Vintage Airfix 1960s Infantry Combat Group – Grey Enemy Aggressor Troops

The gift from Tony Adams in 2019 of a small box of unwanted old Airfix OOHO figures keeps on giving.

This time I repaired and based a handful of some old battered Infantry Combat Group figures which Tony had painted grey but with colourful yellow and blue hats.

They reminded me of some of the oddly coloured helmets in our family collection of OOHO sized Airfix, often also yellow or blue helmets. I have no idea why. It obviously meant something at some time.

I thought Tony’s few figures could stay grey and keep their colourful original painted helmets, becoming vintage Airfix figures which are flocked and based in a modern way using Warbases MDF penny bases.

Oddly some books and websites say that the Airfix Infantry Combat Group came out in 1959 (others say 1960) so we’re issued possibly a year earlier than their opponents the German Infantry (version 1).

It wasn’t uncommon in early Airfix figures for Enemy or opponent troops to emerge a year or two later. Foreign Legion had to wait a few years for the Arabs, US Marines had to wait a year for the Japanese etc.

As a result c. 1959 /60, it might have been the only way to get a modern enemy to fight was to paint another pack of the Infantry Combat Group as grey opponents (unless the Infantry Combat Group took on the ceremonial rifleman of the Guards Colour Party?)

Many comment on the Infantry Combat Group’s modern rifles and helmets as being 1950s issue, certainly the National Service uniform of my late father.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/18/national-service-days-1/

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2020/04/22/1955-british-army-infantry-training-booklet-no-4-rifle-and-bayonet/

So even if the WW2 German Infantry appeared alongside them in 1960, these Infantry Combat Group could still be painted as generic 1960s Enemy Cold War Troops (Russians, Tintinesque ImagiNations, etc)

More tempting archive / SOLD pictures on Barney Brown’s Herald Toys webshop

*

Rather than paint them green and add Tony’s battered figures to what is left of my few dozen Infantry Combat Group, I wondered whether they could stay grey and represent “the enemy” for training purposes.

This was a clever trick that Britain’s Herald did with their Fifties plastic khaki infantry – just paint them grey with black webbing as the Enemy.

Herald, Britain’s Lilliput and early Airfix British Infantry seem to have shared similar poses.

These photos are from the excellent Barney Brown Herald Toys website and web shop.

I had a number of the Herald Khaki troops as a child and have since acquired a few more in dribs and joblot drabs but I have never seen the Enemy Troops grey variant in the flesh (or plastic).

There are some great colourful paintings of Infantry Combat Group on Hugh Walter’s Small Scale World http://airfixfigs.blogspot.com/2010/06/1960-infantry-combat-group-wwii-british.html

Different coloured dyed uniforms were part American troop training and exercises in the 1950s, used as the enemy “Aggressor Troops”, speaking Esperanto – see the latter part of the blog below:

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2020/06/28/verda-versus-griza-pound-store-plastic-soldiers-20mm-interbellum-fms-skirmish-now-with-added-esperanto/

Tony Adams also passed on as well as battered unwanted Version 1 Airfix, some Revell German Horse Drawn Artillery (he has a longstanding interest in logistics and horse-drawn troops, shown in his Miniature Wood Screw Army website) and some Esci British Napoleonic Artillery. These will join my various ImagiNations once painted up. Thanks Tony!

Back into action, I look forward to bringing them back into gaming use again after fifty or more years.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN blog, 30 May 2021

15 thoughts on “Vintage Airfix 1960s Infantry Combat Group – Grey Enemy Aggressor Troops”

  1. Hi Mark. I am very pleased that you are still getting so much from the figures I sent you. They certainly look very impressive, the bases are excellent. The only explanation I have for the coloured helmets is that my very first “wargames” were played with Lego bricks. Blue one side and white/yellow the other. Airfix figures must have come along soon after in the very early 60’s so got the same colour identification. That said its so long ago I could be making that up !!!!! Anyway it is just very nice to see these figures come back to life and be appreciated once more. Regards Tony

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    1. Thanks again Tony. That does make sense. It’s really interesting as the 8 dot Lego blocks etc do kind of look like helmet tops in blocks of troops, in a plastic Kriegspiel kind of way. I wonder if anyone else will do this again with the renewed interest in 5mm and 6mm troops blocks, hair roller armies etc.
      Interesting to see that at that young age that you were interested in symbolic playing pieces from Lego block troops to your Miniature Woodscrew Army.

      Plausible – The first version Airfix began in 1959/60. Interesting that we had the same helmet colours on our Airfix family figures – special troops had yellow or blue helmets!

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      1. Yes strange that I have always preferred “symbolic” soldiers to real models. I think my issue was the fixed poses. I always wanted figures that could be anything, from sitting to charging and all between. Maybe if anyone had made miniature pose-able figures I would be their greatest fan.

