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One gloriously sunny day recently my wife Susan and I were travelling down
the beautiful Wye Valley in South Wales, having just left the historic town
of Monmouth. After a wonderful lunch looking over the ancient stone Mono
bridge we stopped at Tintern, where my wife (a very enthusiastic antique
collector - our house is more like a museum than a home) bought an old
hardwood chair from a very proud and kind elderly gentleman in his 80s at
the local car boot sale. She said he was one of those people that you
couldn't help but like. This his story, as he told her.

"My Name is Hoj Horwdilnt, and I was born in Poland. I had flee to Britain
when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939." he said. "I joined the RAF in one of
the first Polish fighter squadrons - No 303 'Kosciusko' Squadron, flying
Mk1 Spitfires in the Battle of France. I loved those wonderful planes with
their magnificent Merlin engines but even though my comrades and I fought
until we were so exhausted we could not physically fly any more, we were
force to flee once again by the advancing Luftwaffe's Messerschimitt 109E's
of 8/Jg2 Richthofen, our opponents."

" I can still hear the sound of the Merlin in my Spitfire starting up and
roaring as I taxied down the French airfield, with the German in hot
pursuit!" he continued, "Sometimes if I close my eyes, and in my dreams, I
am still fighting those damn Messerschmitts". This clearly moved him, as
Susan saw a tear in his eye. He continued "Upon arriving back at our base
at Llandow, we were equipped with MK11 Spitfires and were made operational
just in time for the start of the Battle of Britain, when The Germans
launched their 'Adler Angriff' on the 13th of August 1940."

"It was so exciting? and I shot down many He 111s with my Spitfire. My
squadron flew with great success from our Llandow fighter base - just
outside Cowbridge in South Wales." He said that he could still feel the
fear, even though it was sixty years ago, he could still feel his heart
race just at the thought of climbing into his magnificent war chariot.
"It's impossible to express the sheer feeling of being alive as your plane
banked and dived, like some wonderful prehistoric flying monster." he said.
Like many former fighter pilots Susan could sense he still missed those
days, when death was around every corner and tomorrow was just a distant
dream.

"After four years of flying ever more powerful and exciting Spitfires and
cheating death almost daily, I was shot down in 1944 over the D Day landing
by a FW 190 and hurt my legs when I crash landed in France." he told her,
as she watched his expression saddened. "It ended my war and stopped me
flying. It nearly broke my heart? I'd lost my family in the war in Poland."

He explained that this also made it difficult for him to work full time
when he stayed in South Wales after the end of the war. He moved to the Wye
valley and worked part time in a joinery, making doors and windows for the
houses being rebuilt the from bomb damage, as he was very good with his
hands although his legs caused him pain.

He used to spend hours looking over the river Wye, fishing and living in a
small rented cottage for which he had made his own furniture. His
favourite piece was a chair made out of an old hardwood packing case some
American Mustang plane spares had been shipped over the sea in. He spent
many happy hours constructing this chair and he would sit in it down by the
river fishing. The years went by and in the early 1950's he heard of a new
sport that he could take part in as he could sit down to race his model
car, rail racing.

As luck would have it one of the first clubs was based not far from where
he lived in Tintern in the village of Crosskeys, only a few hundred yards
along the bank of the Wye. The opening evening soon came and he loved the
noise of the diesel engines which reminded him of the noise of his fighter
plane. The more he saw of the diesel rail cars the more he like them. These
were complete miniature cars in every sense of the word, having engines,
clutches, fuel tanks and everything else from their full size counterparts.
He loved these beautiful model cars and their wonderful hand beaten
aluminium bodies which had fanatical levels of detail built in with
beautiful vents, grills and exhaust systems. They were in many cases more
works of art than models and showed the tremendous level of skill of the
craftsmen that formed these wonderful model racing cars.
'If only they were made of wood, I might be able to afford to try and build
one.." he thought. The diesel rail cars were the epitome of functional
miniature racing cars of the period. The rules at the Crosskeys club
stressed realism in detailing, for example installing a driver and the
correct colour paint.

As time past at the club sadly he realised he could not afford to build a
car to compete with. Several years passed and he would occasionally visit
the club but he always came away feeling sad that he could compete as he
did not have a car and his pride would not let him borrow one. In 1955 the
rail club changed over to electric rail racing, building a new track in the
clubhouse, where as the diesel cars were raced in a track laid out in the
field at the back of the building. So, on the 18th May, when he re-visited
the club everything had changed. The fist thing he noticed was the noise -
or rather, the lack of it. The second thing he saw was how small the cars
were, they were 1/32 scale detailed models using wooden bodies and small
electric motors.

Now as luck would have it he had keep a couple of small electric motors out
of a German He 111 bomber he had shot down he'd salvaged while inspecting
the plane, which had crash landed on the marshes at Ogmore where the soft
ground had stopped the plane being completely destroyed. Watching the small
cars racing round with sparks trailing behind them he thought 'I could
build one of those, and after all these years I could compete again'
Smiling to himself, he returned home.

At the next meeting he borrowed some scale plans for an 'Alfa 158, 'D' Type
Auto Union, ERA and a Vanwall from one of his fellow members, John King,
with whom he'd become friendly with. John and his father built and flew
model aircraft at weekends (an activity for which he was ideally suited,
for John had qualified for his pilot's wings in Canada just as the War
ended in 1945). Flying often came up in their conversations. Returning home
he knew that once more he had to go into battle, but this time the stakes
were not going to be so high!

In an inspired move he glanced lovingly at his chair and he knew what he
had to do - Hoj was a deeply spiritual man and this was one of the things
that help him cope with loosing so many friends in 303 squadron. He
believed that it was possible for a object made with passion to retain
something of that passion, and so with a tear in his eye he cut six inches
off the bottom of each leg of the chair, telling himself that if he was
going to win he would need all the help he could get.

A month passed in which every day after returning from work he would sit
down and lovingly carve out the bodies for the rail cars. Every cut and
stroke was done with the greatest care until finally the finished bodies
were ready. Returning to the rail club he proudly showed John his work.
knowing he would need wheels, gears and other parts. He swapped two of the
bodies for the parts to finish the rail cars.

He kept the ERA and the D type, which he built up carefully over the next
week. Finally the great day arrived for him to race his cars.........................
 
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