Hello I'm Mark Mr MIN, Man of TIN. Based in S.W. Britain, I'm a lifelong collector of "tiny men" and old toy soldiers, whether tin, lead or childhood vintage 1960s and 1970s plastic figures.
I randomly collect all scales and periods and "imagi-nations" as well as lead civilians, farm and zoo animals. I enjoy the paint possibilities of cheap poundstore plastic figures as much as the patina of vintage metal figures.
Befuddled by the maths of complex boardgames and wargames, I prefer the small scale skirmish simplicity of very early Donald Featherstone rules.
To relax, I usually play solo games, often using hex boards. Gaming takes second place to making or convert my own gaming figures from polymer clay (Fimo), home-cast metal figures of many scales or plastic paint conversions. I also collect and game with vintage Peter Laing 15mm metal figures, wishing like many others that I had bought more in the 1980s ...
I managed to finish my American Civil War skirmish today with my rebased vintage Airfix figures – The Battle of Pine Ridge River crossing – for a railway bridge over a rocky ravine cutting of the good old Hicksville River USA, sometime in 1862 whilst zouaves still had confusing uniforms.
These veteran troops have not fought a battle since the late 1980s. Game write up follows later this week.
Inspired in recent blogposts by the photography website Forgotten Georgia and also the rebasing of my childhood vintage Airfix American Civil War figures, I redeemed a couple of book tokens on a trip into town to fund my summer reading.
The Osprey Combat book is especially relevant with the comments John Patriquin made about my confusion with Zouave uniforms being mirrored in the First Battle of Bull Run / Manassas:
“Your post partially explains the confusion at the first battle of Bull Run. Shortly before the start of the Civil War, after Ellsworth’s tour, many individual militia companies started to stylize themselves as Zouaves. These companies designed their own uniforms. As the better organized states would place these companies into regiments of 10 companies, it is easy to imagine a regiment of militia!”
Of course, at the start of the war the states would provide uniforms to the regiments so they would be more “uniform” in appearance. However, each state would decide on the uniforms. Many northern units were provided grey uniforms. Confused? So were the commanders on the field of battle at Bull Run.”
On the same trip, I also found a recent red box of Airfix WW2 British Commandos reduced in price, another toy department sadly slimming their ranges. A chance to paint some more Zouaves to my vintage Airfix ACW troops.
I am this weekend I confess – Confused by Zouaves.
I have recently rebased and flocked some of my original 1970s and 1980s paintings of Airfix OO/HO American Civil War infantry, along with some other Airfix WW2 figure conversions to other troop types.
We had very few American Civil War Airfix OO/ HO troops, as they were a scarce set by the 1980s. Reinforcements were needed from unusual sources!
I have liked for a long time the Airfix WW2 OO/HO Japanese (and Russian) infantry for their slender build and possibilities for conversion to troops from other periods.
Sometimes I can tell looking back what (roughly) these reinforcement figures were supposed to be or were inspired by, helped by looking again at Kannik’s Military Uniforms of the World in Colour by Preben Kannik’s and the Blandford book Uniforms of The American Civil War by Philip Haythornwaite. Both books were sporadically available in our local branch library.
They were created or converted by repainting Airfix WW2 Japanese Infantry.
Wallace’s Zouaves featured in the few, the very few, ACW uniforms shown in Kannik’s Military Uniforms of the World in Colour, as well as Philip Haythornwaite’s more extensive ACW Uniform book (Plate 25). Text notes reveal the unusual career of Lew(is) Wallace, their commanding officer, who went on to write Ben Hur, amongst other things! https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lew_Wallace
But are these 1983 Airfix conversions really Wallace Zouaves?
I painted these grey coated Zouaves with a “first National Flag” of the Confederacy with the grey coated Zouaves, suggesting they may be instead Confederate McClellan’s Zouaves or Chichester Zouaves Cadets, both from Charlestown South Carolina.
Kannik notes that these “Union Grey” uniforms faded out quickly early in the American Civil War, no doubt to avoid confusion with such Confederate Grey or Zouave regiments.
No doubt also that many of these fine colourful uniforms would have quickly been adapted to the rigours of whatever could be found or repaired on campaign.
I am not entirely sure of all the intended regiments of the Zouave figure conversions 35 years on, even looking through the original uniform books I had available.
Why so many Zouave regiments? I wondered.
“In the United States, zouaves were brought to public attention by Elmer E. Ellsworth. Inspired by his French friend Charles De Villers, who had been a surgeon in the North African zouaves, he obtained a zouave drill manual. In 1859, Ellsworth took over a drill company and renamed them the “Zouave Cadets”. The drill company toured nationally, performing the light infantry drill of the north African zouaves with many theatrical additions. “Zouave” units were then raised on both sides of the American Civil War of 1861-5, including a regiment under Ellsworth’s command, the New York “Fire Zouaves” …”
None of the Airfix boxes with their uniform pictures had survived in my family by then, so further uniform notes could only be glimpsed in the pages of the old Airfix Catalogues or Military Modelling magazine and the eye-candy illustrations of Miniature Wargames.
