****** Mystery figures identified – or not? See below ******
I bought a cheap and strange little job lot on eBay for £5 of these indeterminate sized figures alongside some curious miniature guardsmen, probably from a Dolls House supplier.
I couldn’t judge size too well but I was curious to see if either would be an interesting match for my Peter Laing 15mm figures.
They are most curious and a little stiff and crude. I’m not sure what they are designed to be. They have limited bright colours, a little pigtail at the back and mostly swords.
Are they pirates?
Are they Chinese or Boxer Rebellion type warriors?
Are they home casts?
In terms of size or scale, you can see an unpainted 15mm Peter Laing WW2 German infantryman for comparison.
Whatever they are – they should prove useful sailors or pirates or native troops in ImagiNations games, fiercely waving their swords and a few their strange spears.
If asked “If anyone recognises them as rough copies of commercial figures or as home casts, I would be interested to know?”
One of my ‘anonymous’ readers suggested an identity as Cellmate Miniatures Boxer Rebellion 15-20mm figures – Thanks!
“Your unknown Boxer miniatures were produced by Cellmate Miniatures.” produced by Tod P. Zechiel (see Blog Post Script below).
However Tod P. Zechiel himself contacted me today by email from the USAto say that they are not his figures – so the mystery continues.
Tod is now retired and so has time to be back in small production of Cellmate Miniatures Boxer Rebellion figures, selling painted and unpainted castings on eBay. His Tuan Boxer Rebellion rules are also still available as a free download.
So the “Mystery of the Chinese Pirates” – Where are the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew when you need them?
Whoever they are made by, I like them and I will probably finish their Warbases MDF 1p bases in a similar Earth Brown colour.
B.P.S – Blog Post Script
You can find out more about Tod P Zechiel’s Cellmate Miniatures on TMP here:
“”While trying not to sound apologetic,” Tod P Zechiel explains, “allow me to inform you of the nature of the miniatures. I am an amateur sculpturer, and the figures are gravity cast as opposed to centrifically cast. The figures are therefore of moderate quality. They tend to be thick and simple, with less detail than other manufacturer’s figures. They tend to have a more pronounced parting line or seam, and larger sprues. You need, as a minimum, a sharp exacto knife to remove the excess metal. A tapered, flat, needle file is even better. To reduce cost, the figures contain lead.” (TMP Info source above)
I can see where the suggested identification of these figures came from .
This month I have spotted online and bought several new units of OOP (out of production) Peter Laing 15mm figures from his WW1 range.
I am quite pleased to have spotted them on eBay as they were vaguely or wrongly listed as “Minifigs / Other 15mm”.
Bird watchers talk about recognising the different “jizz” of similar looking SBJs (Small Brown Job) birds. Certain figure manufacturers have a typical or distinctive look and Peter Laing is one of those.
Originals were carved by hand from thick plasticard in the 1970s and 1980s in the days before ‘green stuff’. Peter Laing figures also have certain slenderness, deliberate under-detailing and a limited number of familiar Laing poses – advancing, firing, walking Officer with pistol – that make them more easily recognised.
As these figures are just about to vanish into the Christmas present cupboard for the next four months, I thought I would share these pictures with you.
Peter Laing 15mm WW1 (700s) with early pickelhaube spiked helmet
F0712 German Infantry Marching
F0713 German Infantry Firing
F0714 German Officer Marching
F0715 German Machine Gun and Gunner
F0716 German Machine Gun Loader
As well as German infantry, there were French WW1 Infantry
F0720 French Chasseur D’Alpin advancing
F0709 French Officer Marching
There was an interesting suggestion from Ian Dury fellow Laing collector who runs the Peter Laing page on the MeWe community forum (which replaced the Google + Community Peter Laing page) that, with walking stick removed, these figures make excellent 19th century Carlist Infantry (obviously an oversight by Peter Laing?)
F0708 French Infantry Advancing
F0707 French Infantry Firing Officer Marching
The light blue French gunners, infantry and officers could pass as Austrians at a pinch.
Ian Dury (in his comments below) identified the artillery riders for me as
M0704 French Hussar with Lance removed.
A0706 French Gunner kneeling.
A0707 French Gunner kneeling with shell.
A0708 French 75mm field gun
If I have misidentified any Laing figures, cavalry or guns Ian Dury and the Peter Laing MeWe collectors group will happily always put me right – find us on
I have no great desire to run any WW1 historical game scenarios, instead I look at these troops as Bronte ImagiNations fodder for Ruritanian conflicts and border skirmishes.
Hopefully I might have painted some more of my WW1 Peter Laing unpainted figures to join these painted ones in time for the 50th Anniversary next autumn 2022 of the first Peter Laing figures being advertised and sold next October / November 1972, possibly the first ever 15mm gaming figures.
Alan the Tradgardmastre had sent me some spare surplus home cast 40mm figures that he had picked up along the way. I quickly filed the bases flat, cleaned up the mould lines and got them based on MDF tuppenny 2p from Warbases, ready for painting.
I recognised these figures, as I have a small collection of them acquired at random in an online job lot about five to ten years ago. I was probably being lazy at the time, acquiring some secondhand precast home castings (especially painted ones) instead of casting them myself.
