Civilian figures # 1: the Zoo

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Trying to find interesting 54mm civilian figures is always a challenge. Apart from an unusual set ordered online from China, it usually involves looking out for figures with playsets or vehicles.

An expensive way to acquire a few figures!

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Parading Through The Zoo

It was always frustrating as a child to have a zoo or farm or a parade set out but no visitors  to watch; it usually resulted in lots of troops endlessly parading with their bands through the model zoo  (H.G. Wells Floor Games style)  along with assorted military staff feeding the animals, selling tickets etc.

Zoo animals were an important and long running part of any lead or plastic figure series, from Britain’s onwards.

To be fair, military bands and other forms of entertainment and display from balloon rides and fetes to fireworks to lifeboat launches were not unknown in the Victorian zoo such as Bristol Zoo. A bandstand was an everyday part of parks, seaside promenades, botanic gardens and often zoos.

This carried right through at Manchester’s Belle Vue Zoo from Victorian times into the 1950s, they staged elaborate military and historical tableaux through both world wars with a local cast of hundreds. Their theatrical stock of obsolete muskets were borrowed by the early Home Guard units locally in 1940.

http://manchesterhistory.net/bellevue/fireworks.html

Military mascots often ended up in zoos during after both World Wars  (including Winnie the Pooh at London Zoo) and an informal naval zoo existed, at Whale Island, this was a little uninspiring as a regular play or garden scenario.  http://www.europeana.eu/portal/en/record/2024904/photography_ProvidedCHO_TopFoto_co_uk_EU044495.htmlEven

Today, Edinburgh Zoo has a penguin called Nils Olaf  “commissioned” into the Norwegian Royal Guard and occasionally visited and paraded  by his fellow (human) comrades in their magnificent full dress uniform.

The Zoo and Wartime Morale

I have 1939 ‘propaganda’ press pictures of servicemen enjoying elephant rides at Belle Vue Zoo Manchester. This was sort of true of many British Zoos in wartime – there were  special rates for servicemen (and lady friends) in uniform, entertainments in WW1 for injured servicemen.

In the first few weeks of being closed to the public on ARP grounds in September 1939, London Zoo made arrangements for servicemen to walk round for the animals to look at. ‘The Zoo’ also made their canteen over to the RAF as the big houses around became RAF Regent’s Park full of training aircrew.

Britain’s and other lead toy soldier manufacturers made plenty of civilians and farm workers in the more pacifist aftermath of WW1. Plastic manufacturers haven’t widely followed suit and painted railway figures in this 54mm /1:32 scale are often quite expensive.

 

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Hong Kong farm girl, China made farm labourer and the real thing – Britain’s / Herald Farm Girl.

 

Failing the mounting of a full scale military parade through your zoo, Wild West town etc. all day and everyday,  some normal civilians are useful for floor games, sandpit games or  wargames.

F.E. Perry in his quirky First Book of War Games and Second Book of War Games often featured civilian or town settings alongside his wargames scenario / photographs.

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The 54mm female figure from the left is from the c. 2007 zoo vehicle  playset, whilst the “Marilyn” stylish 1950s unfinished painted figure is from recent Chinese plastics online purchase of civilians. (Photo / figures: Man of TIN)

These  feature sets  came from a zoo gift shop with two zebra striped jeeps handy for conversion, some brilliant wooden watch towers and rope ways (of which more anon), a couple of odd sized animals and these interesting modern civilians. Similar figures are made for dinosaur playsets.

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Something vaguely unsettling about this boy child in his simple factory paintwork. Useful photographer figure though!

Something similar to the girl child in the photos has recently been repainted and reused in a Slinkachu type way on the front cover of an art photography book about the recent group of artists / photographers playing with scale for satiric, unsettling or comic effect.

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Microworlds contains some slightly disturbing dystopian or to some tasteless items from a range of photographers.

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Another candidate to be my Man of TIN blog photographer? (from a 2007 zoo vehicle playset)

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More plastics including civilians are featured on my Pound Store Plastic Warriors sister blogsite –

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2016/09/07/pound-store-plastic-warriors-previous-blog-links/

Police and firefighters are now available sometimes in pound store tubes, suitable for conversion.

Back in the 1980s there were Britain’s Deetail nurses, doctors and  construction workers, not forgetting the Britain’s farm workers ranging from lead to Herald plastic and a modern farm worker range still around in toy shops or online today.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/tag/plastic-police-figures/

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/more-poundstore-warriors/

In future blogposts I will feature more civilian figures to be used for game scenarios from the Chinese made sets available online  to the useful USA manufactured  Toob “heritage” plastic figures roughly in 54mm, also purchased online.

Steve Weston’s Plastic Warrior website also feature an excellent set of Mexican Wild West civilians or peasants.

http://plasticsoldiers.co.uk/index.php/manufacturer/weston-toy-co/

Posted by Mr MIN, Man of TIN, January 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

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Author: 26soldiersoftin

Hello I'm Mark Mr MIN, Man of TIN. Based in S.W. Britain, I'm a lifelong collector of "tiny men" and old toy soldiers, whether tin, lead or childhood vintage 1960s and 1970s plastic figures. I randomly collect all scales and periods and "imagi-nations" as well as lead civilians, farm and zoo animals. I enjoy the paint possibilities of cheap poundstore plastic figures as much as the patina of vintage metal figures. Befuddled by the maths of complex boardgames and wargames, I prefer the small scale skirmish simplicity of very early Donald Featherstone rules. To relax, I usually play solo games, often using hex boards. Gaming takes second place to making or convert my own gaming figures from polymer clay (Fimo), home-cast metal figures of many scales or plastic paint conversions. I also collect and game with vintage Peter Laing 15mm metal figures, wishing like many others that I had bought more in the 1980s ...

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