The writer is none other than George R. R. Martin, who wrote the Game Of Thrones series of books (which I have not seen or read yet). George collects toy lead and plastic knights and has had problems with lead rot.
“I have been known to paint a few figures from time to time, usually while “watching” television. (It’s odd how many TV shows don’t need to be seen to be understood). My skills are no match for any of the other painters whose figures are shown here, but I enjoy it … The marvelously detailed pewter castings (by Eduard Kasintzev of the Ukraine) surely deserved better paintwork than I was capable of giving them… but I am a lot better than I used to be, for what it’s worth.”
I came across this Edwardian / WW1 postcard by Underwood the photographers featuring some delightful and familiar toy soldiers.
These look like the Foot Guards, marching at slope, firing, drummer and officer, some of my favourite Britain’s toy soldiers manufactured from their early days in the late 1890s /1901 onwards (wearing gaiters) right through to the 1950s / 1960s but ones which are still in production from time to time today, date on their base 1990.
The boy and the toys give this a look of H.G. Wells’ 1913 book Little Wars, mixed with Edwardian children in woollen Jerseys such as Christopher Robin from Winnie The Pooh and other children from A.A. Milne poems illustrated by E.H. Sheperd.
The bearded old soldier has a military style greatcoat, a hint of a Chelsea pensioner, opposite this curly haired boy (or almost girl?) Maybe the postcard suggests he is not only reliving his past battles with the Britain’s toy soldiers and bell tents but looking at his once eager young self. This is a motif repeated in famous Victorian paintings like Millais’ The Boyhood of Raleigh:
You know how you buy something, start researching it and come up with some unrelated unusual stories?
This postcard led me to discover more about early stereoscopic photographers in America, Edwardian penny magazines and one of the BFI’s most wanted missing silent films by a pioneering British woman film director. A film which started a court case between one early female film critic and the female director about whether women could direct proper films or not …
The toy soldier postcard was given away free in 1d weekly magazines, so there must be quite a few of these cards around, posted and unposted.
It was given away in Smart Fiction magazine published weekly 1d by Shurey’s of London which was published or flourished between 1913 and 1924 before merging with Smart Novels. It published short stories by a range of authors: http://www.philsp.com/data/data433.html#SMARTFICTION
The Underwood photograph was also given away in the similar Yes or No magazine, published weekly by Harry Shurey of London from 1904 – 1922, interestingly entitled in a 1917 (sample copy online) edition “A favourite in the trenches”:
Short story magazines for the boredom of billet and trenches must have been a welcome distraction. Would the soldiers have been sent these magazines and postcards by their families or would they have been bought and posted home by the soldiers to their children?
The Shurey family and lost British films …
The Shurey family were an interesting or pioneering bunch from publisher father Harry, editor Charles through to Harry’s daughter the 1920s silent movie producer Dorothy / Dinah Shureyhttps://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dinah_Shurey.
On the BFI most wanted lost films, Dinah Shurey’s final film The Last Post 1929 (sound added 1930) has an intriguingly Underwood style photo of children dressed as ‘toy’ soldiers.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Soldier takes the blame when his Bolshevik brother shoots a soldier during the General Strike (which was in 1926). All for the love of the same woman … childhood sweethearts etc … you can read more of the plot at: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Post_(film)
A collector I know of animal and zoo postcards named Alan Ashby, author of We Went to the Zoo Today: The Golden Age of Zoo Postcards, pointed out to me once that postcards with the space on the back to write your message were permissable only from 1902 onwards in the UK. Hence the reminder “This Space for Communication.” Before then the short message had to be written squeezed into the caption space on the front of a picture postcard. The back was all for the important business of the address and postage stamps.
The cost of a postcard postage and the stamp give some you a rough idea of date if no postmark date can be read – the 1/2d or halfpenny postage mentioned on this unposted card changed to 1d round about 1918 onwards. If this had been posted it would likely had a George V stamp from the WWI period.
