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"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), was a well-known and prominent team on Robot Wars. They entered the first five series of the show, as well as the first series of Robot Wars Extreme and were responsible for the creation of the Plunderbird robots, of which five models in total were built.

The Team[]

The International Wreck Crew in Series 1

The Plunderbird Team pose in the arena during Series 2

The International Wreck Crew were based in Alton, Hampshire, their team name being a pun on International Rescue, the rescue organisation in the television show Thunderbirds. They continued their references to the aforementioned TV show with the Plunderbird name of their robots playing off the show's name. The team were one of the most unique to appear on Robot Wars as unlike other teams, they often played characters on screen to provide entertainment and also dressed in their own style, rather than wearing just the regular team shirts. Their unique style and personality was applauded by many, including Chris Reynolds, who was very impressed by their approach to the competition.

"At the moment, there are some really good ones in there, … those guys who arrived in all the camouflage gear, that one I thought "That's a bit more like it!""
— Chris Reynolds being impressed by the team in The Making of Robot Wars

The team in Series 3

Mike Onslow and Bryan Kilburn in Series 4

The team often suffered from bad luck, going out in the first round three times out of five in their campaigns, and the Plunderbird robots were often plagued by reliability issues but despite this, the team did receive some form of success. The team won two awards, the Best Design award in Series 1 and the Sportsmanship Award in Series 2, they were also nominated for the latter award in both Series 3 and 4. They were also the only team to win the King of the Castle trial in their Series 2 heat, defeating Dead Metal and Sergeant Bash by knocking them off the platform. They would even make the Semi-Finals in the aforementioned series, and finished third in the Series 4 Tag Team Terror competition.

In 2016 following the announcement that Robot Wars would return, International Wreck Crew captain Mike Onslow joined 'Team. Ablaze' to enter with Dystopia, though ultimately the team were not selected to compete in Series 8.

Team Members[]

Mike Onslow[]

Mike Onslow in Series 5

"We intend to kick some butt and be afraid, there's a Plunderstorm coming!"
— Mike Onslow in the team's first appearance

Mike Onslow was the team captain of the International Wreck Crew and was present in all of the team's appearances. Mike, who was a model maker in his day-to-day life, was the driver of all the Plunderbird robots and the lead speaker in all of the team's interviews, during which he often stood with his arms folded in an attempt to come across as 'tough and intimidating'. The Robot Wars Magazine stated that Mike's speciality was 'verbal aggro'. Mike's signature attitude was evident from the start of their campaign, but during Series 1, this was much less stern than in later series. By the time of Series 2, Mike had become more well-known amongst other roboteers and his character portrayal began to gain more traction. In their Gauntlet run in Heat K, Mike drove Plunderbird 2 into the pit, but just did enough to qualify to the next round. As the team portrayed themselves as tough guys, they were mockingly called 'chickens' by the other roboteers, who felt that they were afraid of the House Robots, this leading to them driving into the pit. The roboteers began mocking the team with chicken noises and Mike comedically snapped at them.

Mike shouts at the other roboteers

Philippa Forrester: "They [the other Roboteers] are all calling you chickens over there"
Mike Onslow: "We're not chickens, we just wanted to get through to the next round, but most of all we wanted to have a go at the House Robots."
The other roboteers in the pits: "Bawk, bawk, bawk!"
Mike Onslow: "SILENCE! How dare you! We're back and we're gonna stay! More violence!"
Philippa Forrester: "Now just between you and me, did you dive in that pit to avoid the House Robots?"
Mike Onslow: "Absolutely NOT!"
— The hilarious post-run interview after Plunderbird 2 was accused of deliberately pitting itself

Due to his over-the-top personality, Mike would often break character during the 'arguments' he got into with other roboteers. Some of these include the aforementioned moment in Series 2, where Mike began smiling and even chuckled a bit after snapping at the roboteers and again in Series 3 during a similar scenario where the roboteers again mocked them with chicken noises following their elimination with Mike claiming they lost because of a 'slight mechanical malfunction'. Another memorable moment was in Series 4, after Mike again claimed they lost due to a 'slight mechanical malfunction', he snatched the microphone from Craig Charles and began to sing a song while getting the audience involved (see below).

Mike at the controls of Plunderbird 2

In the Swedish dub of Heat L of The Fourth Wars, Mike took part in an interview with the Swedish presenter Micke Dubois. In the interview, Mike proclaimed that they were 'very serious people' who 'didn't do smiles'. Mike even dropped the profane word 'pussies', which he used to refer to wrestlers of the then-World Wrestling Federation, the style of which that Robot Wars was taking inspiration from during Extreme.

