Douglas Coupland’s memorial to the War of 1812

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I am intrigued by photos of a 2008 war memorial statue in Toronto designed by Canadian author and artist Douglas Coupland https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Coupland 

It is unusual because it marks the less familiar War of 1812. It is also unusual in that is also naturalistic but also in the shape of two giant toy soldiers.

I had come across Coupland’s statues of giant “toy green army men” in the  author photos for his books that I have read over the years.

These “toy soldiers” are part of an ongoing series, very similar to his “Vietnam Swamp Soldier” (2000), a statue or installation shown at Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, 2015 featured here:

http://www.artslant.com/ams/articles/show/44508

https://www.iizt.com/project/237/

https://canadianart.ca/online/see-it/2008/08/07/the-big-gift/

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/1608478.stm

http://www.ysmag.com/features/midCentury.html

https://www.coupland.com/public-arts 

These websites  feature several others of these giant green toy soldier statues by Doug Coupland and a monumental Canadian firefighter in similar style.

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War of 1812 memorial Toronto by Douglas Coupland (Wikipedia source / public domain)

 

Monument to the War of 1812 (2008) by Douglas Coupland in Toronto, Canada.
The standing soldier is painted gold and depicts a member of the 1813 Royal Newfoundland Regiment (Canada).

The other fallen toy soldier figure is painted silver and depicts an American soldier from the 16th U.S. Infantry Regiment.

The statue caption or information panel by Coupland mentions a highly local link – one block away is the War of 1812-14 site of Fort York, site of a crucial battle in April 1813 that secured Canada’s future as a separate nation from The USA

http://www.fortyork.ca/history-of-fort-york.html

and

http://www.fortyork.ca/featured-attractions/fort-york-guard/the-fort-york-guard.html

Why the Toy Soldier style on the memorial? 

The victorious Canadian soldier looks rugged and heroic, not unusual on a war memorial. Certainly more conventionally heroic and rugged  than the unfortunate Confederate war memorial in Dade, Georgia, known as “Dutchy”, pulled down and buried by his own townsfolk:

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/07/04/dutchy-and-dade-the-confederate-history-of-forgotten-georgia/

Safely two hundred years past, Coupland’s toy soldier approach to this war memorial is highly unusual, showing toy soldier versions of the protagonists complete with fake mould lines.

Is Coupland suggesting in game terms that this side won, or “you lost” as was recently scrawled on some Confederate war memorials in America?

Gold and silver statues, winner and runner up in sporting terms?

I wonder how we would react to a WWI or WWII statue in this rugged big toy soldier style, replete with figure bases and mould lines.

How would we react now as members of the public or the armed services to a statue in this  style of a more recent conflict like the Gulf Wars or Afghanistan?

Is Coupland suggesting that soldiers are pawns in a game of war?

This toy soldier style of memorial  or public artwork had done its job, in getting me thinking about its meaning.

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I am reminded of H.G. Wells’ wise words in Little Wars book (about fighting battles with toy soldiers) compared with the real blundering thing of Great Wars. Wars, as Yoda wisely observed of great warriors in the Star Wars movies, “Wars do not make one great.”

A 2008 interview with Coupland about the statue features the unveiling, public response, toy soldiers and 1812 reenactors  – see this short Vimeo video by Inkblot media https://vimeo.com/5020532 

I would  be curious to hear what other blog readers think of this interesting War of 1812 ‘toy soldier’ style memorial?

Events of 1812 

So watching this video with its short and varied contributors, it seems that there is some controversy from different sides (Canada, America, Britain) on who exactly won and lost the war of 1812-14 in North America. This is partly what statue designer Douglas Coupland says he is challenging or questioning in his 1812 memorial.

