“From the halls of Montezuma …” Airfix Version 1 US Marines 1963

Some of my original painted version 1 US Marines veterans from my childhoood, freshly rebased.

Since starting the numbering, basing and flocking of my Airfix figures, I have been basing some of my childhood figures to bring them up to gaming condition.

Once this has been done, I have been searching around for more of such figures in various tins or job lot bags picked up or gifted over the last few years, enough to make a skirmish or small invasion force.

A handful of freshly repainted US Marine figures, originally painted grey by Tony Adams

Eventually with scouring through several boxes of mixed Airfix I found a few dozen more, enough to make a small invasion force. Some of these are probably my original family / childhood ones which were left unpainted.

Over 80 original version 1 figures scraped together, almost two boxes worth.

My paint style as a child or teenage gamer was minimal, leaving the uniform colour unpainted if it was close to the desired base colour and then highlighting usually just face, boots, weapons and webbing. I tried to keep close to this style of the originals that I had painted long ago. Some figures needed olive drab overpainting to cover up any other paint schemes such as Tony Adams’ grey Marines.

There was only one pose missing, the bazooka man, so I used a pound store copy of such a version 2 figure.

Pound store bazooka man, original standing loader and more cautious kneeling conversion.

These figures were first released as set S16, in 1963, a year before their opponents the Japanese Infantry.

They have a variety of odd poses, which the type 1 box usefully lists, pictured in J C. Carbonel’s Airfix’s Little Soldiers.

Years late , when I read them in Carbonel’s book, I thought “Oh, is that what they are supposed to be doing?” Running, charging, leaping, lying, lying wounded, just wounded.

Box listing of figures type 2 and familiar later type 2 blue box from J.C. Carbonel’s Airfix book

The Plastic Soldier Review for this set is here:


The Marines were remodelled into a new version 2 set somewhere around 1975 to 1978, using scaled down copies of the familiar chunky US Infantry 1:32 figures and some new slender replacement poses: http://www.plasticsoldierreview.com/Review.aspx?id=354

These version 2 US Marines figures are still available from the Airfix web shop or stockists for a very reasonable £5 a box, still with the familiar box art from the late 60s and 70s https://uk.airfix.com/products/wwii-us-marines-a00716v

I much prefer to use the version 1 figures when I can.

The only other bit missing in my set was the base of the rubber dinghy or ‘assault boat’ so I improvised with a card replacement until I find such a dinghy base whilst rooting through my Airfix odds and ends.

Using the version 1 Marines

I have no intention of running any Japanese Vs. Marines type games anytime soon. The more I learn of the savagery of the Pacific War, the less I would want to replay actual historical battles.

The Marines would be great for many mid to late 20th century troops and ImagiNations games.

The US Marines figures seemed to fulfil for most at the time the role of US Infantry which oddly Airfix never made in OOHO, unlike Matchbox and other makers. Airfix include the Version 2 ones in their current DDay diorama / Playsets.

I noticed that they are generic enough to use for many postwar armies, and for summer in Korea, Vietnam and the ‘Cold War in hot countries’ type scenarios. They lack the greatcoats etc. for winter warfare.

Curiously whilst I was slowly painting, flocking and basing these figures amongst others over the last few weeks, Alan at the Duchy of Tradgardland blog posted an intriguing picture of Airfix Version 1 US Marines from Charles Grant’s WW2 rules book Battle! Practical Wargaming, ‘spotty’ painted in use as WW2 or postwar modern camouflaged troops:

I shall try this spotty colour scheme out on a few spare crawling Marine figures. Hopefully Alan has now secured some version 1 Marines for future ‘spotty’ use.

The US Marines band – Music For Pleasure?

Whilst painting, basing and flocking these figures, I listened to a wide range of US Marines music and their marching cadence calls, including lots of Sousa marches and a very varied jazz and chamber music repertoire, all free and live streamed on the YouTube United States Marine Band channel. https://m.youtube.com/user/usmarineband

The bandsmen and bandswomen wear splendid red band uniforms.

Hopefully this rousing Marines music is now infused into my tiny Marines’ paintwork and flock.

The Sousa marches seem very familiar since quite by chance, as a child in the early 1970s, my family were given some random Woolworths type LPs by a relative. They included this very cheery album cover of a tanned and smiling American drum lady; in reality, the band itself was all the way from sunny Sandhurst. MFP – good old affordable‘ Music for Pleasure vinyl LPs.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 6th / 7th June 2021

13 thoughts on ““From the halls of Montezuma …” Airfix Version 1 US Marines 1963”

  1. Great work of the ongoing Airfix cataloguing variety. I enjoyed your Marine centred chat. They are a most useful set and look excellent en masse as well as individually. Agree wholeheartedly with your Pacific comment. My Japanese Airfix figures I use as Italians having read a very jolly Airfix Conversion article on the subject It will be good to see these Marines in action soon I hope. I will be very interested to see how the camouflage experiment works out.


