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Mike Saward has been working in the recovery industry for nearly 50 years, with experience in the workshop, 24 hour recovery marketing and training on heavy and light recovery vehicles. Together with air cushions at Dial- Mec, Dial- Holmes Wreckers International, Worldwide Recovery Systems and Boniface Engineering and would like to give a brief history of the industry together with some interesting photos.



50 years

Recovery Vehicle History


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More From The U.S.A.

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Another Diamond T

Dial Holmes Diamond T working In Hertford



Diamond T

Dial Holmes Unipower Fitted with a Holmes 750 working on the A10 in Hertfordshire

R E Bates on the M4 in Newbury

When I worked at Dial-Holmes of Caxton Hill Ware road Hertford I sold several Diamond T and Mack Recovery vehicles.

Is it a Diamond T

Brockway fitted with a Twin Boom.





Time to move on




Hertfordshire Fire Brigade purchased a Bedford fitted with a Holmes 500.





Not a mock up but a real rescue and recovery in Enfield with a Holmes 750 by Chaseside Motor Company.


A very popular heavy recovery vehicle in the 70's was the AEC Mammoth Major 6 X 4 chassis with the 760 engines, seen here fitted with a Holmes 750 and steel body.


Twin Boom in build at Hertford




Holmes FW 20 Fifth Wheel Wrecker


Century 820 imported by Wreckers International

Century 820 built by Wreckers International for Oliver Taylor Coachworks Caterham SurreyCentury 820 originally built for Arlington Motors

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Century 820 built by Wrecker International

Swan Garage of Hitchin Scammell

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Cyril and David Brinklow at Arcade Motors were one of the first companies to purchase the Bulldog 2 mounted on a Ford Transit.

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This was the smallest of the range of Bulldog recovery vehicles fitted to a new Jeep and supplied to a Luton Airport Recovery Company in the 80’s

Bulldog 4 with TS 100 car sling

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Originally imported by Wreckers International for Newton le Willows Commercials

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1976 saw the introduction of the new Holmes 5th Wheel Wrecker suitable to be installed on a tractor unit for fleet operators to deliver a tractor unit out to a broken down one so that it could continue its journey.(Click image to enlarge)


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One of the first hydraulic spec frames built by Dial-Mec in the 70’s. (Click image to enlarge)

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In the mid 70’s Dial-Holmes of Hertford introduced the range of Ramsey winches and low pressure air cushions to the Recovery Industry

Dial-Holmes also introduced round air cushions for recovery, the use is well illustrated by this photo for rescue.


Training Course at Hertford

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1978 was the year when Mike Saward accompanied a group of Recovery operators to the first Wrecker Rodeo in Daytona (Click image to enlarge)

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Now available square cushions.

Wreckers International was the new name for Dial- Holmes allowing us to move on to other projects as we did with Ratcliff Tail lifts when we developed the first open ended spec frame with manual height adjustment and remote control.

Mike Saward demonstrating the new Retriever built at Hertford by Dial-Mec and sold to the Metropolitan Police in London in the early 70’s

One of my customers was Roger Dyson of Redditch.




We also developed a spec lift to be used in conjunction with the Holmes 220 electric wrecker. This vehicle was one of my demonstrators

Spec Lift Brochure. (Click image to enlarge)

The Met Police purchased several TK Bedford’s with Bulldog 5 cranes and spec lifts.

The largest order Wreckers International received was for Saudi Arabia, 40 Mercedes Benz 911 bonneted 4×2 fitted with century 402 single boom wreckers in conjunction with Hurst hydraulic rescue Jaws of Life. I carried out phase one of the training over a three-week period.



cradle snatcher

Wreckers International sold several Vulcan Cradle Snatcher damage free recovery vehicles.


Demonstration day at Garforth Leeds





HOLMES 3127b

HOLMES 3172a

The First Holmes aluminium Slidebed


Seen above Ford series fitted with No-Mar 8D-16 twin boom.





