Genesis of the Corporal:
During WWII, the Germans showed the world the potential of the ballistic missile. The A4 missile (aka the V2) was developed and eventually deployed despite the complexities of the system. That there was no defence against such a weapon made the launch sites a particularly important taget for Allied bombers. The only way to stop a V2 attack was to prevent it from launching in the first place. Rocket stands were large and easy to spot and target though, so that should have been the end of the problem.
However, the Germans also realized this and with typical Teutonic efficiency, did something about it. The answer was to “take the show on the road”, so to speak. The Germans developed special transports and erectors for the V2, as well as mobile launching platforms. Now, the V2s could be launched from anywhere the ground was flat. They could hide in forests, launch and the team could be gone before the Allies even knew where the missile came from.
Small wonder then, once the war was over, that the United States wanted such a missile system for itself. They swiftly imagined both the combat, and even moreso the deterrent, capabilities of such a mobile system. When combined with atomic warheads, such missiles could prove to be the ultimate piece of artillery. Thus, there was a lot of work focused on what were named “tactical nuclear weapons”. These were shorter-ranged atomic weapons for use in the front lines of battle, rather than for smashing enemy cities thousands of miles away.
The first successful weapon of this time was the MGM-5 Corporal. This was a mobile tactical missile system whose rocket had a range on the order of 70+ miles. The Corporal was, like its V2 forbears, a complex and temperamental weapon. Being liquid fuelled it was time-consuming to erect, fuel and fire, and its support equipment consisted of several vehicles, including radar units, fuellers and a custom-made Transporter/Erector vehicle. It was technically a guided weapon, since a reworked WWII radar system was used to track and send guidance commands to in-flight missiles.
Despite the rather horrible accuracy of the early versions, the Corporal was fielded by both the US Army and the British Royal Artillery. In 1954 it made history by being the first US guided missile to be used by a foreign country. Because it was also Britain’s first nuclear artillery rocket, it caused something of a stir in that country. It was no surprise, then, that both Dinky and Corgi made toys of this particular weapons system. Today, let’s take a look at one of the ultimate Dinky military toys, the NO. 666 Corporal Launcher.
My Dinky Corporal:
Most every product line has a “halo” product, and that includes toy lines. Halo products are the big, expensive, flashy ones that the company in question uses to get people interested in the line as a whole. A perfect example is the Corvette. Chevy likes to show it off, but how many of us actually buy it? While we might want one, most Chevy buyers end up with Malibus, or Cruzes or (Heaven help them) Sparks. Still, there’s a bit of “pride by association”, and thus the halo product has done its job.
For Dinky toys, one of the halo products was No. 666, the Corporal Launcher. First released in 1959, the Corporal Launcher was THE Dinky Army toy. I can remember looking through my uncle’s Dinky Toy catalogues when I was younger and being impressed with it, and that was in the 1980s! I always thought it looked really cool and would have made such a neat toy. Unfortunately for me, my uncle was always more interested in civilian vehicles than army ones, and he only ever had a few small army Dinkys. It’s no surprise, then, that he didn’t have a Corporal in his collection.
I figured I’d never get to see one of these monsters, let alone handle one. Add to this the problem of scarcity and attrition, and it was clear that the large sums these toys were commanding on the second hand collector market would conspire to ensure my Corporal-less-ness for some time to come. However, that didn’t stop my brother, intrepid soul that he is, from tracking one down for me. Thus, on Christmas Morning in 2013, I was greeted by a present I never thought I’d get: My very own Dinky Corporal!
I was in Seventh (maybe even Eighth) Heaven! Here, in my hands, was this amazing toy! It was a very amazing and surreal moment. I can only imagine how kids back in the early 1960s would have felt getting one of these. This Corporal is a real-life time traveller. It had taken it 50+ years, but it had finally made its way to me, someone who loved it as much as any kid would have back when it was first made. I was able to experience the exact same feelings as someone else born well before me; for that alone this Corporal is a priceless bridge across half a century.
