Beltring 2000



If you have read my 1999 article about Beltring you will know that I didn't expect to get back anytime soon: so much for the best laid plans of mice and men! Only a year later and Fran and I were again off on another marathon trip to the other side of the world.

All indications were that Beltring 2000 would be the biggest and best yet; there was the added draw card that there would be either a Tiger or Panther there plus lots of other rarely seen German vehicles. From emails going back and forth it appeared that most of the keener and more high profile enthusiasts were going too.

An added incentive was that Andreas Mehlhorn had recently purchased (after much egging on) a roughish but complete Kettenkrad as a fun vehicle rather than as a restoration project. He would take this to Beltring and it would be mobile and I would get to drive it. (We have settled the puzzle of whether you "drive" or "ride" a KK; the Germans use the term "Fahrer" for vehicles, which means the "operator" - so in English, "driver" is closest.) So, we again dipped into our mortgage account and headed for "the most expensive country on earth" (as Andreas calls it) - England.

After 21 hours of flying and a flight path that looked more like a drunk's rambling (we overflow Moscow and Vladivostok) we arrived in London and spent 3 days at Travel Inn County Hall (just across the Thames from Big Ben and right alongside "The London Eye" - read - tourist rotisserie) trying to knock down the jet lag. There is an easy way to tell the difference between those who have experienced Australia/England jet lag and those who haven't. The former cringe when it is mentioned the latter laugh. Whilst there we couldn't fail to notice 3 civilianised DUKW's that were constantly driving past, they sound to have diesel engines and automatic transmissions.

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  On the Tuesday morning it was off to pick up the hire car from "Woods Hire Car company" (I booked the car through their internet site) who turned out to be "Budget", but at a cheaper price, along the M25 London ring road to get to Paddock Wood and Beltring.

Upon arrival at our B&B we discovered our German friends were yet to appear so we headed for Paddock Wood and its Waitrose supermarket. Having been to Beltring before we were suitably dressed (shorts and light clothing) and innocently walked into Waitrose to discover it was trying to be the coldest supermarket on earth. With our teeth chattering we very quickly abbreviated our shopping and got back to the car to warm up.

By this time, Andreas and Regina had been to the B&B and had left a message that they would drop the KK off at Beltring, so we headed over to the site.

Upon reaching the "round about" (traffic circle, or whatever they are called in other countries) we discovered some frustrated Beltring officials trying to get exhibitors/campers to use the new "exhibitors and stall holders" gate. Most were just doing as they have done every year and driving in the main gate, totally oblivious to the officials waving them on. But, the single biggest improvement to Beltring was the 2nd gateway, it made a huge difference to the traffic flow and more importantly the amount of dust generated. So to Nigel and helpers - do retain this feature - please!

We soon located the "Notton and tribe" campsite and renewed old acquaintances. Richard promptly organised "a cuppa" for us and eqipped us with a 2-way radio so that we could stay in touch with Camp Notton whilst on site. No Germans were visible, but a mustard yellow KK was, so we settled in and waited for its owner to appear so we could have a ride.

This they soon did and it wasn't long before the KK was in action as all concerned wanted a ride. Hanno Spoelstra (The Sherman Register) tried the KK on for size only to discover that whilst he could sit in the drivers seat that was all he could do. Hanno is on the tallish side and WW2 Germans weren't. This is a problem not just for Hanno as it has occurred numerous times with all sorts of vehicles (eg Richard Notton and the Scorpion last year). The average height of the population has increased considerably since the Great Depression (the era most WW2 vets grew up in), thanks to modern nutrition and availability of food, people are now much taller and bulkier. I got quite a chuckle watching people of all nationalities try and shoe horn themselves into a range of vehicles. It is common knowledge that the drivers position on Ferrets and Scorpions are really only suited to short people, but we never guessed this applied to KK's too. Much to Richard's delight he found that he did fit into a KK and was able to have a drive of it.