Ray Coleman of Lantern carried out this recovery in Italy after the truck rolled down a mountain

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Leyland FG fitted with a No Mar 4D10


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Albion fitted with a No Mar 12D24


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Scania Vabis Built by Wreckers International





We had many road shows, one of which was carried out at Radlett Airport. Seen here is a Foden fitted with a Century 820 single boom wrecker, being used in conjunction with the latest square air cushions.

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Knebworth Park was a tremendous venue another road show to demonstrate the products of Wreckers International


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The first Hydraulic 30 ton twin boom Wrecker built by Wreckers International (Click image to enlarge)

Wreckers International introduced R R R road clearance, road rescue rail recovery involving companies with heavy and light recovery equipment and air cushions. Each company that joined the scheme had their equipment inspected and graded by size, R light recovery RR medium recovery RRR heavy recovery. All members agreed to support the emergency services free of charge for any life threatening incidents. (Click image to enlarge)

We introduced another first; a hydraulic spade/roller for moving heavy loads i.e. a coil of steel to clear a road.

Daf in use in Amsterdam righting a Tram.


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Weston Motors carrying out a demonstration of a Twin Boom Recovery Vehicle assisted by a BR1 air cushion

Training Course at Hertford

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Wreckmaster 30 on a new Diamond Reo sold to Gateside commercials Dumfries by Mike Saward



British Neclear Fuels

Wreckers International built this Vehicle for British Nuclear Fuels

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Wreckers International Holmes 750 Twin Boom

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This was the first purpose built recovery vehicles manufactured by Wreckers International in Hertford. The Chassis was built by Unipower and equipped with a Holmes 750 twin boom recovery unit.

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The Holmes Invader on display at the Commercial Recovery Exhibition

Training Course Hertford





Bulldog 10 fitted on a Terberg chassis.

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Scammell Amazon 100 Ton GTW built for Kevin Mcfadden of J and K Recovery

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Ford Transcontinental Built for Airflow Stream lines Northampton


Scania built at Hertford for  David Brinklow of Arcade Motors

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Sisu built by Wreckers International and sold to Woodway Lane Motors Coventry



This was the first AVRO show held at Châteaux Impney in 1980.


First two AVRO News


Tommy Ash seen here with one of the first Bulldog Recoverers. This equipment came about after a meeting of 12 of the most prominent heavy recovery operators in the United Kingdom where they stated what they wanted in a heavy recovery vehicle.


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An early Bulldog Recoverer


An early Bulldog Recoverer

Chris Davis of Potters Bar using his Recoverer on a Police call out in Hertfordshire.





Bulldog Recoverer Built for Brian Mayhead of All Recovery Guildford





Bulldog Recoverer for Dave Rackham of Auto Renovations Kent


One of our first Rotators on an AEC 6 wheel chassis (too far ahead of its time).


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Two new EKA recovery vehicles built by HEECO for Wreckers International

This photograph shows the Ford Trans Continental at the first AVRO show with Bruce Jackson, Stuart Histead of C&S Motors and Mr.’EKA’ himself.

With the advent of hydraulic twin booms, came hydraulic under lifts that had been used in Europe for several years. The first two E.K.A. heavy under lifts were built. A MAN 6 X 6 bonneted chassis with hydraulic bogie blocking was installed with an E.K.A. 2030D under lift with 35 tonne and 10 tonne hydraulic winches. The unit was sold to Auto Renovations in Kent (right) and the second vehicle, a Ford Trans Continental 6 x 4, with the same equipment. What fun Chris Cox of C&S Motors and I had specifying this vehicle over many weeks in his office, in Bowes Road London, over a few scotches and King Edward cigars.


After Experiencing the E.K.A. heavy duty under lift, a meeting was called at Hertford by Bill Jackson, the owner. Where he assembled the following; Bruce Jackson his son, Fred Noble his right hand man, Albert Carter the heavy recovery operator (bearing in mind Wreckers were still doing 24 hour recovery), myself (sales director) and Ron Grice to discuss what the industry wanted by way of a heavy under lift, i.e. T head mounted straight on the lifting boom. We all put our ideas forward over several hours and decided on the name Bulldog Interstater. It had a closed lift of 8 tonnes and 6 tonnes extended, with 32″ extension. Its shown here on a Seddon 168 extended wheelbase tractor unit on test prior to the body being built.

