Man of TIN Advent Calendar Day 21 – Retro Rotadraw Soldiers Set

This was a gift earlier this year and one Rotadraw set that I would dearly have loved as a child, in place of the mishmash of random Disney characters that we had instead.

Does anyone else remember Rotadraw? The ‘Magic’ of the Magic Rotadraw discs was drawing in the numbered slot then turning the dial, held in place on a card drawing board with a drawing pin. You usually had no idea what each numbered bit did in the overall picture, hidden as it was by the coloured plastic. At the end you lifted the disc off and – as if by magic – a completed drawing appeared.

This secondhand set had only the discs but had the attractive box showing not only what the Rotadraw discs would produce, but also what our haircuts and clothes were like back in the 1970s. American sets were also called Rondographs.

Officer, advancing rifleman and artilleryman with sponge. Stylish!

Drawing them onto a scene was always difficult as you couldn’t always tell where the figure would be under the disc. The alternative was to colour in the outline figures, cut them out and stick them onto a backscene.

Another challenge was reversing the figures. It could be done on thin paper or by marking all the numbers on the back of the disc! Fiddly …

As you can see in the picture, you can see the drawing pin hole and the 12 o’clock mark that helps you turn the Rotadraw disc dial numbers to the very same top mark.

Simple magic and possible to make paper or card soldiers to stick potentially onto thin wood.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, Advent Calendar Day 21 on 21 December 2018.

Man of TIN Advent Calendar Day 20 – Wild West Americana Inspiration

Francoise Gaujour is a French photographer who has documented her recent travels across the “Wild Wild West”  of America.

There are some very atmospheric shots of buildings of many periods and landscapes.

“After a solid career as a radio and TV journalist Francoise Gaujour (France) began her photography in Mali in the 2000s, attracted by the colours of Africa. Since then she has exhibited in several galleries in Paris, in France, and abroad. Her series invites you to meditate on the beauty of the planet. She seeks how to colour the world and her approach is poetic, sometimes graphic, often in search of the abstract.”


Don’t forget the lovely Americana blog Forgotten Georgia which features old and sometimes abandoned buildings across the state of Georgia USA, both historic sites or more modern. Barns, churches, farmhouses, railway depots, general stores. This website has inspired several American western gaming scenarios.

This has inspired parts of my own occasional blog of railway and gaming related material

New Zealand Heritage

There is a similar list of lost vernacular buildings in New Zealand, including lots of small wooden colonial buildings with a surprising number of buildings lost in the earthquake and demolitions of 2011.

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN on Advent Calendar Day 20, 20th December 2018.

Man of TIN Advent Calendar Day 19 or 1, 2, 3, 4 – I Declare a Toy War!

From my lovely scrapbook collection / Edwardian Postcard Album

It seemed to good a title to miss and maybe one day should be a blog title.

“1 2 3 4 – I declare a Toy War” derives from the 1 2 3 4 – I Declare a Thumb War challenge. It seems in keeping with H.G. Wells’ book  Little Wars and RLS in his A Child’s Garden of Verses.

See more of this Victorian / Edwardian toy soldier album scrapbook here:

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN on Advent Calendar Day 19, 19th December 2018.


Man of TIN Advent Calendar Day 18 – Peter Laing WW1 Belgian Cyclists

I have neglected my 15mm  Peter Laing figures this year. I also have to confess – I didn’t paint these 15mm Belgian cyclists, but I did spot them for sale online buried away amongst thousands of 15mm listings.

I took a punt on these being Peter Laing figures as they were not listed by manufacturer. Having collected and painted several hundred Laing figures, I hoped I had correctly recognised these as Peter Laing figures which have quite a overall slender, stylish and distinctive look to them.

F711 Belgian Carabinier Cyclists

These cyclists are attractively based in units on road section bases.

Looking up the website of experienced Peter Laing collector John Patriquin (The Wargame Hermit blog) I saw an unpainted cyclist casting that gave me some hope that these figures for sale online were by Peter Laing. The sales photo left me with a few doubts.

