Sergeant Derek ‘Raz’ Malkin has embarked on a very special royal mission with the help of his friends from RNZAF Bases Woodbourne and Ohakea.
The Air Force Museum of New Zealand’s GSE Technician is hard at work on the conservation and restoration of a rare RNZAF Queen Mary trailer.
Queen Marys were built in the 1940s and were named after the famous luxury ocean liner-turned troopship because of their size. They were designed specifically for the recovery of aircraft parts and wreckage.
While the size of the Queen Mary looks daunting, the task of restoring it does not have Raz rattled.
“It’s actually a lot of fun,’’ Sergeant Malkin says.
“There’s a bit of fluffing around because every measurement is imperial rather than metric. It means I’m making all the nuts and bolts myself and I had to get the team in the metal shop at Ohakea to source and cut the steel. The goose neck (front section of the trailer) had to be shortened and the team at Woodbourne did all the welding and restoration. It has become a whole of air force project.’’
“Everyone says it is a bit of a relic and so am I, so we are good together.’’
Work on the Queen Mary began prior to Covid and was then put on hold, but the museum team is now back in the swing of it.
Collections Manager Darren Hammond says the Queen Mary was an important addition to the collection.
“Specialist MT vehicles have played a huge part in supporting the air force’s flying operations over the decades and the Queen Mary trailer is a great example of this.’’
The trailer was used at Wigram from the 1940s until the base closed in the 1990s.
“It had a bit of an interesting life after it left Wigram,’’ Darren says.
“As far as we know it was used as a road cartage trailer and then a farm trailer – the goose neck was lengthened and the trailer itself was shortened – so there is a lot of work to do to restore it.’’
The restoration means taking it back to its original specifications from 1940 – 34 feet long with a 3-tonne capacity. This means making the front of the trailer shorter and the body longer – as well as taking out a few of the knocks the trailer’s interesting life has handed out.
Sergeant Malkin joined the RNZAF and sat his HT license driving a Queen Mary around the streets of Henderson, almost taking out a lamp post along the way, but that is another story.
“They’re a clever design – the box girders mean it is light and strong. It has been great to have the help of the other RNZAF bases along the way and I hope everyone will come along to see Queen Mary once she is finished.’’
Once the structure is sound, Sgt Malkin has enlisted the help of Hendriks Master Blasters to sandblast and paint the trailer for long term conservation. It will be returned to its original RNZAF blue.
Queen Mary – the versatile royal
Queen Mary trailers were manufactured to an Air Ministry design which required a trailer large enough to transport a fighter aircraft.
Manufactured at Andover in England by Tasker Trailers, they were a common site at RNAZF bases for more than 40 years. They were used to cart everything from aircraft to stores around the bases, and the occasional RNZAF rugby team!
Incredibly versatile and easy to operate, nearly 4,000 of these trailers were produced during the war. Many hundreds of thousands more were made as 1:76 scale Airfix modelling kits with matching Coles Mk. 7 cranes.
Queen Marys were towed by either a Bedford or Crossley tractor unit.