Friday, 12 April 2013

Seen at the London Toy Soldier Show March 2013

Time seems to be running away from me just lately, a few weeks ago I went to the London Toy Soldier show, trading appeared very slow to me but among the highlights I saw this rather nice little collection of Belgian composition figures on the table of Mercator Trading.

In the centre a mounted King Leopold III of Belgium and his three children by Queen Astrid, Lto R: Prince Baudouin, Prince Albert and Princess Josephine-Charlotte.  They are flanked by Napoleonics: on the left by three French infantry and on the right what I take to be Belgian infantry of the United Provinces (I'm basing this on what I can see of the standard).  Made in Belgium by N.B. (Nazaire Beusaert), I estimate that they were made about 1939 when Josephine-Charlotte would have been aged 12, Baudouin 9 and Albert 5, there is no figure of Queen Astrid as she was killed in a car accident in 1935.  The mounted Leopold is quite common but I'd never seen the children before and they make a charming little group, it saddens me to reflect that within a year of these figures being made Belgium had been overrun and the family's life turned upside down by war.

On the same table was this collection of mid 1930's carved wood "erzgebirge" style SA men (I use the word  guardedly as it's in danger of becoming a generic term for any Germanic folksy type wood carved figure when it more comfortably refers to touristy Christmas tree decorations, which these are surely not).  I've not seen so large a collection as this before, it includes field tent, SA barracks and a staff HQ, the bandsmen in black caps are SS, going by the various sizes and styles of carving these have been pulled together from several makers.  Individually the figures have a simple naivety about them but en masse they evoke the era and regime that produced them, and I find that rather chilling.


  1. I inherited my father's stamp collection and as a boy I always remember being stuck by the black edged stamps commemorating Queen Astrid.Even as a youngish lad I was moved by them.
    I know what you mean about the erzgebirge...

  2. I find it extraordinary that that second collection has survived so well. It looks in astonishingly good condition, and remarkably complete, too.

    Actually, I thought the disparate sizing might suggest this was a 'Hitler Youth' sort of thing, the largest figures being adults, and the smaller, children and teenagers of various ages.

    Not a set one would find easy to build a game around, but having a considerable historical interest as a collector's or museum item, I think.


  3. Hi Alan, Queen Astrid's tale is indeed a very sad one, it struck me afterwards that both Baudouin and and Albert inherited the Monarchy so we see three Kings of Belgium in this little set.

  4. Hi Archduke, you are quite right, the smaller figures on the left and the first two rows on the right are Hitler Youth, the collection has it's place in the history of toy soldier collecting but it's not one that I would give shelf space to (and I've got some pretty whacky stuff).

    I have wondered about trying out a VBCW (Very Bavarian Civil War) scenario in 54mm but that is so far down the list of projects that it's not even in the hat yet.

  5. I have to agree with your take on the naive SA figures, Brian. Something definitely creepy about them despite the cuteness, sort of Playmobil Third Reich in flavor.


  6. Hi Steve, there is something compelling, yet uncomfortable at the same time, about them.