Bondpix James Bond

An Interview With

 Wing Commander Kenneth H Wallis

By Christopher Johnson : Part Four

Airfix model plans for Little Nellie

The promotion of a film is a key part of how well it performs at the box-office. Not only was Little Nellie featured in one of the films posters but she also took part in publicity stunts to create awareness of the film at the time of its release. When asked if he was involved in any of the publicity surrounding the films release Ken answers: Yes, though I dont seem to get a mention in the credits! In June 1967 I had to take Little Nellie to New York, as accompanied baggage in the luggage area of a  Boeing 707. I then quickly assembled her as the blades and the weapons had to be taken off and her legs folded for her to fit into the 707. I then demonstrated her at Morristown New Jersey, for Hugh Morans 'Today Show' and Johnnie Carsons 'The Tonight Show' which I had to attend. Little Nellie drew much media attention. I then attended the premiere of the film in New York.

Following his time in the States, Ken brought Little Nellie back to England where a request to demonstrate 007s flying arsenal meant the realisation of a dream for her creator: On return to the UK on the 20th June, I was requested to fly Little Nellie to Hove, Sussex to land on Brunswick Lawns and later that day to take off, demonstrate her and then fly Little Nellie back to Shoreham Airport. This was for a publicity occasion for the UK film premiere at the Dudley Hotel, Hove. It happened that this was an ambition that came true for me. For some years after World War Two we had lived in a maisonette in Brunswick Square, Hove. On a  summers evening I would look at the lovely lawns by the beach and think how nice it would be to land on them and fly from them. That was before the Autogyro project and, of course, it would have been completely illegal. However, with Little Nellie that dream did indeed come true.

Following promotional activities in the U.K., Ken was soon off round Europe with Little Nellie : I was then requested to demonstrate Little Nellie at sites all over the UK and by August a tour of Germany started at Hamburg, followed by the Baltic Air Rally at Lubeck. It was here that I was pleased to meet General Adolf Galdand of the Luftwaff, and to have him pictured sitting in Little Nellie. Some 40 demonstrations in Germany and Switzerland soon followed often at sites that were not airfields, by special arrangement,(such as the Brunswick Lawns at Hove)."

And after Europe Little Nellie and her father went further still: In December 1967 I started a tour of Australia demonstrating Little Nellie at sites such as shopping centre car parks, to publicise the premiere of 'You Only Live Twice', at 14 sites. In total, Wing Commander Wallis has demonstrated Little Nellie more than 800 times.

Autogyro Wallis WA-116 plans for the airfix model kit Corgi model of Little Nellie
Little Nellie model from Corgi toys

Like the Aston Martin DB5 before her, Little Nellie was also the subject of an Airfix construction model, first released in the 1960s. As Ken recalls: The first Airfix model was produced quite soon after the film was made. After the Airfix representatives spent some time studying Little Nellie and the drawings etc. they made quite an accurate model of a complex little structure. The models gradually became scarce and very valuable collectors items. Still in the box, signed versions could be in the 350-400 scale!

Then in the 1990s, I was consulted about a re-release of essentially the same basic model, but this time providing for the open framed military version XR-943 to be made instead of Little Nellie. The re-release was much like the original but it is in a bigger box, with information on the XR-943 version and illustrations following further consultation with me.

Corgi, also famed for their numerous models of the Aston Martin DB5, have recently produced models of Little Nellie as part of their Definitive Collection, Directors Cut, and Plus 2 ranges. This is something that Ken is quite happy about: I was quite pleased to know that Little Nellie was to be produced as a die-cast model by Corgi. The last public air display that I had undertaken with Little Nellie had been at Gaydon at the Heritage Motor museum on 26th and 27th June 1993, at a special Corgi Toys Collectors Club event.

It was sometime after my display that Corgi thought out the Little Nellie model. However, both the smaller and larger models are lacking the compression struts to the undercarriage for some strange reason. I wrote to Corgi concerning this omission but I received no response. The models are made in China - maybe it is difficult to get a correction? Anyway, apart from that I am pleased to see the Corgi models. Examples signed by me have done much to help the charities that I support.

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2006 Christopher Johnson. All rights reserved.

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