CJB Boatyard

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Sutcliffe Boats

Hot Air 12" Battleship  - 1920 to 1929

The 12" Battleship was the first model boat to go into production, in about 1920, and was loosely based on the 'dreadnought' type battleships of the first world war. The boat was not unlike the boats being produced by the German toy makers just after the first world war and had some similar features such as the built in 'foot' which acted as a stand, but the Sutcliffe boats were made from a heavier gauge of steel and were painted in a thick enamal paint, rather than being lithographed like the German boats.


The hull of the boat consisted of two halves, soldered together along the seem; the two halves orginally being part of a single pressing that was cut in half by hand. In all, the boat consisted of approximately 30 individual parts, all soldered togther by a small, but highly skilled workforce of metal workers.

The markings read:











Fig. 1.1 Early Hot Air Battleship - circa 1920. One of the very first boats that Sutcliffe produced.

Fig. 1.2. Hot Air Battleship - Circa 1921/22. Now proudly branded as a SUTCLIFFE boat.

Figure 1.1 shows one of the first hot air battleships.  There are both fore and aft pennant tubes and a small circular rudder. Also note the front and rear loops - this allowed the boat to be 'rigged' with a length of cord which ran through an eye in the top of the mast. This would have only be for display purposes, as the centre section needs to be removed to insert the burner, and the rigging effectively 'ties' this section on. The boat was also supplied with a small pennant (not shown in Fig 1.1)



Figure 1.11 shows five examples of the 12" Hot Air battleship, from about 1921 to 1926.  It can be seen how the shade of both red and grey/green changed over the years. Also note how the pennant tube number and location chopped and changed! The rudder also got bigger (rudders ALWAYS got bigger over time), and the  Sutcliffe trademark changed two times from thier original stamping in 1920.


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Fig. 1.4.  Rear deck markings circa 1922


Figure 1.2 shows a fine example of a slightly later (but still early) version of the 12" battleship. The model now has a rectangular rudder and is painted in a 2-tone colour scheme and the box now has a much bigger label which includes the operating instructions.


These early boats could be identfied as being made by Sutcliffe by a simple stamping on the stern; this is shown in Figure 1.4. Sutcliffe had not yet developed any logo or trademark, other than the word 'Sutcliffe' itself.

Figure 1.7 shows a very slightly later version of the boat; there is now only one pennant tube on the bow. This would have made the boat a little simpler to make, but not much!

Figure 1.8 shows an unusual example of the 12" Hot Air battleship. By the early 1920's, possibly around 1922/23, Sutcliffe has developed their oval 'SUTCLIFFE' embossed logo which would appear on all 5 boats in the range, but for a very short period after dropping the stamped makers name, Sutcliffe embossed the rear decks with "JW SUTCLIFFE HORSFORTH LEEDS". This has not been seen on any other boat of the period and may have only been used for a few months.



Fig. 1.10 below shows the 'final'  (and most common) version of the hot air battleship, circa 1925. The oval Sutcliffe logo is present on the stern and it's down to a single pennant tube, now located on the stern. The shade of grey and red is lighter still.  The box style didn't change again until after the hot air boats had been 'axed'....

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Fig. 1.7.  Early Hot Air Battleship - circa 1922/23.

Fig. 1.8 - 12" Hot Air Battleship - circa 1922/23.

12 inch hot air inside hot air stern hot air burner

Fig. 1.3.  Single coil - circa 1922

Fig. 1.5.  Simple spirit burner. The handle is also the spout.

Fig. 1.6.  Coil tubes exiting the stern.

Fig. 1.9.  Rear deck markings circa 1922/23

late 12 inch hot air

Fig. 1.10.  12" Hot Air Battleship - circa 1925


Fig. 1.11.  12" Hot Air Battleships - 1921 to 1926

By  1929/30 the hot air battleship would be phased out and replaced with a clockwork version. A year or so later, the clockwork boat would be named 'Valiant' and would continue in production right up until the late 1930's by which time it would be rather old fashioned.

battship #1 battship 3

The boat was sold in a simple card carton with a simple label on the front...


There is something about this boat which makes it different from all other boats in our collection; the name SUTCLIFFE doesn't appear anwhere on either the boat or the box. Unlike later boats, which had Sutcliffe stamped of embossed on the boat, this model just has a patent number stamped on the bow. The box refers to the 'Cliff Series' of boats; was Sutcliffe experimenting with the brand with his initial foray into the world of toy boats?


Sutcliffe clearly chose not to adopt the thinly disguised Cliffe Series brand and quickly decided to prodoudly stamp all thier boats as SUTCLIFFE boats!