Tuesday 31 July 2012

King and Country - The Crusades and Imperial Chinese

Just a quick look at some more of the rather sumptuous dioramas by King and Country seen at the London Show last month

You need plenty of standard bearers for your medieval armies, if like me, you can't afford their figures you can always take inspiration and make something similar by downloading flags from free sites such as Flags and Banners or Alex's Flags

These Chinese troops are from the Imperial Collection series based on the Imperial Court from 1865 to 1904, I never tire of looking at them.

Friday 27 July 2012

There's going to be a BIG PARTY in London tonight.......

No.......... it's not the opening of the Olympics......................

There'll be lots of Music..............

Lots of Women..............

Lots of Dancing..............

Lots of Eatin' and Drinkin'............

Everybody'll have a good time...........until the drink runs out, then.........

Lots of Fightin'.............

Have a Good Day!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Battleships belching Smoke and Flame by Heyde?

This rather nice little set of Battleships has left me with something of a quandary. 

I think they are meant to be Pre-dreadnoughts (though I am no expert in ship design) and show two ships of the Imperial German Navy battling it out with a sole Frenchy off the coast of Denmark, as denoted by the lighthouse sporting the Danish flag.  But what does this group represent?  I don't think it could be a Franco Prussian War encounter because the ships look much later and anyway the Imperial Navy wasn't founded until 1871, also I can't find any mention of an action between German and French Naval forces in the North Sea in WW1. 

Who made them?  Well Haffner and Spenkuch seem to have been the the main providers of semi flat battleships but I've looked through several books on early German leads and the examples I've found by these companies don't look anything like the above.   The nearest thing I could find in terms of sculpting and paint style is by Heyde, which is curious because this firm mostly made it's vehicles, vessels and accessories 3D in tinplate.

A great set, I particularly like the ram on the French ship but the secondary armament firing from a cupola half way up the mask seems a bit incongruous to me, is this correct? 

Thursday 19 July 2012

Abu Klea and others by John Jenkins Design at the London Toy Soldier Show

John Jenkins Design have been around for a while but I don't recall seeing them at the London Show before, maybe they were there but tucked away in a dark corner.  Anyway last month they had a stand in a big bright area where I had expected to find my old friends from White Tower Miniatures and I have to say I was quite taken with some of their dioramas.

I assume this to be the Battle of Abu Klea because it depicts Mahdists rushing the Gardner gun manned by the Naval Brigade at the corner of the British square...........

.........but taking a closer look at the gun I think it looks more like a Gatling.  Still, a very nice piece of work which deserves better than a bit of nit picking from an old fogey like me.

Still in the Sudan we find this rather fine little vignette of Gen. Gordon's last moments at Khartoum.

And finally, the Highlanders storm the French lines somewhere in North America.

I don't collect modern white metal models like these but there are plenty of people who do so these few pics are for the benefit of those unable to travel to the shows, but also for those like me who need inspiration for conversion ideas and wargame scenarios.

Monday 16 July 2012

Wagon Train in 20mm from 1960

Tying up the last few odds and ends that I came across at the London Toy Soldier show last month, among which were this rather dinky plastic Wagon Train set tied in to the Universal TV show which ran from 1957 to 1965.

Helpfully the backing card carries the copyright date of 1960, which can be seen in the bottom right hand corner.  It amused me that the manufacturer used such a large package to emphasise the media tie in for three such tiny little wagons.

This close up of one of the wagons also catches the manufacturer Morestone's (Morris and Stone) brand mark BUDGIE.  Morestone's were the firm that employed Roy Selwyn-Smith and Charlie Biggs to make the moulds for the old Timpo hollowcast figures, Selwyn-Smith was the sculptor and Biggs engraved the detail into the brass moulds.  Later they both went off to work for ZANG on the Herald range and when that company was bought out by Britains they both ended up as Directors of the company.  I vaguely recall that Morestone's made quite a range of diecast vehicles back in the day.

Thursday 12 July 2012

Skirmish Wargame Group - Toussaint L'Ouverture game in 54mm

The Skirmish Wargames Group are well known for picking some unusual scenarios but at the London Toy Soldier Show in June I think they surpassed themselves with a game set around the slave revolt of 1792 in Saint Domingue (Haiti).  A very confused affair in which plantation slaves rose against the French colonists and were armed by the Spanish (who occupied the eastern end of the island) and the British, who mounted an amphibious landing.  They then rallied to the French when the Revolutionaries abolished slavery and, led by the very able freed slave Francois Toussaint L'Ouverture, they ousted the Anglo Spanish garrisons and set up their own government.  Subsequently Toussanit found himself fighting the French again when Napoleon became First Consul and sent an expedition to reclaim the Island and reinstate the slave trade.

An overview of the table, in the centre a plantation building surrounded by bush and cane fields, at the far end the slaves are rousing themselves with voodoo incantations.  The fun thing about the SWG is their inventive use of scenery and accessories, the bushland is made from teddy bear fur while the plantation building has seen service as a Russian dacha for various periods.

The insurgents led by Toussaint L'Ouverture advance through the bush, the great man himself is in the left foreground sporting a bicorne with red and white plume, a band of armed Mulattos move forward on their right flank.  Toussaint and his men are new metal figures made by Beau Geste of Argentina.