Converting easily available first version WW2 British Commandos to Zouaves worked surprisingly well, on account of the puttees, soft caps, straps and spindly rifles.
The Zouaves with red caps and red trousers with white spats or puttees probably represent the Union’s 14th New York Volunteers (or 84th New York Infantry Regiment) known as the “Brooklyn Chasseurs”, pictured in Haythornwaite’s Uniforms of the American Civil War Plate 24a.
Equally they could be the red trousered, red capped 1st Battalion Louisiana Zouaves fighting for the Confederacy, shown on Plate 55. Confusing in battle!
You will also notice that the Louisiana Zouaves in the Kannik book look different to the Haythornwaite book – confusing for a young boy with his paints. I needed Confederates more than Union troops as I had few of the original Airfix Confederate Infantry.
Converting WW2 infantry into 19th Century troops?
Such strange figure conversions did not seem odd at the time in the early to late 1980s as these original ACW Or other Airfix historical figures were much sought after second hand. I remember a dealer called “Andy Peddle, Sunnymead …” regularly advertising in the small ads of Miniature Wargames each month for further stock of such loose figures. The price quoted by dealers alway seemed too high on my pocket money or paper round budget at the time – ” I will pay 3p per foot figure, 6p per cavalry figure, 12p per cannon, waggon or limber” advertised one Mr. S. Russel of Wingham. No doubt they were resold for more.
To give a comparison, in the same 1983 magazine (cover price 80p) the new Esci 1/72 figures were being advertised for a £1 per box of 50 Esci figures. Soon Esci would have their own range of ACW and Colonial or historic figures but too late for me. I was moving on to Peter Laing metal 15mm at 7p a foot figure.
In the absence of Airfix ACW, I generally made do with whatever bizarre tiny Atlantic Wild West packs turned up, sometimes cheaply in model shops like Beatties, although these seemed more like diorama sets than gaming figures. The Atlantic Wild West range provided a few scruffy Confederates and 7th cavalry on horses with bases unlike the irritating Airfix horses. I also painted up whatever American Civil War looking figures I could make from leftover WW2 infantry or Cowboys.
I was always puzzled that no flag or standard bearer figure was produced by Airfix with their ACW infantry sets but I checked here on Plastic Soldier Review and there is no sign of one:
Again in 2017, these Airfix ACW figures have disappeared and I don’t think that HAT did a reissue a few years ago. They don’t seem to have been in production since early 1980. No fort or playset reissue ever featured them. Some boxes and loose figures lurk on E-Bay and online shops, becoming increasingly pricy and, for the old 70s stock, increasingly brittle.
Will they ever be reissued again? The 150th anniversary of the American Civil War has now gone by.
Good to see on many people’s blogs that these charming ACW figures have retained their nostalgic appeal.
2017 – More reinforcements!
Recently a retired work colleague kindly gave me an old biscuit tin of 1970s Airfix figures, a jumble of loose figures and some on sprues, predominantly ACW and AWI figures with a few British Paras mixed in. A relic of his 1960s and 70s flirtation with wargames before American railroad modelling took over, I shall unpack this Airfix owl pellet in a future blogpost. There look to be some Confederates and ACW artillery lurking!
I also chanced upon two half price “Red boxes” of recently produced Airfix WW2 Japanese Infantry from a shop closing down its models section (mostly it was all Airfix USAAF aircrew boxes) so I should be able to produce some more reinforcements in the future. USCT US Coloured Troops are one thought, and finally some more unconfused Zouave regiments?
Zouaves troops also turn up in my Bronte gaming scenarios, based on troop descriptions in the Bronte family Angria and Glass Town scenarios – I’m sure all these vintage Airfix figures will find a role in these Imagi-Nations, just with a new standard bearer or two.
Simon Palmer is a game designer and teacher based in London: “I enjoy creating new and engaging social games for my regular tabletop club that helps disadvantaged students engage creatively in a safe, social environment.” (Bold text from his website)
“As well as the tabletop club, I also design and make learning tools, which I provide to schools for free to help students overcome a range of issues such as literacy and mental health, or just for simple, safe fun. In this results driven world, I feel this is an important missing factor in today’s education system.”
They have a Patreon page for fundraising https://www.patreon.com/harlegames “to help overcome some of the costs involved in making tabletop games for our club … Patrons receive fully designed and play-tested tabletop games, free microgames and get to know they are helping others by keeping the resources free for students.”
I’m not myself a great player of card based games but it sounds like a good project!
Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN blog, July 2017.
I wish I’d had something like this in my lunchtimes at secondary school! Instead I somewhat monopolised our well-thumbed school library reference copies of Charge! by Brigadier Peter Young, The War Game by Charles Grant and Colonial Small Wars by Donald Featherstone that had somehow survived the school library Political Correctness purges into the mid 1980s.