Nearby were some well painted 15mm Peter Laing WW1 Belgian infantry which I also purchased.

The Belgian infantry Carabiniers wore an interesting black uniform and shako that had yet to be fully modernised by the time WW1 broke out in 1914, so some units went to war in almost Napoleonic uniforms.

Peter Laing F710 Belgian Carabinier advancing

Although they are not Peter Laing figures, there are some attractive dog cart machine guns and the odd officer figure by another manufacturer.

Eventually I will split these unit bases up and rebase them as my rules use individual figure bases.

Marvin at Suburban Militarism blog beautifully painted these 1:72 Hat Belgian cyclist versions

Another old unposted blog entry on Bicycle Troops
Finding some odd bicycle troops amongst a job lot of Peter Laing WW1 and WW2 15mm figures was interesting – still not sure of maker.

Bicycle troops

Bicycle troops

From Victorian era  Boer War bicyclists to modern Afgahnistan and the modern Swiss Army, bicycles have played an interesting role in getting infantry and paratroops mobile, from the WW2 Bicycle Blitzkreig through  Japanese cyclists on the jungle tracks to the airborne  infantry with their parabikes.

Two recent books cover this area: Jim Fitzpatrick, The Bicycle in Wartime: An Illustrated History Paperback 2011 and R.S. Kohn’s book Bicycle Troops (2011) is  also available on Amazon.

Both of these I look forward to reading, they are now on this year’s 2019 reading list.

As well as the Belgian cyclists, Hat offer  German and other nations bicycle  infantry in plastic 1:72

Airfix had the odd OO/HO bicyclist in its RAF Crew figures range that could have a rifle added or a well equipped one or two in its WW1 French infantry. Bicycles were also added clutter  in some of its OO/HO buildings range (Forward Strongpoint)

A useful bicycle figure from RAF Ground Crew which could have a rifle added etc.

Some wargames have simply added Bicycle shaped novelty paper clips.

Lots more information on the interesting Wikipedia entry :

Danish bicycle soldiers cycle toward the German invaders 1940 (Wikimedia / Wikipedia source)

There are plenty of well illustrated museum websites on military bikes:

WW1 Italian Bersaglieri Bicycle troops (Image: Public Domain Wikipedia / Wikimedia)

Bersaglieri WW1 bicycle troops pictured:

In Mark Thompson’s The White War Life and Death on the Italian Front (p.71)  tells the story of a Slovene child seeing Bersaglieri with their plumed hats approaching by bikes into the Caparetto /  Isonzo area  in 1915 and exclaimed “Daddy, look at all the ladies coming here on bikes!” Hardly the image that these tough mountain troops wished to create.

Many other amazing posts on this BSA Museum website such as AA Cycle scouts in wartime.

Excellent YouTube Clip of the Swiss Military Cyclists of today:

Dorset soldiers produce civilian, band and postal bicycle 54mm figures that could be converted to military uses.  photo of lovely Heyde Balkan bicyclists..

Interestingly H.G. Wells, writer of Little Wars , was a keen cyclist with Mrs Wells.

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN as Advent Day Calendar  18, 18th December 2018.

Man of TIN Advent Calendar Day 17 – Favourite Gaming Figure # 2



Another favourite gaming character is this dynamic WW2 Desert British officer, his paintwork a little worse for wear. Veteran of many battles!

He could be leading an attack or part of an artillery crew.

This figure is 54mm / 1:32 scale, made by Crescent in plastic in the 1960s.

To repaint or not repaint?

Back in 2016 I posted my first favourite gaming figure which led to contact with plastic figure converter Doug Shand and his blog.

Here are some inspired and unusual Doug conversions:

Posted by Mr. MIN, Man of TIN, Advent Day 17, 17 December 2018.

