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Film charts life of Norfolk’s flying James Bond

PUBLISHED: 14:00 22 December 2010

Ken Wallis

Ken Wallis

Archant

A DVD charting the inventions and escapades of flying legend and James Bond double Ken Wallis has been created by a Norfolk production company.

The film, which includes 9.5mm cine film footage from his childhood, covers just “a fraction” of his life, according to the 94-year-old, who lives in Reymerston, near Dereham.

But it still manages to take in his early years in Cambridgeshire with his father Horatio, who was also a plane enthusiast, his war career and his ongoing world record attempts.

Bonnie Bunyan, from Shipdham-based Diamond Eye Productions, said: “It really is quite an insight into his life. He’s an amazing man with a passion for so many things. His family background is building planes and he’s always had an interest in racing and wanting to go that bit further – the DVD shows that.”

The video, presented by BBC Radio Suffolk presented Steph Mackentyre, features interviews with the retired RAF wing commander at his Norfolk home, surrounded by his 20 autogyros, as well as archive footage.

The pilot, who organised his own flying lessons after being turned down by the RAF volunteer reserve in 1936 because of a faulty right eye, said: “My father was always keen on the latest technology. In the mid 1970s, 9.5mm Pathé cine cameras came out. He got into that. I’ve got these cassettes and the projector.

“That’s where Simon Page [the producer] did a wonderful job converting from this film to DVD.”

But, with the title Ken Wallis: Born to Bond, the video, like many accounts of Wing Cmdr Wallis’ life, inevitably focuses on his role in the 1967 film You Only Live Twice.

One of pilot’s many home-made autogyros, called Little Nellie, featured in the Bond film and the inventor found himself doubling for Sean Connery during the flying scenes.

Recalling his time on the set during one of the DVD’s many interviews, he said: “It was 85 flights and 46 hours in the air for that bit on the screen and some of the take off and landing sites were literally cliff edges with gravel top where, when you put the brakes on or try to steer, it just slithers.

“There was one place where I sort of slithered to a stop and thought ‘Thank God I’ve still got it’. About an hour later they came back and said one of the cameras was giving trouble, you’ve got to do it again’.”

Little Nellie is spending a year in the London Film Museum.

Wing Cmdr Wallis, who is chairman of Flixton Aviation Museum, has set 34 world records relating to the autogyro – many of which still stand.

Although still flying, he said he had no current plans to set any new records. He said a challenge to one of his existing records – which include the fastest speed for a 3km flight, would convince him to try again. He added: “I have been flying for 74 years. I should know better.”

Ken Wallis: Born to Bond was originally created to coincide with the centenary of the first flight of the Wallbro Monoplane, built by Wing Cmdr Wallis’ father and uncle, on July 4.

It is still available to buy from Jarrold’s and Waterstones in Norwich, Balfour of Dereham, Flixton Aviation Museum, Amazon and Ebay.

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