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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Geoffrey Wheeler Cutaways in the Blue Peter Books

Geoffrey Wheeler Cutaways in Blue Peter Books
Compiled by Jeremy Briggs

Geoffrey Edmund John Wheeler was born in Penn, Buckinghamshire on 12 August 1929. After school he joined the Great Western Railway in January 1945 and later saw service in the Royal Navy serving onboard a number of ships including HMS Amethyst, a frigate remembered for being captured by Communist Chinese forces in 1949 in what became known as the Yangtze Incident. On leaving the Navy he worked for two years as an illustrator in a technical publications studio before going freelance in 1961.

He is best known to comics collectors as one of the cutaway artists for Eagle for which he produced 44 cutaways, the same number as John Batchelor - only Laurence Dunn, Walkden Fisher and of course L Ashwell Wood produced more. His Eagle cutaways began in Vol 12 Number 52 with a Burrell Showman's Traction Engine and continued through to Vol 17 No 49 which featured the Bluebell Line’s Earl Of Berkley Duke Class steam locomotive.

Less well remembered are the cutaway drawings that he did for the annual Blue Peter books. While the standard Eagle format for cutaways was the painted style that L Ashwell Wood had first used for Modern Wonder magazine in the late 1930s, the Blue Peter books used the black and white line drawings that were typical of more technical publications such as the now century old Flight magazine. Wheeler’s eleven cutaways for the Blue Peter books were all in black and white with three taking up two pages spreads while the rest were all single page size. It is also interesting to note that while Eagle regular illustrated military subjects none of the Blue Peter subjects are military.

Wheeler’s first cutaway appeared in the Blue Peter Fourth Book in 1967 and depicted the programme’s adopted steam engine the 532 Blue Peter, a Pacific Class 4-6-2 locomotive. His cutaways appeared in the next ten Blue Peter books and, unlike the first one, they normally tied in with a feature in the book either historical or based on an event that happened on the television programme itself. These ranged from the 1903 Cadillac motorcar in which presenters Peter Purves and John Noakes drove Valerie Singleton from London to Brighton in the 1970 Veteran Car Run to a cutaway of Concorde in which presenter Lesley Judd flew from London to Washington DC on 24 May 1976.

Like the television series, the books did not use trade names for items that the child readers might buy or ask their parents to buy, but the feature and the cutaway in the Thirteenth Book in 1976 took this to the extreme. The featured vehicle was an enormous eight wheeled John Deere 8430 tractor which then cost £23,300 and was illustrated with photographs of its appearance in the studio as well as a cutaway. Not only did the cutaway not show the manufacturers name on its side, but the two pages that cover the tractor never once make reference to its manufacturer or model number and the John Deer name was even crudely removed from the largest photo of the vehicle.

The cutaway of Concorde in 1977 was the last cutaway by Geoffrey Wheeler to appear in the Blue Peter books. No other artist took over the cutaways as the books ceased to use them as a regular feature.

Geoffrey Wheeler passed away on 15 October 1995 but his work lives on with his family offering prints of his work via the Wheeler Prints website including an alternative cutaway version of the Fowler BB1 steam traction engine as featured in the Blue Peter Sixth Book.

Blue Peter Fourth Book © 1967
Cutaway: Inside Blue Peter (Pacific Class 4-6-2 locomotive - 1 page)
Article: None

Blue Peter Fifth Book © 1968
Cutaway: Apollo (Apollo CSM/LM spacecraft – 1 page )
Article: Gemini X (Gemini 10 capsule in the TV studio – 1 page)

Blue Peter Sixth Book © 1969
Cutaway: Inside the Fowler BB1 (steam traction engine – 1 page)
Article: The Vanishing Giants (steam traction engines – 1 page)

Blue Peter Seventh Book © 1970
Cutaway: Jumbo Jet Giant Of The Skies (Boeing 747 airliner – 2 pages)
Article: None

Blue Peter Eighth Book © 1971
Cutaway: The Cadillac Of 1903 (Cadillac car – 1 page)
Article: Veteran Car Run (London to Brighton vintage car rally – 1 page)

Blue Peter Ninth Book © 1972
Cutaway: RMS Queen Elizabeth (ocean liner – 2  pages)
Article: Queen Of The Seas (history and sinking of the RMS Queen Elizabeth – 2 pages)

Blue Peter Tenth Book © 1973
Cutaway: Skylab (NASA space station – 1 page)
Article: None

Blue Peter Eleventh Book © 1974
Cutaway: The Waveney Life-Boat (RNLI lifeboat – 1 page)
Article: The Life Savers (History of the RNLI lifeboats – 2 pages)

Blue Peter Twelfth Book © 1975
Cutaway: R101 (Airship – 1 page)
Article: The End Of An Era (Crash of the R101 airship in 1930 – 2 pages)

Blue Peter Thirteenth Book © 1976
Cutaway: Inside Story (John Deere 8430 tractor – 1 page)
Article: Country Giant (John Deere 8430 tractor in the TV studio – 1 page)

Blue Peter Fourteenth Book © 1977
Cutaway: Concorde (Supersonic airliner – 2 pages)
Article: Blue Peter Goes Supersonic (Lesley Judd flies to Washington DC on Concorde – 3 pages)

(* Cutaways © the estate of Geoffrey Wheeler; Blue Peter © British Broadcast Corporation.)

1 comment:

Mike W said...

I have these early Blue Peter annuals and couldn't remember these cutaways at all - great article!