Airfix OOHO British Paratroops – Chubsters?

More of my childhood Airfix Veterans painted and based for the first time.

These OOHO Paratroopers’ figures Set S23 were first produced in 1965, sculpted by John Niblett who produced many of the slender first version Airfix figures.

Some of these “bunch of chubsters“, as Gary Cumston light-heartedly called these figures on this Facebook group (below), have fought bravely in my boyhood battles since the mid 1970s, but oddly never got painted. Maybe their useful khaki green plastic handily required no painting?

They were indeed tall “chubsters”, compared to the slender Version 1 Airfix infantry figures that preceded them.

The third figure was a random one from Ken or Tony that appears to have been slightly melted or modified (to standing firing?) I think I may paint and finish this as an umbrella to represent an officer figure like Major Digby Tatham-Warter the famously eccentric Parachute officer at Arnhem who carried one. Experimental Scrim on his helmet.

Parachute regiments were usually made up of men from many regiments and sources. The same is true of my Airfix Figures. These are mostly the green colour 1970s ones but some brown 1990s Playset Coastal Fort / Gun Emplacment ones crept in. (Why make them in brown?)

Now my childhood elite veterans have been joined by a few 1960s/70s figures from Tony Adams and my former work colleague and friend Ken from his 1960s/70s tin of Airfix. Their figures are suitably coded with initials under the base.

To consider this chubster question, what better than to look closely at the figures, whilst painting up and basing some of these veterans?

I checked that I had all the figures and equipment from the Airfix British Paratroopers section of Plastic Soldier Review (which is largely unimpressed by this set) http://www.plasticsoldierreview.com/Review.aspx?id=418

Yes I know it’s a Bazooka rather than a PIAT. Support weapons mounted singly except mortar team vignette. Scrim helmet experiments (see later in post).

*** Digital camera or iPad photos do tend to show up forgotten or unpainted chin straps, mouldlines and flash etc but I have to remind myself that on the games table, you are seeing them at a distance. These are old figures / moulds too. ***

A few figures and fine fiddly bits were missing from my childhood originals including the two part mortar and base, the officer checking his watch with his “whatever” hand signal and the two deflated parachutes. I searched around and added these from my unused brown plastic 1990s play set figures, many of which were still on the sprue.

There are some surprising details to paint on these rather generic allied Paratroops like the ‘monkey’s tail’ tailpiece or crutch strap, that ran from back to front to button up the smock tight whilst parachuting.

The famous drop canister and associated vignette figure.

Illustrations – Airfix boxes 1970s OOHO called generic ‘Paratroopers’ – with a US Airborne look on the left? – in this still used artwork by Brian Knight. Source image: Plastic Soldier Review.

The box art illustration by Airfix artist William Champion from the second version British Paratroops 1:32 boxes (shown in Denison smocks below) – still in use 2021.

Where can I get some?

WW2 Airfix OOHO or 1:72 figures seem to go in and out of production, as the British Paratroopers currently are (summer 2021). Recent releases of the Paras up to Red Box packaging style (2012) onwards are still around online for much the same price as the OOHO figure selection currently on Airfix.com

Airfix 1:32 British Paratroops are being re-released late summer 2021.

As a young gamer borrowing this book from the branch library service I felt included in the adult world of gaming because Donald Featherstone used Airfix figures: Appendix 3 Wargaming Airborne Operations – basic Airfix paint style shown.

Painting my Paras at last

I had intended at first to do my usual childhood ‘Airfix basics’ simple painting of black boots, flesh faces and weapon colours.

Usually I use Khaki Afrikabraun for faces as it is not quite so pink and bright pale as flesh paints usually are.

Once I had painted in packs, gaiters and webbing in Khaki (Afrikabraun Matt in Revell Acrylic Aquacolor), it became necessary to use Flesh for the faces toned down with a hint of khaki or green. Any other webbing colour from the paints that I had available and had tried was too grey. I hadn’t considered using any washes at this point.

Afrikabraun – gaiters, webbing pouches and haversack

Tar Black – for boots and weapons

Leather Brown – for hair and wooden parts of weapons

Silver and black mixed for gun metal and grenades

Dark Green – for helmets

Shade and Wash?

Having done the old Airfix figure basic colours, I thought I would try some Citadel shade wash to pick out the detail and shadows of pouches, clothes and faces. I used a Christmas gift from the family last Christmas of Citadel Shade Athonian Camoshade (dark green) and Agrax Earthshade (brown). Nuln Oil (black) was generally too dark.

Shades of Denison?

Flocking and Basing (F and B)

MDF 1p Penny bases from Warbases were used for individual figures, Tuppeny 2p MDF for lying down figures and support weapons.

Apart from lying figures, figures were glued with UHU onto these 1p bases before painting started. It makes them generally easier to paint.

