heat meant my family elected not to move much from our accommodation and the airconditioned shops. With our changing climate it may be time for the organisers of Corowa to consider moving the event a few weeks later in the year to when it is a bit cooler and not so much of an endurance test.

All up, the Corowa event is organised only to the point needed, which must be quite a juggling act and those responsible deserve a "well done". It retains its informal nature, but if you a looking for something to do, then you can opt to participate in the loosely organised programme. Considering the very turbulent events leading up to this year's meet (committee problems) it went off remarkably smoothly, from the perspective of a casual visitor.


 

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