Final Flocking and Basing Done After Thirty Odd Years – some Airfix and Featherstone first versions

This weekend gone I have been “Flocking and Basing” version 1 Airfix figures from our 1960s family collection that I first painted back in the early to mid 1980s. Only a mere gap of 35 years or more to finish them off and get them back into gaming condition again!

Part of the joy of rediscovering what vintage Airfix was stored in my Flight Case was deciding to finish off painting and basing familiar figures from my childhood such as Version 1 Airfix troops.

Part of this week’s F and B – “Flocking and Basing” involved small painted groups of:

Infantry Combat Group version 1 – 1960 S3 (set 3) or British Infantry as Airfix magazine called them in 1960. Replaced by Version 2 in 1973

German Infantry version 1 – 1960 S5 (set 5)

US Marines version 1 – 1963 S16 (set 16)

Dates based on Plastic Soldier Review and J.C. Carbonel’s Airfix’s Little Soldiers.

These slight of stature Version 1 figures were sculpted from 1959-74 (according to Carbonel) by John Niblett. These stylish but small, and to some crude, 1960s figures were replaced by the Version 2 Airfix in the 1970s, sculpted by Niblett or Ron Cameron. These version 2 figures are the few WW1 and WW2 figures still available at Airfix.com https://uk.airfix.com/shop/figures

By the time I was buying Airfix figures with pocket money in the mid 70s, the older version 1 figures in our family collection had been replaced in the shops by Version 2.

As a result these older but by then unobtainable figures always held a bit of a fascination for me. They were my special elite troops and I preferred the older figures.

Today many of them are fragile and the original Airfix version 1 moulds are reported lost in the Airfix / Heller period. I think they have a certain charm that their replacement Version 2 figures often do not. I would happily buy the Version 1 figures recast in metal if they were available.

Here they are, after fifty years or more, Flocked And Based at last – honoured with modern Warbases 1 penny sized MDF bases and Flocking onto PVA glue and green / brown acrylic paint mixture.

First version German Infantry, US Marines and Infantry Combat Group

Miniature Hitler and his special weapons troops – version 1 German Infantry

Now fragile but flocked and based repaired version 1 US Marines
Medical and HQ staff – version 1 Infantry Combat Group 1961

Version 1 bayonet charge, mostly childhood / 1980s paintwork, now property based

‘Special forces’ 1960s uniform of black trousers and yellow helmet! Family paint job.

When I found Featherstone’s 1962 War Games for the first time, even though this was by then the 1973 seventh edition in our local library, the original photos by Ken Baker were still in use. I recognised the WW2 figures used as some of these curious and scarce version 1 Airfix figures we had in our collection at home.

I didn’t really understand at the time when and why they changed as I was then very young but I realised you couldn’t buy them in the shops anymore. They were all just our family Airfix figures to me.

These are the Version 1 type figures seen in Donald Featherstone’s WW2 sand-table game in War Games (1962), when these figures were still quite new and ‘revolutionary’ in their cheapness, availability and conversion potential.

I was curious to read about his use of the recently introduced Airfix kit Sherman tanks (1961) but making do with home made German Tiger looking tanks. The Sherman, Churchill and Panther tank kits from Airfix were available in 1961. The Tiger tank kits would not appear until 1964, the lorries and guns even later.

Worth noting though that by 1961/2, lots of useful OO HO railway buildings, the familiar houses and figures had been produced. The former Airfix railway range is still available from Dapol.

War Games 1962 and 1973

I have two copies or editions of War Games.

One is the well-thumbed and battered ex-library copy Seventh impression of 1973 that I would have borrowed as a child from my local Branch Library. I bought it along with Blandford colour uniform books when they oddly started selling off their older book stock in the late 1980s.

The other is more recently acquired, an affordable (scuffed up and well-battered) first impression or edition from 1962, missing its dust jacket.

The 1973 edition has a 1970 update or addition to Featherstone’s 1962 preface by one single, understated paragraph in a slightly finer, lighter font or typeface:

There are some interesting differences between the first 1962 and the 1973 version, not least the growing availability of Airfix figures that were set to revolutionise gaming.

New Airfix announced in War Games 1962 Appendix 1 Sources of Supply for Model Soldiers
Featherstone’s hopes for more Airfix promise here from War Games 1962:
Breaking news of new figures from my 1962 battered first edition War Games by Donald Featherstone – Chapter 2 ‘Model Soldiers for War Games’

It will be interesting in a future blog post to look at the other small changes to War Games 1962 and 1970/73 in this chapter on Model Soldiers such as the changing fortunes and suppliers of 54mm, 30mm and Flats. 15mm are not mentioned – Peter Laing’s 15 mm figures were still a year or two ahead in 1972 when Featherstone updated his preface in 1970.

Interesting to read that the Eighth Army and Afrika Korps were due to be released at time of writing in 1962. In the brief chapter on wargaming in his Tackle Model Soldiers This Way, he mentions Airfix German and British infantry and British 8th Army and German Afrika Korps.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/15/featherstone-simple-ww2-rules/

I used my childhood Version 1 Desert War figures and commandos for my LRDG game early last year https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2020/01/18/desert-commando-raid-on-wadi-yu-min-1941/

By Featherstone’s 1970 / 1973 editions of War Games, Airfix’s range has expanded:

Airfix figures and recent Featherstone publications from my 1970/ 1973 battered seventh impression War Games by Donald Featherstone – Chapter 2 ‘Model Soldiers for War Games’.