Following this meeting both Bill Jackson and Fred Noble arranged a meeting with Michael Boniface in Norfolk, bearing in mind Michael had plenty of experience building the E.K.A.’s for the British Army. It was agreed that Boniface Engineering would manufacture the Interstater.

From this meeting we launched the first Interstater and sold it to Chris Cox of C&S Motors of London.





Daf 2800 DKS Stretched Tractor unit with 52 Tonnes GTW for C and S


AVRO News – Launch of the Bulldog Interstater. (Click image to enlarge)

Bedford TM for Ryland fitted with the Bulldog Interstater

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September 1984 saw the introduction of the 10TC underlift suitable for adding on to a twin boom wrecker (Click image to enlarge)

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Wreckers international at Hertford

Saunders Garage purchased one of the first Interstater 30’s from Wreckers, still in use today.

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Dodge Bararus Built by Wreckers International for Yellow Bus Bournemouth

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Adrian Butterfield and Mike Saward discussing his new Interstater on the Daf 3300




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Jumbo Air Cushions

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Albany Recovery of Birmingham in the 80’s using their DAF Interstater


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Magirus Deutz Built by Wreckers International for Yorkshire Traction


With many still in use today, we sold DAF 2800 DKS stretched tractor units with uprated rear springs fitted with interstaters.

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John of Service Garage Southend one of many operators that attended Truck Race meetings in England to assist in the vehicle recovery organised by Mike Saward



We launched the Junior Interstater at the AVRO show which sold to Oakmount Recovery of Southampton.


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Thomas Ash was one of the first customers to take delivery of the Junior Interstaters built by Wreckers International

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One of the first Recoverers based in Hampshire


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Unipower Built by Wreckers International at AVRO show Hinkley



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Bill Jackson MD of Wreckers International introduced the Interstater to the United States of America .

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Lantern Recovery put a Bedford TM into service fitted with an Interstater.

One of my first visits to Florida to promote the new Concept 3000 recovery crane with combined under lifts.

Bill Jackson MD of Wreckers International introduced the Interstater to the United States of America .





Built at Hertford for Avon Fire Bigade

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Dave Marks of Albany Recovery had delivery of this Daf Interstater from Wreckers International

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Wreckers International appointed Rau of Germany as their sole distributor for the Interstater


Built For American Airlines Heathrow by Wreckers International Interstater Mk 2E with a Bulldog Twin boom


Pioneer Axle For Maximum Lift

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Interstater Pioneer

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Front page advert for Boniface Recovery Systems in 1993 (Click image to enlarge)

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Another front page advert for Boniface Recovery Systems (Click image to enlarge)

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A Recoverer and Sidewinder featured on the front cover of Recovery Operator in 1994 for Boniface Recovery Systems (Click image to enlarge)

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Boniface Recovery Systems launched their first Newsletter edited by Mike Saward (Click image to enlarge)

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Back page of the used vehicle stock list in the Boniface Newsletter (Click image to enlarge)


With the demise of Wreckers International I joined forces with Mike Boniface. Boniface Recovery Systems was formed with me heading up the sales and my wife handling the quotations, whilst Mike handled the manufacturing. Several new products were launched including the Intertrans slide beds and Interlift spec frames, together with vast improvements in the Interstater with the launch of the Maxi reach boom(above).Concept (below) and Recoverer range.

Bim Mountain purchased this steel slidebed from Mike saward at Boniface Recovery Systems

Due to unforeseen circumstances I parted company with Boniface Engineering and was contacted by Miller Industries of America with the view of Marketing and manufacturing their products in England. These products included Holmes, Century and Challenger all of which I had experience with, in both operation and marketing. A new company was formed Worldwide Recovery Systems working from the Hertford factory previously owned by Wreckers and now owned by Lantern with several of the Wreckers staff still there. We were very successful in marketing and manufacturing the Century range of products. Seen here is a Century 5030DWT, mounted on a DAF 6 x 2 Chassis sold to John Canham Of Clacton.



