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"Now the sport of Robot Wars originated in America, but the first battles on British soil were witnessed here, at this secret warehouse location. Unfortunately, the conflict was so indescribably brutal, it was immediately banned by the censors, and has never been shown before - that is until now. So sit back, hide your faint of hearted and enjoy some highlights from the very first Robot Wars, when a handful of robots took on the wrath of the American champions in an open competition."
Craig Charles introduces the 1995 UK Open in Robot Wars: The First Great War

The 1995 UK Open (also referred to by Steve Carsey as the British Open Robot Wars Competition[1] and in the first Robot Wars Club newsletter as the 1995 British Robot Wars Championships[2]) was an event filmed in November 1995 as a proof-of-concept for the original UK Series of Robot Wars. Prominently highlighted during The First Wars and featured at the start of the video release Robot Wars: The First Great War, it involved a mix of combat and non-combat events between three invited US Robot Wars competitors - Thor, The Master and La Machine - and a number of robots built by UK and international representatives. Non-combat events incorporated similar elements to those of the Gauntlet, Stock Car and Football/Robotic Soccer events conceived for the television series.

The event was jointly organised by Profile Records, who provided financial backing for the original 1994-1997 Robot Wars US competitions created by Marc Thorpe, and Tom Gutteridge, founder and then Chief Executive of Mentorn, to pitch the show's concept to the BBC. Dominik Diamond, best known as the original host of Channel 4 entertainment show GamesMaster, was selected as both the main presenter and co-commentator. Diamond's presenting role was acknowledged both in the first Robot Wars Club newsletter (published and distributed to Club members in 1998) as well as a July 2021 Twitter post discussing his involvement with the UK Open.[2][3]

To encourage wider interest in the show, tapes of the resulting pilot episode were distributed and the event covered in a bulletin broadcast by the BBC's Newsround programme. As of 2022, no copies of the complete pilot tapings nor the Newsround item covering the 1995 UK Open have been made available for public viewing.[4]

Despite the 1995 UK Open impressing BBC executives, who were especially taken by La Machine's performance in the Soccer event, it would take another three years for the televised series to become a reality.[5]

Robots Competing[]

NOTE: This list only includes robots which were featured in the First Wars, video releases such as Robot Wars: The First Great War and publications such as Robot Wars: The Official Magazine, and may not contain the full roster.

US Competitors[]

La machine.png
La Machine
Weight Unknown
Weapons Ramming Scoop Blade
Defence Steel
From California
Team: Gage Cauchois, Trey Roski & Greg Munson
TheMaster95.jpg
The Master
Weight Unknown
Weapons Interchangeable, including circular saw & lifting panel
Defence Interchangeable weaponry
From California
Team: Mark Setrakian
ThorUS.jpg
Thor
Weight Unknown
Weapons Spiked axe/lifter
Defence Unknown
From California
Team:

UK and International Competitors[]

The Mouse 95.jpg
The Mouse
Weight 20kg
Weapons None
Defence Unknown
From Maidenhead
Team: Derek Foxwell
2Grunts.jpg
Grunt
Weight 90kg (combined)
45kg (Individual)
Weapons None
Defence Clusterbot
From Coventry
Team: Matthew Dickinson
1995 unknownrabbit robot.png
Unknown Rabbit Robot
Weight Unknown
Weapons None
Defence Unknown
From UK
Team: Derek Foxwell
1995 unknownpillbot.png
Frog at Risk
Weight Unknown
Weapons None
Defence Unknown
From France
Team: Jean-Denis Lefeuvre
Unknown toaster with arms.png
Unknown box shaped robot with arms
Weight Unknown
Weapons Drill
Defence Unknown
From UK
Team: Derek Foxwell
Nia.png
Unknown Mat Irvine featherweight*
Weight Unknown
Weapons Unknown
Defence Unknown
From UK
Team: Mat Irvine
Nia.png
Unknown Cheese Wedge robot**
Weight Unknown
Weapons None
Defence Unknown
From France
Team: Unknown

*Mat Irvine revealed in Issue 1 of Robot Wars: The Official Magazine that he participated with an unidentified featherweight-sized robot, described as a 'radio controlled prop' he had built for another show.[6]
**Described by Greg Munson as 'a French cheese bot shaped like a wedge', possibly similar to Hard Cheese, although this robot was not seen in any of the released footage.[7]

Events[]

Battles[]

La Machine vs Grunt[]

La Machine throws Grunt into the air

La Machine slams Grunt out of the arena

The match started with both robots charging towards each other, quickly turning to face one another head to head, with La Machine getting underneath and Grunt launching over La Machine from such an attack. La Machine quickly navigated around Grunt and with a swift charge slammed Grunt out of the arena/. La Machine then darted into the centre of the arena and span around to celebrate its victory.