Sadly by my second 1984 edition copy of his 1970 Battles with Model Soldiers, Airfix’s past historical range was listed in detail but it’s irregular availability and that of Atlantic was already sadly lamented.

This is probably why I am often still tempted to hoard Airfix figures when I see them in the shops …

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, seventies Airfix kid , 11/12 May 2021

19 thoughts on “Final Flocking and Basing Done After Thirty Odd Years – some Airfix and Featherstone first versions”

  1. Terrific work on the figures, they have come up a treat. My particular favourites are the Germans. I especially like the anti tank weapon and loader. Great to see these fellows given the tlc they deserve. I look forward to seeing them in action. The US marines had a excellent dingy that worked well in real water.

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    1. My surviving dinghy half won’t float it’s amongst my unpainted childhood and job lot US Marines. The Matchbox commando and Airfix version 2 ones probably will still float – a shame the Airfix commando canoe was never very stable in water.
      The Britain’s / Herald 54mm cowboy and WW2 ones with metal keel were a bit wobbly in the bathtub too!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent. When I retired some years ago I scoured eBay for the toys of my youth. I recently actually painted some Infantry Combat Group and Germans for a skirmish game. Happy memories.

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  3. Don’s book got me started in wargaming when I came across it in our school library back in the late 60’s, it has enriched my life and without it I would have a very different person, richer money wise maybe, but poorer in all other ways.

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    1. Here here! I think it might be one of the Crisis / Antwerp groups who mentions in their website strapline the wise observation that wargaming is reverse “alchemy changing lots of gold into a small amount of lead” … but we have other value systems or standards of richness as has been proved during Lockdown.

      I wonder how our lives would have been different without Featherstone and Airfix … well we certainly wouldn’t be chatting in this blog for one thing.

      I came across The War Game, Charge! in my secondary school libraries, Featherstone’s Colonial Small Wars in the sixth form library and several Featherstone books and a single borrow of the Little Wars reprint from the branch library service.

      I’m not sure such books would be found in a school library now, although I did learn a lot of my ‘hobby learning’ and school learning of history through Airfix.

      I thought the idea of putting a copy of Henry Hyde’s Wargames Compendium into school libraries was as an interesting one. https://toofatlardies.co.uk/blog/?p=2737#

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      1. This lockdown has proved the worth of hobbies and wargaming is an all consuming one, we are very lucky to have it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. As the “Super cheap wargaming” Facebook group and my Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog hopes to prove, it is an engaging, consuming but affordable hobby.

        You have to stay alive as long as you can as there are so many lifetimes of possible games and scenarios buzzing around in your head …

        As for its value in Mental Health (its Mental Health Awareness Week) its just what they say in the Peace by Piece Models for Heroes video and others: https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2019/06/02/models-for-heroes-and-the-well-being-aspects-of-hobbies/

        And all that quiet sitting down is offset by your 1000 miles a year walking challenge … clever!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Mark….Your article has brought back some interesting memories. As you know I was lucky enough to be bought some of the very earliest Airfix figures. At the time they were just things to play with and I did but to see the joy they bring today is special indeed. My wife is constantly telling me to reduce my library but I just cannot part with any books. The shelves just groan a bit more as new ones appear. Don’t ever stop collecting…there is ALWAYS a bit more space !!!!!! Regards Tony

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    1. I look forward to bringing more of your version 1 figures into gaming condition. I am well stocked with penny MDF warbases, stocked with flock and sand … and the not letting go of stuff comes down to Rule Number 6 in decluttering expert Konmri’s / Marie Kondo

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  5. Lovely article, Mark. I remember having inherited the early Airfix German infantry from my late brother, then a friend showed me his new designed, I did think how poor mine looked in comparison. Now I would love to still own those originals I played with in the late 60s. And painted, they do have something that is more than nostalgia. Well done for saving your first collection!
    Michael

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  6. The Version 2 or new figures are all very well – I have flocked and based a small childhood painted group of these – but I prefer these poses in the 54mm figures. Having the big and little ones in the same pose but different scales had a certain fun element to it, especially if you named them etc.
    It is good that again both sets of German figures and others are available inexpensively on the Airfix website and presumably in shops for the likes of Tom the Wargamer and his generation
    https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2020/09/20/ww2-wargaming-on-a-budget-tom-the-wargamer-and-historical-wargaming-on-youtube/

    Only small thing I regret in MDF penny basing the Airfix figures is that they no longer fit the narrowest trenches of the Coastal Gun Emplacement.

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  7. Great stuff bringing these old classic plastics to life.
    Regards, James
    It is probably sacrilege here, but I much prefer the poses, detail and overall look of the version II figures! 🙂

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    1. Hello James – I don’t really dislike the Version 2 that much, I just prefer Version 1 more.
      If Version 1 had not existed, I’m sure I would have been happy with Version 2.
      Its good that they are still (on / off) available to a new young or nostalgic older audience.
      I liked the fact that the same Version 2 poses scaled up or down are found in the 1/32 and OOHO sizes (although rarely on sale at the same time on the Airfix online shop). Great if you ‘personalise’ figures with names …

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  8. Brings back memories. I remember my brother and I playing on the lawn with our Airfix soldiers, tanks and armed vehicles. It wasn’t long before we created bald patched in the lawn (clearings in the jungle) happy days.

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