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.
New recast arms and heads have been ordered from Dorset Soldiers at 50p a new arm. Horse legs and tails can also be ordered. http://dorsetmodelsoldiers.com/casting.php
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
Blogposted by the “Lead Vet” or Mark, Man of TIN, 2 May 2018.