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First World War convoy rolls to Great Dorset Steam Fair

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: August 18, 2014

  • Road locomotive Gigantic on its way to the Great Dorset Steam Fair at Blandford. Picture Steve Roberts

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It was a sight unseen on any road for 95 years – a gigantic convoy of First World War era vehicles, including genuine veterans of the War to End Wars.

Hundreds of people turned out in admiration to watch the 72 ton road run as it headed from Bovington Tank Museum to the Great Dorset Steam Fair site at Tarrant Hinton, near Blandford on Saturday.

The great survivors, and the men and women who have preserved them, will pay homage to those who fought on the battlefield, and those who worked on the Home Front in a spectacular First World War display at the fair which runs from August 27-31.

It is expected to be one of the biggest commemorative displays in the UK in this centenary of the Great War.

To add authenticity the crew of the 80ft-long convoy dressed in British Army uniform from the time and the load was flanked by several other army vehicles.

Love of these superb vehicles is in the genes, passing through generations, and Roger Dibnah, aged 23, son of the late celebrity steeplejack and steam enthusiast Fred Dibnah, was in uniform as part of the crew on a 1917 Foden steam lorry.

Two McLaren locomotives pulled a Pickfords trailer carrying a 1914 WW1 American Holt 75 HP Gun Tractor. Two thousand Holts were ordered to pull field guns in Europe and this vehicle was among them. The war ended before it could be shipped and it was brought to Britain in recent years by bowler-hatted Ronald Harris of Silton, a co-founder of the show that became the Great Dorset. It is now owned by his son, Keith.

They believe that no other Holts of the type survive, although they say there may be one other in Belgium.

Mr Harris, aged 79, was with his 1915 Daimler lorry, which was British Army owned in the First World War.

Road locomotive Gigantic dates from 1911. Father and son Derek and Neil Gough have worked hard restoring it. "Eighteen months ago it was a wreck," said Derek. They have replaced stainless motion parts with less gaudy steel, more appropriate to its heritage.

"It seems like we've been waiting for this moment all our lives," said Derek, of Washington, Suessex, so proud of his son's efforts.

"When I get home I've got to apologise to the neighbours for the early start – we left about 3am." The cockerels are probably an apology too.

Rowley Moores, of Bridpdort wearing old-fashioned goggles was coaxing his wonderful 1918 GMC water bowser up and down the hills. He had painted the vehicle in the same colours of the convoy, but used emulsion paint so that it can be hosed back to its authentic condition.

At the head of the procession, taking salutes from the public was Ian Morgan from Thornford near Sherborne.

The display at Tarrant Hinton will be divided into three sections; Western Front, the Home Front and an Exhibition marquee being shared with the National Traction Engine Trust, which is celebrating its 60th Anniversary.

Exhibits will include a Horse Remount Depot, The Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment Living History Group, " steam engines, tractors, field guns, a tank and heavy artillery.

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