    1. I hope that you track down some version 1 Marines too to make spotty Battle! camouflage experiment.
      Like many of the generic, not over detailed version 1 Airfix figures, you can do easy paint conversions etc, not unlike (my) Peter Laing 15mm. Paint them grey, you have Enemy Forces etc.
      These version 1 Marines could be generic Infantry, Paratroops, Marines etc.

      The Japanese, used alternatively as something else, are very very versatile figures, along with the Russians. They have a Nineteenth Century look to them as well as Twentieth Century and serve a variety of uses including ImagiNations, Uncivil Wars and ACW / Zouave figures when ACW Airfix were scarce.


  2. Hi Mark… Great article. I also understand your reluctance to fight Pacific battles. You could fight Korea/Vietnam battles as the USMC traditionally were equip much more poorly than the US Army so even in the early phases of Vietnam they still wore the old WW2/Korea uniforms. Unfortunately they too were “savage” wars but all war is savage in one way or another. Regards Tony


    1. I think the closer we get to living memory, I prefer A-Historical and ImagiNations use, even a distant echo of the distinctive Korea or asymmetric Vietnam warfare.

      Change the historical names and you take away the ethical issues … it is still the same tactical challenge.


      1. Yes good point, I had not looked at it like that. You have more than enough scenarios available to use these Marines in a very appropriate way, maybe storming the beaches of Angria ??


      2. Oddly recently I have been thinking forwards from the young Bronte ImagiNations of the early 19th Century to what happened in the late 19th century and WW1/WW2; Gaaldine (South Pacific, near Bali Hai, obviously) and Gondal (North Pacific / Tropical Yorkshire) are both Pacific islands, as opposed to Angria and Glasstown (based on West Africa but Tropical Yorkshire).

        The WW2 invasion of Vichy French Madagascar and the Allied commando retaking of this island might give some scenario ideas clues.

        Who do Gondal and Gaaldine side with in the World Wars, assuming that the rest of the world is similar to history?

        How do The Gaaldines deal with Japanese style invasion?


      3. Excellent ideas. As to the questions, its totally up to you, its your imagi-nations after all. That is the great thing about them, we can do whatever we like !!! Regards Tony


  3. I had a set of these many years ago, and I remember even then wondering why some of the guys were running without weapons (surely not fleeing?)! I think it might hold the record for the most poses in any Airfix set, with no more than 2 figures per pose.


    1. Surely not fleeing, surely storming beaches with grenades or other roles?

      Medics, engineers, padres, war correspondents, Combat photographers, gun crews …

      Over time the number of poses seems to have declined in the later newer Airfix, and other OOHO figure makers, possibly to do with the number of repeat sprues per box?


  4. Just stumbled across this wonderful post and enthusiastic set of answers. This actually reflects an exercise I am presently pursuing with the Airfix Type 1 Marines. Ever since the 1970’s these figures were my generic US Army/Marine forces for every theater in WW2, whether painted (poorly) or not. They are actually better than a lot of reviewers give them credit for. Yes, most weapons are poorly detailed but the depiction of ‘scruffy’ in the field GI’s is captured very well and gels with many actual photographs from many theatres at the time. Well, a bit like Mark, I am on a nostalgia kick and have pulled together around 300 of these guys and am busy converting some of them into BAR and SMG armed troops to try and establish a better organised US ‘generic’ unit. They will then be painted with an old tin of Airfix M20 grey/green and given drab webbing. I’ll take a little more care with details though than I did half a century ago! To finish I give them a coat of Army Painter Quickshade wash (not the awful Quick dip goop!) and then a coat of Ronseal Hard Glaze varnish to hold everything together. They are then ready to tackle Japs on Guadalcanal, and the Axis in North Africa and the Med! Mark – if you still need individuals or dingy parts just say as I will have a few left over pieces when I am finished. More on this topic soon in The Journal of The Society of Twentieth Century Wargamers (SOTCW)


    1. Thanks Mark – I quite agree how versatile these figures are (were?). They stood in for all US Infantry / forces for me at least until I bought the Matchbox OOHO compatible figures.
      I’m sure they would do for Vietnam, and would have done so if I had had any such figures and much knowledge of the events as a youngster. (The Esci Vietnamese etc came out a bit too late for me)

      Very glad to see that you have your old Airfix paints still working. I don’t miss the smell of Humbrol and Airfix enamels but I miss the easy colour matching to Figures of such paints.
      It should all with conversions all make for a very interesting journal article.


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