All I remember from school about the War of 1812 is that “The British burnt the White House” with no real understanding of why. The events and background to the War of 1812 are outlined here:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_1812

In view of recent controversy over the future of some Confederate war memorial statues in a changing multi-racial America, it is interesting to read the response to this less well-remembered conflict or civil war in North America, amongst other controversial markers or memorials.

http://militaryhistorynow.com/2012/09/21/monumental-struggles-war-memorials-that-sparked/ 

http://www.cbc.ca/news/entertainment/coupland-creates-statue-to-mark-war-of-1812-1.717530

Tiny but Statuesque

I am always struck by the highly familiar miniature statues that are our childhood Airfix figures.

Some of the spare Airfix OOHO British Waterloo infantry that I have recently found (in a couple of recent lucky Airfix box finds) could do well at a pinch for both British, Canadian and American troops in an 1812 Skirmish. Using Featherstone’s Close Wars appendix rules (from War Games 1962), this is another idea for the Man of TIN 2018 project list.

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https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/21/airfix-gold-from-the-back-of-a-dark-gaming-shop/

Such figures would also suit Army Red, Army Blue type of scenarios in Imagi-Nations and my fictional Bronte kingdoms of  Angria and Gondal.

My trusty old library / childhood copy of Preben Kannik’s Military Uniforms of the World in Colour features British or Allied troops of the time, as well as these couple of 1812 American troops.

As a child I often thought the 1812 New York Rifle Corps uniform one of the more exotic, almost Santa Claus like in the trimmed hunting shirt,  but had no figures similar or suitable.

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The Portuguese Cacadores in their brown uniforms are interesting paint variations for Airfix or Napoleonic figures. The fact that the regular Portuguese units wore blue is another chance to reuse any Blue uniformed Airfix  British looking troops with Shakos when they are not pretending to be  American 1812 troops. The French infantry will provide any opposition needed. Flexible armies result if you don’t look too closely!

Interesting that the Butternut improvisation of dress (green, brown, grey, blue) of the American Civil War was alive in the 1812 US Army as supplies ran short. Good camouflage for  guerilla and back woods fighting.

The US 16th Infantry Regiment pictured in Kannik’s book is the US regiment shown in Coupland’s Toy Soldier Statue or Memorial.

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My local library service also turned up for me from its stores on loan  The War of 1812, an old Osprey Men at Arms. Very useful – several more recent titles on the subject have been added.

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The ‘American War’ is also very very briefly covered in Jenny Uglow’s In These Times, as much for the naval blockade as its land battles https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/02/in-these-times/

As mentioned, another idea for the painting table and the Man of TIN 2018 project list!

Blog Post Script

Interesting comments in the comment section  from Ross MacFarlane from a modern Canadian standpoint, worth reproducing here: “Hmm, as I recall the popular reaction to the statue was not exactly favourable, I suppose most of us aren’t enlightened enough. Odd to celebrate Ft York as a turning point since we lost that one but what’s history if you can’t rewrite it?

Its interesting to follow the shift in interpretation over the centuries to match various shifts in politics and culture from “brave Canadians stood up to the American elephant with a bit of help from the Old Country” to “the Brits did it all and the Canadians weren’t really involved” (hard to take in view of battles like Chateauguay where no Brits were involved and others where units raised in what is now Canada were raised as British regiments ) to a more balanced view based on facts.”

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Ross’s other comment on Kannik’s uniform book got me thinking:

“I used to wonder just what kind of weird hat that the NY rifleman was wearing, would have been much better if he turned his head a bit to show the common top hat with turned brim. Looking back it was also surprising that the pictures on the dust jacket were not replicated inside, inc that handsome NY Dragoon”.

I had quite forgotten this figure:

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I have some ideas in the comments section about making such a dandy Dragoon unit out of Airfix Waterloo British Royal Horse Artillery and Hussars conversions. More food for thought …

Thanks, Ross!

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, September 2017.

 

 

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Airfix Gold from the back of a dark gaming shop

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A bit like finding Smaug the dragon seated on gold and jewels  in The Hobbit, I found these treasures lurking in the dark back of a gaming shop last month.

I often pop into gaming, railway or model shops when I see them in search of scenery, paint or just out of curiousity.