"British triumphs were few and far between. This is America's La Machine, celebrating another victory over the Brits."
— Craig Charles on the result of the match

Winner: La Machine

Grunt vs Unknown box shaped robot with arms[]

Grunt scoops underneath its opponent

The battle started ponderously as both machines slowly navigated the arena and swerved around each other. Eventually, Grunt charged into the box shaped robot and broke off the decorative arms as it got under it and toppled the robot over.

Winner: Grunt

The Master vs The Mouse[]

"The Mouse was unarmed and could inflict little damage itself, but the steep sides of the bodywork had the advantage that they were almost impossible to hit straight on. I can recall the mighty saw of The Master taking quite a few swipes at The Mouse, only to see it skid harmlessly off the sides."
— Mat Irvine on The Mouse's durability against The Master's circular saw[6]

Very little information on this battle is available, but according to Mat Irvine in Robot Wars: The Official Magazine, The Mouse reportedly stood up well to repeated blows from The Master's circular saw. The outcome and eventual winner remain unknown.

Winner: Unknown

The Master vs Unknown Rabbit robot[]

The Master slams down on the Rabbit robot

The Master attacks the House Mouse

The Master charged out and swung down with the large sword arm, battering the much smaller opponent. The Master turned and managed to get its sword underneath the Rabbit robot and flipped it over, where it was unable to self right. The Master then attacked the House Mouse, smacking down with the sword.

Winner: The Master

Frog at Risk vs Unknown Rabbit robot[]

Frog at Risk bulldozes the Rabbit robot

Both machines charged into each other with the sloped sides of Frog at Risk allowing it to scoop up and push the Rabbit robot across the arena.

Winner: Unknown

Thor vs The Master[]

"We'll revisit the 1995 Robot Wars UK Championships in London, featuring two of the most powerful robots in the world today! The Master, built by Mark Setrakian, and Thor, designed by Shilling Robotics, both from America, and what a night it was!"
Jonathan Pearce

The Master slices through Thor's armour

The Master's disc sheds upon impact with Thor

The Master initially turned to face Thor using its lifting panel, but Thor made no aggressive movements, and The Master bumped into it, before continuing to circle around Thor. After a sustained period of hostility, The Master made the first move and drove up the surface of Thor, burying its circular saw through the armour of Thor, which could only flail its weapon at no target in defence. The Master's attack also caused Thor to start leaking fluids. The Master withdrew its saw, and bumped into Thor using its left wheel. After Thor retreated, The Master held off until it found the right moment to charge in with its saw, shearing a loose piece of armour from the top of Thor.

"And there, surely a killing blow! Smashing right to the heart of the hydraulic cabling!"
— Jonathan Pearce

The Master attacks Thor's exposed wheel

With no saw remaining, The Master celebrates its victory

While Thor pushed back, The Master brought its saw onto the top of it, causing damage while shearing the circular saw in the process, creating a shower of dust. The Master continued to grind away in spite of the damage, cutting into the top of Thor's weapon, and briefly throwing sparks. The Master almost managed to drive up the side of the retreating Thor, but The Master brought what remained of its saw onto the front of Thor, creating a gash, before finally sacrificing the remainder of its saw to cut into a front wheel of Thor. This attack had immobilised Thor, and The Master won the battle.

"And The Master is surely one of the most powerful robots in the world, and for me, the star of the 1995 UK London Robot Wars!"
— Jonathan Pearce

The Master vs La Machine[]

"The Master advanced to fight La Machine - and got scooped up by the motorised plow and pushed over the edge of the arena"
— Gearheads: The Turbulent Rise Of Robotic Sports

The battle did not last long as La Machine managed to ram in and under The Master, shunting it off the arena immediately.

Winner: La Machine

Robotic Soccer[]

For the Robotic Soccer (also simply referred to as 'Soccer'), The Mouse served as a "House Mouse" and "referee" for the match.

Grunts (Team UK) vs The Master & La Machine (Team US)[]

"The American robots even turned the gentle sport of soccer into absolute carnage. But while the British were licking their wounds, the Americans turned their attention to fighting each other."
— Craig Charles

La Machine score a goal but brings the whole goal post down

The two Grunts struggled to move from their position as La Machine darted across the arena, charging into the puck and in turn into its own partner The Master and one of the Grunt clusterbots, almost toppling the former. La Machine slammed the puck into the side wall at one point, which bounced the US machine upwards before turning around and pushing the puck away from the wall. The House Mouse crawled forwards as La Machine charged past and slammed the puck into the goal, and due to the velocity of the goal score, La Machine had accidentally toppled the goal on top of it, The Master and the House Mouse. Despite being victorious, La Machine turned against its partner and bulldozed The Master out of the way before toppling the House Mouse.

