"We just had to kick ass"
— Mike Onslow on the team's goals

The International Wreck Crew (or the Plunderbird boys, as they were simply known) were responsible for the creation of the series of Plunderbird robots that were entered into Robot Wars through Series 1 to 5, as well as Extreme 1.

The Team[edit | edit source]

The team in Series 1

The team were famous for their striking demeanour, although behind the tough talking and bravado, they were one of the more sporting teams in robotic combat, and tended to be more concerned about their image than their robot's performance, for example in Series 4, the team arrived with their robot, Plunderbird 4, in a Chinook helicopter.

The Plunderbird Team pose in the arena during Series 2

Despite their light-hearted attitude, the team were not entirely unsuccessful, being awarded the Best Design trophy in Series 1 for their robot Plunderbird 1 and receiving the Sportsmanship award in Series 2 for entertaining of the audience with their 'tough guy' attitude and their fearless aggression toward the House Robots. Plunderbird 2 also reached the Semi-Finals of the Second Wars, only just losing out to Haardvark in the Gauntlet stage.

Besides the Plunderbird robots, Bryan Kilburn stated during an interview with the Robot Wars Magazine that he was working on a robot named Plunderbug One, an eight-legged walker. It is unknown how much progress was made on the project but it would have been a larger version of their Techno Games Battery Sprint entry Junior.

In 2016, Mike Onslow joined 'Team. Ablaze' to collaborate on Dystopia, although the team did not qualify for the TV series.

Etymology[edit | edit source]

The name International Wreck Crew was a pun on International Rescue, the rescue organisation in the television show Thunderbirds, after which the robots are also named. These allusions were further emphasised in Series 4 by the use of the Thunderbirds theme music during the aforementioned Chinook sequence.

Team Members[edit | edit source]

Mike Onslow[edit | edit source]

Mike Onslow was the team captain of the International Wreck Crew and was present in all of the team's appearances. Onslow was a model maker for a living and was one of the only team captains who acted out a gimmick throughout the run of the show, rather than being himself. On camera, Onslow often portrayed a 'tough guy' image and was always willing to take on the house robots as opposed the other competitors. On occassions, Onslow would end up breaking character during the confrontations he got into with other roboteers. Examples include when he comedically snapped at other roboteers who were mocking him with chicken noises after Plunderbird 2's gauntlet run in Heat K. Another example was in Extreme 1 during the staged grudge with Steve Merrill of the Sir Chromalot team when Merrill handed him a doll with a 'Plundergirls' sign attached to it, Onslow could be seen smiling as he snatched the doll away, but he quickly got back into character shortly thereafter.

When the team got eliminated in Series 3 and 4, Onslow claimed that they lost due to a 'slight mechanical malfunction'.

Behind the scenes, Onslow was known to be one of the most helpful roboteers as he always took the time to help others fix their robots.

Bryan Kilburn[edit | edit source]

"...he describes himself as a professional ... layabout. His hobbies are curries and beer."
— Jonathan Pearce in Series 4

The other ever-present member of the team. After Ken Burt left the team, he became the weapons officer on Plunderbirds 4 and 5. Once he and Onslow became a two-man team, Kilburn took on a more prominent speaking role, often saying witty one-liners after Onslow would do most of the talking. In the Series 4 Tag Team Terror after they has been defeated by Firestorm 2 and Scorpion, Kilburn got into a comedic argument with Onslow, with both blaming one another for the reason why they lost. After that, the duo then sarcastically began insulting each other with childish insults, forcing Joe Watts of Team Big Brother to get them to stop arguing.

Bryan Kilburn: "Tell him he couldn't drive that thing in a straight line to save his life!"
Mike Onslow: "Tell him he could not work the weapon if it was a baby's rattle!"
Bryan Kilburn: "Well you tell Captain Chubby that he's got a big fat butt!"
Mike Onslow: "Well tell Sergeant Scrawny he's got a big nose!"
— Mike and Bryan argue

Jon Dilley[edit | edit source]

Jon Dilley in Series 1, his only series

Jon Dilley was one of the original team members, joining Mike and Bryan in Series 1. Dilley only spoke a single word during his time with the team, which was when he responded to a question asked by Mike. He did not control the robot.

Mike Onslow: "We really don't want to win by someone else's misfortune. It doesn't make us happy to be through because someone else blew up, does it guys?"
Jon Dilley: "No"
— Jon Dilley's only speaking role

Dilley left the team after Series 1 for unknown reasons.

Ken Burt[edit | edit source]

Ken Burt in Series 2

Ken Burt joined the team in Series 2, replacing Jon Dilley. According to the Robot Wars Magazine, Burt's status on the team was the 'weapons officer' and his speciality was 'persuasion'. Burt had a much more prominent role on the team than Dilley and had a lot more stand-out moments, despite only appearing in two series. Despite this, Burt did not speak much during interviews. He joined Mike and Bryan as they performed their theme song before Plunderbird 2's gauntlet run in the semi-finals and performed their rap song at the start of their Series 3 heat. A notable moment during Burt's time with the team was after Plunderstorm's Series 3 defeat in which the team sang their rap that they had come up with for that year to the roboteers who were again mocking them with chicken noises. After the line "There's a plunderstorm coming", Burt shouted out "Next year!", implying that the 'plunderstorm' would be coming the following year. Ironically, Burt did not appear with the team following Series 3, as he left for unknown reasons.