"We don't do smiles, because we're very serious people! WWF wrestlers are pussies! I hope we can say that on Swedish TV!"
— Mike Onslow in the interview in the Swedish dub of Heat L of The Fourth Wars

Despite his 'hard-man' attitude, Mike was one of the more helpful and sporting roboteers. Similar to Rex Garrod of Team Cassius, he often chose to take on the House Robots rather than the opponent teams and always helped fellow roboteers to fix their robots. Even when Dreadnaut was almost forced to pull out after the Gauntlet in Series 1 which meant the team could've been reinstated, Mike was not pleased at the thought of going through because another team had problems.

Bryan Kilburn[]

Bryan Kilburn in Extreme 1

"...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, Bryan Kilburn had the same 'tough' attitude as Mike. According to Jonathan Pearce in Series 1, Bryan's ambition was to meet the rock band Aerosmith and according to the Robot Wars Magazine, his speciality was 'infiltration'. For the first three series, Bryan was more of a background member, as Mike and Ken Burt were presented as the main duo due to them being the main controllers of the robots. This was also reinforced in the Robot Wars Magazine, which referred to Bryan as 'the other one'. Bryan often stood in the background while the battles were underway, and had minor speaking roles, one of the more notables being introducing Plunderbird 2's new 'wonky aerial' and after their elimination in the Series 2 Semi-Finals, where he turned on mock waterworks and asked for a Kleenex tissue. However, following Ken Burt's departure from the team, Bryan took over as the weapons operator on Plunderbirds 4 and 5 and began to talk more in interviews now that the team was reduced to a two-man job with just him and Mike.

Bryan at the controls of Plunderbird 5 with Mike

While Mike was the more prominent speaker, Bryan often backed-up Mike's trash talking with witty one-liners, usually gesturing with a stern finger point as he did so. Bryan's trash talking remarks were usually intentionally comedic, with him delivering them in a serious tone. In an interview during the Swedish airing of Heat L of The Fourth Wars, Bryan backed up Mike's claim they were 'very serious people'. In Extreme before the team's Vengeance battle with the Mega Morg team, Bryan comedically claimed that the team 'thought they were hard as mustard' and along with Mike, called their robot 'a big blob of yellow custard'. In the Series 4 Tag Team Terror after they had been defeated by Firestorm 2 and Scorpion, Bryan and Mike began 'arguing', blaming each other as the reason why they lost and the argument then turned into the pair saying intentionally childish insults to each other, this forcing Joe Watts of Team Big Brother to try and stop them from 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!"
Joe Watts: "Stop arguing you two!"
— Mike and Bryan argue

In Series 4, it was noted by Jonathan Pearce that Bryan was partially sighted, this could've been the reason why he was not the original weapons operator, but this did not seem to effect him when he eventually did take over.

Jon Dilley[]

Jon Dilley in Series 1 - his only series

Jon Dilley was the third member of the International Wreck Crew for Series 1 only, joining Mike and Bryan as one of the original team members. Jon only spoke a single word during his time with the team, which was when he responded to a question asked by Mike, clarifying that they would not have been happy progressing through due to another team pulling out.

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

Jon did not control the robot, though it's possible that he could've been the weapons operator had the team made it to the Arena stage, due to Ken Burt replacing him in the following series, but as Plunderbird 1 never fought in a battle, this was never clarified, nor was it brought up by the team or Jonathan Pearce. Jon left the team after Series 1.

Ken Burt[]

Ken Burt in Series 2

Ken Burt joined the team in Series 2, replacing Jon Dilley. Ken was the weapons operator for Plunderbird 2 and Plunderstorm, and according to the Robot Wars Magazine, his speciality was 'persuasion'. Ken was portrayed as the second-in-command due to being the other controller alongside Mike, though he left the interviews to Mike almost all of the time. Ken rarely spoke on camera but did have some stand-out moments during his two tenures with the team. He joined Mike and Bryan as they danced to their theme song in the arena before Plunderbird 2's gauntlet run in the Semi-Finals and performed their rap song at the start of their Series 3 heat. Perhaps Ken's most notable moment with the team was after Plunderstorm's Series 3 defeat, the team entered the pits and were again being mocked with chicken noises from the other roboteers. The team sang their rap song as they had done at the start of the heat to try and 'scare' the other roboteers. At the end of the rap after the final line "There's a plunderstorm coming", Ken shouted out "Next year!", implying that the 'plunderstorm' would be coming the following year. Ironically though, Ken would leave the team after Series 3 and Bryan Kilburn took over his role as the weapons operator.

Tim Scott[]

Tim Scott in the Robot Wars Magazine

Another team member, Tim Scott, was mentioned in the Robot Wars Magazine. Tim never appeared on the show, possibly due to the limit of only three members to a team during the show's original run. According to the Robot Wars Magazine, Tim's apparent role was the 'team engineer' and his speciality was 'falling over'. Unlike the other members of the International Wreck Crew, Tim did not sport the team's signature camouflage, instead wearing a white lab coat in the pictures in the magazine, but still sported the black sunglasses. He was seen holding the prop bomb that the team had in Series 2, which was given away as a prize in a competition on the team's interview page. Despite Ken leaving the team after Series 3, Tim still did not make a televised appearance, despite a third slot now being available.