Alan Ashby also pointed out that many early postcards were mounted in albums, rather than posted, as they were bought as souvenirs of a visit or collected for scrapbooks.
The Toy soldiers?
These look distinctively like early Britain’s figures and bell tents. These look like the Britain’s Foot Guards, marching at slope, firing, drummer and officer, manufactured from the late 1890s /1901 onwards (wearing gaiters) right through to the 1950s / 1960s. Some are still in production from time to time today, dated on their base 1990.
The Edwardian child in the postcard is not that different in appearance from the poorly child in an illustration of the Land Of Counterpane poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, illustrated here by US artist Jessie May Wilcox.
There are old soldiers and there are bold soldiers, but there are no old, bold soldiers, as the saying goes.
I always feel a bit sad seeing the lead graveyard of damaged toy soldiers that is sometimes EBay.
Repairing horses or cavalry is very tricky. Infantry are less tricky, if you are not too fussy, although many companies like Dorset Soldiers will do a fine job for you but at a cost. Recast heads and arms are available from several companies.
There is surprisingly little information on the Internet about repairing old broken lead soldiers.
I have been working my way through some of the casualties that have turned up in job lots of vintage toy soldiers to give them some gaming life again. I’m not one for a soldering iron or even Milliput / Green Stuff. This is not family friendly for us to use in our house as we have allergies to this Green Stuff in the family.
What else could I use to repair these damaged warriors?
What puts toy soldiers literally back on their feet in our house is Fimo or Sculpy polymer clay.
Crude, but using the traditional matchstick or cocktail stick into the hollow of the damaged legs, it is possible to make a custom made ‘prosthetic’ Fimo base to support the balance or weight of the damaged figure.
30 minutes baking later and once cool, the figure can be glued back into position on its Fimo base. Two pence pieces make good weighty support bases.
Overly chunky Fimo supports can be disguised if flocked or Fimo / Sculpy remains slightly shaveable with a scalpel after baking.
Once these bases are painted and the feet painted in, they should look slightly less clumsy but at least they are sturdy and live to fight again! With a few new arms bought in and a bit of repainting where needed, they should look almost shiny and new, certainly enough for the odd tabletop or garden skirmish.
Cocktail sticks cut and shaved into shape make good simple repairs for broken rifles, once glued into place and painted.
Some of the natives in this batch needed extensive rearming, new shields and rebasing with new feet.
These natives are part of a slowly growing force of natives, one I have repainted from bashed and damaged Zulu figures in job lots, ready for skirmish gaming.
One or two figures still need to have Fimo hands added like this Grenade thrower or hands / gloves shaved down into size like this drummer boy.
Sometimes the balance of figures is not quite right, as in the charging Tommy in the steel hat. One to rebase again!
Really pleased to have found a simple method of repairing of rebasing damaged figures. I will post some updated figures when these damaged figures are repainted or finished.
Posted by Mark, Man of TIN blog, 18 November 2016.
In no way do I endorse these product and or companies, I merely found the toy soldier aspects of the advert interesting. They are a few scraps from my toy soldier scrapbook.
In view of fears over hacking and cyber security, this traditional familiar childhood toy guardsman is supposed to be reassuring.
Slightly more modern, a moisturising tank and the toy soldier as guardians of your immune system. “A strong immune system is your best line of defence.” This advert features one of my favourite pound store plastic warriors in front of the Aloe Vera tank!
In my recent posting of rebased and reflocked 15mm Peter Laing 17th and 18th Century figures, there were a few Scots figures missing from the first line up.
Here are the missing Scots figures, found and freshly rebased:
The unpainted Lowland troops are mine, ones that I never finished in the 1980s, possibly because I couldn’t find or decide on a suitable colour scheme. The painted ones are a motley and colourful bunch I recently found on EBay and rebased.
For the other Highland and ECW figures, check our previous blogposts