Pre-painted and play-bashed Army Dark Blue 40mm figures in my collection. “You, man at the back, why haven’t you painted your helmet … or your rifle?”
Somewhere I’m sure I still have a silicon mould for the standing and kneeling firing infantryman amongst my randomly acquired moulds collection.
One of Alan’s suggestions was that these figures could be useful for “creative uniform design and tailoring …I thought you might enjoy coming up with some toy soldier uniforms for these fellows.”
This creative colour choice is already part chosen for me as the painted figures I have are in dark blue Prussian uniforms, so I have an Army Dark Blue skirmish unit of infantry, cavalry and gunners already.
They could stand in for several dark blue coated nations who adopted the Prussian style spiked helmet from US Marines in late 19th century dress uniforms through to Portuguese 1890s, several South American and colonial units.
Norway, Portugal, Chile, Brazil, colourful Argentina … lots of late 19th century spiked helmets which my Army Blue could be used as, if you want a change from Prussian 1870.
“From the second half of the 19th century onwards, the armies of a number of nations besides Russia (including Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Portugal,Norway, Sweden, and Venezuela) adopted the Pickelhaube or something very similar. The popularity of this headdress in Latin America arose from a period during the early 20th century when military missions from Imperial Germany were widely employed to train and organize national armies.”
One easy colour scheme solutions for the new unpainted figures would be the late 19th Century red coated British Infantry with spiked helmet.
However looking through my uniform books, I have found several other historical nations with spiked helmets or ones that could also double as ImagiNations uniforms.
Preben Kannik’s Military Uniforms of the World in Colour gives a few ideas.
I am rather taken with the light blue uniform with yellow facings of the Baden dragoons 1870 FPW, although this could be mistaken for the French uniforms. Army Light Blue ?
Mixed in with my old painted joblot of Zinn figures were some semi-flat French figures, some of which almost from a distance on the table match the Zinn Brigade / Schildcrot figures.
Amongst the castings was a cheery note from the Tradgardmastre himself, apologising for the lack of horses for the rider figures. Fortunately these horse moulds are available from Zinnfigur.com, although I read on many blogs that postage costs from Europe to the UK post-Brexit is causing issues for some people and firms.
I also already have some Holger Erickson unsaddled horse moulds in 40mm from Prince August, which may prove suitable.
Thankfully I have some pre-painted dark blue cavalry, along with small hollow-cast cavalry.
The unpainted rider castings from Tradgardland are these Zinnfigur / Schildcrot officer ones
These cheap hollow-cast cavalry from bits and bobs box seem a good match or opposition, once repaired. These come originally in red paint … hmmm. Thinks.
I also have amongst my random figures selection some suitable officer figures, standard bearers, fife players and artillery crews from the Schildcrot range with a few Meisterzinn origin 18th Century limbers, horses and guns.
A strange combination of periods but that is the joy of the Job Lot ImagiNation!
Some colourful old 40mm guns and limbers from Meisterzinn.
With the addition of the new unpainted figures from Alan, this should be good for a small balanced force of a gun or two, a few cavalry and some infantry for skirmishes.
So lots of ideas but still undecided what colour the new figures from Tradgardmastre should be.
Whilst I think about the new army uniform colour, I have been busy repairing and basing the original blue Prussian painted figures from my past joblot.
Army Dark Blue 40mm figures in my collection. Some rifles broken or short-cast to repair. I will post pictures when finished …
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN / ZINN, 18 August 2021
Spotted on Etsy, bought without any idea of scale, pleasantly surprised by how kitsch and tiny these tinplate tiny tanks or tank-ettes are.
I like the “rumpeter – rumpeter – rumpeter” of the offset plastic wheel that creates a bizarre see-saw motion like the workings of wooden automata.
I like the coloured packaging header – pure vintage multicoloured tank.
‘Made In Japan’ like much of 1950s and 60s tinplate toys. The plastic bag was already split at the base with age, making it possible to slide these tanks out and return them to their original packaging.
I wonder what sort of tank the made up header card illustration is based on or supposed to be?
As mentioned, when bought I had no strong idea of how big these were. Here are some slender Peter Laing WW1 Turkish infantry (which I use for generic ImagiNations moderns) for size comparison / scale.
The tiny tanks have Communist or American / Allied stars and numbers such as tank SU85, which in no way link back to the real tanks.
The black line print and design on the tinplate is exactly the same for each tank, except for the camouflage colours and numbers.
Some bold and colourful ImagiNations repainting of a handful of Type 1 vintage Airfix Desert War OOHO figures by the Wargaming Pastor, author of the Death Zap blog (Strapline: ‘Anyone can afford wargaming’).
I was surprised, whilst painting Airfix Paratroops and re-reading Donald Featherstone’s Wargaming Airborne Operations (1977) to find a rare mention of Peter Laing’s “growing range of 15mm metal figures of World War Two infantry“.
This Peter Laing WW2 range never grew very big, not much bigger than that listed above.
This is a bit of a surprise as these mid 1970s figures must have been some of the first 15mm WW2 figures. 25 to 30 years later, 15mm WW2 Flames of War figure and vehicles were all the rage.
