Saturday 31 December 2011

Little Wars armies - progress in 2011

Way back in January I made a New Years Resolution not to start any new Little Wars converting projects until I had completed the ones that were already in progress and , unusually for me, I stuck to it - well almost.

For a couple of years now I have been building up Russian and Turkish armies of the "roughly" 1880's period based on pictures of Heyde solid lead 45mm toy soldiers in the book Bleisoldaten by Hans H. Roer (sadly long out of print).  I came to this period because it's a bit different and exotic, nobody was making the figures at the time so it gave me scope to do some simple conversions which would provide a very personal collection and I like the idea of late 19th century armies slugging it out on fairly even terms (I had long since done the ACW to death).  I started the project with what I consider to be the tedious part of building wargame armies which is knocking out bog standard units of infantry for both sides, that done (along with a bit of cavalry) by this year I am down to wrorking on staff, a bit more artillery and whaterver takes my fancy, this is the fun bit for me and it will probably be ongoing to a certain extent for some time to come.

Turkish staff, made from cheap plastic BMC figures with metal heads from Dorset Toy Soldiers

Turkish command groups, made as above with Britains Herald figures for the officers and buglers, BMC for the standards.

Russian staff and some additional infantry to bring existing units up to strength, these are still WIP.

Russian riflemen from the Caucassus

French naval landing party, still to do - standard bearer and bugler, perhaps an MG also.

French ADC with some generic support troops, a cook and a blacksmith.  I plan to make more support troops in shirt sleeve order with blue trousers striped red, the idea being that they can then be used with any national army rather than have lots of duplication.

A project that's been too long on the back burner for me are Japanese troops circa 1905, I plan to move these up the to do list in 2012.
Chinese have never featured as a project for me but I think that will change in 2012.  New Years Resolution for 2012: forget about existing projects, just do stuff for fun but do lots more of it.

Monday 26 December 2011

New book by James Opie

I had intended to buy James Opie's new book " Collecting Toy Soldiers in the 21st Century" at the London Toy Soldier Show a few weeks ago, where for the cover price of £30 I would have recieved a signed copy direct from the hand of the author.  However the fates decided that I should not go and therefore I have obtained an unsigned copy courtesy of Amazon for just over half that price (how can they do that when it's brand new?).

Published by Pen and Sword books Ltd. ISBN 978-1848843738, 207 pages fully illustrated in colour throughout.

This is a follow up to James' previous book "Collecting Toy Soldiers" which he wrote 25 years ago and sets out to reflect on the changes in the collecting environment during the intervening period.  And what a lot of changes there have been, the whole demographic of collectors has changed as the older hollow cast lead generation have given way to the baby boomers of the 1950's and 60's plastic era.  Also there has been a boom in availability of figures through shows and the internet, a feast of information through magazines, new books and blogs, and a veritable renaissance in manufacturing both plastic and modern metal collectors items. 

Getting back to the book it's very much a gentle guide through Opie's personal collecting history and his philosophy of what makes a good figure, how to build a collection and how to wind down from it.  That last aspect is rather new territory for me but being a near contemporary of the author I found the concept of "how to stop collecting" strangely compelling as it's something you start to think more about as you get older.  I'm going to shut up now because I'm getting boring, it's a very good book crammed with great and unusual pictures of toy soldiers and I would very hapilly have paid the very modest full cover price for it had not Mr Amazon intervened.

Friday 2 December 2011

London Toy Soldier Show 3rd December 2011

The London show organised by King & Country is being held at the Royal National Hotel this weekend but sadly I will not be there.  The December show is by far the best one of the three they run each year (in my opinion) and this will be the first one I have missed since this event began over a decade ago.  If anyone who is going plans to put a report and photos anywhere please leave a comment to let me know where it's posted so I can have a look, alternatively if anyone wants to send me the details I will happily post them here.

In the meantime here are some pics I took of one of the Skirmish Wargames Group's games at one of last year's London shows.

The SWG put on a different game at each of the three K & C shows held each year and they are always a highlight of the day for me.  Spectators are encouraged to join in but I have to admit that I strugle to follow the workings of the rules (because I'm a bit thick when it comes to that sort of thing) but the terrain and figures are never less than inspiring.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Q. When is a Panzer not a Panzer?