Man of TIN Advent Calendar Day 16 – Death to the Invader! sing those female warriors

Left over from last #FEMbruary, which was a month of beleivable female miniature painting posts, are these female soldiers in Gilbert and Sullivan’s light comic operetta Princess Ida.


“Princess Ida, or Castle Adamant” opened on 5 January 1884 at the Savoy Theatre and ran for 246 performances. It is the only three act Gilbert and Sullivan Opera and the only one with dialogue in blank verse. This is because Gilbert based his libretto on his earlier play The Princess which, in turn, he described as “a perversion” of Tennyson’s poem of the same name.

It was produced between Iolanthe and The Mikado when its creators were at the height of their powers. The score is Sullivan at his best, and some people consider that Gilbert’s libretto contains some of his fun

Prince Hilarion had been married in babyhood to Princess Ida, daughter of King Gama. The Princess, however, has set up a college for women from which all men are barred. Hilarion and his friends infiltrate the castle and ultimately the men, led by Hilarion’s father, King Hildebrand, stage a full-scale invasion. Ida is abandoned by her women and finally surrenders to Hilarion. (GS Archive web source)

Source / copyright: G S Archive website for the lyrics and vintage photographs.

2018 is the hundredth anniversary of the first women gaining the vote in Britain and 2018 is also the year that the military in Britain opened to women the last few gender restricted jobs on frontline duties including special forces roles.

The original stage costumes from 1926 below, looked at close up, are quite gloriously Flash Gordon.

Women soldiers in the 1926 production of Princess Ida (GSArchive website)

What a joke in 1884 to some Victorian men, that women would ever attend university, get a degree or serve in the military, all on equal grounds.

There are plenty of modern versions on YouTube to track down and enjoy of this stirring song, popular for obvious reasons with female university students!

Manchester University G&S Society MUGS

A wide range of female soldier stage costumes are improvised at low cost for this number in different YouTube videos. Some Imagi-Nations and uniforms ideas  there then.

Southampton University version 2003

Blog Post Script B.P.S.

Following up Ross MacFarlane’s Battle Game of The Month reprint of an article about French Wargames during WW2, in the same series is an interesting article by Jon Peterson about the First Female Gamers (who weren’t called Bronte)

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN as Advent Calendar Day 16, 16th December 2018

Man of TIN Advent Day 15 – Hit the Beach, Tiger!


A trip a few months ago to a Tiger store brought a few gaming related purchases, including these plastic beach boats. Painted grey they should make useful converted landing barges for 40 to 54mm figures including my Pound Store plastics.


Once I have added some ledges of balsa for crew (mocked up here in cardboard), gunboat style  sandbag cover for the bridge tower and LC Letraset number letter decals, this should work well enough.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN for Advent Day 15, 15th December 2018

Advent Calendar Day 14 – Army Men Around the House with Gareth McGorman


I subscribe to the Michigan Toy Soldier Company blog and amongst the product reviews is occasionally a funny or quirky post or blog link.

Back in August 2017 they placed a link to blogger Gareth McGorman and his model soldier versions of miniature artist Slinkachu.


Gareth’s work reminds me of what might have  happened if H. G. Wells’ Little Wars or Floor Games were happening in a modern house. It’s a WW2 Miniatures version of Toy Story with a dash of The Borrowers. I like visual jokes playing with scale. You also realise behind each quickly glanced at shot is hours and hours of model making.

Gareth’s work in 2016/17 can be found in various sites including

Gareth’s work can be found on Facebook but also on his WordPress blog

The  Facebook header picture of Tommies dug in, camouflaged with the dry earth, really captures the imaginative nature of childhood playing with toy soldiers, down at ground or floor level, out in the garden …

Some of the recurring figures in Gareth’s work …

2016 posts

2017 posts


Enjoy! Now you know what the tiny men (and women) get up to when you are out of the house or not looking.

Remember – They were only following orders …

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN on Advent Day 14, 14 December 2018.

Man of TIN Advent Calendar Day 13 – the Art of the Brontes

A new arrival from the local library …

Advent Day 13 – post number 300 or 301 – finishing a draft Bronte Gamer Blogpost at  last.

