Norwich man’s model army collection helps to keep military memories alive

A Norwich grandfather is helping to keep alive the spectacular sights and traditions of the first, oldest and biggest military tattoo in the world following its demise more than a decade ago.

The Royal Tournament, which started in 1880 as a way of promoting the Armed Forces to the general public, began as a series of skill at arms competitions but evolved to include military bands and a variety of acts by the time it finished in 1999.

The demise of the event, which was held in London every summer, has prompted Derrick Eagle, 70, to show off his collection of model military bandsmen which covers the Navy, Army, Royal Marines and Royal Air Force.

Mr Eagle, who lives in New Catton, has more than 1,000 figures in his collection which has been displayed at a number of venues across the city and throughout the county.

He said: 'The total collection of bandsmen is well over 1,100 from all different regiments. There's various bits and pieces that you would've seen at the Royal Tournament.

'Since the Royal Tournament finished I've expanded it because of the interest I've got. I take it out for charity to try to raise money.'

Mr Eagle said the entire collection of bandsmen, complete with backdrop of Horseguards Parade, measures 6ft across and takes about an hour-and-a-half to assemble.

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Recent displays, including one at Stradsett Hall, near Downham Market, earlier this month, have included the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in a horse and carriage to help commemorate the Diamond Jubilee.

Mr Eagle said his passion for collecting military bandsmen started from the Royal Norfolk Show in 1951 when he saw the Household Cavalry.

The father of three and grandfather of six also collects circus figurines, with about 250 to 300 pieces, and zoo animals and horses with around 1,000 pieces.

He said: 'Good old Woolworth's brought out a series of clowns on horseback and that really became my model railway and model farm which I never had.'

Mr Eagle, who used to collect stamps, said he is 'very proud' of his collections and always keeps his eyes open when out and about at toy fairs and car boot sales to see if there are any pieces he can add. It has become a passion which he says his wife Jennifer, to whom he has been married to for almost 45 years, 'tolerates'.

He said: 'She collects china so what's good for one is good for another. Very often if she's out and spots something she asks if I'd like it and I do the same, so its reciprocal.'

As reported last week, Derek Cate, a grandfather from Hellesdon, painstakingly created an intricate model of regalia used in the coronation, to help commemorate this year's Diamond Jubilee celebrations. The display features a crown made by his late wife Marjorie in 1977; the sovereign's orb, sceptres and even two corgis from Sandringham. It is currently on show at Meadow Way Chapel in Hellesdon.

Have you got a story for the Evening News about a project you have been involved with? Call Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or email