Part of this “growing range” was probably the dual-use steel helmeted infantry, guns, wagons and others items from Peter’s extensive British, French and German WW1 range.
I use these figures interchangeably for WW1/WW2, as with Peter Laing’s deliberate under-detailing, the figures are easily converted by paint or file to other periods.
Some further Peter Laing WW2 German Infantry figures to be used as Paratroops and British Infantry / Home Guard have been stuck on my painting table for months, ready for a ‘Sealion’ type skirmish. Airfix figures keep just jumping that queue and getting in the way!
Who knows I might even have painted them all in time for the Peter Laing 50th anniversary 2022 next year.
Next autumn 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the first 15 mm figures and the first Laing ranges being advertised for the first time in October / November 1972 Military Modelling magazine (starting with his Marlburian range).
Some of my original samples of 15mm Peter Laing WW2 ranges, bought and half painted c. 1983 (British, left and Germans, right)
I wish I had bought more Laing WW2 figures at the time but with limited pocket money funds and a good selection of Airfix WW2 figures, vehicles and scenery at the time, I focused my Laing purchases on periods and figures not covered by Airfix that Laing did such as the ECW.
The same “Airfix or Laing?” debate continues in my gaming and collecting to this day.
Pictures of Peter Laing WW2 figures on Tim’s Tanks blogpost
This simple WW2 range for platoon level action is highly praised for its balance on the Tim’s Tanks blogspot, which gave me my glimpse of the Americans for the first time (albeit doubled up as British Paratroops) :
Tim’s Tanks: “This range was ahead of its time and the figures surprisingly well thought through.”
“For each nationality (British, U.S. or German) there was a sidearm equipped officer figure, a SMG armed NCO, an infantryman advancing with rifle at high port, an LMG and No.2 and a Light Mortar and No.2.”
Lovely figures, perfect for the task”. (Tim’s Tanks Peter Laing WW2 themed blogpost)
Sadly, Peter Laing figures are no longer commercially made, whilst the moulds appear to have vanished after Peter Laing retired and sold the moulds to the late John Mitchell.
Your best chance of finding any Peter Laing figures is on eBay where – warning – not all ‘Peter Laing figures’ are Peter Laing, often they are early Minifigs. The strange Laing horses are often a clue Some ranges of these second-hand figures now command good prices!
There is a small and friendly Peter Laing collectors group set up by Ian Dury on the MeWe platform, a good place to flag up any Laing’s figures on sale, get figure IDs etc.
In my battered (and so affordable) copy of The War Game (1971) by Charles Grant, the final chapter XXX lists War Games Figures and Equipment –
After a roll call of eight 1960s now classic / vintage figure makers, the last at No. 9 is surprisingly Airfix Ltd. –
No. 9 Airfix Ltd, Haldane Place, Garratt Lane, London SW18
“It would be improper not to mention the products of this firm, whose inexpensive plastic war games figures (20mm to 25mm – they do vary) have started the career of many a junior and not a few senior wargamers.”
“They are quite the cheapest on the market (about 15p for boxes of 20 to 30 figures) and the war-gaming world owes Airfix a not inconsiderable debt.”
The “war-gaming world owes Airfix a not inconsiderable debt” … true words indeed.
By 1970/71 when this book was written, Airfix had by the mid 60s issued horse and musket era figures for the American Civil War, the first Waterloo figures arrived in 1969 although the most suitable American War of Independence bicorne and grenadier figures for The War Game had yet to arrive, advertised in the Airfix Catalogue and Airfix Magazine for late 1971.
Had they been available, a few well placed Airfix box pictures of these AWI figures (as Featherstone did for the latest Airfix releases in his books) would have done much to make The War Game 18th Century era even more accessible to many war gamers.
No Airfix figures appear on the hallowed pages of Grant’s The War Game.
Ironically all the photographs in The War Game book are of Charles Grant’s 18th Century figures, mostly Spencer Smith Miniatures in 30mm plastic that appeared to have vanished by 1971:
Chapter II – “The bulk of the photographs used in this work to illustrate various tactical points and battle narratives show 30mm figures. It is sad they are no longer obtainable, especially as they were do startlingly inexpensive that a few shillings would enable one to recruit a brigade or a regiment. They were immensely durable …”
Interestingly, just as Spencer Smith figures disappeared for a time, Airfix historical figures like the AWI sets often disappeared from the Catalogue and the shelves in the 70s and 80s.
I do recall that SSMs reappeared in plastic c. 1982 in the back pages of gaming magazines at affordable bag prices for me to buy a few ACW figures.
Plastic SSM figures from the 1960s are now becoming brittle with age, snapping at the ankle or hoof joint, like some 1960s Airfix figures also have.
Charles Grant’s Battle! WW2 Wargaming book has recently been reprinted with additional chapters from the first incarnation as chapters or articles in Meccano Magazine in the 1960s to 1970 when Battle! was first published in book form.
Here is a Wargames Illustrated “flip through”of Charles Grant’s Battle! book on this short video on YouTube: photographs in the book clearly shows early Type 1 Airfix figures in action. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=0JW9-pcLaw0