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Beltring 2001 - the best year so far.
From Paul in the UK comes this article of Beltring 2001, he seems to have spent his time in the fast lane!
I was looking through some old photos last night when I came across some of the many photos taken from our last trip to Beltring in 2001. There are so many happy memories of that week in July that is the highlight of my summer calendar. Belting is now more than ever, the week to look forward too for me and some of my very good friends, some of whom were first afflicted by the collection of Military vehicles “bug” at this almost holy place and yearly gathering of Beltring. Some of us are also members of the North London Barmy Army (NLBA) with whom we camp each year. A great bunch of lads who like to live life to the full and enjoy playing with MV’s.
Much vehicle preparation was made before the show with many vehicles being repainted in time for Beltring. The Stuart M3A1 was given a good spring clean and earlier engine problems resolved to a large degree. We filled her up at the local garage, which temporally slowing traffic in my village High Street. Sadly the £100 of Petrol we put in her ran out on Day 3 of Beltring and I was despatched to Tonbridge with 5 Jerry can’s for more fuel.
Nick Clifton and I made it down to Beltring on the Monday before the show started. Nick had recently restored a Mark 2/4 Ferret always aiming to get it ready for Beltring. He did the journey in two stages leaving his Ferret with me the week before we made the journey to the show. His Ferret made the long journey without any problems which was a great relief to the both of us and testament to the quality job he had done. I drove down in my Ex SAS Gulf war Light Strike Vehicle. I took several hours to get the tents up in the spot reserved by Friends who had arrived the Saturday before. I had already had several of my vehicles low loaded to Beltring the week before and they were there ready and waiting having been moved by some of the early arrivals that weekend. One small problem this year, the Mark 5 Ferret moved on the low loader and smashed a headlight. Luckily, Beltring is the place to be if you need to go shopping for bits. A new one was found and the lens and rim painted and replaced by Wednesday. Full marks the Paul Shea the driver who covered all the repair costs - no questions asked. He is also a member of the NLBA and main driver for the collection and delivery of vehicles to Beltring.
Picture of the Stuart M3A1, Mark 5 Swingfire armed Ferret and the Mark 2/6 Vigilant Armed Ferret on the Low loader.
Where we camped we were really lucky. The other lads from the NLBA are great company and we always got a great reception when entering their large tent after the main beer tents on site had finished for the night.
We had a great collection of vehicles between us. Below shows our display area with our smaller main tent behind. From left to right we have my Ex SAS LSV, Mr Knights Ex Gulf war Mark ½ Ferret, my Mark 2/6 Ferret & Mark 5 Ferret, Mr Plants Mark 2/3 Ferret, Mr Cliftons’ Mark 2/4 Ferret and Stuart M3A1 which is jointly owned by the Perry Twins and myself.
Another view from right to left with a visiting ferret owner doing a deal on some Ferret parts surplus to requirements. One of the great things about Beltring is the laid back atmosphere and great people you meet. Standing proudly in front of the ferrets are Nick and Leigh, arm in arm. You can take this passion for ferrets to far sometimes!
Nick was still doing to finishing touches to his ferret restoration. One of my friends is a very well known artist and sculptor so who better to ask to paint your 4 ton bridge sign than Mr Alan Perry? And no he didn’t sign it - but one day it could be worth thousands? (see picture below)
One of the “neighbours” starting up his Chieftain? Seconds before the picture, It was hard to see the LSV from one of our tents?
I was really pleased with the finished paint jobs on the Marks 2/6 and Mark 5 Ferrets. I had not sprayed a vehicle before always preferring to hand paint. Never again, I am sold on the spray approach. Wish I had tried it before. These Ferrets are probably the most rare types around. I am considering selling the
Mark 5 as I currently have 4 ferrets and some have got to go. A big thanks to the organiser Mr Cadman for subsidising the low loader costs to get these vehicles to the show. There was a lot of interest in our line up of Ferrets.