The Art of The Brontes is a thick Thames and Hudson by Christine Alexander and Jane Sellars, an expensive illustrated book which I thankfully managed to borrow  through  my local lending library.

It covers every known sketch, painting and doodle by each of the four Bronte children from their youngest childhood drawings to their adult drawings and paintings.

I won’t infringe copyright of paintings or drawings from private or museum collections by featuring them here.

Steel engraving lowered the cost of prints making them more affordable for the likes of the young Bronte sisters. IMG_2368


Tropical Yorkshire in the Pacific?

I thought this might give me a clue to the possible backgrounds, terrain and landscapes for their fictional works of Gondal, Angria and Glasstown, upon which I have based some of my Imagi-Nations game scenarios recently.

Many of their fictional countries in the North and South Pacific or tropical West Africa are a bizarre blend of Yorkshire moors, the fashionable gothic or romantic art of their day with an element of the exotic gleaned from prints and journal illustrations of foreign countries.

I couldn’t quite get this blend of British or Yorkshire Tropical right in my head until I visited some of the sheltered and temperate gardens of Southwest England. Here you can see Victorian houses set in parkland with exotic planting brought back from many foreign countries giving that jungle or Himalayan valley and mountain pass impression.   No doubt there must have been such bizarre juxtapositions in Yorkshire big houses that the Bronte family might have known about or visited, being on the edge of gentry as a vicar’s family. These would be big early Victorian houses with their greenhouses, botanic gardens, plant introductions  and sheltered walled gardens.

I know this makes this Yorkshire Bronte Tropical fusion  sound almost as authentic as filming Carry on Up The Khyber Pass in Britain, with North Wales  standing in for the foothills of  The Himalayas.

Some of the sketches of landscape appear to be copies of prints, illustrations and drawing exercises as they learnt how to draw in the  style of their day.

Bronte Gaming Scenarios 

Some of the PECO Landscapes seem very suited to Bronte country and fictional terrain – the mountain scenes or  the seaside with ruined castle, for example.

Branwell Bronte, owner of the original twelve soldiers that gave rise to many of the children’s  fictional countries and campaigns, wrote and illustrated some interesting early “Battle” books as well with ancient or Napoleonic ‘toy’ soldier drawings.

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN, Advent Calendar Day 12, 12th December 2018

Man of TIN Advent Calendar Day 12 – The XTC of toy soldiers by Andy Partridge


It’s hard to believe that the author of a peacenik line like, “Generals and majors always seems so unhappy/Unless they got a war” keeps a stockpile of 3,000-plus toy soldiers in his attic. Yet XTC’s skittish songwriter Andy Partridge harbors a soft spot for cast iron generals and majors with a pint-sized appetite for destruction.

For nostalgic reasons, the machismo-mocking pop troubadour prefers the mid-20th century mass-produced toy infantrymen he deployed as a child, as well as late-1800’s German models with doll-like faces and lumpen features that cost about $30 each. “It’s still cheaper than a cocaine habit,” reasons Partridge, whose recently released Wasp Star (TVT) ripples with similar dry English wit. Since Partridge can’t draft troops very quickly at $30 a head, he also sculpts them out of epoxy and occasionally gets on his elbows and knees for carpet combat. The relatively innocent pastime keeps XTC’s frontman in touch with the “big kid” inside him–it’s not only a driving force behind his songwriting, but a defense mechanism. “The big kid protects me because I don’t trust anyone and I think people are there to f*** you over. It’s something my psychoanalyst is trying to unravel for me. I hope he doesn’t kill the big kid off, though, he’s been very useful.”
— Neil Gladstone

Earlier in the year  by chance I heard a repeat of an interview with XTC punk band lyricist Andy Partridge who talked about his love of toy soldiers, partly because of a chaotic childhood where his mother kept giving his toys away.

