Or in my words “I didn’t choose the Geek Life … the Geek Life chose me.”
A big thanks to all my fellow bloggers and readers over the last year (or two) for all your likes, comments and support. Your blogs on my “blogs I follow” blogroll are my regular portals to games blogging, toy soldiers and gaming inspiration.
The last year of Man of TIN and associated blogs has seen a wide range of subjects, being the wargames and toy soldier butterfly that I am.
Some of my highlights from my latest year of Man of TIN blog
9. Unusual anniversaries and special months – MARCH and FEMbruary featuring female figure painting challenges and history, along with “believable female miniatures” including buying some 28mm land girls from Annie at Bad Squiddo.
10. The Bronte bicentenaries – 200 years since several of the Bronte family were born, inspiration for some of my Imagi-Nations games, based in their mythical juvenile worlds of Angria, Gondal and GlassTown.
May – Only about half the way through my New Gaming Year’s Irresolutions … and way off target already!
Alongside repairing some other Broken Britain’s figures, I have been painting and restoring these wrecked figures to gaming and playable condition or fighting fitness.
The aim is to give them the kind of glossy toy soldier factory painting bench finish that they might once have enjoyed.
Ahoy Sailors Ahoy!
A small Royal Navy Landing party restored from earth battered bodies.
Two bashed sailor bodies required a lot of restoration, although some of their original blue paint remained. These Britain’s sailors were once proud part of either the prewar Royal Navy Reserve set 151 or the second grade paint set Royal Navy Bluejackets Set 49N, an attractive simple fixed arm figure like one I have in my collection.
Legs were repaired or restored with matchstick and cocktail sticks, wrapped round and round with masking tape, then sealed with paint.
The sailor figures had no base and feet remaining. Fimo bases were made, fired and painted to match my other Britain’s figures which are mounted on 2p pieces.
A 1mm hole was drilled through the shoulder where the rifle is broken off to insert some 1mm metal to rebuild a barrel. This was thickened to rifle size again by winding a small width of masking tape around it.
Two sailor’s heads with different hats were found in my bits box, both recasts from Dorset Soldiers, and the neck and sailor scarf area built up on each one to take these heads.
These figure repairs need to be stout and strong as they will once again be in tabletop action or campaigning in the garden, H.G. Wells’ Little Wars style, albeit without firing real projectiles at them.
I do not use Milliput due to a family allergy, instead I use the masking tape, matchstick and Fimo (polymer clay) method of repair. I also do not yet know how to solder such small figures.
The pink or red cheek dot on the faces is a useful gloss paint toy soldier style trick. Nothing very Military Modelling or realistic about this type of face.
I worked on the swagger stick torso figure and made this figure out of him, using a peaked cap Prince August 54mm Toy Soldier head that I had previously cast in one of their traditional toy soldier moulds.
He got one of the disembodied pair of legs with puttees, along with a separate wooden leg. This (Crescent Models?) figure’s body is curiously rather short in the arms!
These Guardsmen needed both leg and rifle repairs.
Two of the broken figures were clearly Britain’s Guardsmen marching and firing.
After preparing new legs as required, replacementbases were made from Fimo (polymer clay). Metal replacement bases can be bought for some footless damaged Britain’s figures from companies such as Dorset Soldiers. As these are being repaired back to gaming or fighting condition, rather than restored to red box display condition, I thought Fimo and tuppeny mounted bases like my other restorations were suitable, as well as cheaper and to hand.
Until some suitable recast Guardsman heads arrive, I am showing these figures with a spare loose fusilier or guards busby head.
As these old soldiers are special, restored to life and recalled to the colours, I have given several of them suitable status with various stripes as Corporals and Sergeants / NCOs.
My favourite figure of this bunch so far is one of the most wrecked figures whom, with the addition of a Dorset recast bare head and moustache, I have made into a brave bare-headed Battling Sergeant.
This bareheaded “on guard” pose reminds me of Victorian Battle paintings. I have painted this brave fellow with the yellow facings (colour and cuffs) of the Buffs (East Kent Regiment), one of the popular Britain’s Toy Soldier Line Infantry Regiments.
This Sergeant matches two of the Buffs “on guard” figures amongst the Broken Britains figures recently given to me by John Forman, whose broken rifles I have repaired.
Compared to what he was a few weeks ago, he’s looking quite handsome! I like the fact that his painted red coat is still showing even after years in the soil and now sits within his new red gloss Acrylic painted tunic.