So, how is it? Well, it’s awesome! It is HUGE in comparison to its contemporaries. I’m used to even Dinky Supertoys being big, but this thing takes the cake. The Transporter vehicle is very long for its width, and the fact that it isn’t articulated makes is rather unwieldy as a truck. What’s very interesting is that despite being so large, the Transporter is not as heavy as you’d think. The reason is that most of the Transporter is actually just a frame, or skeleton. To keep the real vehicle as simple as possible, it was basically a cab with an engine at the front of a sturdy spine with the missile gantry attached at the far end. Because the Dinky is a replica of this oddball arrangement, there is considerably less mass than one would expect looking at the vehicle.
Now, of course, this doesn’t mean that the Dinky Corporal Transporter is any lightweight. It’s still a Dinky, and that means lots and lots of metal. Even the gears on the missile’s gantry erector system are metal! This is a good thing, because there’s a large moment arm on the base of the erector, and I fear that lesser gears would strip or break! The Transporter itself is quite deluxe, with a spare tire fixed to the frame behind the cab, and windows in both cabs! Yes, windows were something of a novelty for Dinky Toys at the time, so having them on there goes to show how high-end the Corporal was for the day. The spare tire is riveted in place, but that wouldn’t stop an enterprising backyard commander from performing a tire change on a disabled vehicle in the field.
This kind of thing is still one of the coolest parts of the Dinky line. If it’s one thing that, for some inexplicable reason, adds play value to a boy’s toy, it’s the ability to change tires. While I would never sanction such a swap now that the tires are 60-odd years old and brittle, back in the day I’m sure it would have been a pretty cool thing to do.
Another cool feature of the Dinky Corporal, is that the vehicle has a trailer hook! This means you could tow various Dinky trailers behind the already massive Corporal! Imagine the boyhood battlefield domination that this missile toting monster would present if it was also towing a heavy cannon! You’d be the king of your neighbourhood battlefield for sure! Now, there is another reason there’s a hitch on there, and that is because the Corporal has its own trailer. However, it’s not as cool as a cannon. In fact, at first glance, it’s rather dumb looking.
The trailer is basically a small square platform with a post sticking out of it and four small feet at the corners. What’s the point, you might ask? Is it supposed to represent the outdated fire control radar? No, the Dinky Corporal dispenses with the radar altogether, so it isn’t that. What it is, in reality, is the missile’s launch platform! Yes, just like the real thing, the Dinky vehicle is just the Transporter/Erector, it is not the launcher. The real Corporal launched from a small mobile pad, like a V2 in WWII. So, Dinky decided to model the launch pad too.
The launch pad is much cooler than it might first look. It’s not lavishly detailed, but it has a lot to it. The four feet at the corner can fold down and “brace” the trailer for launch. Because the wheels would be superfluous at this point, they are removeable (like on the real platform, I believe). This is what makes the trailer quite hard to find complete; with removable wheels and the four rather dainty feet, it’s easy to see how parts would get lost, bent or torn right off. Thus, I’m very lucky to have such a complete example!
Even better, though, is the fact that the launcher was designed to live up to its name! That’s right, it can actually launch the Corporal missile for hours of eye-unsafe, vase-breaking, livingroom-battlefront fun! How does it do it? Well, it’s part the Trailer, and part the missile. If you look at the missile, there is a very unslightly metal plug sticking out the back of it. This is surprising, given the relative accuracy of the rest of the toy. However, this is part of the launching system. The metal plug is on a spring, and when you push it over the spigot on the trailer, it loads the spring up. The missile is then locked in place. By rotating the switch on the trailer, the missile is unlocked and… FIRE!
Is that a missile on your trailer? (Yes, but I’m still glad to see you!)
The Corporal Missile itself is basically a tube with some small fins and a pointy nose. This is quite accurate to the real thing, actually. The fins are painted in the alternating black and white of the real missile, and even have the “N-E-S-W” compass points on them! The plastic nose cones on the Corporal missiles were very prone to heavy damage. How could they not be? I mean, it’s ‘50s and ‘60s era plastic being repeatedly shot across the room, into cupboards, walls, family pets (and the odd annoying sibling, I’m sure); it can’t help but get bent, crushed, cracked or worse. There is a thriving aftermarket making new replacement nose cones, and even missiles, since the fins tended to break too. The missile on this unit, however, is awesomely original.