BBC Radio 4 –

Photograph by Carl Fox

Many musicians live in a world of their own, but Andy Partridge — singer/songwriter and guitarist for the Brit art-pop band XTC — has scaled his down to minuscule proportions. He collects toy soldiers. When not releasing Fuzzy Warbles albums and other musical miscellany on the Web (, the 51-year-old Partridge is at home in Swindon, England, messing around with thousands of toy soldiers, many of which he’s hand-painted in uniforms of his own design. “It’s a world that’s not going to bite you,” he says.

His obsession began early. “Being an only child,” Partridge explains, “I needed to flex my brain as much as possible and disappear into the fantasy world that these little figures populated. Toys were immensely important for me. There weren’t always people around to play with and the weather wasn’t always great, being England, so you’d be stuck indoors. We weren’t a very rich family, so a lot of my toys for birthdays or Christmas were secondhand. But the one thing that I seemed to get brand-new from grannies and aunties would be toy soldiers. I was besotted with the world in miniature.”

Partridge also cites H. G. Wells, suggesting one way to avoid life-size conflict: “The leaders of the different countries are given as many toy soldiers as they want. Put them in a room with a set of rules and a few dice, and they can work it out that way.” — Rhonda Markowitz, Tracks Vol. 1 Issue 7 February/March 2005 SideTracks

Photograph by Carl Fox

“Yet for one so vehemently anti-violence, Partridge has a craftsman’s passion and skill for toy soldiers. He loves military history but only as it is encapsulated in the tiny, controllable world of the miniature battlefield. “I must be a tender little Napoleon, a benevolent Mussolini,” muses the man who describes himself as “very optimistic, repulsively so”. But it is the shabby, badly made, naive, folk-art toy soldier that truly engages him.”

It also appears that Andy Partridge designed these charming Irregular Miniatures ranges, some of which figures I hope will complement my 40-42mm Pound Store Plastic armies.

According to Japanese XTC fan site

PAINTING FACES by Andy Partridge
Here’s a couple of good rules that seem to work well. After you’ve painted the face you must add THE one toy soldier ingredient, cheeks. They are naked without them.

Virtually every maker filled in the ruddy blush of their little heroes,you must do the same. Mix up some red and white to make a pink that is tonally similar to the flesh but with no darkening, it will zing out more. Load the brush and wipe it in a patch on either side of the face.

If your soldier is a real Victorian man he will of course have a moustache, some thin black on a fine brush will do well, quickly {always!} apply across the face. If he is the fresh faced type,  dab a spot of red in a small blob where the mouth might be.

Don’t be tempted to add a mouth under a moustache, one or the other, never both please, it always looks wrong, Britains and others knew that.

Same rule applies for beards.Hair can be a swift wipe with black or a reddy mid brown across the back of the head but don’t bother with sideburns as they always look like you’ve over messed with the face.

You have a choice with eyes. Most makers painted one simple black dot each side,which oddly looks better the farther away they are from each other. Nearer in to the nose comes over rather cross eyed. It’s a matter of taste as to whether they’ll have eyebrows or not, the rule seemed to be the farther back or simple the headgear, the more the likelihood of brows. Britains tended not to paint them in except for Scotsmen and some sailors?? I always leave them out.
Don’t try to give them whites of the eyes. Again it looks too fussy and not classic. A few German makers did so on their larger scale figures but even then the soldiers still looked like stunned madmen. Shell shocked?

Unfortunately for its minstrel connotations, Africans were always given whites to their eyes, but it seems okay as the contrast makes them look more toyish.

Check the photos of the ‘native’ figures in the Deutsche Homage picture section of the Irregular Miniatures website.

Text source: Irregular Miniatures website

I have used many of these painting tips from Andy Patridge over the last year, whilst repairing broken Britains, especially the one about rosy or pink cheek dots. It really does suggest the classic Toy Soldier style.

I reprinted these blog interviews as online web stuff has a habit of vanishing when you look for it again.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN on Advent Calendar Day 12, 12th December 2018.