Memories of working for Frog by Eric Walpole

Early in 2012 I was delighted to receive an email from Eric Walpole offering to document his memories of his time working for Frog, and these were added to the site in April. Afterwards we exchanged several more emails and Eric was able to send me some more information and photos. Very sadly I have to report that Eric passed away in September. I have now incorporated the new material into the piece below, and hope that in some small way it will act as a fitting memorial to this fascinating period of Eric's working life.

My Name is Eric Walpole and these are my memories of my time at Frogs.

I joined the company in 1953 in an unusual manner. One of my model friends named George Wilshier, a motor engineer who carried out all the servicing on Lines Brothers directors cars, knew Charlie Green who was works manger for International Model Aircraft. On leaving the air force after national service, I was unable to find employment at my trade of carpenter and joiner. Charlie Green offered me the job of running the model engine test shop. After a while I had a disagreement with the managing director Arthur Cathcart and gave in my notice. At that time there were only two staff in the experimental department, Mr Buffery the chief designer, who was known as Buff to every one at IMA and Ron Pusey his assistant who had broken his wrist and was on sick leave. Charley Green asked me whether as Frogs were having a stand at The British Industries Exhibition would I assist Mr Buffery with the display stands and models. After the exhibition, which was most enjoyable, Charley Green said to me, "if you want it there is a place for you in the experimental department". This I accepted with pleasure.

Before I joined Frogs I had the pleasure of meeting two other designers, Bert Judge and Mr Vandereek, before they left Frogs while they were testing the control line Radius and Vandiver in a local playing field. Some of the kits available when I started were the Frog 45, Janus, Fox, Firefly, Powervan, Stratosphere, Strato D, Radius, Vandiver, Zephyr, and Vixen. Of these the Frog 45, and Zephyr were Buff's designs, the Janus Bert Judge's, and the Powervan and Vandiver were Mr Vanderbeek's. The Fox, Firefly and Radius had the fuselage moulded with a paper and balsa laminate which gave a nice round finish.

All the kits had die cut balsa parts that were cut wet and dried afterwards which caused a small amount of shrinkage across the grain. The cutters were made out of bronze similar to a printing block mounted on a plywood base and the panels cut on a hand operated fly press similar to dolls dresses. At a later date all panels were cut dry with steel knife edge cutters by mounting the blades in thick plywood bases and cutting on a modified printing press. This also allowed plywood to be cut.

My Frog 45 has been in existence for a long time and started with a standard airframe with radio control on the rudder and fitted with a George Fletcher new Frog 100. The Radio was a mini-reptone shown in the advert below.

The model flew well, the only problem was that the receiver batteries soon lost power so I made up a three cell pack of deac button cells and they lasted all day. The coloured pictures are of the modified Frog 45 taken in the 1970's a long time after I had left Frogís. By that time I had grown a beard.

I thought that such a faithful model deserved to be rebuilt so I stripped off all its covering, removed the windows and reinforced the inside of the fuselage with thin ply. I also made an alloy undercarriage that was bolted on and painted on windows like the Jackdaw. I wanted more power so I fitted a PAW 149 without a throttle, used Futaba radio gear, fitted elevators and used closed loop for the flying controls. I recovered the whole model with solar film that it has to this day and it has flown well. The final set up has been to remove the engine and fit a brushless electric motor.

Both Ron and I assisted Buff with the earlier junior and senior series models by building, flight testing and turning them into kits. I was involved in the development of the Pioneer which was made of aluminium extrusions clipped together, with sheet metal and plastic mouldings covered with heavy weight tissue. This flew well but was rather fragile. One of the other things I did was to make the prototypes of many of the Penguin toy boats made out of plastic sheet moulded to shape.

After quite a while, with both Ron and I courting, we both wanted to get married we needed an increase in our salary. We approached the management and were told if we were to design our own projects we could have an increase as long as we still helped Buff if he required us. The first models I designed were the Spitfire, Mustang, and Wyvern in the junior fighter series.

It was decided that we were going to start making plastic kits again under the name of Frog. I made some of the patterns at a larger scale out of yellow pine. These were cast into a hard stone mould and then cut at reduced size into the steel blocks of the mould with a pantograph by a toolmaker. The early models had undercarriages without movable wheels. Later plastic kits had patterns made out of lime, mostly 1/72 scale by an outside pattern model maker. I would draw accurate dimensioned components that fit together like the kit. After checking, they mounted them down on base boards and cast them in epoxy resin.