I had brought from Australia a "tourist" version of an Aussie Kangaroo warning road sign to be hung up in easy view as a land mark. (Geoff Winnington-Ball would turn up later with his large "Maple Leaf Up" sign also.) I had also printed out the email addresses in large format of all those I knew to be intending to make the "Camp Notton" their base, this was also turned into a sign. It wasn't long before a stranger wandered up and asked who I was and then said "guess who I am", I failed that one! (Don't ever rely on your pre-conceived mental picture of what people look like from reading their emails - it just doesn't work!) So he identified himself as Raimondo Torelli from Napoli, Italy. So already we were getting to meet long term email friends

It was then that I got the biggest surprise of the whole event which was a Latin hug. Us Anglo Saxon types regard the hand shake as sufficient for a friendly greeting: the others, although they knew what was coming appeared to be just as culture shocked as me when their turn came - Fran observed all this much to her amusement. But, to put it in perspective, part of the attraction of Beltring is the harmonious interaction of the different cultures and nationalities; and it is worth noting that this is brought about by a mutual interest in things military, which is usually the result of conflict between cultures - all very weird. Perhaps it is because "we" in this hobby are AWARE of history that we all get along together?

It was then that I got to have a long awaited drive of a Kettenkrad with Andreas riding on the back with Raimondo.

Then calamity struck, as we were leaving the main internal access road to head back to the campsite the KK broke down - right in the middle of a bottleneck point. It was running just fine when all of a sudden it started making these load "tang, tang, tang" noises, so I pulled up immediately and then tried to turn it off - and couldn't! Andreas was yelling at me to turn it off and I was yelling "HOW?", so he rushed round and pulled out the key asking why I did not know to do this as all European motor bikes worked this way. Once we sorted out that the majority of bikes in Australia are Japanese and most definitely don't switch off that way, but, like a car does: we decided that the safest thing to do with the KK was to tow it back to the campsite. So off I trudged , as I came into view, eyebrows were raised and I explained that the KK had broken, and yes, whilst I was driving it AND on the first day of the show. Dave Ballard readily agreed to do the towing so we removed all his display from in front of his pristine Polsten Blitz vehicle and headed off to retrieve the KK, Andreas and Raimondo. As the KK now needed to be towed and it was best to reduce the weight, Raimondo was allocated the Polsten Gunners seat on the Blitz (Beltring Helicopter guard?) and I got the convoy hatch position in the Blitz as Dave couldn't see the KK in his mirrors. Once back at camp we started on finding out what had gone wrong and more importantly just how much damage had been done. Through an inspection flap we discovered that the fan retaining nut had come off and had been rattling around between the fan and radiator. We could see it but couldn't reach it. So there was nothing for it but to pull the KK apart there and then and retrieve the nut and see what damage the radiator had incurred.
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In the above photo: L to R
Andreas Mehlhorn, Tim Panton, Myself and Raimondo Torelli
One thing was for sure, we weren't going to lose Andreas in those unique overalls.

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Photo courtesy of Raimondo Torelli.

We soon ended up with a significant quantity of the KK spread over the campsite, which caused much interest. There was no shortage of willing helpers (just how often do you get the chance to work on a WW2 German tracked vehicle?) and we removed the radiator assembly after jerry rigging (no pun intended) a way to capture nearly all the coolant and soon had the offending nut in hand. By sheer luck the nut had not damaged the radiator, there were some nicks in the fan and fan shroud, but nothing serious.

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The radiator cluster is now out and being dismantled.
L to R:
Dave Ballard, Myself, Tim Panton, Andreas Mehlhorn

What we found was needed was an M16 spring washer or lock washer, but at 7 O'clock at night, even at Beltring, one of these was not to be had. I even tried one Hetzer owner who quite willingly let me go through his spares box but to no avail. Reluctantly, we fell back on Andreas' supply of Locktite and despite very strong doubts on my part we had no further fan nut problems. As it was now well past 8 O'clock at night and none of us were keen on the idea of leaving the KK in bits overnight we re-assembled it by roughly 9.30pm. The lady's, realizing that the men were "on a mission" broke out and assembled the BBQ as Andreas and Regina had brought a large quantity (as per Beltring tradition) of German Bratwurst with them. Amazing the number of people who appear from nowhere when exotic food is available!
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The feast!
L to R:
Richard Notton, Dave Ballard, Andreas, Gordon McMillan (black T-shirt) Allan Tooes, Rory Ballard, Tim Panton, Regina Mehlhorn, Myself and Raimondo Torelli.

