AN ingenious Cork man has replicated some of the best-known military technology of the Second World War, all from the comfort of his own living room.
Tony Heffernan’s works of art would not look out of place in a museum. However, the 73-year-old is happy to have them taking pride of place at his home in Douglas.
While he has never been politically inclined, he is fascinated by the technology and devices used for warfare. Tony also enjoys the challenge of producing complex styles of replica memorabilia.
His love for all things military has kept him young over the years. Tony spoke of how he enjoys weekends with friends, which comprise of re-enactments and plenty of costume changes.
The former Telecom Éireann worker is a proud member of Battlegroup Centre, which focuses on the evolution of the German Army from 1914 to the present day.
The club represents three main areas during this time period, including the First World War, the Second World War, and the modern German Bundeswehr.
“We get together in Ballymacarbry near Waterford every month,” said Tony.
“There’s a community centre where we receive all our meals and have a mock battle on Saturday, and another one on the Sunday. That’s just for our own private amusement. The club has a license from Coillte to avail of the nearby forest, which is where all the battles take place.”
He described how the battles play out.
“The little pellets are fired with compressed air or a spring shooting each other pellet,” he said.
“They can be dangerous and I have several grazes on the arms and face. However, if you got one in the eye it would be a very serious matter. I started off with goggles, but they were steaming up and became very uncomfortable. That’s why I purchased special ballistic protection prescription glasses.”
Tony’s handmade collection includes an enigma machine and a radio direction finder.
The enigma machine is a cipher device developed and used in the early- to mid-20th century to protect commercial, diplomatic, and military communication.
“I thought if I could create them I could make them part of a display for people to view,” he said. “I’m not into the political side, but I do like the technology. In technical school I was always very good at drawing and woodwork, which lent itself well to what I’m doing now.”
Aluminium, brass, and metal bars and sheets are just some of the materials used.
“There’s a lot to choose from because you can focus on the navy, army, or air force,” he said.
“You’re just throwing in one thing after the other into it like it’s a big pot of soup.
“I’m not sure anybody would come to see these when they can be viewed in museums. I don’t tell many people about them because this is like my own secret place.
“It’s a great feeling when you finish. Sometimes I’ll find myself just sitting and staring at it for ages. I’ll trace over every detail with my mind. You always get a great sense of satisfaction from the finished product.”