The flock used was a mixture of several Woodland Scenics flock types, some Jacklex packing sawdust, fine beach sand and beach micro-gravel (gathered from beach trips).

PVA Glue mixed with brown and green craft acrylic was placed by cocktail stick onto the Airfix figure base and MDF penny base before burying them in flock in a small tray.

A little later, the figure bases were buried in a tub of the fine beach sand and micro-gravel.

Trusty old Preben Kannik 1968 Military Uniforms of the World in Colour (Blandford)

Uniform Research – Denison Smocks

Some online sources, painted sample figures in ads and book illustrations show quite garish bright washes of brown cream and green for camouflaged Denison smocks.

Initially I did not even intend to paint the green sections of these already khaki green plastic figures, unless they required this like Tony Adams’ grey painted figures or the 1990s Brown issue Airfix OOHO Paratroops.

Once I had done the green or brown wash, I thought this might suffice.

However, having done the Citadel wash which seems at first to add a shine on matt colours, I went back and spent some time adding brush shade mixes onto the Airfix plastic green base colour of Olive (dark) Green and Dark Earth (brown) Revell Acrylics.

Whilst I did this, I listened for the first time to the DVD Special Features film makers’ commentary by “special effects, designers, cinematographers and film production staff” on my trusty A Bridge Too Far DVD.

After I had done this and it had dried, I couldn’t easily tell what I had done, which is hopefully the opposite of garish.

Early Denison smocks were supposed to slowly fade and the colours wash out.

These familiar Airfix Para figures seem to hold up well enough for me for gaming, especially considering that these figures that are almost 60 years old. Their modern equivalents are probably these 28mm Warlord Games Paras or any other plastic 1:72 / 1:76 British Paras you can find.

How do they paint Denison camouflage jacket ‘brush strokes’ this tiny? 28mm figures.
Three Esci hard plastic Red Devil’s that I painted in Denison camouflage c. 1982, next to a recently painted Airfix paratroop signaller, probably trying to get those radios to work.

A Bridge Too Far 1977 quote: Anthony Hopkins as John Frost: “D’you know something’s just occurred to me. We’re wearing the wrong sort of camouflage … all very well for the countryside but I doubt if it’s going to fool anyone in the town …”

Screen shot from YouTube clips of A Bridge Too Far. Chicken in a backpack mascot optional.

To Scrim or Not Too Scrim?

I watched an interesting YouTube video on helmet scrim using finely cut up bandages https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=vdj1a8Irgu4&feature=youtu.be

I tried this out but found my old time-expired bandages, once cut up were more like cotton fluff plastic than cloth, so I only did one trial figure in this style. I then trimmed a few millimetres of edging from a green gaming cloth, which had more of a weave to it and the benefit of green shade colours. I tried this finely chopped material out on a damaged figure and a few lying figures.

Green cloth scrim on No. 1, bandage scrim on No.2 and none on No. 3

To Scrim or Not to Scrim and how?

Scrim Plus point: It does hide the unfortunate mould rim line or dent across across the top of the helmet.

Scrim Minus point: Many of the archive pictures that I looked at did not show British Paratroops with helmet scrim net or a leafy head scrim.

I want these figures to be as versatile for (ImagiNations) gaming in different theatres as possible, although generally on grass flocked bases.

What do you think?

*

Casualties without a base are now mounted as standing figures to make more grenade throwers or weapons crew.

Essential Reading Matter

Wargaming Airborne Operations by Donald Featherstone (1977) – same period as A Bridge Too Far film. The appendix sections show Airfix publicity shot pictures of the new German Paratroops OOHO and German Mountain Troops, along with OOHO British Paratroopers with minimal painting style.

In the game photographs, it shows that generally Featherstone barely painted his British Paras, or the newly released 1974-76 issues of Australian, US Paratroop, German Paratroop or Mountain Troop Airfix figures.

By chance, timely figures or the stimulus for producing this book?

Representative sample page of Wargaming Airborne Operations showing Featherstone’s simple figure painting style and functional games table. I found this achievable approach inspiring as a young gamer. Atlantic and Airfix figures, handmade, charred and melted urban terrain pieces …

Interestingly he also hadn’t added or updated to the Version 2 British Infantry or German Infantry, still using his Version 1 Infantry Combat Group and German Infantry from his WW2 game in War Games (1962) fifteen years earlier. Along with Matchbox US and German Infanty, he had surprisingly used Atlantic German and US Infantry in his games though instead.

A reprint by John Curry in the History of Wargaming project also includes Bob Cordery’s Tarred and Feathered grid update of Lionel Tarr and Donald Featherstone’s WW2 rules in War Games (1962).

