Posts by Kathryn Thompson

As we unveil the brand new Official Red Arrows North American Tour Medal, Red 5 reveals what it takes to become a Red Arrows pilot…

Red Arrows June 2019 151 1 300x225 - As we unveil the brand new Official Red Arrows North American Tour Medal, Red 5 reveals what it takes to become a Red Arrows pilot…
Squadron Leader Steve Morris, aka. Red 5

This year, the Red Arrows will embark on a special display season – not only wowing crowds up and down the UK with their dynamic displays, but also painting the skies of North America red, white, and blue during their largest EVER tour of the US and Canada.

And in the run up to the first display over the pond,we wanted to find out all things Red Arrows from the team themselves and Squadron Leader Steve Morris, aka. Red 5, was only too happy to give us an extensive interview.  Currently in his first season on his return to the team, Red 5 has told us how to become a Red Arrows pilot and what it’s really like to be part of the world renowned Red Arrows…


How long does it take to prepare the display and train to public display level?

We start our winter training in October, and the team’s development is like building blocks – we don’t display as a 9 straight away.  We practice as 3 aircraft together, and then build up to 4, and then 5 – that’s ‘Enid’.  Reds 6 through 9, the back 4, will be doing the same.  It’s only in February that we’ll put the 2 sections together.  So it takes 4 to 5 months before we’re there as a 9, and then another 2 and a bit months of us flying as 9 until we get up to the standard that we would expect to be for the display season.

What happens if one pilot is unable to take part in the display? Do you have reserve pilots?

We would display as an 8.  The only caveat is if the Team Leader (Red 1) is unavailable, we can’t display.  At some sites, Red 6, 7, 8 and 9 (the back 4) might go and do their second half performance where they do their hide speed passes, but we wouldn’t display as a 9.  We practice as an 8 in case anyone is ever missing, and we try and keep it as symmetrical as possible.


‘we get to meet so many extraordinary people’


What’s the best thing about being a Red Arrow?

For me, it’s the ground interactions that you have with people.  Earlier this year, when we were operating from Farnborough, we bumped into a 90-year old Dakota pilot who was there to be with his grandson, who is now a fast jet pilot, and he came over to us and had a cup of tea and a chat – we get to meet so many extraordinary people that you would never meet if you weren’t doing this job.

How does the Hawk T1 compare to other fast jets you’ve flown?

It’s a bit like a sports car, but think track-day kit car.  There isn’t much on the inside in terms of modern technology, but let’s not forget the jet’s 40 years old!  There aren’t things like a moving map, synthetic weapons and head-up display, so if you compare it to the difference between an Aston Martin and a Westfield Kit Car, it’s probably actually more fun flying the Hawk, but there isn’t as much avionics inside the cockpit.

Red Arrows June 2019 149 2 - As we unveil the brand new Official Red Arrows North American Tour Medal, Red 5 reveals what it takes to become a Red Arrows pilot…
The 2019 Red Arrows Team with their North America Tour Medals

What is the first manoeuvre you learn as a Red Arrows?

You start with what are our ‘basics’ of flying.  I know it sounds odd, but as everything is called by the Team Leader, you need to work on everything, so start with left and right bends.  Then you progress to do a standard loop, in one of our formation references which is called ‘Battle’, but you’re a little bit further away from the nearest airplane than what the public will see when we display – which is a good thing when you start practicing!  Then you’ll move on to more challenging loops and rolls, and then you start to build it up, getting closer adding more airplanes on.  Then, finally, you start to change shapes, moving from one formation to another.

What is the Red Arrows selection process like, and how were you selected?

Everyone who’s on the team has to apply to be on the team, so we’re all volunteers.  In order to apply you have to have 1500 fast jet hours, you have to have been assessed as ‘above-average’, and you have to have done an operational tour.  We get about 30 applicants each year, shortlisted down to about 9 – based on a flying record that we all have as pilots – and then for a week-long period the 9 shortlisted candidates come and spend a week with us, normally out in Cyprus or Greece where they are asked to perform a flying test, which includes loops and rolls.  There’s also a formal interview, and a PR interview – where you’re put in front of a camera.  But the biggest thing by far is peer assessment – how do you fit in? – not just with the 9 display pilots, but we have 130 engineers and display staff.  You need to fit in with everyone.  You could be the best pilot in the world but if you’re going to upset the team dynamic slightly, you’re not right for the Red Arrows.