You have no idea how badly I wanted to fire this, just once, to see how it went. I wanted to experience the Christmas morning exaltation of launching my own nuclear strike, just like my spiritual forebears, so long ago. However, I wisely decided that was something I should NOT do. While it would have been cool to see, it would not be cool to damage something that has survived this long in such good shape. While toys were meant to be played with (and I get it, trust me), this particular toy has now gone well beyond that stage of its life. I think it is far better to honour this toy and its broken brethren by keeping it as an excellently original display piece. You can choose for yourself if you get one, but this one keeps its missile in its pants, so to speak…
The missile, when not being primed to deliver nuclear Armageddon on some other unsuspecting enemy Dinkys a few feet away, rides nicely nestled on the erector rack. This has two very thin spring steel clamp arrays to hold the missile firmly in place during transport. Let’s face it, not much is worse than speeding to the battlefield to nuke your playmate’s meagre collection of Dinkys just to have your atomic trump card embarrassingly fly off the transport vehicle! These clamps are quite fragile, but do the job well. They are also contoured to fit around the thin metal rails that run down the side of the missile. These aren’t replica fuel tubes, but rather the retainers for the nosecone and spring. These were designed to be readily replaced, it seems!
Dreams can come true. The arrival of this long-ago made Corporal through the mists of time to my hands is proof of that. It shows that there is always a reason to strive for something and that, if you (or someone you know, like an awesome brother, let’s say) are patient and diligent, you can be amazed by what you will find.
As a toy, the Dinky Corporal is pretty bloody awesome. It has heft, size, and presence, and dominates any Dinky battlefield or display. However, this didn’t come cheap, as mentioned earlier. Because of this, not a lot of people had the opportunity to experience this toy in person, and even fewer have a chance to today.
It would be hard to argue that there is another Dinky Toy that would be as much fun to play with; after all, not too many of them actually shot things, at least not at this point in time. With satisfyingly knobby tires, a bizarre design aesthetic (inherited from the real vehicle) and the fun of raising and lowering the rocket gantry, I can see how kids would have a blast with this.
Sure, in today’s world of movie-like video games and super-detailed models and toys, the Dinky Corporal seems simple, if not primitive, in comparison. It is a vestige of a simpler time when toys didn’t have to do the playing for you; it was expected that the person playing with the toy would provide the sound effects and that the representation of the battlefield upon which it fought would be in the imaginations of those using it. That’s all part of its charm, though. Maybe it’s a good reminder for us of what play used to be like, and, if we’re lucky, what it could be again.
Overall, this Dinky is everything I’d ever hoped it would be, and a lot more. For me personally, it’s a very important piece; it is actually the first Dinky Army toy I ever got. I actually got it, and put it on display, before my Uncle gave me his Army Dinkys. Thus, this single, massive blast-from-the-past opened up a whole new vista of collecting and enjoyment for me. Since I got this, I’ve been starting to amass a not-insiginficant collection of military Dinky Toys. (Again, this is thanks to my brother. Great work, man!) Thus, this “halo” product actually worked in reverse; I was so excited by it that I had to go and get the rest of the line. Sure, I might have started at the end and am working towards the beginning, but when you’re collecting something this old, the order of operations doesn’t really matter!
Would I recommend one of these? Sure I would. If you love armour, the Cold War, rockets, toys, or just awesome old stuff, the Dinky Corporal is a killer piece for your collection. Whether you decide to fire the missile or not is up to you, but remember, just like the real Corporal, it’s not if you DO, but that you CAN, that matters. If you can find one, and you think it’s cool, grab it. It’s not like they’re making any more of these monsters.
Suffice to say that I love this thing a tonne. It is both the alpha and the omega of Dinky collecting, at least for me. I, like anyone else who has one, consider myself to be very lucky. This guy has come a long way to reach his final destination, and I’m proud to have him as the foundation of my ever-growing Dinky army!