Gaming shops are often strange places, darker towards the back and occupied by shuffling figures, all dressed in black. Then there’s the mumbling, arcane words about the miniatures games or card systems arrayed on tables. Foreign territory. No eye contact is usually made with strangers in civilian clothing such as me.

(For the record, I have nothing against fantasy gamers and suchlike).

It was quite dreamlike, finding a cache of kits and figures that you had been looking out for for years.

Any second  I knew I was going to wake up.

There was a small shelf of kits, vintage Matchbox kits,  multipose historical Airfix single figures, things I had not seen for years.

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I had little cash on me  and little time to stop and recce.

I went straight for the vintage Airfix figures, things I knew I could use rather than stockpile.

Familiar old Airfix OO/HO Waterloo French and British infantry (reasonable at about £6 per sealed box) were one obvious and versatile choice – these partly made up for the odd lack of British Infantry in their box in my last hoard.

They turned out to be the recent 2000s Airfix reissues in bright red and blue but no matter.

The Hat British Rifles or Light Infantry are new figures to me.

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Some interesting information on the box back about the Light Infantry, suggesting  alternative uses such as Cazadores and Cacadores.

 

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A quick history lesson on the back of a box …

 

Who could resist the odd brown unit of Cacadores or US 1812 Infantry, like those pictured in Preben Kannik’s Military History of the World in Colour ?

 

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These oddly shakoed Hat figures would pass (for me for games purposes) for 1840s British Infantry or Militia in a railway-related scenario that I am working on.

I also spotted their potential as British or US Infantry in a War of 1812 skirmish scenario that I am working on for 2018 with the Waterloo British Infantry.

There was only one lone  box of 1:32 figures to choose from but a good choice – Call to Arms 54mm Zulus – something Airfix strangely never made, despite the popularity of the 1960s ZULU films.

They should match in well with my repaired hollow cast zulus. https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/17/ashantees-or-zulus-reborn/

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Sixteen 1:32 Zulus, four each of the four poses

 

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Another quick history lesson …

 

By luck I have a pack of the Call to Arms 1:32 Rorke’s Drift British Infantry to match them, bought several years ago.

I went back to the gaming shop a week or two ago.

The mumbling black clad figures and the private gaming were still there.  None of the other  vintage material was there. The shop assistant had no knowledge of it.  All the remaining kits were gone. Maybe it had been a dream after all …

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 20 September 2017

A few new Peter Laings to ID

 

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Peter Laing 15mm Prussian Landwehr F15 on the left – but who are the artillery men with similar hats? Now identified by Tony Kitchen and Ross MacFarlane as Crimean Russian Artillery  with port fire A807  and sponge A806. Almost possible to convert A807 to an officer with a sword.

 

Occasionally very tiny mixed groups of Peter Laing figures turn up on auction sites or second hand figure sales websites. Sometimes the figures are identified, sometimes not.

I recently bought  a group of 18 mixed foot and 2 cavalry – but only recognise a few of them.

 

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These figures have a colonial air … the one with the musket (left) has almost a bun or pigtail. Mahdists or Dervishes with spear and sword ? Or Boxers? These two groups were interchangeable in the Peter Laing catalogue.

Maybe the Google plus Peter Laing group or my blog readers could help me identify these figures?

Some of the native figures may be Mahdists or Dervishes with spear and sword ? Or are they Boxers? These two groups were interchangeable in the Peter Laing range, even appearing as “Suitable Items from Other Ranges” within the same range where Peter suggested F628 Dervish with Spear could be Boxer with Spear.

Ross MacFarlane suggested in the comments: “The others look like Mahdists to me. F612, F628, F629. Your pigtail is probably the tail of the turban which was often left to dangle down the neck. The armoured cavalry looks like M608 Armoured Dervish cavalry. Thanks,  Ross!