Tim Scott[edit | edit source]

Tim Scott was a member of the team mentioned in the Robot Wars Magazine. He never appeared on the show for unknown reasons but his apparent role was the 'team engineer' and his speciality was 'falling over'.

Image[edit | edit source]

"It's about time you pair of girlies got yourself a decent hard image!"
— Mike Onslow taunts the Sir Chromalot team

The team were famous for their image, always being clad in khaki clothing, black shirts and sunglasses, which they admitted made it hard to see.

The team fought two grudge matches during Extreme 1 with the Sir Chromalot and Mega Morg teams. The grudge with Sir Chromalot related to the teams' mutual entertainment value and a staged feud as to which was the better entertainers. Similarly, the battle with Mega Morg regarded which of the teams was the better singers, both having sung previously during the wars (see below). The fight with Mega Morg resulted in a victory for the Plunderbird team, while they lost against Sir Chromalot.

Songs[edit | edit source]

The Plunderbird boys sing "Have You Got A Srimech?" in Extreme 1

The International Wreck Crew even took the time to write various songs, writing and recording their own entrance theme (in Series 2), their own rap song (in Series 3) and then two other jingles in Series 4 and Extreme 1.

"When the noise and strength has gone, the power packs depleted.
Then the mercy of their foe will surely be defeated.
With ball and chain, hammer and saw, metal is destroyed.
Cryo circuits torn apart, cast into the wind.
Mechanical minds that have no soul and machines that have no fear.
Metallic monsters fight it out, Judgement Day draws near.
As the world spins to its doom, towards the end of time.
The earth is silent once again, from mankind's dirty crime.
— The Series 2 Theme Song
"We are the Wreck Crew and we're here to tell you, we're gonna bash them, we're gonna trash them, in the wars you know we're gonna thrash them, the forecast's bad, you'd better get runnin', it's gonna be tough - there's a Plunderstorm comin!
There's danger in the air, so you'd better take care, the crew is back and we're gonna attack, we're comin' for you down in the arena, ain't nobody ever gonna be meaner!
Your dreams will be gone, but we don't care, we just carry on, we'll always be there, we never give up or run away, cos the Wrecking Crew is here to stay!
We spell trouble with a capital 'T', so don't go takin' no liberty, if you think you're tough, then be our guest, 'cos we are the best, we destroy the rest!
The metal monster is big and mean, no-one inside, it's just a machine, shows no fear, will not surrender, so you'd better get ready for a fender bender!
— The complete Series 3 rap
"Shout out loud, make lots of noise!
There's damage to be done by the Plunderbird boys!
Gonna stamp on you, gonna hit you hard!
Gonna send your robot to the breaker's yard!
What's the word? PLUNDERBIRD!!
— The Series 4 Song
"We're big boys, we build big toys, we're handy with a spanner, if it don't work we go berserk and hit it with a hammer!
We took six months to build it, when we got there it won't go, now we've got to fix it, five minutes before the show!
'Ave you got a srimech? Course we 'ave?
We all love our robots, they're shiny and they're clean, but when they're in the arena, they're nasty and they're mean!
We're big boys, we build big toys, we're handy with a spanner, if it don't work we go berserk and hit it with a hammer!
We're all nice and friendly, when we're in the pits, but when we're in the arena, we smash each other to bits!
'Ave you got a srimech? Course we 'ave!
— The Extreme 1 Song

Robots[edit | edit source]

Name Weight Class Series
Plunderbird 1 Heavyweight Series 1
Plunderbird 2 Heavyweight Series 2
Plunderstorm Heavyweight Series 3
Plunderbird 4 Heavyweight Series 4
Plunderbird 5 Heavyweight Extreme 1, Series 5, US Season 1

Wins/Losses[edit | edit source]

  • UK Wins: 5
  • UK Losses: 8
  • US Wins: 0
  • US Losses: 1

Series Record[edit | edit source]

UK Series[edit | edit source]

Main Series International Wreck Crew Series Record
The First Wars Heat, Gauntlet with Plunderbird 1
The Second Wars Semi-Finals, Gauntlet with Plunderbird 2
The Third Wars Heat, Round 1 with Plunderstorm
The Fourth Wars Heat, Round 2 with Plunderbird 4
The Fifth Wars Heat, Round 1 with Plunderbird 5
The Sixth Wars Did not enter
The Seventh Wars Did not enter
Series 8 Not selected with Dystopia (Mike Onslow)
Series 9 Did not enter
Series 10 Did not enter
Robot Wars Extreme Appearances
Series 1 Entered with Plunderbird 5
Series 2 Did not enter

US Series[edit | edit source]

US Series International Wreck Crew Series Record
Season 1 War of Independence, Round 1 with Plunderbird 5
Season 2 Did not enter
Nickelodeon Did not enter

Robot Wars Live Events[edit | edit source]

The team's robots haven't fought in the recently rebranded Robot Wars Live Events, but team member Mike Onslow once made an appearance at the Robot Wars Live Event at Guildford 2016 where he got the audience singing along to the team's srimech song from the first series of Robot Wars Extreme.