Next task – watch this space
Amongst the next figure challenges from amongst the metal detectorist’s finds are these fine kilted colonial Highlanders by Britain’s and John Hill Co. (Johillco).
I would love to know their previous history, past battles and how these battered toy soldier figures ended up in the earth to be found by metal detectorists decades later.
Great fun, I am really enjoying this quiet, slow and colourful restoration work.
I have now stoutly repaired the other Household Cavalry Life Guard horse, which was missing a lower leg and two hooves, so could not stand up.
Drilling into the missing lower leg, again a 1mm thick wire was inserted at the right sort of angle. Masking tape was then wound round in strips and glued as I went.
Finally Fimo polymer clay (Sculpey in the USA) was moulded to make stout, stable and secure hooves for the three legs.
Once baked for half an hour in the oven, I fixed each of these Fimo hooves on with superglue. It is still possible to carve Fimo after firing or baking, so I trimmed these slightly to keep them stable but bring out a slightly more slender hoof shape. Not too slender though as they need to be stout enough for use in tabletop or garden gaming, H.G. Wells Little Wars style.
Further Acrylic Gloss paint seals and hides the joins.
These horses will then sit well on a thin balsa base each for stability whilst gaming.
Once a recast arm has arrived from Dorset Soldiers next week (they emailed to say they had had production delays), I will finish repainting the Life Guard. This looked like it had been overpainted long ago but thankfully the original face is in good condition.
The fourth horse, a Life Guard officer’s rearing horse, needs a recast arm and head but at least the tail repair was simple using Fimo, then repainted gloss black. I also repaired a missing Zulu foot with Fimo while I was about it as well.
Work is underway on repairing the jigsaw of limbs that are some Broken Britain’s Zulus that I bought last year, along with some broken rifles of John Forman’s Broken Britain’s Infantry donation and also of the metal detectorist’s finds that were in a pretty bashed and buried condition when I bought them.
More posts on Broken 54mm figures as they are completed.
Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN on Royal Wedding Day 19 May 2018
Recently toy soldier collector John Forman very kindly sent me a small box of “Broken Britain’s” from his family collection which were otherwise going for scrap.
Some had lost heads, bases, hooves, rifles and arms from being played with by John and his father before him, these were the battered toy soldier veterans of battles going back from the 1960s into the 1930s.
Three Charging Highlanders
One such casualty amongst John’s Broken Britain’s figures was this charging Highlander. He had come off his base and had previously also lost his head.
I love this pose and pick these figures up at reasonable price if I ever see them. In addition to these three new repaired ones, I have about ten to fifteen Highlanders of this pose in various regiments to repair to make a small mixed unit.
In some cases I was repairing previous repairs, such as the traditional head repair of sticking the head onto a matchstick and glueing in place. This repair from many years before needed resticking.
Using a fine 1mm drill bit and hand drill (or pin vice) bought from Prince August, I drilled into the Highlander’s leg and inserted a short piece of 1mm stiff garden wire. If you run out, paper clip wire will do as well.
Drilling through the ankle right through to the base, it was then easy to fit leg to base, secured with a tiny drop of superglue.
To secure the weak ankle join into place, as these figures will be fighting tabletop or garden battles again, at the risk of slightly thicker looking ankles, I wrapped a thin bandage of masking tape around the glued and pinned ankle. A thin smear of superglue supports and seals the join. This masking tape ‘sock’ can later be painted in an off-white to match the other of the white spats or gaiters, worn over black shoes. The red tops to the white spats are tartan red socks
Two other Highlanders in John’s scrap pile had intact bases but broken rifles.
Out came the 1mm drill again and I drilled behind the rifle and hand into the body to secure a long piece of wire to make a new rifle barrel.
Alternatively you can clip or file the rifle back to the hand and drill carefully into this hand to anchor your wire rifle barrel, but there was enough rifle here on these two Highlanders not to want to lose this original section.
Wrapping a small piece of masking tape tightly round and round the barrel bulks out the 1mm wire to the desired rifle thickness and also gives a rough base for painting. I usually put a very thin line of superglue on the wire first to secure the first fold / wrap and then to seal the final fold. This stops the masking tape unravelling later on.
Looking at the surviving paintwork, some of the Highlanders seem to have an all gold or bronze painted rifle. I continued this colour scheme but painted an undercoat of black on first before putting on the top coat of gold or bronze.
