Friday, 3 April 2020

HMS Neptune saved form oblivion

Another model ship, another cutting, this one has almost faded and sunk into to mists of time, but has been salvaged by the heroic efforts of digital technology.

The caption tells us this is HMS Neptune, which was a Collosus class Dreadnaught, launched in 1909, and saw action in the Battle of Jutland.  There is no indication of scale, you could assume the sailors were standard 54mm but I don't recognise the pose so they might have been homecast just for this model, in which case they could be any size, still it's a nice chunky little model and I wouldn't mind having it in my fleet.  The model is signed "Charles Ashley, 1916", the year of Jutland, it's reasonable to suppose he made it, maybe he even served on Neptune during the Battle, who knows?

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Queen Mary had some Toy Soldiers.

Queen Mary, wife of King George V, was an inveterate collector with a penchant for things miniature, and she was reported to be "extremely surprised" when it was suggested she be presented with a dolls' house as a gift from the Nation.  But this would be no ordinary dolls' house, it was to be designed by Sir Edward Lutyens, the architect responsible for building the Cenotaph in Whitehall, and would be furnished with contributions from all the major manufacturers and artisans of the day to promote the names and products of Britain's finest craftsmen.

William Britains, being the leading toy soldier manufacturer of the day provided a miniature example of a box of their toy soldiers for the dolls' house nursery, and they made a second set for the daughter of Frederick Britain, this is what it looks like:

The miniature set was never issued commercially and never featured in any of the catalogues or product lists.  In 1988 the second set was put up for auction by the Britains family and this postcard was sent by Phillips Auctioneers to collectors on their mailing list in the hope that one or more of us might have the odd ten grand to spare.  I attended the auction and the bids fell well short of the reserve, I don't know if it was subsequently sold by private treaty but have never heard anything of it since.  In fairness it's very difficult to put a value on a set like this which is literally unique, given that the set in the Royal collection will never come to market, and that in every field of collecting there are those individuals for whom money is no object!

Work on Queen Mary's dolls' house began in 1921, it was first displayed at the British Empire Exhibition of 1924 and is currently on permanent display in Windsor Castle (although at the time of writing it is closed until further notice).  

Thursday, 26 March 2020

How they made Tin Flat toy soldiers

The recent post featuring some Tin Flat toy soldiers drew some interest so continuing the theme I thought I'd throw in this short Italian clip from 1937 showing them being made in Austria.  I quite liked this one because it goes through the whole process from drawing the design to engraving the mould, casting, cleaning up, painting and displaying in dioramas.  For anyone who already casts lead toy soldiers, there won't be anything new here but it's always fun to see a piece of old film, and the music's quite jolly too!


Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Plastic Warrior Show 2020 - Postponed

The following press release was issued from Plastic Warrior magazine today:

"In light of the current situation and the government ban on meetings, we are unable to hold the PW Show in May. We intend to postpone the show until later in the year, at our usual venue, The Winning Post, ideally in the autumn.
Please keep checking our blog for further updates:
We will post a new date as soon as it is confirmed.
Please post this on your own websites or blogs, and ask everyone to pass the word."

The Show was due to be held on 16th May, so with half of Europe on lockdown and borders closed it's not really any great surprise, there is a link to the Plastic Warrior blog in the column on the right and the new show date will be published there as soon as it has been agreed.

7YW Prussian assault pioneers

Some time back, a 7 Years War siege game we were planning called for an assault on a breach in the walls of a fortified city, so I bodged up these figures for it.

All these conversions started life as 54mm plastic toy soldiers of the American Revolution made by Louis MARX.  The figure on the left was advancing with musket at the ready, on the right he was stabbing down, their muskets have been trimmed away and hats carved off, to be replaced with spare mitre caps from the HaT 7YW Prussian infantry set, then its just a case of assembling and pinning the ladder (a spare form the TIMPO Fort Apache set) to them, their hands have also been built up a bit with milliput.

The sappers with axes are the same two MARX poses used for the ladder carriers, again they've had their muskets trimmed away and headgear replaced with HaT spares, the axes are from the TIMPO Vikings and the leather aprons are cut from cartridge paper stiffened with PVA.  The chap throwing grenade is the British officer from the same American Revolution series, his cane has been cut away and a grenade made from milliput, the fuses are made from old fashioned fuse wire (can you still get that?).

We all have to get our ideas from somewhere and the inspiration for these conversions came from a book illustrating old German Tin Flats, these conversions were previously shown in an article I did for Plastic Warrior magazine but I didn't get to show where the idea came from.

The book is Soldaten des Rokoko by Waldemar Piecha, published in 1982 (ISBN 3-423--02874-2), it contains 72 prints like these, each depicting different Regiments and formations of the Prussian army.  It's a great resource for uniform info and every figure illustrated is unique so it's a goldmine for ideas.  

Tin Flats were relatively cheap and easy to manufacture, the designs were drawn and then engraved into slate, so the mould making process is relatively quick and inexpensive.  Designs were often copied from antiquity as well as period art sources which gives them a sense of the times they depict.  The collecting potential for Flats is enormous, covering every historical period, they are very well documented and books on Flats are by far the largest section of my toy soldier library,  yet they are a section of the hobby that has been virtually bypassed by the world outside of Germany.