By this time I was only interested in going to bed. So that was it for the day.
Andreas had lived up to the nickname of Kettenkradpullenapartandfixenführer bestowed on him by Richard Notton and was thereafter teased with this title.

Wednesday was the first "official" day for Beltring and therefore Andreas and I had decided to "do" the flea market. After meeting at Camp Notton we got into a discussion and were joined by a stranger; after a while he introduced himself as "Stefan" from Sweden (Stefan Fredriksson). He accompanied Andreas and I to the flea market (Kettenkrading) and then returned with us. Eventually curiosity got the better of me and I enquired as to how he happened to choose our group out of all the others there, as no-one had appeared to know him, "oh, Geoff Winnington-Ball invited me by email and sent instructions of where the camp was".

Good one Geoff! Invite the poor bloke and then leave him dangling without even an introduction. Anyway, it turned out that Stefan had decided to "suss" out what this tank hobby was all about and had come to Beltring to see. Stefan proved to be quite capable of fending for himself and even - eventually - got to meet Geoff W-B.
Stefan's website is at:

where you can find quite a few photos of his Bosnia tour.

where you can find Geoff's entertaining account of his perspective of Beltring.

All up, I spent 2 full days tramping the flea market area and still missed "goodies" that other people discovered after me. This year it consisted of 26 rows of at least 10 if not more stalls in length. Each stall I would judge to have a frontage of 5 metres if not more. That is one heck of a lot of rubber necking that needs to be done if you want to check it all out. If ranged from such mundane stuff as army surplus socks to an FV-434 recovery APC and everything imaginable in between. The de-activated weapons for sale make us over-gun-lawed Aussies enviable. The number of Bren Guns and the low price (roughly AU$600) was quite a surprise.
Andreas was quite disappointed to find not one KK part.
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Andreas looking on in doubt as he lets me into the drivers seat of the KK again.

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Andreas riding officer style whilst I drive.

One Canadian or American whose identity escapes me now, was quite tickled to purchase a Ferret drivers hatch for the bargain price of £5, what I want to know is how he got it home? The person concerned has emailed me after having read this account and wants to remain anonymous, but tells me that he was shipping a vehicle home so it was an easy matter to throw the Ferret hatch in the back.

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The quickest way to get an audience at Beltring is to do some work.
L to R
Geoff Winnington-Ball, Hanno Spoelstra, Myself, Dave Ballard, Andreas (yellow cap), Tom Woodburn (America), Don't know, Don't know and Raimondo Torelli.

The only flea market that comes close to this that I am aware of is the one that happens for the 5th year Normandy anniversaries, that one is mostly WW2 German and American clothing, parts and weapons in content, whereas Beltring has a much wider selection.

2 Blitz (CMP) owners from Canada - Brian Gough and Barry Churcher (thanks for the green cap, Barry) expressed interest in a ride in the KK so Andreas obliged. They got the open road rather than the campground version and came back with looks on their faces that were half way between surprised and shocked. Their comments were along the lines of "I never knew they went that fast".

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Kettenkrad rides were in high demand, especially all the way to the flea market. Andreas placed a limit of 4 persons on the KK at any time.
L to R:
Myself, Tom Woodburn, Raimondo Torelli, Andreas, standing = Hanno Spoelstra and Geoff W-B.

Wednesday evening I was presented with a present from Germany, genuine Sauerkrautsaft, this was nothing other than pure revenge for myself and Fran having inflicted Aussie "Musk Lifesavers" and "Vegemite" on our German friends the previous year. Sauerkrautsaft (fermented cabbage juice to us English speakers) is worse than you can imagine! I was duty bound to sample the stuff and after a couple of tentative sips decided to hold my nose whilst continuing. That didn't work as it sneaks up the back way and still try's to rot your olfactory senses. After several try's I decided that honour had been served and admitted defeat. Andreas and Regina gleefully drank the remainder - ugh! He pointed out that this was the "pasteurized and bottled" version and that the real Sauerkrautsaft should be drank straight from the pot - not bloody likely - as it is a tonic for the digestive system.

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A sample of our international group. I am pleased to say that I didn't hear one cross word amongst the different nationalities the whole time we were there.
L to R:
Myself (Australia), Andreas Mehlhorn (Germany), Tom Woodburn (America), Raimondo Torelli (Italy), Danny Bosma (Netherlands), Brian Gough (Canada), Dennis Buijs (Netherlands), Barry Churcher (Canada).

