Howdy! The Fabulous Flying Gruber Brothers needed a leader of their Gang, so they kept it in the family.
Meet Al – some say Big Bad Al, some say Heap Good Al.
Some say that he is the Father of the Gruber boys, others that he is their Cousin, Uncle or Older Brother. Some wisely choose not to say anything.
Some say that Al may in fact be Twins, just never seen together in the same place.
Those that have opinions on the matter and keep their mouths closed generally live longer lives out on these Wilde frontiers and borders and may even get to die in bed of old age.
In the wilds of the Wyrd Wilde West, anything could be a fact or true.
Big Bad Al or Heap Good Al? It depends who’s asking and who’s paying.
Whether they are protecting the Bank with their firepower or relieving it of some of that tiresome shiny metal, it’s a matter of opinion – it all depends on who is asking and who is paying (usually the most but they like to pick and choose their work).
The Fabulous Flying Gruber Brothers Abe, Zeke and Frank can be seen here in their repaired state:
The Armies in Plastic figures Rogers Ranger’s kindly gifted to me by Alan Tradgardland Gruber are seen here after unpacking. They are now painted or repainted, gloss varnished and awaiting final shiny metal work before they set off to explore my mighty fine Bold Frontiers forest trees.
Difficult to get a good clear close up on moving film.
These at first sight appear to be hollowcast lead figures, sold boxed in the market – hard to identify, but they could be Crescent or copies. However, after checking a few sources in response to a comment by Alan Gruber, in 1947 they were probably solid cast or homecast scrap metal.
Classic playset arrangement mixture of scales in some boxes of big figures, smaller horses.
Hopefully they cheered a small boy for Christmas 1947!
Brian Carrick of the Collecting Toy Soldiers blog has found some more Pathe Newsreel toy soldier related films here:
In response to Alan Gruber’s question: “Do we know how toy soldier production was affected by the war and was it much better by 1947? The dolls look home made and I wonder if there was much of a market in cheap copies? Would it be hard to have got hold of metal anyway? A most enjoyable clip,thanks for posting it.”
Many of the Britain’s toy companies including Britain’s (1941) shut down toy production due to a scarcity of suitable metal and shifted to munitions war work. Postwar for a number of years, much of the metal available was for export manufacture of figures to the US and world markets, rather than home market. Hollowcast production did not widely resume until about 1949.
In Christmas 1947, these figures being sold in the market may well have been scrap metal home casts or solid copies. The boxes look unmarked.
Here is more detail from a small section from the wonderful Norman Joplin’s colourful and inspiring The Great Book of Hollowcast Figures.
Taken from Norman Joplin’s The Great Book of Hollowcast Figures
For more on wartime and postwar toy improvisation read these two posts about Alfred Lubran’s DIY wartime 1940s Toys – an unusual ‘Character’
I was fortunate and surprised this week to open a battered old Armies in Plastic box crammed full of mixed 54mm plastic figures from Alan ‘Tradgardmastre’ Gruber, he of the Duchy of Tradgardland blog, received through the highly efficient Tradgardland overseas mails and postal service.
Inside, I found three colourful broken plastic 1960s cowboys amongst the part-painted and converted original box contents of Rogers’ Rangers (now on the painting table) and some Timpo Confederate and Union troops.
I thought best to tackle the crumbling plastic figures first. To be made playable again, they needed some gentle but solid functional repairs.
The armless figure on the right was detached from its Cherilea base and his legs were broken in several places, as was the shot and staggering one on the left.
With a fine pin drill, I drilled small holes into broken limbs ready for a fine wire insert and tiny dob of superglue. This secures the join, although the 1960s plastic was so fragile in parts that some sections broke whilst being gently drilled. I secured such fragile joins with fine strips of masking tape and sealed with superglue.
Some figures were missing limbs and I had nothing suitable in my bits box, so built up limbs and missing weapons from fine wire, masking tape and glue.
Note: I cannot use Milliput / green stuff type epoxy resin easily at home due to a household allergy.
Frank Gruber, Gunslinger
In the case of the Cherilea gun slinger who was missing lower legs and a base, I used a strip of wire in each leg to secure him to a stiff card base. His revolver or pistol had a broken tip, so a new six shooter was built up with a wire scrub and tiny strips of masking tape.
Zeke Gruber, the flying cowboy?
The shot staggering Cowboy had broken legs, no feet or base. Instead of repairing him as shot and staggering, which is not that useful for skirmish games, I altered one already broken leg to come forward and balanced this now diving figure with a new forearm and wire rifle as balance.
