Wednesday, 10 January 2018

What Little Nellie did before Bond

Little Nellie, the autogyro designed and built by Wing Commander Ken Wallis and flown by him in the film You Only Live Twice (1967), is one of the most celebrated vehicles in the James Bond series. In the film, James Bond uses the autogyro, supplied by Q Branch, to reconnoitre the Japanese landscape to find out where SPECTRE’s rockets might be launching from. A cine-camera fixed to his helmet allows him to photograph every inch.
Bond flying Little Nellie in You Only Live Twice

Curiously, Little Nellie had been used for a not too dissimilar purpose a few years earlier.
Thuxton, a small village near Dereham in Norfolk, is the site of a deserted medieval village or DMV – the remains of a settlement that existed in the medieval period, but for some reason (possibly plague or changes in climate, population or land use) was abandoned. In the early 1960s, the DMV at Thuxton still survived as bumps in the ground, marking the positions of dwellings (tofts), streets and fields. During that time, however, Thuxton, along with other such sites, was threatened with deep ploughing, and so it was important to excavate and survey as much as possible before the earthworks disappeared forever. 

That’s where Little Nellie stepped in. While archaeological excavations were taking place, Ken Wallis flew across the site in his autogyro on several occasions and took aerial photographs of the medieval tofts and yards. These images captured fine views of the excavation and the village layout, and were used by the archaeologists to help them understand the history of the site. The images form part of the site archive and can be found in Norfolk’s Historic Environment Record at Gressenhall.

For Wing Commander Ken Wallis and Little Nellie, it was a mission not on Her Majesty’s secret service, but on Norfolk’s archaeological service.
Just for fun (and while we're on the subject of photography), I took this stereo image of Little Nellie, a signed photo of Ken Wallis and Fleming's novel. Look at the image through a stereoscope to see it in glorious 3-D! (Or relax your eyes as if looking at a 'magic eye' image.)

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