Dinky Toys 25-Pounder Field Gun Set

Here is Dinky No. 697 in all its glory! The assembled "artillery train" is very impressive, and the box only serves to highlight uniqueness of this gift set from the late 1950's.

Here is Dinky No. 697 in all its glory! The assembled “artillery train” is very impressive, and the box only serves to highlight the uniqueness of this gift set from the late 1950’s.

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:

This closeup of the box lid gives a very non-nonsense (and typically British) description of exactly what is found inside. This gift set was offered for many fewer years than the individual components.

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 25-Pounder gun is an neat little piece. it is simple, but then again the real thing is too! The detailing near the breach is quite good.

The 25-Pounder gun is an neat little piece. it is simple, but then again the real thing is too! Note the detail, including the handwheel below the breach block, as well as the rivets along the carriage frame.

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.

On the right of the gun, where in joins the carriage, you an just see the tightly wound spring that keeps the 25-Pounder stable and all elevations. Cheers to a great idea!

On the right of the gun, where in joins the carriage, you an just see the tightly wound spring that keeps the 25-Pounder stable at all elevations. Cheers to a great idea!

This closeup of the protective plates around the gun give an idea of how much thought was put into this toy. Clearly, Dinky wanted something to really convey the sturdiness of the real thing!

This closeup of the protective plates around the gun give an idea of how much thought was put into this toy. Clearly, Dinky wanted something to convey the sturdiness of the real thing!

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.

Yep. He's a box with a stick and some wheels. He can't help it... that's just how it goes when you're a trailer. The ammo trailer for the 25-Pounder may be simple, but it's a vital part of the realism of this set.

Yep. He’s a box with a stick and some wheels. He can’t help it… that’s just how it goes when you’re a trailer. The ammo trailer for the 25-Pounder may be simple, but it’s a vital part of the realism of this set.

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.

The detail on such a small, and likely largely overlooked, piece is impressive. Dinky's trailer hitch system was quite a bit better than many later die cast makers would come up with. It is simple and doesn't stress the components at all.

The detail on such a small, and likely largely overlooked, piece is impressive. Dinky’s trailer hitch system was quite a bit better than many later die cast makers would come up with. It is simple and doesn’t stress the components .

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!

When your job is towing stuff, beauty is not really that importat. The Morris Quad Artillery Tractor proves this and then some! Note the lack of windows, showing this to be an earlier example of the toy.

When your job is towing stuff, beauty is not really that importat. The Morris Quad Field Artillery Tractor proves this and then some! Note the lack of windows, showing this to be an earlier example of the toy.

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.

Here's the Tractor from above. Note the simple trailer hook and the spare tire. It's actually a good thing he's got that spare, as it turns out...

Here’s the Tractor from above. Note the simple trailer hook and the spare tire. It’s actually a good thing he’s got that spare, as it turns out…

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!

I can't even fathom what led to this... Note the two large flat spots on the rear tire. It's almost down to the hub on one side. Go 50's chemistry!

I can’t even fathom what led to this… Note the two large flat spots on the rear tire. It’s almost down to the hub on one side. Given the great condition of the toy otherwise, it’s safe to say this isn’t due to abuse! Go 50’s chemistry!

In  case  you thought you saw it wrong, you didn't. the Tractor only has one headlight, and it's NOT on the driver's side. I'm not an armour guy, but I can't figure out why that is a good idea? If you know why it's like that, drop me a line!

In case you thought you saw it wrong, you didn’t. the Tractor only has one headlight, and it’s NOT on the driver’s side. I’m not an armour guy, but I can’t figure out why that is a good idea? If you know why it’s like that, drop me a line!

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.

Link up and move out! The fully assembled "train" all geared  up and ready to go. You can clearly see the simple trailer hitches in action. You can also see what an awesome sight the whole thing makes when put together.

Link up and move out! The fully assembled “train” all geared up and ready to go. You can clearly see the simple trailer hitches in action. You can also see what an awesome sight the whole thing makes when put together.

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 is the other side of the box, which is in a bit better shape. The art is very eye-catching, and the white outline, typical of Dinky Toys, really makes the military drabness of the vehicles stand out on the bright background!

This is the other side of the box, which is in a bit better shape. The art is very eye-catching, and the white outline, typical of Dinky Toys, really makes the military drabness of the vehicles stand out on the bright background!

Personal History:

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.

2 comments

  1. Jean-Claude Merlin · · Reply

    When driving on the left, it is more useful to have a lighthouse on the left to see the ditches!
    I have the full version with the plastic windows, as new from a collector. Superb.

    1. Good point!

      I didn’t know those came with full windows. Is that a later edition, then? Awesome!

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