Without a base, I inserted a twist of wire that could be attached with masking tape onto a twopence piece for stability and built up the missing foot with tape.
The new hand and wire rifle join was a bit clunky and needs cleaning up a bit but this figure was already fragile and needed stoutness if he were to fight again on the Tabletop. Fashioning this wire support into a long old fashioned squirrel shooter seemed to work well enough.
He too required a pistol, so again a wire armature was built up into a pistol being fired as Zeke dives to the ground.
Abe Gruber, Artillery Guy!
This figure had an arm and a hand missing along with the broken base and legs. I repaired one upraised hand without a pistol as both his holsters are already full. A thin wire stub, built up with thin strips of masking tape and shaped into a wave.
The other arm was more of a challenge. What was this Cherilea cowboy originally doing? I checked Herald Toys Archive sales photos and could not easily see this figure.
Searching for my Cherilea cowboy – I found the gunslinger pose
What to do with the handless and armless figure? He kept toppling over on his Cherilea base.
I thought it best to stabilise him with a stout piece of garden or sparkler wire, maybe as a standard bearer?
Standard or flag bearer didn’t seem very cowboy. I wanted to keep close to the original bright cowboy colours, although the pale green hat and trousers were a little too bright for me.
Abe still has two pistols in his holster when his handy cannon isn’t around.
Finally, having put in a new wire armature for his left arm, I had left enough wire for a hand to grip a ramrod or sponge for a cannon.
Abe Gruber just joined the Artillery. Kaboom!
The paintwork on the figures was generally quite scuffed up, so I decided to keep some of the original brightly coloured paintwork and then try to colour match any additional paint with what I had in Revell Matt Aquacolour or craft Acrylics.
In their ‘paint DNA’, they still have some of their factory finish touches such as a shiny silver belt bristling with bullets or a dapper red neck cloth. Hopefully the original piece work factory painter wouldn’t be too offended at covering up the more playworn scuffed sections but keeping some of her work.
I aimed for the traditional toy soldier style face with pink cheek dots and each Gruber boy has grown a natty little moustache!
Next time I do a cowboy shoot out, the other cowboys better watch out for those Fabulous Flying Gruber boys!
In the time it took to stabilise and rebuilt these three fragile 1950s/60s cowboys I could probably have done most of the painting on the Rogers Rangers, but somehow it’s what my hands felt like doing first.
From the surprise postal box, along with the ACW figures to paint and two great Timpo cowboys to paint (one a bandit with money box), there is also a mystery unmarked slender plastic cowboy to identify and a damaged Kellogg’s Indian brave with broken rifle fire to repair.
Thanks again to the Tradgradmastre himself!
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN (and masking tape), 25 July 2020.
I have no proof that Suffragettes ever took to eight wheels (four on each boot) but in view of their inventiveness and what was seen by some as a reign of hit and run terror tactics, it was probably only a matter of time! They certainly took up the two wheels option of the bicycle which was a major tool of liberation for working class men and women.
Suffragettes on wheels and graffiti … the historical proof.
“These campaigners used various methods of campaigning, for example, in 1910 Miss Constance I. Craig , known locally as “the Suffragette”, spent her time riding a bicycle to isolated villages and placed Votes for Women [posters? Newspapers?] in bus shelters and libraries. (Votes for Women, September 23rd, 1910)”
“…Visits on market towns to neighbouring towns … where awestruck children who had never seen a real live lady chalking the pavements whispered “them must be Suffragettes” (Votes for Women, September 13th, 1912)
Quoted from pages 54-55 from Friends and Visitors: A History of the Women’s Suffrage Movement in Cornwall 1870-1914, Katherine Bradley (Hypatia Press, second edition 2019 now out)
There is a fine double page spread on each in The Edwardian Scrapbook, one of Robert Opie’s wonderful packaging and ephemera scrapbook series. At the time, postcards and board or card games were one way of promoting, ridiculing or cashing in on such topical news.
Even the sprightly language seemed similar – one suffragette board race game was called Panko, whilst a mineral water drink aimed at Roller Skaters was called Rinko. The full inventive weight of the publishing, advertising, marketing and promotion business of the day was given over to such spurious and ephemeral inventions. Aeroplanes, diablos, motor cars … all were new crazes of the decade.
Without trivialising the escalating violence of the Suffrage struggle for women’s rights such as Black Friday 1910, I had a mad vision of creating a similar gridded game with suffragettes and anti-suffrage supporters on roller skates posting up their meeting posters, chalking graffiti, pulling down or overpasteing their rivals posters. Meanwhile burly or comically tubby Edwardian postcard policemen try to arrest and restrain the Suffragettes.
