Britain’s second grade Zulus have been on the fixing table today, having the fragile and missing knobkerry stub replaced with a spear. Each spear unusually started life as the the metal handle of an indoor firework sparkler!
Ten of these fine Zulu Warriors are awaiting a repaint. Some of the figures have the original rich brown skin colour, but others appear from what paint remains to have simply been painted black.
The reason for the difference may be their painting grade. The lower the paint grade, the less colours used. James Opie records this chunky Zulu figure in Britain’s Toy Soldiers 1893-1932 as “variously catalogued as 4R or 28C or with inferior third grade paint as 21P when sold singly between the wars.” James Opie in British Toy Soldiers 1893 to Present notes this chunky second grade set 22A figure as having been introduced in 1913.
Simple paint schemes for Britain meant restricting the non uniform or irregular troops such as natives or American Indians to three different colours, usually red, yellow or blue colours (Zulus) or red, green and blue (Arabs, Togoland warriors) for robes or loin cloths.
These classic slender Zulus have in their bashed surviving paintwork on loincloths some delightful colourful stripy and spotty loincloths, maybe designed to be exotic animal furs. Too good to overpaint!
The original Zulus figures can be seen on a post from February 2017
The jigsaw set of 12 Broken Britain’s 1906 – 1966 classic Zulus is now almost repaired and rearmed with Dorset Soldiers recast arms – watch this space.
These will go on to become “Generican or Farican natives” as opposition for the colonial invading Redcoats etc, and as such fit as Ashantee warriors into my Bronte juvenilia Imagi-Nations based games.
Repairing these fine but bashed Britain’s is my contribution to the Britain’s 125th Anniversary 1893 – 2018. Happy Anniversary to William Britain and his dynasty!
B.P.S Blog Post Script
As it’s Fathers Day on Sunday, this post is also dedicated to my late father whose lost wartime Britain’s lead figures and general love of Toy Soldiers, even the Airfix and plastic figures of my childhood, are probably the root of my interest in them. He would be pleased that I am still tinkering, drilling and painting such figures many years on. Thanks Dad!
The surviving paintwork suggested that two of the Highlanders were Khaki colonials, the other two were a Redcoat Highlander lying firing made by Johillco and a headless Redcoat torso.
Matchstick legs were inserted into the body through the leg holes and then shaved to a more round shape with a scalpel. Masking tape was then wound round to thicken the leg up to a suitable width.
Suitable heads were mostly found in my homecast 54mm Prince August spares box.
Luckily with two of the figures, the Johillco lying firing Highlander and the Khaki Britain’s standing firing figure, I had battered original figures with which to compare the headless, legless torsos.
The Highlanders had puggrees or wound strips of cloth around their pith helmets, so these were simply added with several fine thin strips of masking tape. The same technique was used to build up the sock strips on the legs.
A puggaree, puggree, puggry or puggary (from a Hindi word ) is a strip of cloth wound around the upper portion of a hat or helmet, particularly a pith helmet, and falling down behind to act as a shade for the back of the neck.
Fimo polymer clay feet were required to finish off the legs, modelled on a Britains Khaki firing British infantryman with feet pointing outwards.
One of the Khaki Highlanders lying firing acquired a WW2 tin hat and arm with binoculars, both recast spares from Dorset Soldiers. An added pistol in a holster from Airfix Multipose spares should suggest an officer’s side arm. A spare right arm had to be built up with wire and masking tape.
The standing firing Highlander also needed a small hole drilled into the missing arm stump with 0.9mm hand drill, a wire arm or armature added (secured with superglue) and built up with masking tape. Glue and paint stiffened and secured the masking tape, stopping it from unravelling.
This figure was easier to do because of the lucky fact that I had a battered Britain’s original Khaki Highlander standing firing figure in my collection to compare it with. This standing firing original figure also needed repair of a broken rifle, so I did that as well.
The looser repaired arms lack the neat slender precision of the original Britain’s limbs but provide character one-off figures. The repaired figures here remind me a little of the looser limbed but spirited poses of Heyde of Germany and Lucotte or Mignot figures of France.
Milliput might be easier for sculpting but I cannot use this due to a family / household allergy, so I used what I safely had to hand. I could have ordered and waited for further Dorset Soldier recast Britain’s heads, but impatiently used what Dorset heads or Prince August heads I had in my spares box, even though Prince August 54mm figure heads are a little bigger and heftier than Britain’s original or recast ones. It adds to the toy soldierness of the figures anyhow.
The final non Highland figure was the redcoated torso.
This was the trickiest figure, the Redcoated torso, as I was not sure who the maker was or what the original figure looked like. It had the chunky, slightly oversized look of an early Britain’s Fusilier but having no other fusiliers in my armies, I chose instead found a suitable Prince August line infantry spiked helmet. This would more closely match my other line infantry figures. The legs and base were easy enough to make out of matchsticks, masking tape and the usual Fimo feet and base to fit a tuppeny base for stability.