Osprey Combat: British Paratrooper versus German Fallschirmjager (Mediterranean 1942-43)

A Bridge Too Far by Cornelius Ryan (extract) from True Stories of World War Two (Reader’s Digest). This thick hardback book of extracts was a welcome teenage Christmas or Birthday present from my parents.

Essential Viewing Matter

I chose A Bridge Too Far as my Desert Island one film challenge Duchy of Tradgardland blog post that has most introduced my gaming:

“Hard to choose from the raft of westerns and 50s/60s war films and Battle Victor comics etc, the Zulu, Waterloo films mentioned. Probably ‘A Bridge Too Far‘ from its plan of ops beginning, suggested flaws before the gliders launch, its series of plucky little character vignettes, unlucky blunders, plucky heroism, independent individual skirmish actions and IGO YUGO-ness (now the Allied side, now the German side). Obviously the same could be said of The Longest Day and Battle of the Bulge movies, all a bit mashed together in my head. This happened roughly around the same time as finding Donald Featherstone’s Airborne Wargaming book from the library.”

This film has its detractors https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Bridge_Too_Far_(film) but this broadly accurate film by producer Joseph Levine, scriptwriter William Goldman and director Richard Attenborough is a suitable memorial to many brave young men who died in this tragedy of human flaws in the planning and general bad luck.

Like Attenborough’s earlier film version of Oh What a Lovely War! and many late 1960s and 1970s war films, it is arguably / almost an anti-war film. (‘Discuss’. Film Studies 101).

These Para figures will one day grace the gaming table again as they did in my childhood and teenage games but probably not in a historical reenactment game.

Maybe in ImagiNations games as the First Angrian Parachute Brigade?

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 18 July 2021

15 thoughts on “Airfix OOHO British Paratroops – Chubsters?”

  1. The Para’s may have been taller and chunkier than the original Inf Combat Group but essentially they are in a different scale (vs size). They are certainly less chunky than most modern metals but they also looked better proportioned to me than the many skinny HO/OO plastics. (Mind you I haven’t been anything resembling skinny since I was about 7) But once decked out in baggy combats, helmet and all that webbing and equipment I seem to recall us all looking a bit chunky in the field back in the 70’e.

    ps I find WordPress frustrating, once again it took me about 15 minutes of searching up and down to find how to leave a comment! Pity I didn’t have an admin officer or secretary to do it for me.

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    1. Ross
      Sorry about WordPress and thanks for having the patience to leave me a comment. I find the same if I am leaving comments on the many Blogger posts by different people on your blog roll (one of my daily ports of call).

      The HO OO figures thing continues to puzzle me, although it has been explained to me many times. Similarly the 1:32 / 54mm disparity. These British Paras (when available) are boxed now as 1:72 figures, as opposed to the Matchbox figures and tanks which I recall were 1:76?
      I agree with you about the chunky uniforms, having tried on 40s clothing and itchy Battle dress uniforms kit etc at past history and reenactment events.

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  2. I think I may have had this kit, or an 80’s variant of it at least – I remember the parachute, at any rate, though I didn’t know it went with a figure and left it lying abandoned on the battlefield. A similar confusion was the ACW casualty, who apparently was supposed to be carried by other figures but I assumed was falling backwards. I can’t really identify the kits for certain, because I only recognize a few figures, but I’m sure they were Esci as they had the triangle cutout in the box front to show the sprues inside.

    Painting them was Greek to me; I eyed the instructive pictures on the box backs with fascination but never had any inclination to try. And it was over a decade later I discovered gaming.

    I did get hold of that Blandford uniform book recently, still working my way through it.

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    1. Several Paratroop figure manufacturers seem to have these diorama / vignette figures. There is a fine one in the Esci US paratroopers.
      Boxes and kit catalogues were really useful if they had uniform illustrations or painting guides in the absence of colour reference sources before the Internet.

      Enjoy the Kannik book – one of my desert island books? Where I might finally read it end to end chronologically one day / desert island.

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  3. Enjoyed the journey to the past and also the process of your painting them. Strangely enough I had been looking at the ones I had only the other day. I was looking at the Airfix commandos and wondering if I might paint some up whilst wondering if they and the paras might work together as a gaming force. I must confess they were not one of my boyhood favourites as I didn’t like the parachutists controlling their chutes and other fiddly bits. They either got lost or wouldn’t fit together. I also didn’t like the firing into the sky figure, didn’t look right l thought then!
    Time has moved forward and I really appreciate the set and think you have really done it justice. I like the idea of dropping squares of paper to see where the figures land on the table…

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    1. Thanks Alan. The Paras and / or Commandos should work well together as a raiding force. It makes for an interesting skirmish game with small forces.