Image[]

Mike and Bryan arrive in a Chinook helicopter in Series 4

The 'Plunderbus', only seen in the Swedish airing of Series 4, Heat L

The International Wreck Crew were always dressed in their own unique style. Their outfits consisted of blue camouflage trousers and hats, black boots, black belts with the robot's bird logo on them, black shirts which originally featured a white Robot Wars logo before being replaced by the team's own logo, black fingerless gloves, dog tags and blacked out sunglasses, though they would sometimes take the sunglasses off when controlling the robots as they made it hard to see. On some occassions, the team also wore dark blue bomber jackets. The team portrayed themselves with a 'tough-guy' attitude, and this was reflected in their interviews, as they jokingly tried to come across as 'intimidating', but this was all in good fun. Some of team's more notable moments include carrying a prop bomb in Series 2 and arriving in a Chinook helicopter in Series 4, in which the Thunderbirds theme song was played, again referencing the team's play-on the TV show. The team also had their own vehicle, the 'Plunderbus', which appeared at a few live events outside of Robot Wars.[1] Though the vehicle was never seen in any of the original UK airings of the show, it did appear in the Swedish dub of Series 4, Heat L during the team's interview with Micke Dubois. The 'Plunderbus' was painted entirely black with the team's logo on it.

Rivalries[]

Mike faces off with Steve Merrill of The Hub Nuts

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

Around Series 3 and 4, The Hub Nuts, who entered Sir Chromalot, also began being recognised as one of the more entertaining teams, with them even doing a performance of their own in Series 3, where they danced inside the arena, similar to the International Wreck Crew the prior series. Due to the team's similarly hammy personalities, a Vengeance battle was staged between the two teams for Robot Wars Extreme, being the main event of the sixth episode. Throughout the episode, Mike and Hub Nuts team captain Steve Merrill engaged in verbal confrontations in the build-up to the battle. Meanwhile, Bryan would stare down the other Hub Nuts team member, Ray Tait, though the two did not engage in verbal confrontation. A notable moment occurred just before the battle when Steve handed Mike a doll with a 'Plundergirls' sign on it, a name that Steve had been taunting the team with throughout the episode. Mike snatched the doll away and claimed that it'd go in the skip along with their robot, this causing Mike to break character and smile as he had done before. Unfortunately for the team, they would lose the Vengeance battle.

Interestingly, in one issue of the Robot Wars Magazine, a comic strip depicted the two teams battling before the actual Vengeance battle took place. Sir Chromalot would win this battle in a similar fashion due to Plunderbird 4 driving into the pit.

Songs[]

The team get the audience clapping along to their theme song in Series 2

Mike Onslow leads the audience in singing their rap in Series 4

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

One of team's signature traits was their raps and songs, which were all original recordings and creations. The team always got the audience to join in singing with them and even fellow roboteers in the case of Extreme 1. They recorded their first song in Series 2, which was titled 'Robots' Revenge'. Mike Onslow even sold cassette tapes of the song to audience members during the Series 4 qualifiers to promote the Plunderbird robots.[2] Throughout their appearances in Series 2, the instrumental track of the song could be heard in the background just before they activated Plunderbird 2 in the Gauntlet, Trial or Arena. In Series 3 and 4, they would perform rap songs without any backing track before and after the battles. Their last song came in Extreme 1 and was perhaps their most famous and popular song. Titled 'Have You Got A Srimech?', the song poked fun at Plunderbird 5 not having a self-right mechanism and even had lines sung by other teams such as their old Tag Team partners Team Big Brother and Team Vercingetorix.

The Plunderbird Boys engage in a singing battle with the Mega Morg team

The team's signature of singing songs was even the basis for a Vengeance battle with the Mega Morg team, who had also sung previously in the series, the reason for the grudge being who were the better singers. The International Wreck Crew would win the Vengeance battle, proving that they were the better singers.

Mike Onslow: "Mega Morg boys are dressed in yellow"
Bryan Kilburn: "They think they're 'ard as mustard!"
Mike Onslow: "But their bot's about as useful..."
Both: "As a big blob of yellow custard!"
— The team's singing battle with the Mega Morg team

All of the team's songs and raps are listed below:

"In the darkness of post-nuclear days when the sun don't shine no more.
On the war-torn streets, the robots fight to even up the score.
With weapons stolen from mankind, they fight to stay alive.
They run the deadly gauntlet and the weak will not survive.
As the battle rages, servos whine, circuits bask and fly.
The losers they will rest in peace but they sure as hell won't die.
Blade and hammer strike on steel, hydraulic blood will flow.
All this hate will be in vain cos there's no one left to know.
With man all dead and law no more, the earth is robot's reign.
Each out to demonstrate their might, supremacy their name.
When the damn machines try to win this even though there's no one left to kill.
They have no brother and destroy each other cos there's no blood left to spill.
On and on, til strength has gone and power packs depleted.
Then at the mercy of their foe they'll surely be defeated.
With ball and chain, hammer and saw, metal is destroyed.
Vital circuits torn apart and cast into the void.
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 complete 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 Rap
"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[]

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 Series 5, Extreme 1, US Season 1

Wins/Losses[]

  • Wins: 5
  • Losses: 7

NOTE: The Gauntlet and Trial runs of Plunderbird 1 and Plunderbird 2 are not included

Series Record[]

UK Series[]

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[]

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[]

The Plunderbird Boys at Robot Wars Live in Guildford 2016

While the team's robots never fought at any of the Robot Wars Live Events, Mike and Bryan made a special appearance at the Robot Wars Live show in Guildford in 2016, the team having attended the event to film for a DVD they planned to release (see below). They signed autographs and took photos with audience members and even sung 'Have You Got A Srimech?' from Robot Wars Extreme, getting the crowd to sing along with them.[3]

Outside Robot Wars[]

The team as The Smith Twins in Techno Games

Junior, the team's Sprint entry for Techno Games

Stealth Stingray, the team's Swimming entry for Techno Games

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.[4] 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.

The shell for the intended Plunderbird 6

After their Series 5 defeat, Mike Onslow and Bryan Kilburn continued to appear at live events with Plunderbird 4, as Plunderbird 5 had been damaged beyond repair, and they would even serve as commentators for some of the events they attended. They intended to enter Series 6 with a new version of Plunderbird, which they began construction on, but due to Bryan Kilburn getting married and other commitments, it was never finished, and the team decided to retire from robot combat altogether.

"...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[5]

Plunderbirds 2 and 4 (and Plunderbird 1's weapons pod) on display at the 2011 UK Championships

Plunderbird 1's cutting disc weapon pod in 2018

The team's workbench displaying some of the components of the Plunderbird robots, their awards and the side plate of Sergeant Bash in 2018

Despite no longer being active competitors, Mike and Bryan have brought the shells of the Plunderbirds 2 and 4, as well as the cutting disc weapon pod used on Plunderbird 1, to some live events for display purposes, such as the 2011 UK Championships. The team scrapped Plunderbird 5 after it was destroyed but 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 had a close working relationship with Laurie Calvert of Lightning and have collaborated with him to create several projects. They created a pilot episode called Robot Workshop, which was intended to be a television show centred around teaching viewers how to create remote control models. However, despite the pilot being filmed, the show was never picked up for television.[6] Other projects between the two sides include a humanoid robot called Dave, which stood for Dynamic Animatronic Vehicular Entity. The robot had the ability to imitate human behaviour.[7][8] They were assisted in this project by fellow roboteers John and Jacky Willoughby and George Francis and Ian Swann.[9] Mike also helped Laurie create diecast models of Laurie's robot, Lightning.

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

Bryan Kilburn and Mike Onslow in team gear in 2018

Mike and Bryan in casual wear

In January 2019, Mike Onslow and Bryan Kilburn launched a Kickstarter campaign[10] 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, Mike and Bryan would (in character) explain the workings of a combat robot, and sales of the DVD intended to raise money for various charities. They had filmed footage from the Guildford event they attended in 2016 in preparation for the DVD, 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, and the docmumentary and physical DVD copies were never released.

Plunderbird 2 and Plunderbird 4 on display at Wefit Autocentre in 2020

In March 2020, Mike Onslow displayed Plunderbirds 2 and 4 at Wefit Autocentre in Alton, and donated a two side armour panels from Plunderstorm and a Plunderbird team poster for a charity raffle.[11]

Stealth Stingray at RoboNerd in September 2021

In January 2021, Mike Onslow was forced to vacate his workshop and sold the contents from it 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.[12] Interestingly, Plunderbug was previously mentioned in one issue of the Robot Wars Magazine as a project Bryan Kilburn was working on. Other sold items included Stealth Stingray, an unused steel shell for Plunderbird 1 and the intended Plunderbird 6 shell, all of which were purchased by James Baker of Team GlitterBomb for a combined total of £215.[13][14][15] Two unused items, a crusher hydraulic weapons platform and a spare side panel from Plunderstorm were also sold.[16][17] The money raised from all the sold items was given to charity by Mike.

Stealth Stingray would later appear on display at the 2021 RoboNerd event in September alongside Team GlitterBomb's other robots.

Trivia[]

An interview from the original Robot Wars Magazine

Mike Onslow and Bryan Kilburn in cartoon form in the 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.
  • Mike Onslow was part of The Steering Committee.

Honours[]



Nominations

References[]

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