Even more splendidly, militant Suffragettes were trained in Suffrajitsu to resist arrest or form a protection mob for their leaders, should a suffragette meeting be broken up by rivals or paid ‘roughs’ and rentamobs.
The Highly Simplified History Bit – Suffragist or Suffragette?
Suffragists were women and some men who supported Votes for Women (Suffrage) through peaceful meetings and legal campaigning, lobbying councils, MPs and Parliament. Most suffragists were part of the NUWSS, the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, led by Millicent Fawcett. Their colours were red, white and green.
Suffragettes from 1912 used more ‘direct action’ based, civil disobedience militant tactics. These women were prepared to break the law and cause physical damage (window breaking, arson attacks on buildings and postboxes) as well as chaining themselves to railings and going on hunger strike. Most suffragettes were members of the WSPU or Women’s Social and Political Union led by the Pankhursts from 1903. Their colours were purple, white and green. They published the weekly paper Votes For Women then later The Suffragette.
White clothes (the symbol for purity) were generally worn on marches and parades.
Anti-Suffrage or Anti-Suffragists were women and men opposed to women having the vote (suffrage). Their response ranged from campaigning and writing against Suffrage by women of the Women’s National Anti-Suffrage League (1908) to the more physical violent breaking up of meetings by men. They had no particular colours (Black, Red?) and published The Anti-Suffrage Review.
Both sides broadly backed the war effort from August 1914 onwards and suspended campaigning. The first votes for some women (over 30) in the U.K. were granted at the end of WW1 in 1918. All women in Britain were given the vote in 1928.
The suffragette figure problem*
*No jokes about buxom or trim waistlines please. Leave that to the postcard artists of the time.
Nobody strangely seems to make an easy and affordable source of Edwardian period Suffragettes on or off roller skates or indeed any roller skating figures above the modern roller skaters for HO OO railways. Yet (grumble, grumble) I can in this golden age of gaming buy multiple versions by different makers of the same old Waterloo, Roman, ACW, WW2 figures in many scales.
Conversion was my only option. Whilst I had kit-bashed together a bunch of Suffragettes for the 2018 centenary of Votes for Women, none of them looked right as roller skating ‘bill stickers‘, anxious not to be caught and prosecuted. (That’s Wilhelmina Stickers or Belinda Stickers, obviously.)
Buying and converting metal 54mm Edwardian ladies would cost a small fortune. Curiously researching what female figures I could find on the web, I could buy plenty of erotic female figures, but not one suffragette. Annie Norman at Bad Squiddo has done some fabulous female WW2 Home Front figures in 28mm but not produced pre-WW1 Suffragettes (yet).
Suffragette figures did exist at the time as games counters, like these auctioned from the Edwardian game Pank-A-Squith in 2018
Metal figures from Pank-A-Squith, a game about who was running the country? Mrs Pankhurst or Prime Minister Herbert Asquith?
I have based some of my NUWSS suffrage ladies on these PankAsquith game pieces.
One cheap and easy solution was to do a Peter Dennis of Paper Boys fame and draw some “Paper Girls”. After all this is just work in progress and proof of concept.
Having no printer, I could not copy and print enough of Peter’s wonderful figures from his 54mm Little Wars range. So I went one further or sideways and traced the outline of an Edwardian lady from his Little Wars 54mm paper soldiers, as I knew this would be the right size.
Making a paper cut-out copy front and back of even one Peter Dennis figure gives me renewed respect for his achievement in putting together his Paper Boys books. He is a very clever man! If Peter sees this, I hope that he likes what I have done to alter the basic figure, adding roller skates, billposters, paste pot and brush.
Excellent reference materials and Peter Dennis’ Paperboys: Little Wars
I used the same height / scale size sketches of the original Pank-a-Squith figures.
For policemen, oddly there are none in Peter Dennis Little Wars and I do have some homecast and hollowcast ones but I will sketch one or two hefty Edwardian policemen out, based on photographs or comic postcards.
Then using a few cardboard packets reversed I should be able to make a slightly more Edwardian townscape than the rundown urban setting of my skateboard game.
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 10th / 11th July 2020
Appendix Draft Rules, Suffra-graffiti WIP 1.0
Aim: to put up as many as possible of your colours posters and remove those of rivals.
Roller Skater figures can go four squares in one move (except on grass, where movement halved)
Figures on foot like the Police, NASWL anti-suffrage ladies, ruffians and bystanders move two squares.
You can MOVE in a turn or you can PASTE A POSTER on a wall in a turn but cannot do both.
IGOYUGO – give a number 1-6 to each faction, the first number rolled on a d6 moves first.