A. When it's an aquarium ornament!  On a recent fell walking break in the Lake District I wandered into one of those great big out of town retail estates that pop up in the most unexpected places (it really was in the middle of nowhere, I'd give you the map grid reference if I'd thought to keep a note of it).  Anyway, this one had a massive "pets_and_everything_else_in_the_world_R_us" type store so I went in because I always like to check out the aquarium ornament section in case it it has anything I can use for wargaming - this time I realy hit paydirt


The Tiger tank is a little small for 54mm figures but the Hanomag and truck are just about right, the crashed pane is quite large and would probably fit well with 7cm composition figures.  There was also a rather super sunken battleship sporting lots of combat damage which could probably have been painted up for WW1 or WW2, sadly it was displayed in a fish tank which was so dark I couldn't get a decent picture of it.  It would have been ideal as SMS Konigsberg in a Rufiji Delta scenario that I've had in the back of my mind to play these past few decades but try as I might I couldn't bring myself to part with £45 for it and at two foot long it wouldn't go in my rucksack!    Ho Hum.

Thursday 30 June 2011

Dorset Toy Soldiers Battleship

My final posting from the London Toy Soldier Show last weekend is this rather fine battleship from Dorset Toy Soldiers just what you need to refight the Battle of Jutland on your garden lawn. My old friend Giles Brown who owns Dorset Toy Soldiers tells me that he is about to open a shop down in the west country to sell his figures, so if yu happen to be in those parts it would be well worth giving him a call to check on opening times.

Boer War limber mounted machine gun

I'm starting to realise that I have a bit of a "thing" for machine guns mounted in wagons, sadly this pic dosen't quite do justice to this rather nice piece seen at the London Toy Soldier Show last weekend. I believe it is made by Urugayian firm Hirart and depicts a yeomanry unit of the City Imperial Volunteers from the Boer War, there was another one painted up in the uniform of the Boer Staatsartillerie (I think - note to self, must make more effort to ask questions next time)

Tuesday 28 June 2011

Seen at the London Toys Soldier Show, June'11

The King & Country Toy Soldier Company who sponsor the London Toy Soldier Show display their wares in a series of stunning doramas, the two pics above show their "Streets of Hong Kong" range. I don't collect K&C but if I did it would probably be this particular range just for the colour and vibrancy that they bring.

The two pics aboove are some of K&C's WW1 series, a rather nice late war machine gunner and a vignette of the German General Staff, the Kaiser in the middle and Von Mackensen on the right.

Monday 27 June 2011

Skirmish Wargames Group Gordon Relief Game

King & Country, who make modern white metal toy soldiers for collectors, sponsor the London Toy Soldier Show which is held three times a year. A regular feature of these shows is a demonstration wargame run by the Skirmish Wargames Group using 54mm figures, they mix both metal and plastic and there is often a high level of conversions among them. These games are always very varied, I don't think I've ever seen the same game played twice and they are known for the excellent quality of the buildings and scenery they bring to the table. Past games have included Incas and Conquistadores, French Canadian trapers and various Colonial, First and Second World War scenarios. This game was based on the Gordon Relief Expedition, these games are always a highlight of the show for me.

General Gordon's compound at Khartoum, note the hippo basking in the undergrowth.

The Camel Corps stand to behind a defensive zariba

The Mahdist hordes rush in to attack

The Camel Corps make their stand with mounted camel troops on the flank.

Thursday 16 June 2011

WW1 machine gun team

This semi flat composition machinge gun team were made in Germany around 1910 by Mars Hindenburg. They are depicted from the waist up as though firing from behind an earthwork and wear the flat topped felt Jaeger helmet, which is correct for mg crews of the period, rather than the leather spiked picklehaube. I rather like to see groups of figures that have been sculpted to sort of morph together or into their surroundings, it somehow adds something to the design for me.

Tuesday 14 June 2011

Mystery Medics

These stretcher bearers and nurse are solid lead (and very heavy!), they stand about 50mm high and the scuplting is very crude to put it mildly. I've never seen anything like them so they could be home cast or some sort of artisan production, they were included in a larger lot of British made figures that I bought but I assume them to be French because of the horizon blue uniforms but the strange shape of their peak caps makes me wonder about that, perhaps they could be WW1 Austrians or Romanians.

The King and Country London Toy Soldier show is being held this Saturday and I hope to attend, if so I'll post a report. I say hope to attend because the show clashes with our annual street party at which I have unexplicably and utterly stupidly agreed to take part in a cake baking competition. The competition is only open to the men of the street and the only rule is that wives may not assist in any way. I don't bake, in fact I barely recognise the big metal box that is our cooker, I am told there has been a very low level of entries, in fact I may be in a class of one, needless to say I am desperately trying to back peddle out of this.

Monday 13 June 2011

PZG Samurai

These plastic Samurai were made in Poland, probably during the 1960's and possibly by PZG, the Polish society for the Deaf, they stand about 60/65mm high. I don't know if the brown paint is original but it may be that they were painted to make them look like terracota, I am sorely tempted to strip and repaint them and it is only the backlog of existing painting projects that prevents me entering into this act of vandalism.