LS Red Arrows N. America Tour SP Silver colour medal Front 300x208 - As we unveil the brand new Official Red Arrows North American Tour Medal, Red 5 reveals what it takes to become a Red Arrows pilot…

If you are interested…

You can now own the Official Red Arrows North America Tour Medal, the very same that the Red Arrows own themselves! Click here to find out more >>

Paddington returns in 2019 for two more adventures!

For over 60 years Paddington, the famous bear from deepest darkest Peru, has been beloved by children and big-kids across the globe. Since Michael Bond gave him life in 1958, Paddington has featured in more than twenty books, including being translated into thirty languages and selling over thirty million copies worldwide!

On 11th April the Royal Proclamation confirmed that Paddington’s adventures in London would continue this year with two brand new 50ps.

And today, we’re delighted to reveal the brand new designs with you! Plus of course, letting you know how you can add these new UK 50p coins to your collection.

Paddington at the Tower

The first new design to be released today, 13th August 2019, features Paddington at his third iconic London destination – the Tower of London.  You’ll see the most British of bears tucking in to his signature marmalade sandwich outside the famous fortress which is engraved in intricate detail.

This new 50p is available to own today in a range of specifications. Find out more about each of them below…

Paddington at the Tower Limited Edition Silver Proof 50p

2019 Paddington at the tower Silver proof 50p coin product images obverse reverse - Paddington returns in 2019 for two more adventures!

This is the ultimate way to own this new Paddington coin! Thanks to the use of colour printing minting technology, everyone’s favourite bear, and his iconic red hat and blue coat, are brought to life perfectly in vibrant full colour detail.

Each coin has been expertly struck from .925 sterling silver to a perfect proof finish and is beautifully displayed in a contemporary Perspex block complete with bespoke Paddington themed packaging.

Importantly, just 25,000 single coins will ever be issued worldwide. Considering the rapid sell-out of The Gruffalo Silver Proof 50p that was released earlier this year with the same edition limit – 25,000 – collectors will need to be quick to secure one for their collection. You can order this limited edition coin for the Royal Mint issue price of just £65 (+p&p). Click here to secure yours >>

Paddington at the Tower Brilliant Uncirculated Collector’s Pack

2019 Paddington at the tower BU 50p coin product images bu pack front - Paddington returns in 2019 for two more adventures!

The Royal Mint has also issued this coin in a special collector’s pack, including the coin in Brilliant Uncirculated quality. This finish is coveted by collectors as it means each coin is free from any marks you would find on circulated coins.

Each one is protectively encapsulated in its attractive official Royal Mint packaging to preserve its quality for generations to come. What’s more, you can secure this BU Pack at the Royal Mint issue price of just £10 (+p&p). Click here to order your pack >>

Paddington at St Paul’s

The second design to be revealed for 2019 – making it the fourth in the series – shows Paddington doffing his battered old bush hat (I suspect there is a marmalade sandwich hiding in there!) outside the iconic dome that’s instantly recognisable as St Paul’s Cathedral.

It has been confirmed this coin will be officially launched later in the year. But I’m delighted to offer you the opportunity to beat the queues and pre-order this coin today. Making you one of the first collectors in the country to secure one for your collection!

Paddington at St Paul’s Limited Edition Silver Proof 50p

2019 Paddington at st pauls Silver proof 50p coin product images obverse reverse - Paddington returns in 2019 for two more adventures!

Each coin comes beautifully presented and ready to display in its bespoke Royal Mint packaging. The coin is struck from .925 sterling silver to a perfect proof finish and features a charming full-colour image of Paddington at St Pauls.

Again, just 25,000 single coins will ever be issued worldwide. Given the record-breaking sell out of The Gruffalo Silver Proof 50p with the same edition limit, you really will need to act quickly to add this to guarantee you don’t miss out. You can secure this limited edition coin for the Royal Mint issue price of just £65 (+p&p). Click here to pre-order yours >>

All pre-ordered coins will be despatched after the coin has officially launched and is available for purchase worldwide on 12th September. If you pre-order your coin today you won’t be charged until the coin is despatched, meaning you pay no money now.

Paddington at St Paul’s Brilliant Uncirculated Collector’s Pack

2019 Paddington at st pauls BU 50p coin product images pack front - Paddington returns in 2019 for two more adventures!

The Royal Mint has also issued this coin in Brilliant Uncirculated quality. Collectors covet this finish as it means each coin is free from any marks you would find on circulated coins.

