Lost Highlanders Rearmed


I have been steadily working through some of the remaining damaged figures found and sold to me  by a metal detectorist, including three legless and headless Highlanders.

Previous restorations and the original state of the figures can be seen at: https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2018/05/20/recalled-to-the-colours-54mm-metal-detectorists-toy-soldier-finds-restored-to-fighting-condition

Some of the last figures to repair – three kilted Highlanders and an odd Redcoated torso.

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.

Johillco Highlanders – at back the figure being restored, matchstick legs and wire rifle, prior to adding masking tape. At the front an original figure having the missing rifle replaced. Good for clues to paintwork.

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.


This quirky figure should fit well with many World War Two scenarios and match those kilted Matchbox British Eighth Army Khaki Highlander and Piper 54mm figures in kilts or shorts and Tam O’ Shanter berets. http://www.airfixtoysoldiers.com/Matchbox%20sets.htm


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.

The restored figure (right) is not an exact match of the original Britain’s figure in my collection (shown on the left)  but it gave a rough idea of what to aim at.

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.

Prince August head, armature arm and rifle, matchstick legs …

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 near-finished slightly clunky figure. 

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.


15 thoughts on “Lost Highlanders Rearmed”

  1. Lovely result. The matchsticks work well. I have some reserve about using them for replacing limbs. I’d be inclined to use wire, preferably non corroding copper as it would be stronger.

    These soldiers probably saw many a garden and nursery floor battle and it is great to see them restored to fight again.

    I’m still waiting to see what you do with the gnome.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. James,
      The matchsticks were obviously the old fashioned traditional toy soldier method of fixing heads, repairing limbs and horse legs but can be a little stiff and wooden in their poses, so I have used wire armatures in some limbs and horse legs. A little wooden leg shaving or wrapping with masking tape disguises the square match origin a bit.
      I haven’t decided what to do with the “giant” 60 – 70 mm gnome figure yet from the sam3 metal detectorist’s haul – he deserves a new Fimo arm I think. I keep looking for what he might once have looked like.
      Some of the smaller pieces of horses etc are too small and frail to restore so I will probably box frame them, cleaned up as found. Best wishes, Mark

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Brian, I think the officer came out quite well. He was going to have a recast pith helmet but he suited the Battle Bowler WW2 tin hat so well. I’m really pleased with his face and moustache. I look forward to teaming him up at some point with (and get around to painting) some of my “bootleg Matchbox” China made plastic pound store Scots Eighth Army figures in Gloss Khaki toy soldier style. If only I still had a sand pit …
      Fimo works well for me in place of Milliput for some parts. I use it for tuppenny bases and feet, backpacks, horse hooves and tails and even smaller whole figures, including using variations on silicon food mould “cake topper” or “cake dec” soldier figures. I can even now bake the 2p tuppenny pieces with the moulded Fimo bases straight on as its baked at a low heat of 110 degrees.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. EBay job lots and junk shops are the two main sources for me of Broken figures, although on some sites like Ebay and Etsy increasingly very bashed figures command ridiculous prices for single figures. Occasionally I am given people’s bashed lead chuck outs which is very welcome.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Clive
      The two best sources now for recast Britain’s type heads are Dorset Soldiers (whom I have recently used) and Langley Models (whom I haven’t yet used) online sales. The bulk of the Langley website is mostly railway white metal things but look for the 54mm heads section. I’m not sure if GBE Toy Soldiers are still trading.

      My other head source is from Prince August 54mm Home cast traditional toy soldier moulds. I have a mould of three or four heads but these tend to be a little overscale or large on slender Britain’s figures.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can only echo the praise for these resurrected old figures. You’ve worked wonders with them to bring them back and brightly coloured once more.

    I was thinking that maybe for those remaining odd pieces of soldiers you could create a sort of ‘tomb of the unknown toy soldier’ – a kind of model cenotaph (a fimotaph?) to store the pieces in. An inscription on the outside: “Known unto God”.

    Or is that taking things a bit too far? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting idea, Marvin. I think there should be a “Tomb of The Unknown Toy Soldier” for the unrepairables, made out of wooden toy building blocks as in Little Wars, so maybe “Known unto H.G. Wells” would be more appropriate. There are some interesting plasticine and building block Mausoleum looking Temple buildings in his original Game of the Islands section of H.G. Wells’ Floor Games article / book (available as a pdf on Project Gutenberg). By sheer fluky chance I have a bound copy of the Strand c. 1911/ 12 with a copy of this Floor Games article, bought over 25 years ago. I love the photographs.

      In the great BBC article on H G Wells https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22777029 “The author’s sons’ nurse Mathilde Meyer once wrote: “Hopelessly damaged soldiers were melted down in an iron spoon on the schoolroom floor, and others had a new head fixed on by means of a match and liquid lead.”

      Rather than a lead soldier Ossuary, as many battlefield mass graves were to the real unknown warriors, the melting pot was and probably is the usual fate of most beyond repair figures.

      All the drill trimmings and filings from repairing these old lead figure have been collected up to mix with my next few batches of Home castings as a bit of original Britain’s, Johillco and others DNA mixed in. The toy soldier version of magical pixey dust!

      Fragile figures like the bits of miniature horses etc that came with the metal detector finds will probably be box framed as they were found, shown in the previous post photos. Best wishes, Mark

      Liked by 2 people

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