Winner: The Master & La Machine

Mayhem[]

The Master vs Grunts vs La Machine[]

Grunt gets under both The Master and La Machine

The Master attacks the remaining Grunt

The two Grunts split off as the two American robot charged into the centre with La Machine bashing past one of the Grunt clusters and The Master. La Machine then turned around and battered The Master some more before attacking one of the Grunts. La Machine attempted to depose of the other Grunt but was caught out by The Master who lifted it upwards slightly before being pressured further by Grunt who wedge both the American machines against the side wall, temporarily taking La Machine out of action.

"British robot Grunt takes a pounding from the American's The Master."
— Craig Charles

The Master swung its blade on top of the Grunt machines as la Machine managed to topple the other. La Machine then turned against the remaining opponents, slamming The Master wildly about and the other Grunt aside. Not much is known about the rest of the fight other than La Machine was victorious.

Winner: La Machine

Obstacle Race[]

Unknown Mat Irvine featherweight vs Thor[]

"I remember in particular that the small robot I'd bought along... although by far and away the smallest competitor (it was technically classed as a Featherweight), had the advantage in the obstacle race that it was fastest off the line."
— Mat Irvine recollects his participation in the 'obstacle race'[6]

According to Robot Wars: The Official Magazine, this event involved at least two competitors racing against each other in an obstacle course-style challenge. Mat Irvine's description suggests that it likely incorporated elements later found in the Gauntlet and Stock Car stages of the First and Second Wars.[6]

In an unfilmed 'trial run' for this event, Irvine's robot won against an unidentified opponent. However, during a second attempt which was recorded for the pilot, it was eliminated at the first corner after losing control, and was driven over by Thor.[6]

Winner: Thor

Trivia[]

  • The Mouse (later known as Eubank the Mouse) served as a "House Mouse" for some of the events, potentially making it the first ever House Robot.
  • The November 1995 filming date marked this as one of La Machine's first appearances with the angled scoop used in the 1996 US competition, as opposed to the simpler wedge shape originally adopted for its US debut earlier that year.
"We go out to London on the BBC's dime to be part of this pilot. We're giving them ideas, and they're loving it. We play robot soccer. Trey is driving La Machine, and instead of just putting the ball in the goal, he picks up all of the other robots and puts them in the goal. The BBC executives were smiling, the Mentorn guys were grateful that Trey had done that awesome move. I don't know if it did, but that might have green-lit the show for them."
— Greg Munson on La Machine impressing the BBC executives during a Soccer event[5]
  • According to Greg Munson, La Machine performed an additional attack during the Soccer event in which it pushed all other robots into the goal instead of the ball/puck. Although La Machine was seen to have sandwiched The Master and one part of Grunt against the House Mouse, and performed a similar manoeuvre while causing the goal to topple, footage of this exact moment was not featured in The First Great War.[5]
  • Craig Charles' introduction in The First Great War suggests that the 1995 UK Open was barred from being broadcast due to its violent content. However, it was actually the subsequent departure of Michael Jackson as controller of BBC Two - and incoming Director of Programmes Alan Yentob's disinterest in the Robot Wars concept - that delayed the arrival of the televised series.
  • Future series Senior Technical Consultant Derek Foxwell built three of the UK robots in order to "round out" the competition; he and would-be Judge Mat Irvine were also involved in early proceedings to encourage the general public to build their own robots for the event.[8]
  • According to Steve Carsey, a total of six UK robots were built for the competiton by the would-be members of the original series production crew.[1]
  • In the 'Making War' article from the inaugural Robot Wars Club newsletter, it is mentioned that the 'prototype assault course' was assembled using 'over five hundred tyres' from a nearby Kwik Fit service centre.[2]
  • Three differently-edited versions of Thor vs The Master are known to have been included in official media for the televised Robot Wars series:
  • In Heat D of The First Wars, with TV series battle music, sound effects and commentary recorded by Jonathan Pearce.
  • At the end of Robot Wars: The First Great War, with only battle music and a different arena ambience mix similar to those of the first four televised UK Series.
  • At the end of the Robot Wars Club-exclusive American Robot Wars Final 1996 VHS, with the original audio, battle music and co-commentary by Dominik Diamond left intact. Very brief highlights of this version, accompanied by the TV series theme in place of battle music, were also shown during Jeremy Clarkson's introduction in Series 1, Heat A.[9]

References[]

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