Kemlows Sentry Box Series
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Kemlows was a manufacturer of railway accessories and diecast toys which started in 1946 but it was not until about 1958 when the business moved into a new factory at Potters Bar that the Sentry Box Series of military miniatures was started in response, no doubt, to the success of Lesney and other miniature toy makers.
The range was not large comprising only six models, all based on British military vehicles of the time, but they form an interesting group. Kemlows did not put their name on any of the models so identification is by knowing the models themselves.
The Series was packaged in distinctive green and red boxes representing a sentry box with a rounded flap on the top. The idea was said to have been that of Lilian Lowe, wife of the founder of Kemlows, William Lowe.
Sadly, the Sentry Box Series was in production for just a few years so the models are now quite scarce and the boxes even more so. The rarest is the Armoured Vehicle with Limber and Gun and the box for it is extremely rare.
3 Ton Bedford Lorry
Although called a 3 Ton vehicle, the Bedford RL Lorry on which the model was based was later re-rated at 4 Tons. Over 74,000 of the real Bedford trucks were made.
The model was a single casting and included a rear trailer hitch and at just 58mm long it was a detailed model. The first issue had 'Made in England' cast on the right side of the canopy but this seems to have been discontinued quite early because most models have no identification. The wheels were chunky unpainted metal on flat-head & crimped axles at first or later on revitted ones.
Painted matt British Army green with occaisional silver trim on the headlights, the 3 Ton Bedford carried a regimental emblem on the front above the cab and a similar one on the rear tailgate. These could be on either the left or right side and varied in size and colour. Early models had square red & dark-blue or red & yellow decals with later versions having round yellow decals with a spot of red paint added.
At the rear the little tailgate was hinged at the top on a clip-fit system. This was normally painted the same colour as the lorry, but did vary, even being glossy sometimes, so maybe it was painted seperately. The clip-fit hinge meant that the tailgate detached easily and can be missing.
The boxes for the Sentry Box Series were the same for all models apart from the base flap which carried the model name in a red panel. The lettering for the Bedford read '3 Ton Bedford Lorry' and could be small font or large upper-case bold print.
The Bedford Lorry was the most popular of the Sentry Box Series and is still quite commonly found.
photo Kerry Hamer
3 Ton Bedford Lorry towing 25pdr
Second in the Sentry Box Series was a coupling of the Bedford Army Lorry with a 25 pounder Field Gun.
The Lorry was identical to the earlier model complete with tailgate, rear trailer hitch, and regimental emblems usually a red & dark-blue decal in this set.
The Gun was a neat and well cast model with a moving barrel which raised and lowered, and a tow-hook for fixing to the lorry. Like the lorry, there was no id. It measured 60mm long.
The wheels were unpainted metal of a rounded design later used on the Armoured Vehicle.
Cast in one piece with a separate rotating turret, the Armoured Vehicle was a solid and well-made toy. It had no base so the axles for the metal wheels fixed directly onto the body. Inside the body was cast 'Made in England'. There was no other id. The model measured 57mm in length.
Finished in British Army green without silver trim, the only addition was a regimental emblem, usually a yellow decal with a spot of red paint added, which was applied to one or other of the front mudguards and to the rear of the vehicle.
The box end-flap at the base had 'Armoured Vehicle' printed. This could be either small lower case or large upper-case bold font.
photo Robert Newson
Armoured Vehicle with Limber and Gun
This Set is the rarest of the Sentry Box Series and the box is almost unknown. The full Set comprised three units, the Armoured Vehicle, a Limber and the 25 pounder Field Gun. The units were adapted to hook together but in a different way from the Bedford Lorry and Gun.
To provide a rear hook on the Armoured Vehicle a special base was rivetted over the rear axle. A similar base was fixed to the Limber with a rear hook, and the Gun had the tow-peg replaced by a round hole which hooked onto the Limber.
All three units were painted in army-green with the distinguishing feature of silver trim on the Armoured Vehicle (grille, gun tip & hatch cover) and the Gun (magazine & barrel-tip). The wheels were the standard unpainted metal and on the front of the Armoured Vehicle a blue & yellow regimental emblem was added.
Not only is the complete model extremely rare but the box, if it exists, has never been photographed to our knowledge.
photo Robert Newson
The Tank was perhaps the least successful model in the Sentry Box Series. It was nicely cast but because of the additional wheels and a slightly shortened scale it had a rather upright appearance.
The body and turret were separate castings rivetted together in the centre which enabled the turret to rotate. On the sides of the body, the cast-in wheels were included but did not function. Overall the model measured 58mm including the gun barrel.
Underneath there were four wide metal wheels secured in place by a shaped base rivetted onto the body at the front and rear. Oddly, there were three castings of 'Made in England' on the base of most models although versions are known which have none at all!
The Tank was painted British Army green including the wheels - or those parts of the wheels exposed when the paint was applied. Three different decals representing regimental emblems were used on the models at the front and rear. These were either squares in yellow & dark-blue or red & dark-blue, or round yellow decals with a spot of red paint added.
As with the other models in the series, the box represented a Sentry Box with the base flap carrying the model name. There were two versions of this for the Tank, one stating 'Tank' and the other in uppercase letters stating 'Centurion Tank'.
Often included in auctions with the Tank Transporter, the Tank is not too hard to find but the individual box is scarce.
When Kemlows withdrew the Tank in the early 1960's, the die was sold to Gamda in Israel who produced a sand-coloured version.
Largest of the Sentry Box models at 166mm, the Tank Transporter was based on the articulated Thornycroft Mighty Antar vehicle.
The model was designed in two parts with a large cab/tractor unit and a trailer with separate rear ramps. The permanent coupling was by a vertical axle-pin with a crimped top holding the spare wheel in place. This was a flexible system allowing the trailer easy turning but the hole in the cab through which the axle passed was quite large so the coupling was always a bit wobbly.
The standard of the casting was impressive. Not only was the detail excellent but the cab section and the trailer (excluding the ramps) were made of single castings. This meant that the cab had no base and the axles for the metal wheels fitted directly into holders on the castings. As with almost all Kemlow's models, there was no maker's name included on the model, just 'Made in England' under both cab and trailer.
Painted in British Army green, the Tank Transporter was given silver trim on the headlights and the fuel tanks on each side of the cab although this was sometimes reduced to just the headlights. Decals representing regimental emblems were usually applied to the base of one of the rear ramps but models are often found without any. Red & dark-blue square emblems seemed to be the most commonly used but yellow & dark-blue were sometimes applied.
The unpainted metal wheels on flat-head & crimped axles were the same rounded style as those used on the Armoured Vehicle and the Gun. At the rear, the ramps, which could be raised and lowered, were fixed in place by a wide metal pin crimped at one end.
With such a long model, the box for the Tank Transporter was a conventional end-flap type without the rounded top flap of the other Sentry boxes. The model name was on each side of the box with the red panel on the base flap left blank.
The Tank Transporter is not too hard to find but the boxes are scarce. Gamda in Israel bought the dies when Kemlows ceased manufacture and produced sand-coloured versions for a while during the 1960's.