You can now buy 1/35 scale models by Accurate Armour of these types of Ferret. Two years ago the main designer climbed all over the Mark 5. Last year he did the same with the mark 2/6 to get to photograph all over them. His masters were based on these photo’s. I was given a hefty discount by the manufactures who were at Beltring this year when buying examples of these models - which are excellent reproductions - and I know every inch as I rebuilt the Mark 5 from a wreck!
However, it rained at Beltring during the early part of the week - never happened in all the years I have been coming here. I got mud on my new paint work! We all preyed to the weather gods to smile upon us with good weather as in all previous years. All to no avail. The only good thing about the rain was the entertainment we had watching the many vehicles either get stuck or “snake” their way past our vantage point. Mud on the paint work of the other vehicles was not so painful. In fact, I positively loved it when driving the LSV around. Being a 4 wheel drive, government sponsored “Dune Buggy on steroids” type design as used and abused by that regiment from Hereford, I had plenty of fun in it that week. A great part of Beltring was the arena both during and after the show times. During the show, I drove the LSV in the main arena for the Post war oddities section on the first day of the show. This day is usually quiet with many vehicle owners still to arrive. The arena was quiet empty for this reason. For those who do not now Beltring (You poor and much deprived people) the arena is strictly controlled and is very well marshalled. There is always a commentator who will talk to the vehicle owners/driver which is relayed to the public viewing area. The commentator approached, PA mike in hand and asked
what I was driving. A short explanation followed. As the arena was quiet empty he asked me to “show us what this thing can do”? After a confirmation question from me (I could not believe my luck at this point) by saying “do you really mean show you what it can do”? Yes was the answer again so it would have been rude not to have done as requested?
My passenger knew what was coming so he buckled up the 3 point harness even tighter. With helmets on I belted the LSV off across the not too flat surface (remember it’s been raining and tanks have been blasting round the arena). I hit 40 mph and was getting some really good 4 wheel drift round the top bend. As I approached the main straight running directly at the main crowd line (still a very safe and respectable distance away) there is a small hump in the ground. I hit this in second gear at about 25 mph and got it about 3 foot off the ground (apparently). The landing was heavy and the .50 MG mounted above the passenger groaned a bit. Into the bend directly in front of the crowd line and a sharp left hander with a lot of 4 wheel drift, straighten and around the whole lot again. As I passed I took a quick look at the commentator and head arena marshal - O dear, his chin is somewhere near the floor. Around again, jump, high speed into the bend and an opposite lock 180 degree spin to finish facing the other direction in front of the crowd. The commentator starts to march over to me. Instead he goes to the passenger and asks over the Public address “how was that for you”? “No problem he does this all the time - just wish he would have warned me about the jump!” Far from being angry, the commentator asked me to come back each day and do it all again - how could I refuse such an invitation?
After doing many jumps that week and giving the LSV lots of high speed stuff off road, on one jump the .50 MG mount partly fractured which brought a temporary halt to my arena jump displays. It ‘s been welded up again now but I am not sure that jumping with a 50 cal MG up top is “within specification”?
Highlight during the show for me was the absolutely fantastic news that the LSV had been given best in class runner up prize for this class of vehicle. A Beltring “gong” - it don’t come any better than that? When talking to the judges, the prize was awarded partly because it was such a nice vehicle and partly because of the way it was now “enjoyed and used”. Brilliant.
Highlight after the show, November edition front page of Military Machines International - there’s me giving it what for into the bend in front of the crowd line getting a bit of 4 wheel drift on. Someone had caught that what was for me for me “great moment” on film!
Beltring is great for many reasons for many different people. The fact that everyone can mix and enjoy this fantastic and diverse hobby in such great surrounding during a very well managed show is great. The beer tents each have a different atmosphere and character. The Ginger Gammon bar is favourite. It is not unusual to see the most bizarre outfits during the non stop party atmosphere. This year we met 2 very nice Japanese chaps in full Imperial Japanese army uniforms, mixing with one of the biggest German tank crew I have ever seen, whilst sharing stories with a Dutchman in full WW2 US paratrooper uniform - fantastic. For me I love everything about the show and can’t wait till July this year.
My thanks to Paul.
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