Ian Dury wrote:  Just to confirm Ross’ views on the Colonial and Crimean figures – they are indeed:
F612 (Mahdist) Jihadia rifeleman
F628 Dervish with spear
F628 Dervish with raised sword
M608 Dervish Armoured Horseman
A806 Russian Gunner, sponge
A807 Russian Gunner, Portfire

 

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A few have some paintwork, suggestive of the colourful patches of Dervishes.

The few details on these tiny 15mm figures made them very versatile for paint conversions to other periods or armies.

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The Zulu I recognise but the armoured cavalryman? Mounted Norman? Back view of the Prussian Landwehr.

A few I already recognise like the Zulu, probably F620 advancing raised assegai or F626 Zulu running.

Ross MacFarlane thinks: “The armoured cavalry looks like M608 Armoured Dervish cavalry”   which makes more sense in the colonial company it is keeping. I thought at first it might be weird Mounted Norman …

Any help identifying this small random group of Peter Laing figures is much appreciated.

B.P.S. Blog Post Script – Prussian or Russian?

In his comment, Ross thinks that the infantryman has the look of a Crimean Russian infantryman, rather than Prussian Landwehr. This is a sensible suggestion with it being lumped in with stray Crimean Russian gunners.

This would probably make it F824 Russian infantry advancing (cap)?

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Hopefully someone with Waterloo Prussian or Crimean Russian Peter Laing figures  might have thoughts on this.

Ian Dury’s fine collection of Peter Laing  Crimean Russian figures in caps advancing are shown here on Bob Cordery’s blog

http://wargamingmiscellany.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/in-praise-of-peter-laing-miniatures_3.html

Just as the Russian gunner figures look like they have long coats and /or baggy breeches, these figures in Ian’s photographs look to have slightly  longer baggy coats. We are only talking a difference of up to a millimetre!

The new unpainted figure is so close to one that I bought from Peter Laing as samples of his Waterloo range in the 1980s that I think the figures, if not the same, are pretty much interchangeable – a bonus really for building up an army!

I photographed my Waterloo Prussians alongside  for comparison.

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The full extent of my Prussian intervention in a Waterloo setting  is currently shown here – tremble, tiny Napoleon!

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Peter Laing 15mm Napoleonic Prussians F12 Infantry advancing, F14 Officer, F13 drummer and then F15 Prussian Landwehr advancing – next to the unpainted  new figure – and F16 Prussian Landwehr firing.

I am still slightly swayed towards the figure being Napoleonic Prussian rather than Crimean Russian. However it is  close enough to the Crimean Russian figures in Ian Dury’s photographs that, thanks to Ross’s suggestion, I could easily use these Landwehr type figures for Crimean War scenarios.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 17 September 2017

 

Another Vintage Airfix Hoard

I’m glad many of you shared my excitement about my recent Airfix tin hoard.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/08/vintage-airfix-tin-hoard/

2017 has been a bit of a ‘jammy’ or lucky year for me for vintage Airfix, especially welcome now that I have restricted and almost stopped using a well-known online auction shopping website after being hacked.

2017 saw a charity shop haul of Airfix OO/HO blue boxes and figures which should help with future projects this coming year.

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I could not believe my luck and bought them all on sight without any chance to check contents. Each box was only £3.99 and all the money to a good cause.

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Vintage browned sellotape and all. I managed to carefully remove all the clear modern sellotape which sealed the boxes up.

Thanks to the excellent box art shown in Jean-Christophe Carbonel’s Airfix’s Little Soldiers, I do not need to own lots of vintage cardboard Airfix packaging.  I have no idea where many of my childhood Airfix boxes went but I was always interested by the early Airfix box art.

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The accidental chance to own and enjoy some vintage boxes and figures was very welcome.

Dogfight Doubles?

I noticed with many of the matched figure boxes  – Union Infantry versus Confederate Infantry, Waterloo French Infantry versus British Infantry – that there is a bit of a left / right thing going on.  The same with artillery and cavalry.

A game of two halves, the two boxes make up or suggest one scene. The Union figures are skirmishing and firing towards a barely glimpsed enemy and their officer on a wooded ridge to the right side of the box. On the Confederate box, the implied enemy troops are firing down from such a ridge to a Union enemy below and on their left.

