Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Battle of Britain Day - 80 Years on

September 15th is Battle of Britain Day, each year it is a commemoration of  the large scale aerial battle that took place over England in 1940.  We don't celebrate it but perhaps we should do something, today is the 80th anniversary and I doubt if it will get a mention in the media.

I've lived all my life in London and I love the place, growing up in the 1950's and 60's we played in the derelict bombsites left by the Blitz, all the adults had lived through the war and recalled their memories, good and bad, we grew up with the war still all around us.  

Anyway this isn't a post about any of that, this is a post about sculpture. At the Victoria Embankment on the River Thames there is a memorial to commemorate all the people, military and civilian who took part in the Battle, and I think it's a stunning piece of work.  So what's this got to do with toy soldiers?  Well for me toy soldiers are very much about sculpting, and as I get older I see them increasingly as pieces of art, I appreciate their design and the technology that made them, but enough of this claptrap because I also still play with them.

So for those who may never get to see the real thing here are the pictures of the Battle of Britain Memorial in London.

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Robert the Bruce in the Tower of London

 Over on facebook someone on the "Friends who like Plastic Warrior" group was asking about the plastic figures made by John Niblett & Co (Modelmakers) Ltd that used to be on sale at the Tower of London.  I have a couple of them so I put a picture up on the group, they're such nice models I thought I'd post it up here too.

Robert the Bruce is based on the 1964 statue at Bannockburn by Charles Pilkington Jackson, the rider is a little over 54mm and I think it was originally sold with an unpainted gilt finish.  I bought this back in the 1980's as part of a collection, sold at Phillips Auctioneers, which had belonged to a chap who'd been a serious student of heraldry.   His collection had been broken up into several lots, most of which were high end metal models, but there was also a big box of plastic odds and ends that nobody was interested in, so I went for it. The box contained lots of conversions which he'd made himself, based on historical figures and all painted in the correct livery, so I'm guessing that he painted up this model of the Bruce.  Helpfully he put a little hand written sticker on the bottom of each base to say who the model was of.

The second model is the suit of armour of King Henry VIII which I seem to recall had been on display at the Tower, it stands about 80mm high and is missing a pikestaff but otherwise is in original condition.  I know there was at least one more model in the series, a mounted knight in Gothic armour but there may have been more, anyone know of any others?  John Niblett is of course best known for his work on the 1:72nd scale figures for Airfix but he worked on a freelance basis for several manufacturers as well as producing these and his own range of very fine wargame figures.

As mentioned above, I have recently joined facebook, which is a sure omen that it will shortly collapse, if my past history for joining such groups is anything to go by!  In the meantime I'm enjoying touching base with many old names from the collecting world who don't necessarily bother to follow the blogging world.  My only beef with FB is that the photos don't blow up very large and I'm very much a pictures person, also you have to trawl through reams of stuff if you ever want to refer back to them.  For these reasons I will probably post pictures here and on FB, I hope that won't become too annoying?

Friday, 21 August 2020

Eurofigurines, Figuren and Zinnlaube

 In the past few weeks these three magazines have arrived through the post, here are some more details:

I was particularly pleased with this issue as it opens with an article on TRIUMF a Belgian manufacturer of composition figures which I'd never heard of but they are the same figures as we had in England made by TAG, which I covered back in February HERE  The really useful thing is that this article includes a catalogue listing of all the figures they produced.

Other articles cover; Regiments of Saint Cyriens, 
Curiosities finds and photos, 
Washingtons Regiment by Elastolin, 
Elastolin water carriers, 
The Emperor and his Old Guard, 
Knights of the middle ages in aluminium by Krolyn of Denmark, 
Fox hunting figure sets, 
Pirates by Starlux and Cyrnos, 
Greek Hoplites by First Legion, 
Toy soldiers made in conjoint tin (part 4), 
Palmer (USA) Astronauts, 
and finally Arctic Explorers.

Opens with a report on the 2019 Nuremburg Toy Trade Fair, which seems to have a lot more of interest to toy soldier collectors and modellers than the London Toy Trade Fair does these days.  