Saturday 11 June 2011

Homecast toy soldiers

Making your own toys soldiers at home has long been a popular pastime, perhaps not so much in recent decades with the universal shift towards political correctness and safety concerns, but there used to be a big market for the sale of moulds to cast your own in lead. Homecasting moulds were sold extensively across Europe and the U.S. under many diffferent trade names but the figure designs invariably come back to one company in Germany, Gebr. Schneider (Schneider Brothers).

Sometimes enterprising individuals would produce figures from these moulds and paint them to a good standard for resale (as I suspect is the case with the first figure above) but mostly they were cast to a poor standard from whatever mix of metals could be found, often fishing weights or, according to urban myth, lead stripped from the church roof! The figures are mostly about 40mm high but size varies all the way up to about 60mm. They are exactly the sort of toy soldier that you will dig up in your back garden, crushed and suffering greatly from lead rot, and then be disappointed when you put it up on ebay and it dosen't sell. They are generally very crude and get little interest from collectors but I rather like them and they are great for playing wargames.

Thursday 9 June 2011

Les Ecossaise

A Highland piper in glengarry and a standard bearer, an unusual pose for for the Scots, French made plastics of unknown manufacturer, probably made during the 1960's

Wednesday 1 June 2011

So what is your favorite toy soldier?

At the moment (and for a long time since) this chap has been a big favorite of mine, composition, made in Germany circa 1910 by Mars Hindenburg it stands about 9cm high.

Tuesday 31 May 2011

A few more sailors

At top a pair of matelots scrub the decks in time honoured fashion, the one with bucket is a later soft plastic copy of a hollowcast figure by JSF (Jouets Standard Francaise) the chap with the broom is also French made by ACEDO, (Domage et Cie) who previously made aluminium figures under the name ALUDO.

Posing by the forward gun is an unknown French made naval officer with a landing party standing at the ready converted from Cherilea foreign legion with metal matelot heads from Dorset Toy Soldiers

Some sailors for the Tradgardmastare

Over on the Army Red/White and Others blog our friend AG has asked for ideas on building ships and crewing them for 54mm wargames. Many years ago I built a gunboat based on the SMS Iltis, I've put pictures of it on the Funnny Little Wars Yahoo Group site and the sailors I use to crew it are here. 

At the top are two conversions made from Airfix commandos, in the middle are WW2 Lone Star and at the bottom is a close up of the bridge with two copies of Starlux? which I think were made in Hong Kong and a conversion which I think is supposed to be of Churchill.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

HAC Open Day 2011

Last Wednesday Mrs C was flicking through her favourite blogs (like you do) and found this entry on Tired of London, tired of life

The Honourable Artillery Company is the oldest Regiment in the British Army and they were holding an open evening that day as a recruitment event but also to raise money for charity. This has now become an annual event and it is only on for 3 hours but entry is free and they certainly pack a lot into that short space of time. We arrived shortly after the doors had opened and there was already long queues at the food tents where free (donations gratefully acccepted) burgers, chinese noodles and mini pizzas were being served up, next to these was the beer tent. We did a circuit of the static displays, field hospital, survival equipment, ordnance vintage and modern but best of all was the Chinook, surrealy parked before the high rise offices of the City.

The programme opened with a display of exercises by the Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery towing a 13lb gun, personally I never tire of watching them wheel those guns around.

Next up was a display by the Company of Pikemen and Musketeers who provide the escort to the coach of the Lord Mayor of London during his Annual Procession, while the Lady Mayoress' coach is escorted by the Light Cavalry, below.

The HAC is a Territorial (Reserve) Regiment of the the British Army which specialises in surveilance and target aquisition for the artillery, members of the Regiment have been mobilised for service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Next followed two displays by No. 2 squadron, the first was set during the Boer War and involved calling up the guns to support infantry ambushed by a Boer Kommando. The second was a similar scenario set in modern day Afghanistan. Both displays involved lots of explosions and much smoke, I love this kind of thing.

By now the dusk ws settling in and with all the smoke let off visibility was poor but we were reaching the finale of the event, the Band of the HAC came on wearing the uniforms of the Grenadier Guards, with whom they are affiiliated, followed by the take off of the Chinook from which there was to be a parachute drop.

The Chinook hovered above us for an age looking like a big dark malevolent bee.

The band struggled valiantly to be heard above the noise and wind from the Chinook rotors as it took off, a flare was set off on the ground (behind the band above) to guide the parachutist back to the field. Unfortunately the sky was so overcast, the ground shrouded in smoke and the wind so strong that the crowd held it's collective breath as we watched the parachutist carried away into the streets and office blocks of the surrounding district. Some time later the lone parachutist strode back into the arena, carrying his unfolded chute, to a rapturouse applause from the crowd.