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.

Friday, 3 July 2020

Britains, Airfix and Old School Wargaming - Pure Nostalgia!

Another lazy post here, these old British Pathe newsreels have been on YouTube for years and I'm sure everybody knows them well but I never tire of watching them, so I've put them up mostly for my own benefit.  

Toy Fair 1958
Nice footage of animated Trade Fair displays for Britains Swoppets and other Herald sets, "unbreakable" plastic toy soldiers were in the ascendancy in the British Toy Market in the late 1950's

Toy Fair 1968
Ten years later they are already old news and, in terms of the juvenile toy trade, heading into a long slow decline.  Interesting to see archive footage shot inside the Airfix factory here though.

Men Will Be Boys 1970.
Some great toys on show here, does anyone recognise the two chaps playing the wargame?  Come on, someone must know them, it was only 50 years ago!

For those who haven't heard, I am currently somewhat incapacitated, without access  to my toy soldiers or books, consequently my activity is reduced to writing posts like this and my ebay bill is going through the roof!

Thursday, 11 June 2020

French made Matelots

I have always had a particular fondness for toy soldiers made in France, they produce them in every conceivable material, and while the sculpting isn't always the sharpest, the poses are always very imaginative.  Here are a few examples:

The first two above were made by Miniajouet, the first is an early figure made in rubber during the 1950's the second is later manufacture in hard plastic.  The third figure was made by JSF (Jouets Standard Francaise) and was originally made in hollowcast lead.

Two helmsmen from JSF and one from Miniajouet, all of the figures shown in this post were originally produced in both white and blue plastic.

The Naval officer with pistol is a first series plastic figure by Starlux, who originally made toy soldiers in a plaster composition material called "blanc de meudon" hence the rather chunky design.  A Naval Aviator made in rubber and a later plastic Captain with sextant from Miniajouet.

The Matelot dragging an anchor is from the same Miniajouet set as the others shown in this post, they were originally made in hollowcast by HR (Henri Roger) there are a few more in the set but I don't have them (yet).  The middle two are by Domage & Cie who sold aluminium figures under the trade name Aludo and plastics (acetate) as here under the name Acedo, the first figure with the bucket of water is a soft plastic copy.  The last chap is sitting on a pile of rope eating his dinner, he has lost the spoon which he should be holding in his right hand, made by JSF and from the same series as the others in this post.

If figures like these float your boat you can see lots more on the French 1/32 Plastic Toy Soldier Forum, there is a link to it in the header bar of this blog.  You have to register to join and the text is mostly in French but there are lots of pictures and it is by far and away the best resource on the internet for all types of old toy soldiers.

Monday, 8 June 2020

A few pics from a past London Toy Soldier Show

A trawl through old stuff brought these photos of from the December 2018 London Toy Soldier Show to light.  To be honest I felt they were a bit too fuzzy and not interesting enough to post at the time but with the dearth of shows at present I thought I'd give them an airing.

Above and below are scenes from a King & Country VietNam diorama.

If WW2 in the Pacific floats your boat here are a few more diorama shots from King & Country

At the time of writing, the London Toy Soldier Show on 27th June has just been cancelled, so we keep our fingers crossed for the next one on 5th December.  The Herne Show run by Peter Bergner is scheduled for 5th July, Germany seems to be opening up slightly ahead of the rest of Europe.  The old Birmingham show, known as the Midlands Toy Soldier Show is moving to a new location in Stoke on Trent on 27th September.  Our local car boot fair is due to reopen next Sunday, so if nothing else I can look forward to a long early morning walk around a field in the countryside with a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea at the end of it.

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Greys Cigarettes Toy Soldiers

In the days before Osprey books, illustrations of military uniforms were fairly sparse on the ground, but a reliable source was found in the plethora of cigarette cards which every schoolboy would cadge from adults as they emerged from the tobacconists and prised open a new pack.  So prolific was this practice that cigarette cards became a currency to be swapped in the playground for every conceivable commodity, marbles, sweets, etc.   My favourite set was "Uniforms of the Territorial Army" issued by John Player & Sons in 1939, but there were plenty of others to search for.  What I didn't know back then was that there had been Toy Soldiers given away with packs of cigarettes:

Major Drapkin & Co registered at 84 Piccadily, London W1 was founded by a tobacco merchant and cigar manufacturer named Samuel Barnett, they produced The "Greys" brand of cigarettes and claimed that the Colonel of 2nd Dragoons (Royal Scots Greys) had given them permission to use the Regiments name.

In 1914, Drapkin's issued with their "Crayol Virginia and Karam Turkish" Cigarettes, a set of 25 die cut card toy soldiers representing allied troops of the Triple Entente, which included Belgian, French, Russian and British Regiments.  

Later with The "Greys" they issued two sets of 30mm flat lead figures representing firstly the Charge of the Scots Greys at Waterloo and then the Charge of the Heavy Brigade at Balaclava.  I haven't been able to put an exact date to these lead flats, the earliest mention of The "Greys" that I've found is an advert from 1916 while the rather fine illustration above is a full page advert from the Graphic Magazine of 1917.  I would expect these flat toy soldiers to have been made well after the First World War due to limitations on the use of metals.

A little bit more 3 dimensional than traditional German tin flats, they seem to be a mix of lead and tin which gives makes them a bit heavier, darker and softer than Continental production.  One of the original moulds recently surfaced on ebay priced at £150, the seller stated that they had 12 more and that they had been shown to a member of the Ochel family who confirmed that their firm had produced them at Kiel in Germany, in which case this would date them to the late 1920's or early 1930's, the moulds looked to be engraved in brass.

Both sets seem to have used the same designs for the Scots Greys and have had 52 pieces.   The lower figures in the first photo are a Russian cavalryman and limber from the Balaclava set.

The infantry above are from the Waterloo set, which included British, French and Prussian foot along with the Scots Greys, a mounted Napoleon and artillery.  

The Balaclava set contained British Foot Guards, Highlanders and Russian infantry with the Scots Greys, Russian Cavalry, Cossacks and artillery.

There are nine figures of Scots Greys, numbered 34 - 42, the Waterloo set also had a figure of Sergeant Ewart capturing the Eagle of the 45th (which I don't have).  The bottom row shows the British cannon and limber with the French caisson.

Another great full page illustrated advert form the Graphic Magazine of 1917, I love the legend of Christian Davis, described here, it's well worth taking a moment to read her story on Wikipedia.