I usually use Revell Aquacolor Gloss Acrylic paint (the square tubs) as they are low odour, dry fast and any brushes wash out easily enough, especially with a spot of washing up liquid. Unlike enamels, I find a second coat of Acrylic is usually required for good deep colour. They colour mix well enough and can be thinned with water. My current mixing palettes are plastic milk bottle tops.
The paint condition is playworn but reasonably good, with an attractive patina of past battles, so apart from painting the feather bonnets and hackles again, as this is where a figure is usually picked up, I have left them much as they arrived.
Which Highlanders are which Highland Regiment?
The repaired broken ankled figure with yellow cuffs or facings is an Argyll and Sutherland Highlander, Britain’s Set 15 produced in this style from 1903 onwards. The dark green kilt has light green stripes, according to Andrew Rose in his excellent book The Collector’s Guide to Toy Soldiers.
Our broken example has yellow facings on collar and cuffs and red kilt stripes, suggesting a Seaforth Highlander (James Opie, Britain’s Toy Soldiers 1893-1932).
The Black Watch have black cuffs or facings, a red hackle or plume in their bonnets and dark green kilts with black hatching or stripes.
However to get them battle ready, I based them on tupenny (2p) pieces. British 1p and 2p coins minted after 1992 are also slightly magnetic, handy if you use magnetic strip in your basing trays, travel or storage boxes. I attached the figure base to the coin with hot glue gun adhesive. The tuppeny base gives good stability during a game, storage and transport.
To cover the coin colour, I painted any coin metal that was still showing in several thick coats of chrome or sap green acrylic to near match the original Britain’s green base paint. A simple bright green base easily gives that old toy soldier look as the pink cheek dot on a toy soldier face. The faces on these figures had survived well and were quite ruddy cheeked. Being pre-war figure, they had the dapper dignity of a moustache painted on before Britain’s stopped this on routine figures postwar.
The repairs may not be pretty on parade but they are designed to be robust enough for handling in war games as H.G. Wells and Britain’s intended.
More Broken Britain’s to be featured in future blogposts.
And now Mancraft mending time over for the day, it’s time for coffee …
Having a mixture of Highlanders that I don’t want to repaint over the original facings (colours, cuffs) and mixed tartans, I have merged them all (“Royal Regiment of Scotland” style) into one Composite (Camp Coffee) Highland Brigade, following the inspired lead of Bob Cordery as he did did cleverly on his blog with his The Works sourced Cordery’s Composite Cavalry Brigade:
* If you’re puzzled, CampCoffee is not their Regimental Barracks, though it probably will become so. Camp Coffee is the Victorian liquid coffee essence, the one still with the Victorian style label Highlander and Indian seated drinking coffee together, although originally the Indian was a servant or batman. Their motto for this instant coffee and chicory blend? Ready, Aye Ready!
“Legend has it that Camp Coffee was originally developed as a means of brewing coffee quickly for military purposes. The label is classical in tone, drawing on the romance of Empire. It includes a drawing of a Gordon Highlander (allegedly Major General Sir Hector MacDonald) and a Sikh soldier sitting together outside a tent, from which flies a flag bearing the drink’s slogan, “Ready Aye Ready“. That was also the motto of the Frontier Force Rifles of the old British Indian Army, and the Frontier Force Rifles, now part of the Pakistan Army, still use the motto. In this context, the Scots word “aye” has the meaning of “always” rather than “yes”, and indicates, in the case of the drink, that it is “Ready Always Ready” to be made.”
The label has changed much over the years:
“The original label, by William Victor Wrigglesworth, depicted a Sikh servant waiting on a kilted Scots soldier. A later version of the label, introduced in the mid-20th century, removed the tray from the picture, and was seen as an attempt to avoid the connotation that the Sikh was a servant, although he was still shown waiting at attention while the Scottish soldier sipped his coffee. The current version, introduced in 2006, depicts the Sikh as a soldier, now sitting beside his former boss, and with a cup and saucer of his own.” (Wikipedia)
I rather like the new equality logo of both soldiers sharing a cup of tea together, and rather like the taste of Camp Coffee too! It has fuelled many happy hours of painting, this Victorian convenience product of Field Campaigns in the old Empire days.
There is another form of equality at issue here as well, as the original Gordon Highlander depicted is said to be modelled on the interesting figure of Sir Hector Macdonald or “Fighting Mac” –
Having lost soldiers in my childhood garden and found others on the beach recently, I am fascinated by these lost and found soldiers out on an “unending mission”.
Occasionally lost toy soldier figures turn up on online auction sites amongst the hoards and hordes of metal detecting trinket sites.