Thankfully this was online rather than on foot. (Maybe I should have sought sponsorship for charity for this pointless minor achievement?)
I’m not sure how many thousands of photographs that I have looked at of buildings, bridges, ruins and towns, barns, lots and lots of barns, but I worked through the Forgotten Georgia website County by County on the A to Z listings. Strangely there was no Hazzard County.
After looking at all these decaying or restored buildings in Georgia, I am quite tempted to order this winter some of the old Airfix OO railway building range of plastic kits, now manufactured by Dapol.
There were some innovative conversions to typical American Civil War / Wild West buildings using the basic Service Station, Signal Box and Booking Hall kits suggested by Terry Wise in the Airfix Magazines in the early 1970s (see the links to the Vintage Wargaming website)
These buildings would be a fine setting for my surviving OO/HO Airfix American Civil War troops. Flip open the pages of Donald Featherstone’s 1962 Wargames to the section of rules for Horse and Musket battles and then you’re away …
A second-hand find, this picture rich 2009 book by Bill Dunn is now out of print but was published by Lawrence King.com (a publisher of many fashion and textile books). It contains 294 pictures, 247 in colour.
Bill Dunn is a style editor, having worked on GQ, Esquire and LV magazines. As a result, he brings a different feel to this book than a military historian might. Full of uniform pictures, mostly in colour, Dunn uses familiar film stills as well as colour photos from all over the world to illustrate the very short essay at the start of each section. Overall , Dunn wants to know “why is it a good idea for people to look the same? Nothing sums up the power of the ‘We’ like a uniform.”
The book illustrates the role of uniforms for every job role from Hitler and The Pope and his Papal Swiss Guards to traffic wardens in Britain and Vietnam, from Boy Scouts to bunny girls, from fast food restaurants in the USA to policemen in Korea, from air hostesses to schoolchildren in Japan.
The book is interesting for the gamer or creator of Imagi-Nations uniforms.
One of my favourite ornate uniforms in the book is shown on the back cover – the mystery of who wears this smart get-up is revealed on page 78/79. They are Monaco police officers in their dress uniforms. Intriguingly, one of them has paratroop wings!
The captions are both informative and witty in places – the Carabinieri picture is captioned “Giant Italian Police (Carabinieri) in front of very small people in the Piazza del Duomo in Milan.” Pure Slinkachu or model village, this.
The Future section covers Astronauts to Science Fiction films and some bizarre past visions of the future.
Uniforms by Bill Dunn covers equally male and female uniforms, military, police and civilian. Ukrainian female paratroopers (women make up 10% of their armed forces) share the page with Indonesian women soldiers with sub machine guns trying to march on parade in absurdly tight skirts!
My other favourite elaborate Imagi-Nations uniform is the parade dress of male and female members of the Moroccan army, c. 2000.
This book sets up such smart military and police parade uniforms up against civialian uniforms of drum majorettes and cinema or hotel Commissionaires to show the similarities and differences. If you’re not in the military or public services, it’s not always called a uniform, it’s called “career apparel” (or workwear).
The chapter introductions are quite interesting. Uniform is something you (have to) wear to show belonging, sometimes to show Authority but paradoxically of also being under Authority – you have to wear what you’re told. It reminds me of many of my Dad’s stories about the importance of spotless kit, shiny boots, berets and shapeless uniforms to a National Serviceman, some of which I shared last month.
Uniforms by Bill Dunn is as interesting to flick through and dip into as Preben Kannik’s Military Uniforms of the World in Colour (Blandford, 1967/8). I am happily reminded of the section in Harry Pearson’s gaming memoir Achtung Schweinhund when he talks about endlessly poring through this library book trying to make lists of which is the coolest and most impressive, the worst or most curious uniform. I’m sure we all did this in our own ways. But that’s for another blogpost …
If you like uniform books or creating Imagi-Nations troops, Uniforms by Bill Dunn is well worth ordering online secondhand. It has some inserting points to make about the uniforms that many of us, military or civilian, choose or are forced to wear throughout life from childhood onwards.
Dicing with Dragons – “Long before Peter Jackson made it respectable, teenage boys fought imaginary orcs and dragons”.
Writer and Presenter Kim Newman celebrates Dungeons and Dragons’ early days through interviews with Gary Gygax and others of the Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone era failing to get a bank loan for setting up Games Workshop. It mentions needing to buy the original Chainmail ancient Wargames rules as well as the early D and D books.
Repeat of a Documentary originally made in August 2004 – Radio 4 Extra Debut / repeat, find this at:
Made in 2004 it speculates about when RPG gamers give up, along with the lack of women RPG players at the time. They do find and interview one female “Dungeon Master”. I imagine this aspect may have changed since 2004, as the few female gamers whose blogs I have come across tend towards Sci-Fi and Fantasy rather than Historical Wargaming.
Available online on BBC Radio Iplayer for about thirty days till late July /early August 2017, it may well be around in the BBC Radio Iplayer documentary section afterwards. This may not be available to some overseas readers.