Outside Robot Wars[edit | edit source]

The team also competed in the 2001 edition of Techno Games with a walking robot named Junior, which finished fourth overall in the Battery Powered Sprint. On Techno Games, the team went by the name The Smith Twins, and humorously denied having ever entered Robot Wars[1]. The team originally intended to build a larger version of Junior for Robot Wars, but it was not finished. They returned, joined by "Miss Smith" ('played' by Vicki Allgood from Dartford Girls Grammar), the following year in the Swimming Competition with Stealth Stingray (a robot they claimed took 15 years to make), which lost its heat to Roboduck and Buoyant.

After their Series 5 defeat, Mike Onslow and Bryan Kilburn retired from Robot Wars. They had intended to enter Series 6 with a new version of Plunderbird, but due to Bryan Kilburn getting married and other commitments, it was never finished. However, Onslow and Kilburn continued to use Plunderbird 4 in live events (as Plunderbird 5 had been damaged beyond repair), with some degree of success, before later deciding to retire it for good.

"...this was intended to be the next Plunderbird (6) but the rest of our lives took over! Work commitments, Bryan got married and moved away etc."
— Mike Onslow in 2021[2]

Since then, Onslow and Kilburn have brought the shells of their remaining Plunderbird machines for display purposes to robotic fighting events, such as the 2011 UK Championships with Plunderbird 2 and 4, as well as the cutting disc weapon pod used on Plunderbird 1. Despite Plunderbird 5's shell being disposed of years ago, Mike Onslow still owns at least one of its original drive wheels. The team also own one of the side plates used on the original Series 1-2 incarnation of Sergeant Bash.

The team's workbench displaying some of the components of the Plunderbird robots, their awards and the side plate of Sergeant Bash in 2019

Mike Onslow and Brian Kilburn also created a humanoid robot called Dave, which stood for Dynamic Animatronic Vehicular Entity. The robot had the ability to imitate human behaviour[3][4] They were helped by fellow roboteers John and Jacky Willoughby, George Francis and Ian Swann and Laurie Calvert[5].

In October 2018, Mike Onslow appeared on the Channel 5 series The Great Model Railway Challenge, collaborating with Laurie Calvert to built a model named Plungerbird, referencing the Plunderbird robots.

Bryan Kilburn and Mike Onslow in team gear in 2019

Mike and Bryan in casual wear in 2019

In January 2019, Mike Onslow and Bryan Kilburn launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the editing and marketing of a mockumentary, Plunderbirds: Talk Robots, and the production of a physical DVD for the film. In the documentary, Onslow and Kilburn would (in character) explain the workings of a combat robot, and sales of the DVD intended to raise money for various charities. However, the Kickstarter campaign was unsuccessful, with £765 being pledged towards the campaign's £10,000 all-or-nothing goal, resulting in no funding being received from backers.

In March 2020, Mike Onslow lent Plunderbirds 2 and 4 to Wefit Autocentre in Alton, and donated a side armour panel from Plunderstorm, an unused side panel from Plunderstorm, and a Plunderbird team poster for a charity raffle[6].

In January 2021, Mike Onslow was forced to vacate his workshop, so he decided to sell the contents on eBay. A wooden mock-up of Plunderbug, a walker intended for use on Techno Games, was sold to Craig Danby of Team Mowbot for £113[7] while the Techno Games swimming entry Stealth Stingray, an unused steel shell for Plunderbird 1 and the shell for the intended Plunderbird 6 were all sold to James Baker of Team GlitterBomb for a combined total of £215.[8][9][10] A hydraulic weapons platform which was intended to power a crusher on Plunderbird, but was never used and an unused side panel from Plunderstorm were also sold.[11][12] Onslow has stated that the money raised from all the sold items would be given to charity.

Trivia[edit | edit source]

An interview from the original Robot Wars Magazine

  • International Wreck Crew are one of five teams to win more than one award, the others being Team Mace, Team Nemesis, Team Razer and Team Steel Avenger (if the unseen Best Costume Award given to The Steel Avenger in Robot Wars Extreme 1 is included).
  • With their losses in Series 1 and 2, the International Wreck Crew are the only team to be eliminated at the Gauntlet stage twice.
  • In an interview in Issue 1 of the original Robot Wars Magazine, a fourth member of the team is listed and pictured - Tim Scott, the Team Engineer. However, he never appeared on the televised show.
  • Mike Onslow was part of The Steering Committee.

Honours[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

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