Wilmot Mansour commemorative exhibition

Solent Sky, Southampton 20th – 22nd May 2005

This exhibition was held to commemorate the work of the Wilmot brothers and Joseph Mansour. These were the aeromodelling pioneers who, about 75 years ago, founded International Model Aircraft Ltd., and the Frog and Penguin companies. After the war, Bill and Joe went on to produce Jetex engines and vehicles.

The event was going to be quite a small family affair, but grew and grew, and by the time David Wilmot asked me if I would be interested in getting involved, it had turned into a major exhibition. The venue chosen was Solent Sky, formally Southampton Hall of Aviation, which I think was a very good choice. It is not a huge museum, but has some interesting exhibits, and we were able to scatter the various exhibitors around so that visitors were never sure what they would find round the next corner.

Most of the setting up was done on Thursday evening and Friday afternoon, then there was a reception to open the show on Friday evening, with various dignitaries, special guests, family members and people who used to work for the Wilmot Mansour company. This was a great success, and something of a reunion for many of the guests.

(Photo by Ben Nead)

Highlight for me was Bert Judge being presented with a Wakefield model that he had designed and partially built just after the war, but never finished. Tim Westcott had taken it away and finished it to a very high standard before surprising Bert by giving it back to him at the reception.

It was a privilege to meet Bert and have a chat to him both on Friday and Saturday – a lovely chap and very happy to talk about his time with Frog and other modeling exploits.

Highlight of the exhibition had to be the fantastic collection of Frog ready to fly models owned by the late Mike Wilson, but now passed on to the Wilmot family. I know David Wilmot is keen to keep the collection together, which is great news, as it is probably the finest in the world of these aircraft.

Here you can see some of the Frog Interceptors, which were produced before the war in many different air force markings.

Here are a further selection. Obviously tailoring the markings to the export market helped sales in those countries.

This is probably the rarest ready to fly model in the collection, the Hawker Hind. The workmanship and detailing are fantastic and it is in almost as-new condition. You could go into a model shop in 1937 and buy this beauty for 42 Shillings. This was about a weeks wages for the average worker at the time, but despite this it is doubtful Frog ever made any money on it as they cost too much to produce.

Here are some more models from the collection.

Another wonderful collection of models was provided by Peter van Lune, who drove over from Holland to take part. Peter has a very comprehensive collection of Frog Penguin models, some of which you can see here.

Bill Matthews also brought along some of his Penguin models, and had an interesting display on how to restore a warped one (which many of the surviving ones are!)

(Photo by Sydney Higgs)

Here is a view of some of the post war Frog flying model kits that were on show. Thanks are due to Chris Strachan and Sydney Higgs for lending me their models to display.

I think all would will agree that we had an impressive location for the display, under the tail of the museum’s beautiful Supermarine S6A.

Opposite these tables was my building table, in a nice light spot, where I was trying to build a Diana Glider replica in a weekend. Needless to say, I failed completely, and this was as far as I had got at 4.30 pm on the Sunday afternoon.

Construction is continuing, albeit at a slightly more leisurely pace. The idea is that the finished model will be displayed in the (excellent) Model Shop exhibit at the museum. It would be nice to give it a flight first though.

Tim Wescott brought along this beautifuly built replica of Bert Judge's 1936 Wakefield Trophy winner to display.

We also had a good collection of post war Frog plastic kits at the show, both built and unbuilt, thanks to Bill Matthews and Mike Reveler. Some of the very rarest Frog kits were on show, including a mint example of the Qantas Boeing 707 and the never released East African Super VC-10.

Here is a good view of Jetex/Rapier central where a great collection of old models, kits and plans had been assembled, together with a marvelous collection of old photos, laid out and captioned by Mike Ingram. These covered various aspects of life in and around the Wilmot Mansour factory during the heyday of Jetex.

It was good to meet Ben Nead, who runs the excellent Jetex.org site, and had traveled all the way from Tucson, Arizona to attend. Andy Blackwell and Roger Simmonds were also in attendance, and I would like to thank them for manning the tables and bringing interesting exhibits. Richard Crossley, Howard Metcalfe are also due thanks for their contributions. Apologies to any others whose names have slipped my mind - my memory gets worse the older I get!

Well, it was hard work, but would I do it again? Most definitely! There is talk of repeating the show in some form or other, so watch this space.

I cannot finish without praising the efforts of David Wilmot and his mum Avril, without whom the event would never have happened.

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