On my way back from a Team meeting in the Netherlands, I decided to stop off at Nothe Fort in Weymouth. I’d seen the fort several times at a distance (for example visiting the excellent Fisticuffs show) but I’d never been. I’d also heard rumours of a ‘matchstick fleet’ exhibition.
The Fort itself is a Palmerston Folly, one of those constructed against a potential French invasion in the 1860’s. Work started in 1860 and the fort served as a military base until it closed in 1968. Local volunteers rescued the fort from becoming derelict and the fort is now run by the Weymouth Civic Society.
The fort itself is on three levels with the lowest level being a true labyrinthine expanse of tunnels including a nuclear bunker and the ‘ghost walk’. There are several exhibitions covering events around Weymouth from the Roman Invasion to the preset day. Particular attention is given to the Victorian era, the Great War and World War 2.
Scattered around the exhibits was a ‘spot the mouse’ game for the children (okay… and the odd adult!). Being ‘sad’ (or an ‘expert’ in wargames miniatures) I spotted the use of several 28mm miniatures in some of the exhibition displays. Yes, I could even name the manufacturers (yep, ‘sad’ indeed)! Now came the highlight of this very interesting tour, I’d finally found in the depths of the earth the ‘Matchbox Fleet’.
There were some 200 vessels and aircraft all built by Mr Phil Warren, and this is only half of his collection. He started builiding models when he was 16 and has continued on into his seventies. An amazing two months work goes into each ship.
Each ship is made out of matchboxes and matchsticks. The matchboxes used are the ‘old style’ wooden ones, not the modern paper ones. In fact, Phil is reliant on donations of old matchboxes so he can continue his fleet building.
The results are marvellous. All the gun parts and radars move. Even the wings on the F16’s and the rotors on the helicopters move… amazing! Everything is hand painted, no transfers or kit parts are used.
The Matchbox fleet will be returning to Nothe Fort from the 7th of August to the 31st. The fleet and Nothe fort are defilitely worth a visit if you are in the Weymouth area. My girlfriend and I really enjoyed ourselves - it’s good for all the family.