Among the troops sent by Napoleon to retake the island in 1802 were these Polish regulars, also made by Beau Geste, and led by an officer from Replicants

When the French expedition arrived Toussaint led his men into the interior and fought a guerrilla campaign, which is the scenario for this game.  Although Toussaint surrendered early on and the country was soon pacified after that, the withdrawal of freedom and equal rights soon led to further insurrection and mutiny against the French, whose biggest enemy was now yellow fever.

I'm not sure where this chap fits in the story but he's a nice character figure and in period costume so why not?

The French colonists, figures from various sources and in sizes from 54mm up to 70mm it just shows that you can get away with mixing scales if you just don't stand the figures too close together!
The free mulattos were given equal rights with white and creole colonists after the storming of the Bastille but this was also revoked by Napoleon when he became First Consul. I think the mulattos above are conversions but I'm not sure from what.

The slaves practising voodoo are made from Marx Daktari set natives and some Hong Kong Tarzan figures.

Friday 6 July 2012

Clairet Eskimos at the London Toy Soldier Show

I'm always on the lookout for something unusual when I go to the shows and here is something I was really pleased to find, it's the Clairet Arctic set.  I say Arctic set because it's got Inuit people and Polar Bears but commits the universal sin of including Penguins which are only found in the Antarctic.  Marx, Britains and Timpo all made Polar/Exploration sets but I don't think anything quite compares to Clairet, in fact of all the French manufacturers I rate them the best, being on a par with Elastolin for quality but with the advantage of being 54mm.

I was really taken with the ice flows and the sleighs pulled by reindeer, they're a nice touch to a very original set.

A close up of the figures, note the chap who has caught a fish in his two pronged trident, the one standing beside him with an oar looks as if he's frosted with ice but in fact this is a chemical reaction in the acetate plastic which will degenerate further over time causing crystals to form all over the figure.  There are some other poses which are not included here - two men carrying a polar bear slung from a staff between them and a man with a hunting eagle tethered to a pole. 

Final shot shows the sleigh pulled by huskies which I couldn't get into the main picture, also a better view of the huntsman with rifle who has a dead walrus at his feet

Thursday 5 July 2012

W. Britain new Zulu War unveiled at the London Toy Soldier Show June 2012

Unveiled by W. Britain at the London Toy soldier Show last weekend was this rather dramatic model of a British artillery limber team racing to cut their way through the Zulu hordes and rescue their 7lb gun.  The set has been titled "Desperate Escape"

A nice piece of eye candy which I'm sure will appeal to modern W. Britain collectors but why oh why did they mount it on what looks like a slab of rough cut MDF board?   And having crafted such folly why not extend it to the gun instead of cutting it off at the limber and leaving the gun looking like an after thought from another set?  Having said that I've looked at the set on the W Britain website and the base appears much thinner and extends to include the gun so perhaps this is just a prototype.

Due to be available in September it will be a limited edition of 600 sets and should you choose to order one you will get the grand sum of 1p change from five hundred quid.

Some further posts on the London Show to come when I get time, some nice French plastic and the latest offering from the Skirmish Wargames Group.

Monday 2 July 2012

Niblett Vintage 20mm - so small and just exquisite

I went along to the London Toy Soldier Show on Saturday and among the sights were these rather lovely 20mm masterpieces by John Niblett, they really are hard to find and in fact these are the first I have ever seen in the flesh.........so to speak.

John Niblett is probably best known for his work on the Airfix HO/OO figures but apart from his own 20mm range shown here he also sculpted 54mm figures for Malleable Mouldings and a range of historical figures in armour under his Modelmakers brand which were sold through the Tower of London. 

Malleable Mouldings are best known for their early plastic figures made from designs by Holger Eriksson at the Treeforest Mouldings works in Wales around 1946 but when this didn't take off they moved to Deal in Kent where they started making metal figures for the collectors market, still using Eriksson designs but now also some by Niblett who was based just up the road in Sidcup.  Their catalogue boasted that they could make figures of any regiment to order and the Christmas 1952 edition of the Illustrated London News carried a full colour article showing 25 of their figures depicting the evolution of the Coldstream Guards from 1650 to 1950.  In 1957 they were still on sale at Hamleys, the famous London toy store, alongside collectors models by Carman, Argosy (whoever they were) and Greenwood.

Niblett was still advertising his design and casting services (now moved to Herne Bay) in Military Modelling magazine up to the end of 1978, there is a picture of the figure of Robert the Bruce that he produced through Modelmakers on my old website (now dormant) HERE

A selection of 20mm Romans, Normans and Medievals, at top right is a 30mm figure (also by Niblett) of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen at Arms, the bodyguards to the British Monarch.

The picture belies the fact that the foot figures are little bigger than the size of my thumbnail and given that they were originally sold through Hummels of Burlington Arcade (where you can buy all kinds of stuff you never knew you needed at prices that will have you clutching at your chest and gasping for breath), alongside Courtneys and Pings, it does make me wonder if they were ever actually meant to be wargaming figures?   Well Niblett also sold them unpainted and after he died in 1980 they continued to be sold under the Tribute Figures brand, for more detail about Niblett visit the Vintage 20Mil website

The figures were on the table of dealer Adrian Little who trades as Mercator Trading priced at £10 foot and £25 mounted.  Adrian told me that he usually takes Nibletts to the shows in the US, where there is a healthy appetite for them, because they give a good return relative to the weight and room they take up.  A bit like smuggling diamonds then.

In hindsight I should have bought some, well one at least.  Maybe I will, next time. Perhaps.