Jumping up obstacles costs half the move.
Note: Adjust the following distances as you see fit.
Pasting a poster on a wall takes one turn (attach poster in your colours).
Pasting a poster over the other side’s poster takes one turn – change their panel for one of yours. Keep theirs in your base pile.
You have limited or unlimited posters as you see fit (the Spla-fiti equivalent of ammunition).
The side with the most posters up at the end of the game wins (or the most of their opponents posters taken down.)
There is no melee fighting phase except for a suffragette resisting arrest.
If you choose to crash into another roller skater and knock them out of a game, a d6 dice throw of 1 knocks out another roller skater and yourself.
However savings throws are thrown for both you and the other roller skater.
Less than 6 knocks out the roller skater or yourself.
6 is unhurt.
You can decide for how long you or the other skater are out of the game until you respawn at home base.
Winston … Spot the suffragette with her votes for women label and green and purple … Punch, source unknown.
NASWLAnti-suffragistladies are not arrested for putting up or taking down posters. They have no roller skates.
The police officers are there to catch the roller skating suffragettes and suffragists. If they can touch bases, they can try to arrest them.
If the Police can successfully arrest a skater girl suffragette (if they can catch them*) they can take them individually away back to an off board jail square.
(No Mr Churchill, as Home Secretary, You cannot add an Edwardian set-to-stun “Tazer” option.)
Arrest is by melee – if the suffragette or suffragist wins, they escape arrest and can move an extra turn away from the Police.
If the Policeman wins, the suffragette or suffragist figure is escorted by one policeman at two paces a move off the board.
I have yet to add in programmed random NPC (non player character) city types to get in the way (from model railway civilians etc) – a chance to add in a paper version of my hollow-cast lead tramp figure as a hobo etc.
An enchanting little story, of book nooks, an idea that could well grace a military or fantasy modeller’s book shelves? Lots of examples of these on Pinterest. Lots more pictures and links at this BBC article including Harry Potter style Diagon Alley type streets between books:
It is another exploration of my interest in non-lethal ‘war’ games.
** youth skateboard graffiti stereotype alert **
Here the game aim is to cover as much of the city walls with your own side’s graffiti art as you can, avoiding capture by the City Police and overspraying and replacing the graffiti of the rival skate crew where possible.
The Police and the Council Cleaners turn up after 2 x d6 turns to try and restore law and order, clean up the streets etc.
A range of player options – two skateboard crews versus each other
or one skate crew versus 1 police unit and / or council clean up unit.
Or two skateboard crews versus the city police and city council unit.
Victory Conditions? – At the end of so many turns (e.g. throw 2 or 3 d6) count up how many grafitti panels in your colour you have sprayed.
If you are the Council clean up team, you might have taken down and cleaned up more graffiti than the skate gangs sprayed or oversprayed.
WIP Rules Spla-fiti 1.0
You can MOVE one figure in a turn or you can SPRAY a wall in a turn but cannot do both.
Council staff and Police on foot are slower (moving two squares each turn) than skaters on boards (moving four squares).
Jumping up obstacles costs half the move.
Note: Adjust the following distances as you see fit.
Spraying a wall panel takes one turn (attach graffiti panel in your crew colour).
Respraying the other crew’s work takes one turn – change their graffiti panel for one of yours. Keep theirs in your base pile.
The Council repainting the wall also takes one turn. Council players – remove the grafitti panel and keep it.
You have limited or unlimited spray cans as you see fit (the Spla-fiti equivalent of ammunition). I have not added cans to the skaters’ hands yet.
There is no melee fighting phase. If you choose to crash into another skater and knock them out of a game, a d6 dice throw of 1 knocks out another skater and yourself. However savings throws are thrown for both you and the other skater. Less than 6 knocks out the skater or yourself. 6 is unhurt.
You can decide for how long you or the other skater are out of the game until you respawn at home base.
“Green Teem” make the city streets uncleen with their grafitti tagging – easy!
I didn’t have a big enough chessboard for it to work with 54mm skater figures and their cardboard city buildings so I drew up two cardboard grey city street grids with squares the same size as my chessboard.
To get that rundown urban feel, I made some simple city retail or industrial buildings out of biscuit boxes turned inside out to get the cardboard side. I improvised some downtown urban clutter and street furniture.
The City Council clean up, removing spray-fiti and repainting the city walls.
Here you can see the magnetic strip by which the spray-fiti or graffiti panels are attached.
I tried the self adhesive magnet strips inside the card buildings to keep outer walls clean but it did not work so well as direct contact with the graffiti panels which have a small square of magnet strip on the back.
