One thing that always impressed me as a kid was when you could get a bunch of toys in one box. Gift sets are one of those things that always seemed, to me at least, to be an instance of the total being greater than the sum of its parts. Whether it was a Hot Wheels 5-pack or a Transformers gift set, getting “all” of something at one time made it feel that much more special.
Clearly, this concept has been around for a long time. One much earlier example of this method of packaging is Dinky No. 697: The 25-Pounder Field Gun Set. This was a gift pack made up of three individual Dinky Toys. These were all available separately, and for a longer run than the set was. The individual items were offered from 1957-1970. However, this gift set was only offered from 1957-1964.
Like all Dinky Toys of this time period, the components of this gift set are all very hefty toys. Being totally made of metal, they are massive and solid, but still fairly well detailed. Compared to modern armour kits, they are soft and short on detail, but you have to remember that you’re dealing with 1950’s casting technology, not modern slide moulds. all the components were only available in “Dinky Army Green”, which is sometimes called “Olive Drab”, but really isn’t that olive-y at all.
For the purposes of his feature, let’s look at each of the three components separately, first:
No. 686 – 25-Pounder Field Gun
The Field Gun is a fairly accurate representation of a British 25-Pounder. This was the basic British field artillery piece from the 1930’s right through to the 1960’s, and the ammo is apparently still being made in Pakistan! The gun was highly mobile and could be hooked right to a tractor without needing a limber. Durable and fairly potent, the gun saw service in WWII, so even though this gift set is from the 1950’s, it could easily represent a WWII piece.
The gun has two rubber tyres (yes, I’m using the British spelling here, because they’re British toys) and the barrel elevates.
The amazing part is that the gun is still solid, in ANY elevation, even after so many decades. The reason? There’s a fine spring on one side of the barrel that applies tension to the entire gun on its carriage. This allows the gun to hold any elevation you give it, and not to be dragged down by gravity. If only Tootsie Toys and Matchbox had been able to figure that out! It’s a brilliant piece of engineering, and it makes the 25-Pounder much more displayable.
No. 687 – Trailer for the 25-Pounder
The Trailer is NOT one of the more exciting Dinky Toys. It is a green box, similar to a roadside electrical transformer in appearance, and it has a trailer hook on one end and a bar with a round hitch receiver on the other. It has two rubber tyres. there is quite good detail on the back face of the unit, and overall, it is nicely made. Like all Dinky things, it is hefty for its size, which isn’t all that big.
This is one of those things that, unless you’re planning on making a diorama, or are a hardcore military buff, you likely aren’t going to buy otherwise. That doesn’t mean that the trailer was unimportant in real life, mind you. It was a vital part of the gun system. It carried the ammunition, but it also supplied the brakes when the entire assembly of gun and trailer were under tow. apparenlty, the gun itself only had a hand brake, so the trailer had a large role to play in getting the gun safely into action, as well as feeding it once it was there! Not bad for a green box, eh?
For a child looking for a toy, the trailer is definitely NOT going to make any “must have” lists. it can’t roll on its own, it is boring and boxy, and if you don’t know what it is, it is really a pointless piece of kit. However, for armour fans and those who are older and more knowledgeable, the trailer really helps to bring a Dinky Field Gun alive! It adds a significant sense of completeness to the gift set, and shouldn’t be overlooked.
Ironically, especially given the boring nature of this component taken individually, the Trailer is really the part that makes the gift set so much more than the sum of its parts!
No. 688 Artillery Tractor
The Artillery Tractor is a Morris Quad C8 Field Artillery Tractor (FAT, ironically…). This is a typically workmanlike and bulldog-like vehicle used by the Royal Army for the purposes of hauling all kinds of guns, trailers, etc. around. It has seen widespread service, and was used in the war by the British and Canadian forces (go Canada!) Basically, a jack-of-all-trades, rough-and-tumble kind of vehicle that has as many uses as one can think of ideas for it. It could carry 6 men and 24 rounds for the 25 pounder, so it was no slouch when it came to hauling. It wasn’t just there to look pretty and tow stuff, it seems!
The Dinky Toys tractor is a fairly good representation of this vehicle, within the confines of the technology of the day, as already mentioned. It has four rubber tyres, and a fifth “spare” mounted on the rear roof. Like all earlier Dinky Toys, it has no plastic “glass” in the windows, even though it does have a driver figure seated in the otherwise empty cabin. Later versions of this tractor use different wheels and hubs, as well as have plastic windows. However, I like the glassless look better; it suits the bullish nature of the toy more.
The tractor originally rolled quite well, but time has taken a toll on this one. For some reason, the rear right tire has undergone some kind of chemical metamorphosis, and become very soft. As a result, it has two massive flat spots on it. I could have opted to buy new tires for my set, but I prefer to keep things original where possible, so I just rotate the tire to a round spot. Oddly, I can squish the tire almost back to round, but it just pops back to flat when I let go. The other tires are all fine…. Your guess is as good as mine!
No. 697: The Full Set
Joining the three components of the Field Gun Set together is a bit like combining all the parts of Dancougar; you really get something that looks awesome, while still looking like the components stuck together! the finished “train” is quite long, and with the two points of articulation, can be posed in some neat ways. It’s a pretty cool feeling to pull on the tractor and watch everything follow along.
Combined, the Field Gun Set makes a very impressive display piece, and its unique box only adds to its allure. Like all good gift sets, the Field Gun Set came in an exclusive box; just having separately-purchased components joined together may look cool, but they still won’t have the Gift Set’s awesome box.
This particular Dinky Toy was given to me by my Uncle for my 37th birthday. It was from his personal collection, and he thought (and very rightly so!) that I would get a lot of enjoyment out of displaying this heirloom. “Heirloom?” you ask? Isn’t that going a bit far? No, it isn’t! Here’s why:
This gift set was given to my Uncle by his grandfather in 1958, the year before he died. My great-grandfather was a British soldier in the Boer War, and I’m sure that his respect for the Royal Army and its heritage lead him to choose to buy this toy for my uncle. I can only imagine he’d be surprised to know that the toy he gave his grandson back in the twilight of his life is now on display on a shelf in a house that never even existed in his lifetime! However, by passing the 25-Pounder Field Gun set down to me, my uncle has made a tangible connection between two very seperate generations of people. By proudly displaying this on my shelf, a tiny piece of my great-grandfather lives on, as does my uncle’s obvious care for the toy throught the last six decades. That sounds like an heirloom to me, doesn’t it?
I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty darn cool.