Quite frequently the British or Allied troops are coming in on the left, the enemy troops from the right on a matched pair of boxes.  At least opposing sets usually form two halves or sides of an illustration. Looking through Carbonel’s  book, however, this “to the left = victorious, on the right = bad guys” theory does not hold true from a British or Allied point of view for all the Airfix sets.

Alternatively the enemy are glimpsed – French Cuirassiers appear along the ridge or skyline for the Waterloo British infantry, a Waterloo British Highlander in an implied square bristling with bayonets against the charging French Cuirassiers on this cavalry box.

This is in picture terms almost a  “Dogfight Double” as Airfix would make for their matched fighter / bomber kits. In this figure case, it encourages you to buy the opposition figures inferred by the illustration.

There is more about the box art and artists in Arthur Ward’s excellent books on Airfix.

The Back of the Box

I have always admired the black pen and ink line illustrations of figures and the later coloured painting guide pictures of figures on the Airfix box backs. So at least I have some not very valuable Airfix packaging to enjoy, as well as the contents.

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Airfix U.S. Cavalry which had to make do for Confederate and Union Cavalry, sets which were never produced.

 

These box illustrations formed a simple and  effective  painting guide for the figures inside. One or two of these coloured figures would be included tantalisingly in Airfix catalogues.

 

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Slightly fuzzy colour printing on this Confederate infantry box
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This is how I painted my Union Infantry, white haversacks and all, and still do. The Airfix way of painting uniforms  often still seems the “Right Way”…

 

Between first sight and returning to the shop a few minutes later with enough cash, two boxes had sold. The  two boxes that sold before I bought the rest were Airfix Waterloo Highland Infantry and French Cavalry (Cuirassiers).

 

I’m not too sure what would have been in those ‘lost’ boxes, as some of these boxes were a curious mix.

They all obviously belonged to the same person as contents were sometimes scattered amongst different boxes.

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Spot the missing figures!  (bottom right)

Inside the Waterloo British Infantry box were not the usual custard yellow Wellington’s veterans. Instead there was an interesting red / brown figure mix of Airfix Indians, Wagon Train figures and wagon and a few Ancient Britons! Not unwelcome figures.

 

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Contents of the oddest box of Waterloo British Infantry ever …

 

Even the odd one out old set of the Afrika Korps had a surprise – it had a fair number of the vintage series one Eighth Army figures included as well.  I much prefer the vintage series one tinier Airfix figures to the larger and still available series two figures.

What to do with lots of lovely Airfix figures?

These are all very useful figures, some part painted, all for future Napoleonic and  Civil War games or more generically painted or differently flagged, ready for Imagi-Nation skirmishes in the fictional Bronte kingdoms of Angria and Gondal.

I know that many of these Waterloo figures were made recently available again in 2015 for the bicentenary Airfix Waterloo gift set but I have enjoyed seeing all the old boxes again.

To speed the journey to the tabletop, some of these figures are part painted and surprisingly, the horses are stoutly glued.  Fixing horses to bases and riders to horses was one thing about Airfix and Esci figures that I disliked, compared to Atlantic horses.

Apart from not being based, it looks as if some of these figures have been enjoyed and deployed on the games table. I hope they will have many more skirmishes to come.

 

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Some fairly battle ready gun teams, one Union, one Confederate.

I hope you have enjoyed a closer look at my lucky discovery!

Little shop hoards like this don’t happen often and it is a different more exciting experience from bidding or buying online.  It makes up for all the days that you don’t see any figures at all in charity shops or market stalls.

 

 

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Horses on bases, completed gun teams … wonderful!

 

A couple more lucky hoards for 2017 to share  in future blogposts, so that you can share in my joy at a  bit of a ‘jammy’ year for figures.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 16 September 2017.

Vintage Airfix Tin Hoard

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Opening a vintage Airfix tin hoard from the 1960s or early 1970s with a few Bellona pieces too! 