The right arm was half missing, so I drilled a small hole to insert a bent wire armature that would be both an arm and shouldered rifle all in one piece. Not the usual rifle position for marching or sloping arms, but it kind of works.
A few more useful finishing touches – NCO stripes, maybe some medals – should complete this tiny lead Frankenstein figure.
A satisfying few evenings’ work, mixed in with other figure repair work in progress on more Broken Britain’s, some more Zulus etc to feature in future blog posts.
Hopefully these once lost and battered figures are as bright and proud, as fighting fit as the day they were cast, painted and bought home from a toy shop in a red box. As shiny again as they once were before their curious fate to be bashed, buried and eventually found again over many years by a metal detectorist called Frank in the Southeast of England.
I have based them on tuppeny pieces and made them stout repairs to arms, legs and rifles, stocky rather than thin and elegant, as these figures will eventually will fight once more in gardens and on tabletops. Huzzah!
You might also be interested in my previous blog posts over the last few weeks about other toy soldier repairs.
Just two more tricky figures left from the figure part of the original haul, the headless driver figure who will become a pilot and a half a body figure in longcoat and gauntlets – possibly originally a pilot?
Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN on 11 January 2018.
This 1970s or 1980s (?) Military Modelling Manual article was kindly sent to me by fellow Peter Laing 15mm figure collector Ian Dury from his extensive collection of Military Modelling magazines and manuals. This was in response to my earliest crudest Fimo inspired attempts to repair some bsahed 54mm Britain’s and Johillco figures. Thanks Ian!
Having recently restored trashed metal detecting finds of toy soldiers, I appreciate how much work is involved in turning such damaged figures as the headless horseman on a legless horse pictured into the beautiful Yeomanry repaints shown throughout the article.
Some of the 1970s/ 1980s materials that B.S. Armstrong mentioned are still around.
Plaka casein based paints (now Pelican Plaka) and Testor metallics or Testors paint are still around and available online or from hobby / craft shops.
Plastic Padding “Chemical Metal from Sweden” is still produced by Henkel / Loctite and extensively available, likewise Epoxy Cements.
Interestingly Milliput or Green Stuff is not mentioned to do this job, suggesting this is quite an early article as it was widely used by modellers in the 1980s. I don’t currently use it for repairs as we have a family / household allergy to Milliput type products.
Nitromors or Daz as a paint remover? Choose your own tried and tested, safe chemical method!
Rose Miniatures as a source of heads and arms? Not sure about the heads but a list of recast Rose figures is available from John Eden Studios, who also produce the beautiful FANY First Aid Nursing Yeomanry figures on horseback here at http://johnedenstudios.com/page48.htm
No internet traces of Antony J. Kite of Castle Hill, Windsor replacement alloy heads for Britain’s plastics (Eyes Right?) Soldiers mentioned in the article.
However Brian Carrick commented: “Antony J. Kite of Castle Hill, Windsor, better known as Tony Kite was one of the great old gentlemen of the hobby, the Castle Hill address was a souvenir shop he ran. He produced several ranges of plastic figures under the Cavendish brand, Henry VIII and his 6 wives, Regiments of 1745 and Ceremonials. If memory serves right they were designed by Stadden. He passed away about 10 years ago and was an active supporter of the hobby to the very end.”
However Langley Models and Dorset Toy Soldiers both produce an extensive range of similar recast Britain’s Type heads, arms, horses tails, heads and legs. I recently ordered (May 2018) and received some recast arms from Dorset. http://dorsetmodelsoldiers.com
I will check by email whether GBE Toy Soldiers in Coningsby still produce their spares range, as their undated website suggests.
Buyer beware: Always worth checking by email, post or phone that the manufacturer of any of these ranges still exists before parting with cash! A small plea to figure makers: I wish manufacturers would make this more apparent on their website that they or their ranges are still currently in production.
I’m not too sure about the dreaded Lead Rot mentioned by B.S. Armstrong but I did seal trashed earthy metal destructor toy soldier finds once cleaned up with an outer coating of acrylic primer paint and the inner coating with paint or glue as much as possible could be oozed through holes such as missing legs or heads.
An interesting and inspiring article!
Inspired? Here are some of my previous recent blogposts on restoring Broken Britain’s:
Copyright remains with B.S. Armstrong for this Mil Mod article, produced in the days before websites, blogs and emails, I have no way of contacting him to ask permission or express my thanks for his encouraging article. I will withdraw this post if Mr. Armstrong he wishes. Hopefully he will be pleased that this article continues to inspire another generation of lead Dr. Frankensteins and toy soldier Remount and resurrection men.
All comments via the usual channels and comments page.