Council Teams clean up the city walls. These are represented by flamethrower figures, repurposed to repaint the city walls.
The police officers are there to catch the skater grafitti artists. They can arrest skaters (if you can catch them) and take them individually away back to an off board jail square (or you can add a set-to-stun “Tazer” option.)
I have yet to add in programmed random NPC (non player character) city types to get in the way (from model railway civilians etc) – a chance to add in my hollow-cast lead tramp figure as a hobo etc.
Before anyone mentions it …
Keith Haring and other graffiti artists like Banksy might classify as Art.
I’m not endorsing spray-painting, graffiti art and tagging, much of the time in the wrong place it just looks ugly.
I did smile at the chalked-up message on the passageway walls into Shepherds Market in London when the Tradition of London toy soldier shop was still there. It simply said in big chalk letters – Cheer Up! It made others walking past smile reading it too.
However much I dislike graffiti in the wrong place, I enjoyed doing the mini graffiti panels. Some were based on examples I found online. In others, there are a few wargamers’ names or initials amongst ones for family and friends here “Tagged in This Photo”. Particularly proud of DF62 and PL15!
Sk8r figures are by AJ’s Toy Boarders – all sold out and now hard to find. I picked up a green and blue pack years ago online, along with their surfer dudes which I found second hand. You may now find them in set 1 and 2 together in tubs at Vat19 in the USA who ship reasonably cheaply to the UK:
All 8 of the different skateboard move poses are shown here, as listed on the card header. Pushing, Nosegrab, Smith, Cruising 1 and Cruising 2, Manual, Tailgrab and Ollie. Sounds like weird gang names.
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN July 2020
B.P.S. Blog Post Script
All Sk8r Boys? Sorry Avril Lavigne, sadly there was no skater girl in set 1, she was in set 2 which I couldn’t find for sale online.
If I don’t buy more skaters from VAT19, I might be able to improvise one or two female skateboarders from 54mm model railway civilians on coffee stirrer boards (with cocktail stick wheels?)
Some of the model railway figure sets by Noch and Preiser have roller skaters, inline skaters and skateboarders in HO OO for tiny city scapes.
For a few clues on colours and “uniform painting”, you can now check out the slightly dated ‘skate punk’ music videos by Avril Lavigne such as Sk8r Boi from the early 2000s: https://youtu.be/TIy3n2b7V9k
In the fourth and final week, there was a short section on this Future Learn: British Army From Waterloo tothe Rhine course, which showed briefly a US Army training film clip on the British Army’s WW2 ABCA (the Army Bureau of Current Affairs). I spotted what looks like a sandtable in the midst of the education and training room, full of plane identification charts and models, German equipment and uniform.
Watch the ABCA film here, the sandtable is about 14:30 and 15:30 into the film:
A screenshot close up reveals a little more fuzzy detail:
Donald Featherstone writes in War Games (1962) about the wargames use of the sandtables whilst almost wistfully for a former tank regiment sergeant, he remembers the military use of these at Bovington during WW2:
“… the author recalls, with some pleasure, a fascinating hut at Bovington Camp, Dorset, in the Second World War, where miniature tanks were made to move over realistic countryside, being made mobile by the movement of magnets under the table.” (P. 16, Featherstone, War Games, 1962).
Sandtables are a bit of a gaming rarity these days. They had many operational drawbacks, not least the weight of the sand, but several pages were devoted by Donald Featherstone to their use and construction in War Games (1962).
I recently spotted sand tables in use again for 1944 tank battles by some such as John Muzy on 1/72 forums and pages on Facebook, linked to a YouTube video here https://youtu.be/vNnOQJa7mvc
Not all of my medical figures are accessible for the photograph, and one of the lead pre-war Johilco nurse figures needs some radical repair to replace a head in the next few weeks.
Another figure worthy of repair. Prewar issue Johilco nurse.
Happy Birthday NHS and thanks to all their staff, past and present.
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN (or late 1960s NHS baby of TIN?), 5 July 2020
B.P.S Blog Post Script
As an NHS baby myself, I wondered who the first NHS baby was born on 5th July 1948? Named after the Minister of Health Aneurin Bevan, the answer is Aneira Thomas, who along with her sisters, went to work as an NHS nurse herself. Happy birthday Aneira!
“I feel passionate about the preservation of this fantastic service, which provides support from the cradle to the grave, for every person in Great Britain. It means equality for all. As Aneurin Bevan said, ‘The National Health Service will stay as long as there are folk to fight for it.’ The NHS is our jewel in the crown, and it’s our duty to not let it slip away.”