      Obviously the Commandos are more slender but if you look at them they are hardly carrying any kit, certainly not the bulky smocks (and up to 110lbs kit) of a WW2 British Para.
      The dropping circles of paper as parachutes from a box (easy) does work well or even as Featherstone does in Wargaming Airborne Operations from a doctored Dakota model kit. It can completely skew a game. I have done this paper circles trick since childhood and quite frequently found the parachutes fall into trees and roofs, rivers and marshes.
      Some US Paras drowned with weight of equipment on D-Day, landing in marshes etc https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mission_Boston,

      so you need a d6 dice roll about whether they can free themselves and swim to safety. Equipment lost etc. for each situation.

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  4. I have a large number of old airfix, etc ww2 figures i bought cheaply a long time ago – several tubs of various nationalities all painted in basic colours, flesh and black. I used some of the British and Germans to add to me metals but haven’t really explored the rest. I aslo have an ice cream tub full to the top of unpainted airfix ww1 and ww2 – must do something with them one of these days…

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    1. I think they are worth (or repay) the effort of painting and basing, much as any metals do. They also have a comforting familiarity or ‘classic’ feel or rightness about them, preposterous as some poses were.
      I too have several boxes of unpainted WW1 figures, again figures quite scarce in my childhood, so I stocked up when Airfix reissued them as Vintage Classics. They can join my few WW1 Veterans.
      I wonder what you will do with them one day …

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  5. You have made a silk purse of these Mark—which I do really regard as a sow’s ear. I recently painted the 1/32 version (a couple of years ago), which was only some forty years in the doing. They are such wonderful figures and far superior sculpts and poses to their 1/72 cousins, I cannot understand why they did not replaced them as they did with some many of the others. Ah well, who’s to reason with some of Airfix’s decisions…
    Regards, James

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    1. Thanks James. The Airfix Version 1 and Version 2 mystery ? covers many things including:
      versatile sets that I’m glad Airfix did not replace (Russians / Japanese etc) in the 1970s and have not replaced, still on / off available 50-60 years on.
      The odd scaled down 1:32 Commandos, which replaced the Version 1s and then Airfix reverted to skinny version 1s. Lost moulds?
      The strange loss of WW2 British infantry moulds both versions 1 and spindly version 2. I rather like the new D-Day NW Europe British infantry sculpts though.
      The ways of Airfix are strange …

      It is curious that the 1:32 Para figures weren’t scaled down to to make an OOHO version 2 , when they have been so copied and cloned in 1:32.
      I have seen a few of the 1:32 Paras scaled down in the old hard Esci Paras set that I have from the 80s –
      http://www.plasticsoldierreview.com/Review.aspx?id=754

      I also found these strangely re-helmeted Guisval Spanish diecast vehicle accompanying metal figure clones of Paras and Commandos in OOHO Size …
      https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2019/04/18/guisval-airfix-derived-metal-figures/curious!
      The 1:32 Paras are back on Airfix.com this summer as part of six 1:32 rereleases , not the bouncy Plastic of our youth but in a new more resin based plastic, apparently more suitable for enamel paints and military modelling. Strictly Not to go pew pew pew Dakka Dakka Dakka in a sandpit with?

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      1. “pew pew pew Dakka Dakka Dakka”… love it Mark (along with your expansion on the ‘wonders’ of Airfix)!
        It’s interesting (to me at least), now that I have painted and based them they have shifted from the toys of my childhood to the models of my adult self (while still retaining the special attachment of the former). Did/do you find anything like that too (with these or others)?
        Regards, James

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  6. James
    Adding MDF or other bases makes them feel more ‘grown up’. Which they deserve as they have earned veteran or classic status through time.

    If these Airfix were individually cast in metal and pricey, people might have a different response to them. The weighty serious heft of metal etc.

    The photos in the Featherstone books, the Playset forts like the Coastal Gun Emplacement with the narrow slit trenches etc are all based on (excuse pun) Airfix not having bases. Fine for some Airfix figures, toppling disastrous for others. Unbased and unpainted they still feel like a children’s toy.

    Painted, based, flocked, Airfix figures feel a little like they can (or are trying to) hold their own with the grown up ‘proper’ Wargames figures of metal and more recently plastic.

    I still blame the unattainable colour photo Peter Gilder Wargames Holiday Centre terrain and figure “Aesthetics” of Duncan Macfarlane’s Miniature Wargames magazine in the 1980s onwards. Not usually any sign of Airfix at all …

    From Airfix kids stuff moving onto metal or lead soldiers was once like a gaming rite of passage from shorts into long trousers …

    to all of which I say Pew Pew Pew! It’s all “entertaining”, “Imaginative” and “heroic” playing with toy soldiers at the end of the day, however sophisticated, impenetrable and A level Maths you make your complex rules systems.
    Mark Man of TIN

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