More staff joined us in the department over the years but I cannot remember when. Ron Aarons who was a rear gunner in the RAF, Bill Knox, whose family were undertakers (he made his pocket money by carving inscriptions on gravestones), George Fletcher who was a excellent engineer who came from Davis Charlton to design our engines (he designed all the later ones except the Frog 500), Les Green who was a drummer in a band and Cyril Steen who was with Airfix who joined to design plastic kits. Some of the staff are shown in the accompanying photos.

This photo shows Mr Bufery (left), Bill Knox (center) and Myself Testing an early Jackdaw model.

It was decided to make some fresh power models to match the new engines. I can name the designers of some of these as follows:

Buff designed the Frog 45 Mk 2, Tutor, Nimrod and Mirage.

George Fletcher the Hornet, Gladiator, Condor and Attacker.

Ron Aarons the Tempest and the radio controlled Air Sea Rescue Launch.

Myself the profile Talisman, Spitfire, Hurricane, Me109, Mosquito the SE5a and Jackdaw radio control model.

Ron Pusey designed and built the majority of the senior and junior scale series, and some of the gliders, duration and sports rubber powered models. The others were designed by Buff and built by the team of Bill, Les and Myself.

Bill Knox designed the Chipmunk and with Les Green the Auster.

Bill Knox, George Fletcher & Ron Arons testing models on Lines Bros sportsground

Fitting engines to the control line Mosquito in the workshop

Up until this time models were all shown to be designed by IMA but later designers could put their names on the plans.

George Fletcher used to drive the very colourful Frog van to shows and competitions with several of us to display our models. We did not get paid for this but the company paid for our dinner and a bottle of wine on the way home.

With an early Jackdaw model during the model's development.

Stewart Uwins liked the prototype Jackdaw and decided he would like to fly one in a rudder only class competition using a three channel receiver he had. He built one, flew it and won first place. It was decided that because of his experience, he would decide on the size and deflection of the ailerons and elevators on a full house version. He also wrote the trimming and flying instructions.

The first Jackdaw was a competition type similar to to Chris Olsonís Uproar but the management wanted it more like a cabin model and possibly fly free flight, so the fuselage was changed in shape and windows painted on a nicer shaped fin, a larger flat bottomed tail plane and a shorter nose. When Stewart saw the model in that form his comment was that would be no good for competition work. The final form was a smaller symmetrical tail plane and longer nose,

I have since made a modified version, full house with a biconvex wing section and longer undercarriage moved a little further back and this flies very well.

The company had an agreement to sell Cox ready to fly models and their range of engines. We made our own tools for two of them, the Cub and PT 19. They also borrowed the tools of a range of military vehicles from Revell and when we produced them I had to check every day to see that components were not missing, because if the moulder used a silicone spray to stop components sticking in the mould, the parts would not stick together. If they stuck, a toolmaker would have to polish the mould.

George Fletcher made for his own use a Tomtit with a slightly shorter nose in which he fitted a very small Albon or Davis Charlton diesel engine that he had made and was the only one competent enough to make them that small. It flew well. Since then I have built a Tomtit and fitted it with a KP01 electric motor, but have not yet flown it.

The company decided that Alan Hales were going to market all our flying models and kits and George Fletcher left to join Hales. Ron Arons left to join Scalextric at Havant. Buff, Bill Knox, Les Green and Ron Pusey left us to go their own ways leaving only Cyril Steen and Myself to carry on with the plastic kits. At this time we were called Lines Brothers Group Research. The plan was to market one kit a month. This we did for quite a long time by drawing up all the component parts and supplying the drawings to outside pattern makers. After we had checked the pattern parts they mounted them on bases and cast them in epoxy resin. One model I remember well was the Exeter that I designed and all I could obtain were drawings as originally built and the superstructure had been refitted at a later date. All I had were two photographs one top and one side view of the ship in its final form. Using a pair of proportionate dividers I was able to draw up the superstructure and where to split the parts, this worked out well. Both of us made a lot of aircraft and Cyril designed two larger scale car kits a Jaguar E type and a Cortina estate. We would also try to make the ideas of others work as successful toys.

After a short while the department closed down, Cyril Steen left and I was asked to join Pedigree dolls, and as all the departments were in the same factory building I did this, and worked under Eric Griffiths who was the doll designer. I was working on accessories and movable joints for Cindy dolls. When the Lines Brothers Factory at Merton closed down I was asked if I would care to join Triang railways at Canterbury this I declined and left for other places.

I hope you find this interesting it was a good period in my life. l later joined a model making company making larger models but thatís another story.

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