It continues with; Italian Askaris of the Abyssinian War in composition, 
Wooden cut out figures of the German army made in 1930's in Czechoslovakia by Bata, 
Personality figures of the Czech President T G Masaryk, 
The composition figures of Durso (Belgian), 
The Three Musketeers, 
Wundertute (Lucky Bags) Landsknechts from Heinerle, 
Atlantic Longhorn cattle in 1:32, 
Lineol Zoo rarities, 
Timpo catalogues 1968 to 1979, 
Bricklayer made by Lisanto, 
The Siege of La Rochelle diorama, 
Latest Preiser catalogue, 
Timpo Toys Special Issue No. 3

This was previously the newsletter of the collectors group FAS "Freunde Alter Spielfiguren" but it has now become and independent journal, I don't know the reasons for the change of editorial team but wish them well.  Text is in German and English, and it's published roughly once a year, the theme for this issue is the 150th anniversary of the Franco Prussian War, articles include; 

Glasenapp's volunteer hussars at the Battle of Rotha 1762, 

Cinderella in tin and lead, 

Vignettes for the Death of General von Craushaar 1870, 

the search of Jager Tromm - Prussian Jagers in tin and lead, 

Civilian figure sets by Spenkuch, 

Prussian Staff before Paris 1870 by Haselbach/Rieche, 

British observation balloons in the Boer War, 

the Stewart Collection of toy soldiers at the Frazier History Museum in Kentucky

So all in all a lot of very varied articles to get through. 

Subscription details for all these magazines are on their websites so just give them a quick Google rather than have me bore you with the same old information time after time.

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Early Toy Soldier Newsreels

Continuing my romp through the YouTube archives, here are a few more finds that I think are worth more than just one look.  It always surprises me that however much you trawl through YouTube every now and again something new surfaces, which has probably been buried away there for years.

Model Soldier Club 1939
Now this is a bit of archive footage I haven't seen before, it's an early meeting of the British Model Soldier Society.  Among the luminaries I spotted Otto Gottstein (in the opening shot, sitting at the far end of the table smoking a cigarette, next to a chap with a pipe) he was President of the Society at the time and a great patron of the hobby.  Also I think I see a young Deryck Guyler (at about 22 seconds in) who was a keen member of the BMSS before going on to be one of the founding members of the Society of Ancients.  The clip includes a rather nice selection of model knights produced by Richard Courtenay.

Model Soldiers 1953
I have Detlef Heerbrand to thank for finding this clip and posting it on facebook (which I finally got around to joining this month - a sure sign that it's days are numbered).  It features Bill Carman who was Vice Chaiman of the BMSS at the time and was one of the first to manufacture model soldiers for the collector.  His figures are a bit basic by modern standards but I've always been a big fan of them so I was particularly pleased when this surfaced.

Toy Soldiers 1949
Archive footage shot inside the Britains factory showing the hand casting of hollowcast figures, through to cleaning the castings, painting and packing them.

Toy Soldiers 1965
This piece of footage has been doing the rounds for a while but given that it's dated 1965 it's interesting that the commentary points out the hollow cast figures shown are made strictly for adults as collectors items. Britains ceased hollow casting in 1966, the story that this was because of lead paint and child safety fears is an urban myth, the truth is they just weren't selling enough.  The second half of the film shows an injection moulding machine being loaded up with plastic pellets and states that production of plastics was in full swing for the juvenile toy market.

Model Soldier sale 1968
This newsreel covered the very first specialist auction of Toy Soldiers (in fact the first specialist auction of any toys), held by Knight, Frank and Rutley who were founded in 1896 as Valuers, Surveyors and Auctioneers, they are a well known Estate Agents (Realtors).  I didn't recognise any of the faces amongst the crowd here but the toy soldiers needed no introduction.

Friday, 10 July 2020

Toy Soldiers of the Great War

An early birthday present to myself (because I'm worth it), "Les Petits Soldats de la Grande Guerre" has been out for while but I've only just come across it, the cover announces that it includes 800 toys of WW1 so I had to have it.

Published in 2013 by Editions Glenat, A4 format, it has 256 pages illustrated in full colour throughout, ISBN 978-2-7234-0700-2.  Written in French only but light on text so not too challenging for anyone with with a smattering of the language and a grounding in the Great War.  The pic below gives an example of the layout and quality of the illustrations.  The cover price is 39 Euro, which I would say offers very good value for a book of this size and quality, I got my copy on ebay France, new and still in the cellophane wrapping for 19 Euro plus 9 Euro P&P from seller "Book77".  Bargain!

There are 12 chapters looking at different aspects of the war, into which the toys are conveniently slotted.  The cover gives little away and I half expected the book to include every type of toy from diecast vehicles to dolls and teddy bears, but fear not, apart from a chapter containing tinplate tanks and ships the rest is all toy soldiers.  

You can expect to see the perennial favourites from Britains, CGB Mignot, and Elastolin  but they don't dominate, it's packed with figures of every genre: paper, flats and semi flats, conjoint tin, wood, hollowcast and solid lead, composition and even a little plastic and modern white metal (but not much).  The more I flick through it the more I enjoy it, I reckon you will too.