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    1. Interesting – this does makes sense as the Russians didn’t come out until 1964 and Featherstone mentions something about Tarr’s Russian Front game in War Games 1962.
      I have seen Lionel Tarr’s Stalingrad type city set up in photos in Featherstone’s books (including his Air WarGames) and I occasionally use a Lionel Tarr periscope (kids periscope worked upside down).

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  2. These guys started me off on Airfix! These and “Guards Colour Party”, which is apparently all the local Walgreens had on hand (boy, talk about well-matched opponents!) I shouldn’t at all be snotty–I had never even heard of Airfix until the Christmas my Aunt then sent me these. And she continued to send me 2 boxes of Airfix every holiday for the next 9 or 10 years! I still have all of them, although I suspect the plastic has gotten old and brittle. Happy memories.

    Best regards,

    Chris Johnson
    Virginia

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  3. Good memories. I would be happy if this gift of two boxes of Airfix still happened every birthday or Christmas even at my age but alas all that generation of kind aunts and uncles have gone.
    Maybe there should be an Airfix subscription service in their place?
    Two boxes of matched Airfix and you still have a game.

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  4. I started at my Secondary Modern school in September 1959. While investigating the nearby shops to the bus stop on Colney Hatch Lane I found a bicycle store that sold Airfix kits. They were for some reason stocking newly released Airfix kits before Woolworth shops which were my usual supplier. I remember buying the Combat Group before Xmas that year and was then puzzled that they had no adversary.

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    1. That confirms my 1959 ‘enemy gap’ understanding between when Infantry Combat Group came out and the Germans were issued in 1960.

      What did you do to improvise during the Airfix “Enemy gap”?

      It could explain the colourful painted helmets that I find sometimes on other people’s Infantry Combat Group Veteran figures.

      There is an advert or editorial quoted in J C Carbonel Airfix Little Soldiers from Airfix Magazine January 1961 which hails the German “invasion” arrival, so obviously issued late 1960 / early 1961? This Airfix Magazine also calls the ICG “British Infantry” by then.

      I can’t remember buying Airfix in the 70s other than in toy and model shops, we obviously didn’t have those type of newsagents etc. that stocked them.

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      1. They spent a lot of time as my local regiment, The Middlesex, on maneuvers fighting house to house with Superquick buildings and terrorising the Airfix Civilians on my Hornby Dublo layout. It was a year or so before the Germans invaded and they fought real wars.

        I seem to remember the French Foreign Legion having even longer waiting for the appropriate opposition.

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      2. Ah! Superquick buildings, a bit like the Peco backdrops – a moment frozen in time.
        French Foreign Legion versions 1 and 2 will appear eventually on the blog.

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      3. For years I didn’t even know the German set existed! I had no catalog, and the only knowledge I had about what Airfix was making was on the back of the boxes–so either I managed to miss it, or I saw it and for some reason thought it meant the Afrika Korps set.

        Speaking of which, I recall seeing the Armored Car ad, and longed for a copy to add to the Korps, not to mention a Panther too. IIRC, the Panther box (at least an early version) showed palm trees in the background, so I figured it meant the Germans sent Panthers to Tunesia.(No palm trees on the A/C box, I know, but campaign histories kept mentioning “armored cars” so I figured that must have been it.) Was I a rather ignorant boob as a young teenager? Oh yeah.

        Ah, happy ignorant/mistaken memories…

        Chris

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      4. The few Airfix catalogues that we had in the house in the late 70s were a joy to read and draw from over and over again. Otherwise you wouldn’t know what you could never find in the shops (?!?) Most of the kits that I marked up for my birthday or Christmas list I knew I had little chance of my dad finding in model shops.

        Ignorant? Not so. Before the internet, for us all finding such information was much harder – thankfully there were branch libraries etc. if you could get hold of the right but much borrowed reference books
        Good that some of these Airfix vehicles are back in production in their vintage classic range for now, often with the original artwork. Buy them whilst you can!

        I have more version 1 Afrika Korps and 8th Army to finish in future; I enjoyed reusing some of my childhood ones recently in early 2020
        https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2020/01/18/desert-commando-raid-on-wadi-yu-min-1941/

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    1. It makes sense to do so. I do like the (eventual release of) Russian figures and have some old and fairly new ones to bring into play.

      I enjoy the 1960s paint conversions, the banana oil and plasticine conversions etc of figures in early Airfix magazines. Ingenuity. I’m a bit wary of trying this on fragile old figures, as I have found this sometimes troublesome with drill repairs.

      I think any stray damaged Inf Combat Group that turn up as I sort through my Airfix collection, job lots etc. over time will be assigned to the grey Enemy for now but with Black helmets as standard.

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