One of my kind older modeller colleagues at work, who is currently downsizing,  handed me a tin that “might be of interest to me”.

Unopened for years, these appear to be relics of his late 1960s figure gaming days.

The heady smell of vintage Airfix plastic was the first thing I noticed.

A few Bellona vac-formed walls and a ruined house and bridge.

Underneath these were a surprising  mix of old 1960s Airfix figures, some still on their sprues. Figures, guns, horses.

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Very useful Washington’s Army troops in tricornes. 

Like many Airfix figures, some of them are fragile or broken. Some of them are cut up  ready to be converted.

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A rare joy – Airfix American Civil War artillery crews and cannons. 
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More of those hard to fix or glue horses for the U.S. Cavalry and a few Foreign Legion series 2 (1971) 
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Airfix Confederate Infantry, some half painted as Union troops. 
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Ever useful Airfix Union Infantry in Kepis. 
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Not just fragile  Airfix cowboys but the top sprue gives the clue – High Chaparral set figures (1971) with  John and Victoria Cannon and Manolito figures. 

A few WW2 British paratroops and  a few scrapbox items aside, this was a fantastic and kind addition to what survives of my family 1970s historical Airfix figures although I am very conscious of how fragile some of these figures now are.

The bottom of the tin has a scurf of fragile broken bits of figure and the trimmed off kepis from past conversions.

I look forward to painting some of these figures this winter.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 8th September 2017.

Simple Seaside Buildings Not To Be Sniffed At!

 

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Round the Back view in black and white …

Pirate duelling rules apply here https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2017/04/26/duelling-in-the-sandpit-lunge-cut-and-stop-thrust/

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A glimpse at the roof gives away their secret as the pirates lie await in ambush for Blackbeard. Figures:  Papo bandana pirate (left), Safari Ltd Blackbeard (centre) and Anne Bonny female pirate (right) 3.75 inch  / 85 to 90mm preprinted plastic pirate figures

 

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Ahaaargh! The secret be out … ”tis a Waitrose tissue box.
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FSC approved Sustainable games building? Reduce Reuse Recycle or Upcycle!

Sadly my nearest  branch of Waitrose does not stock these stylish 2015 award winning tissue box beach huts at £2 a box, although they are available by Waitrose order  if you spend over £40 online, but that’s an awful lot of tissues!

http://www.waitrose.com/shop/DisplayProductFlyout?productId=422895

Maybe not as stylish as Alan Tradgardmastre’s family made breakfast biscuit houses, but they are fun anyway:  http://tradgardland.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/breakfast-biscuits-little-wars-house.html

I was keen to take one of these Waitrose tissue beach huts apart and use it as a card template for making a few simple cardboard houses.

However, as I did not own the originals (they were in somewhere I stayed on a recent break), I was very restrained and haven’t hacked these apart without permission.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 5 September 2017.

 

Peter Laing 15mm Google+ Community page

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A few of my Peter Laing 15mm Figures from my recent WW1 game.

Peter Laing 15mm collector and enthusiast Ian Dury has set up a Google+ Community page / forum to celebrate these early and charming 15mm figures, which are sadly no longer available.

As Ian Dury wrote: “I  hope you will all join and contribute – pictures, notifications of e-Bay sales, personal sales and wants are all welcome.”

https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/112059197914895797940
“If you know of anyone else who would be interested – please let them know!”
Ian also hopefully mentioned: “For those of you who aren’t already Google+ users, you will probably need to register for a (free) GMail account to make full use of the community. You can link this to an existing e-mail account if you use another provider – but you may need to change your G-Mail settings to do so.”

I’m already signed up with a Gmail account and it was easy enough.

This Google community  looks to be great fun. Already featured are Peter Laing blogs including Man Of TIN, lots of figure photos  and a full Peter Laing catalogue.

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My Peter Laing 15mm 1715 / 1745 Highlanders.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 6 September 2017.