Each one is protectively encapsulated in its attractive original Royal Mint packaging to preserve its quality for generations to come. What’s more, you can secure this BU Pack at the Royal Mint issue price of just £10 (+p&p). Click here to reserve your pack >>

All pre-ordered coins will be despatched at a later date once this coin has officially launched and is available for purchase on 12th September. If you pre-order your coin today you won’t be charged until the coin is despatched, meaning you pay no money now.


Given the collecting frenzy generated by the release of the 2018 Paddington coins, it is highly advised that you secure your favourite coins from the range today. This is especially the case for the limited edition Silver Proof 50p coins which are renowned for their rapid sell-outs.

To check out the full range, please click here >>

Celebrate Fourth of July with America’s most iconic coins

US coin collecting is one of the most competitive markets globally, which is no surprise given that the coins have some of the most interesting and iconic stories in the coin collecting world. US coins are in extremely high demand, especially in the UK where they rarely make it onto our shores.

As Americans celebrate their independence this week, I have picked out 5 of my favourite US coins to share with you.

The Flowing Hair Dollar

8 of the top 10 most expensive coins ever sold are American, with the Flowing Hair Dollar (1794-5) taking the top spot after it sold for an impressive $10,016,875. It’s thought that only 140 of these remarkable coins exist, so it is near on impossible to find one.

NNC US 1795 1 Flowing hair - Celebrate Fourth of July with America’s most iconic coins
The flowing hair dollar was the first ever dollar minted by the United States government

This coin was the first dollar coin ever issued by the United States Federal Government and featured an eagle and the bust of Liberty with flowing hair. It was minted in silver and its size and weight were based on the Spanish dollar, which was traded with regularly in the Americas.

The Morgan Dollar 1878-1921

The Silver Morgan Dollar has forever been associated with cowboys and outlaws. These coins could have been used for gambling by train robbers like Butch Cassidy or Jesse James. It’s even rumoured that cowboys would place them in their canteens to preserve water on long journeys.

US Morgan Dollar Philadelphia - Celebrate Fourth of July with America’s most iconic coins
1886 Morgan Dollar

The dollar drew its name from its designer “George T Morgan”, who created an effigy of Lady Liberty as a Goddess, and a reverse which included an eagle with outstretched wings. It’s said that less than 1 in 5 of these coins remain today, making them incredibly collectable and difficult to source.

‘No Cents’ Liberty Head Nickel 1883

Infamous Notorious and Scandalous U.S. Coin Set product page 1883 Liberty Head nickel - Celebrate Fourth of July with America’s most iconic coins
1883 Liberty Head Nickel

The first design for the No Cents Nickel failed to include the denomination and instead it included the Roman Numeral ‘V’. As the coins were the same size as a $5 coin, swindlers seized the opportunity to gold plate these coins and pass them off as $5 coins. Within the year the US Mint added the denomination to the coin.

The Roosevelt Dime 1946-64

Infamous Notorious and Scandalous U.S. Coin Set product page 1946 Roosevelt Dime - Celebrate Fourth of July with America’s most iconic coins
1946 Roosevelt Dime

After the death of Franklin Roosevelt in 1945, the nation’s only four term president, his portrait was subsequently used on Dimes as a memorial.

During his presidency, Roosevelt founded ‘March of the Dimes’, a charity founded in response to polio epidemics. Roosevelt’s image was chosen for the Dime in honour of his work with the charity, and his own battle with polio. This coin was symbolic for a nation in mourning, and many people collected the coin from their change.

The Franklin Half Dollar 1948-1964

Infamous Notorious and Scandalous U.S. Coin Set product page 1948 Franklin half dollar - Celebrate Fourth of July with America’s most iconic coins
1948 Franklin Half Dollar

This was the first half dollar to feature the portrait of a non-president on American Coinage. The words ‘Liberty, in God we trust’ surround a portrait of Benjamin Franklin, with the Liberty Bell on the reverse. This was initially a controversial coin, and there were public concerns about the initials of the designer ‘JRS’ being a reference to Stalin and communism, as well as the small eagle placed next to the bell. 

American coins give us some of the most interesting stories in history, and provide us with some of the most fascinating and collectable coins in the world. It’s no wonder that US coin collecting is becoming increasingly popular.


Infamous Notorious and Scandalous U.S. Coin Set product page box 300x208 - Celebrate Fourth of July with America’s most iconic coins

If you’re interested…

You can own a selection of America’s most fascinating and infamous coin issues with the Infamous US coins set. Click here to see the other coins and secure yours today>>>