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A factory visit to the Century factory in Chattanooga Tennessee just after Worldwide were appointed sole distributors in the early 90’s


The Century 211 wheel lift was very popular mounted on Isuzu chassis and sold to Lantern.

Worldwide had a very large stand at AVRO with the first showing of the Century 1060S Rotator.

We also exhibited at Telford on the Isuzu stand.

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Nick Overdon demonstrating the air cushions



Due to tremendous interest, I decided to arrange a visit to the Miller factory in Chattanooga, to show prospective customers around their vast factory. In the course of time, Miller Industries purchased Boniface Engineering. I joined Miller industries with the continued supply of their products to Worldwide as a customer. Boniface Engineering has made excellent progress and is now one of Europe’s leading manufacturers and suppliers of recovery equipment.

The French Connection a Concept fitted to a Renault.
Mitsubishi fitted with a Mid City.

Isuzu installed with a Champion Aluminium Slide Bed.

The ultimate, Interstater Mk4F Maxireach with Sidewinder on a Pioneer 6X2 chassis Cowans.

Another Pioneer.

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JD Motors utilising their Pioneer axle which was originally designed at Wreckers International in Hertford

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JD recovering this overturned vehicle using the Jumbo air cushions available from RecoveryVehicles.com



A Recoverer Maxireach

A new 8 wheel Scania for Colin Spearing who tragically died before it was put in to service.

A 6 wheel Volvo with Boniface Recoverer and sidewinder.

New Mitsubishi crew cab with roll tip body and high load capacity.

New 1624 installed on Renault Premium.

A heavy duty Century Rotator.

George McPhie purchased this good looking underlift.

Recoverer Maxireach with Sidewinder installed on a new Scania.



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Highway recovery purchased thi Sidewinder through RecoveryVehicles.com and built by Boniface Engineering

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A new Recoverer with Maxireach for Agnew built by Boniface


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Another New Isuzu Recovery Vehicle for Lantern

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Fantastic, they were the words to describe this new Isuzu NQR fitted with an aluminium slidebed with second car lift by Niall of Automatic Transmissions. This vehicle is shown at the AVRO show 2005

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Built to recover the most difficult vehicles and supplied by RecoverVehicles.com


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Another Twin Deck supplied through RecoveryVehicles.com to C & S Motors London

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One of six new aluminium Low Sliders fitted to New Daf LF chassis supplied through RecoveryVehicles.com to C & S in London

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RecoveryVehicles.Com supplied Six aluminium beaver tail bodies to CS recovery in London

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Rowland Ridgewell of Bishop Stortford needed to replace their ageing Mercedes Benz slidebed and they contacted Mike Saward of RecoveryVehicles.com and after looking at some used vehicles supplied them with this new aluminium slidebed

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Air cushion recovery available from Recoveryvehicles.com

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Low pressure air cushions

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More air Cushions


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When C & S needed some specialist vehicles they enlisted the support of Mike Saward of RecoveryVehicles.com,

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Mike Saward on the right and Mac Hobbs,Mike is being presented with his fellowship of the institute of vehicle recovery

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One of two new twin decks for Hertfordshie Force supplied by RecoveryVehicles.com

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Isuzu Lo Slider supplied by Mike Saward of Recoveryvehicles.com

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Isuzu Based Lo Slider for Specialised Horse box transportation and recovery

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Another Lo Slider for specialist recovery





Supplied by RecoveryVehicles.com

Built by Boniface

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VMS purchased this vehicle from Recoveryvehicles.com and built at Hertford (The home of the Recovery Vehicle) by Worldwide Recovery Systems



This Daf CF was sourced through RecoveryVehicles.com

for Darren of BJG Solutions Essex


Rye Recovery 1



Rye Recovery Sussex are delighted with the used Isuzu Recovery vehicle they purchased through Recoveryvehicles.com