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Billed as the largest Military Vehicle gathering in the world, the Invicta War and Peace show held at the Whitbread Hop Farm in Kent attracts Military Vehicle (MV) enthusiasts, military modellers, militaria and MV dealers, re-enactors and the just the plain curious from all around the world.

This years shows was billed as the Millenium show and promised to bring together 3000 privately owned MV’s from as varied as Airborne push bikes to a privately owned and operated Leopard 1 Main Battle Tank. In fact it was said that more privately owned Military vehicles were on site then the British Army took to Saudia Arabia during the Gulf War!

The Whitbread Hop farm is a theme park located near Maidstone in Kent and is an ideal venue for this event. The large open and display areas allow for good access by attendees such as dealers and Living History groups to the general public. Approximately 30 acres of ground is available in which to stage the event, which draws about 35,000 local and international visitors each year.

The militaria collector was amply served by the over 200 stalls which held a wide variety of items, from modern Regimental staybrite badges to a complete 1879 24Th Regt of Foot uniform. It was reported that over 3 Million pounds exchanged hands in the militaria stalls alone. An interesting trend is the abundance of Third Reich militaria, some of which is still unissued from 1945, from the former Eastern Bloc countries such as Russia, East Germany, Poland, etc. Uniforms, insignia, decorations, and large quantities of ordnance were all offered for sale from its former owners “ Behind the Iron Curtain “.

For the enthusiast restoring military vehicles the abundance of New Old Stock ( NOS ) parts meant a complete WW2 Willys Jeep could theoretically being built from scratch… a price. As always WW2 and Post War US made military vehicles are popular with restorers and the supply of replacement parts looks strong. An industry of reproducing major assemblies for Ford and Willys jeep panels and parts will ensure the mighty Jeep will have a place in the new Millenium.

It has been stated that over 3 Million Pound Sterling (Approx $6.5Million Aust) exchanged hands in the Militaria / MV parts area alone during the 5 days.

From Martini Henry .450 rifles to 105mm Howitzers, the firearm collector had available a bewildering selection from which to choose. As always condition of the pieces dictated their price but the current trend is for “ Old Spec “ deacts for SMG and LMG’s. To the author the selection of Lithgow manufactured and dated .303 BREN light machine guns and .303 VICKERS heavy machine guns was a sobering one given their export to the United Kingdom in recent years. Australian collectors were denied an opportunity to preserve our history by this decision, however they are seeing new service with MV owners and collectors in the UK.

Highlights for the author at this years event were the appearance of restored World War Two German vehicles. Such as a rarely seen example of a Pzkpf IV Panzer recovered from Norway, a Sdkfz 250 Neu half track painted in the late war markings of the “ Das Reich “ Waffen SS Division and the massive 18Ton FAMO recovery half track also restored in “ Das Reich “ markings. Due to the success of post war scrap drives, German MV’s are extremely rare and those examples which do make it to the open market command high prices.

This year’s event also paid tribute to the dark days on World War Two and the summer of 1940 when the threat of invasion of England by the German Whermacht was very real. Recalling the role of the LDV (or Home Guard) a scenario payed tribute to the often overlooked contribution of these men during the Battle of Britain.

The only privately operated and running example of a Churchill Infantry tank also made a rare appearance in the display arena. Restored from a deacaying hulk at considerable cost to the owner over a number of years, this fine example of World War Two Allied armour was a welcome addition to this years show.

A feature of the War and Peace show at Beltring is the battle re-enactment. The commercial success of the Steve Spielberg motion picture “ Saving Private Ryan “ has brought the history of World War Two to a wider audience. Accordingly this years event featured a re-enactment of the bitterly fought Normandy campaign of 1944. Re-enactors from several UK based Allied and Waffen SS groups such as the Second Battle Group contributed to an impressive display of sight and sound.

The battle opened with a small recon force of US Army entering the display arena. The static Pzkpfw IW sustained initial damage and the crew bailed out under covering fire from the fallschirmjager. The battle swung back and forth with no real gains by either side. The sight of the mighty 18 Ton FAMO half track thundering down a dirt track whilst a Replica Sdkfz 251 C half track disgourged its load of Waffen SS panzergrenadiers was a stiring sight.

Several M-3 Stuart light tanks and M-8 Greyhound armoured cars entered the arena and provided the hard pressed allies with some welcome fire support. The destruction of the replica Sdkfz 251 C halftrack by an impressively placed pyrotechnic ended this display.

The Ivicta War and Peace show is known around the world simply as “ Beltring “and the 2001 event will undoubtedly surpass this years event. Each year the volume of MV entries, the standards of restorations and the supply of parts seems to expand. If nothing else the proposed attendance of a restored and running WW2 German Pzkpf V “ Panther “ tank will ensure the attendance of this Australian!

Campbell Finlay

  The Famo

  Sd Kfz 251 or OT-810?

  Closer up.

  The Panzer IV under tow by the Famo. Note the soldier in the foreground is wearing a "Kettenhund" which translates as "chained dog" insignia (large "authority" badge, banana shape, on his chest.)

  Third Reich Fashion

  A rare appearance at Beltring is anyone or anything Nippon! Campbell is on the left.

  A very Bogart pose!


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