You will see in the photos that I am sporting a rather large-brimmed bush hat. I had gone looking just before leaving Australia for a soft hat with a brim, the sort that you can fold and put in your pocket when not needed. The only one I could locate was the one you see me wearing, with a huge brim, it looks silly but it did however keep the sun off. By Wednesday afternoon both Chris Shillito and Stefan were doing tomato impersonations so I encouraged them to buy silly hats too, warning that excessive sun exposure can make you quite sick. Even though he was sporting one first thing the next day, it would be another day before Stefan returned to his normal colour. Geoff W-B was to discover the power of dehydration, alcohol and too much sun for himself: the hard way.

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I am told the title of the above photo is "Maple Leaf Down". Richard Notton, on the left, and Jim Mackie on the right (who purchased a Ferret at Beltring and now has to get it home to Canada) both trying their best not to be associated with a certain Geoff W-B.
Photo courtesy of Chris Shillito.

I had intended to take lots of photos for my website, but having now met Chris Shilitto and seeing that he had come equipped with a huge amount of film and "official" status I couldn't see the point in duplicating his efforts so I restricted myself to a representative set of photo's and whatever took my interest; and left him too it.
To see Chris' efforts go to:

Thursday was spent touring around the campsites on the KK and having a look at all the vehicles and chatting with some of their owners.

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Vehicles were arriving as late as Saturday morning. Here is an SdKfz 251 and an SdKfz 250 being unloaded.

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An Fv-434 Fitters vehicle.

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An Fv-432 APC fitted with a one man turret in the position where the troop roof hatch is normally located.

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A nicely presented group of "Monkey face" Blitz's (CMP's).
Photo courtesy of Richard Notton.

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My British truck knowledge isn't good, so Hanno Spoelstra has provided the following i.d., the vehicle is a Morris-Commercial C9/B or "Carrier, SP, 4x4, 40-mm AA (Bofors)?

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An M3 or M3A1 Stuart, M8 Greyhound, GMC 6x6 and a Bren Gun Carrier (Universal).

Peter and Jonathon Hayworth have done a lovely job of restoring an M8 Greyhound armoured car. Since completing the restoration they have had numerous trips with it across the channel and have spent over 40 days living out of it at various events in England and France. This vehicle looks as if it has just been issued, both in condition and fit out with every imaginable accessory it would have needed in battle. Chris Shillito and I were deep into a discussion about gun mounts in M3 series Stuarts, so we went and asked Jonathon could we have a look through his M8 and the M5 Stuart next to it for comparison. His M8 won a well deserved "Best Wheeled Armour".

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Their vehicle whilst in the arena.
Photo courtesy of Chris Shillito.

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This is the view down into the turret.

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Same vehicle as above but with 2 members of the silly hat club. Myself on the left and Stefan on the right.
Photo courtesy of Chris Shillito.

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Another Greyhound.
Photo courtesy of Chris Shillito.

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2 Ferrets, a Mk2 and a Mk 4?

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A Scorpion, Fox and Ferret.
Having now had the opportunity to climb/crawl through a Fox myself, I have yet to experience a more cramped and hard to get into drivers position. You need to be short, slim and flexible to get in there.

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A Striker Anti-Tank missile carrier.

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Another Fv-432 with one man turret. Visible in front of the vehicle is part of a very large area of scrim/hessian/netting laid out over the grass to simulate sand. All the vehicles in this "diorama" were sand coloured and the whole effect was a Gulf War scenario. Must have cost someone a fortune to set this up! They even had what appeared to be a Rapier AA battery.

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A derelict Panzer IV H, rumour had it that this vehicle is scheduled for restoration, although no-one I talked to knew where it had been found. I am told it belongs to Rex Cadman.

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Some more German equipment, this group were situated just near the arena.

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More German vehicles, this time our neighbours nearby Camp Notton.
A KK, some halftracks and a Hetzer.

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I am reasonably sure this is a genuine SdKfz 251 rather than a re-worked OT-810.
Photo courtesy of Richard Notton.

To continue, click = Beltring 2000 part 2  


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