I spotted this interesting collection from a metal detectorist called Frank in the Southeast of England on offer for a couple of pounds. I asked if they were from one hoard or toy mass battlefield burial but they were apparently collected over many years and many sites.
Whilst I wait for some recast arms to arrive from Dorset Soldiers for my current Broken Britains restoration projects, I have been busy this bank holiday weekend in the sunny garden, gently cleaning these finds up prior to restoring what I can to fighting or parade fitness. The others will go in a display box.
I often wonder about the stories behind how such figures and toys came to be buried or discarded. Were they lost toys or were they discarded because they were broken in action or accident?
They once belonged to someone, probably a small boy. Did they lament their loss or hardly notice it?
Before I post pictures of the cleaned up figures, what familiar figures can you see in the online auction picture?
Hint You can see toy animals, soldiers and more. Enjoy!
Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, Bank Holiday weekend 5/6 May 2018.
I was lucky to be contacted through the Man of TIN blog comments by toy soldier collector John Forman who asked if I could use some Broken Britains from his collection. Otherwise I’m told they would probably end up in the bin!
I hate old toy soldiers being scrapped.
Not knowing what lead wreckage I might be letting myself in for, I said yes and a small box arrived a week or two later.
Inside were a dozen or so play-bashed Britain’s lead soldiers and five cavalry from the 1930s to 40s that had belonged to John’s father as a boy. They were then played with by a young John in the 1960s. That’s how they got so battered and armless.
Many of the infantry had arms missing or broken bases and rifles. The cavalry horses also had missing legs.
Time for a trip to the Lead Vet Department (or my work desk)
I started work on the two Khaki Yeomanry Cavalry Territorial Army figures (Britain’s Set No. 159). Identified in the excellent photoguide The Collector’s Guide to Toy Soldiers by Andrew Rose (Salamander, 1997), these were produced from 1908 to 1940.
A hole drilled carefully and slowly into the damaged horse leg allowed me to insert a small piece of wire to reattach a detached hoof. Superglue instant adhesive helps set this quickly.
On a missing leg, a longer piece of wire inserted into a hole drilled into any remaining leg section gives a wire former or wire leg shape to take epoxy putty (Greenstuff or Milliput).
In my case, I opted for building up a new leg with masking tape. This can then be sealed and coloured with paint. (Some of my family have allergies to Milliput).
If you have no suitable wire, a paper clip will do, bent and snipped to a suitable length.
A broken leg on a real cavalry horse would mean it would have to be swiftly shot. On the lead ones, it might mean the melting pot. Hopefully at the Lead Vet Surgery and Remount Department, they might be saved this fate.
If broken off, the tail can be reattached in the same way with drilling and pinning. I have put wire armatures in (or tailatures?) I can then create a (Fimo or Sculpey) Polymer Clay or masking tape tail section and attach this. Alternatively, Dorset Soldiers sell replacement tail castings.
One of the riders had a loose head, repaired in the traditional way with a matchstick. This needed to be reattached and secured with glue.
The new secret weapon of my life as the Lead Vet – a 1mm drill bit in a hand drill or pin vice, bought from Prince August.
The figures and repairs need to be robust enough to be used in gaming, both on the gaming table or in the garden. I may well put the cavalry onto bases to make them more robust.
The repaint will depend on how badly worn each figure is. Where I can, I like to retain the original Britain’s or Johillco paint job, even if it is only preserving small details like the face. These particular horses will need a little paint patching up, the figures less so.
On very badly worn figures, I clean and overpaint with Gloss acrylics to get that straight out of the box or factory look back again. I think it restores a little martial pride!
These men and horses will parade and maybe even fight again on my tabletop or in my garden.
Even the tiny drill curlings and scrapings of lead swarf get saved up in a small pot. When I next do some home casting, I can add a little bit of Britain’s lead DNA to the metal mix for some new castings. A touch of vintage … something old, something new etc.
Being lead figures, now wash your hands after drilling.
I shall feature the completed Remounts in a future blogpost, along with how I went about rebasing and repainting the more damaged Britain’s cavalry and veteran playworn infantry that John Forman sent.
A fellow Peter Laing collector Ian Dury has kindly sent me an article from an old Military Modelling article on repairing very badly broken Britain’s cavalry, which I shall feature in a future blogpost.
Two welcome gifts, repaid to the steadfast tin or lead soldiers by restoring them to playable condition. Huzzah!
Previously on the Remount Section on Man of TIN blog