Advent Calendar Day 14 – Army Men Around the House with Gareth McGorman

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I subscribe to the Michigan Toy Soldier Company blog and amongst the product reviews is occasionally a funny or quirky post or blog link.

Back in August 2017 they placed a link to blogger Gareth McGorman and his model soldier versions of miniature artist Slinkachu.

 http://michtoy-from-the-front.blogspot.co.uk/2017/08/farleys-figurs-of-week-159-army-men.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+blogspot/wfMeu+(From+the+Front)

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Gareth’s work reminds me of what might have  happened if H. G. Wells’ Little Wars or Floor Games were happening in a modern house. It’s a WW2 Miniatures version of Toy Story with a dash of The Borrowers. I like visual jokes playing with scale. You also realise behind each quickly glanced at shot is hours and hours of model making.

Gareth’s work in 2016/17 can be found in various sites including

https://www.facebook.com/littlearmymen

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Gareth’s work can be found on Facebook but also on his WordPress blog

The  Facebook header picture of Tommies dug in, camouflaged with the dry earth, really captures the imaginative nature of childhood playing with toy soldiers, down at ground or floor level, out in the garden …

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Some of the recurring figures in Gareth’s work …

2016 posts http://armymenaroundthehouse.blogspot.co.uk

2017 posts https://armymenaroundthehouse.wordpress.com

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Enjoy! Now you know what the tiny men (and women) get up to when you are out of the house or not looking.

Remember – They were only following orders …

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN on Advent Day 14, 14 December 2018.

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Man of TIN Advent Calendar Day 12 – The XTC of toy soldiers by Andy Partridge

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http://chalkhills.org/articles/cmj.html

It’s hard to believe that the author of a peacenik line like, “Generals and majors always seems so unhappy/Unless they got a war” keeps a stockpile of 3,000-plus toy soldiers in his attic. Yet XTC’s skittish songwriter Andy Partridge harbors a soft spot for cast iron generals and majors with a pint-sized appetite for destruction.

For nostalgic reasons, the machismo-mocking pop troubadour prefers the mid-20th century mass-produced toy infantrymen he deployed as a child, as well as late-1800’s German models with doll-like faces and lumpen features that cost about $30 each. “It’s still cheaper than a cocaine habit,” reasons Partridge, whose recently released Wasp Star (TVT) ripples with similar dry English wit. Since Partridge can’t draft troops very quickly at $30 a head, he also sculpts them out of epoxy and occasionally gets on his elbows and knees for carpet combat. The relatively innocent pastime keeps XTC’s frontman in touch with the “big kid” inside him–it’s not only a driving force behind his songwriting, but a defense mechanism. “The big kid protects me because I don’t trust anyone and I think people are there to f*** you over. It’s something my psychoanalyst is trying to unravel for me. I hope he doesn’t kill the big kid off, though, he’s been very useful.”
— Neil Gladstone

Earlier in the year  by chance I heard a repeat of an interview with XTC punk band lyricist Andy Partridge who talked about his love of toy soldiers, partly because of a chaotic childhood where his mother kept giving his toys away.

BBC Radio 4 – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08r1tsz

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Photograph by Carl Fox

Many musicians live in a world of their own, but Andy Partridge — singer/songwriter and guitarist for the Brit art-pop band XTC — has scaled his down to minuscule proportions. He collects toy soldiers. When not releasing Fuzzy Warbles albums and other musical miscellany on the Web (www.ape.uk.net), the 51-year-old Partridge is at home in Swindon, England, messing around with thousands of toy soldiers, many of which he’s hand-painted in uniforms of his own design. “It’s a world that’s not going to bite you,” he says.

His obsession began early. “Being an only child,” Partridge explains, “I needed to flex my brain as much as possible and disappear into the fantasy world that these little figures populated. Toys were immensely important for me. There weren’t always people around to play with and the weather wasn’t always great, being England, so you’d be stuck indoors. We weren’t a very rich family, so a lot of my toys for birthdays or Christmas were secondhand. But the one thing that I seemed to get brand-new from grannies and aunties would be toy soldiers. I was besotted with the world in miniature.”

Partridge also cites H. G. Wells, suggesting one way to avoid life-size conflict: “The leaders of the different countries are given as many toy soldiers as they want. Put them in a room with a set of rules and a few dice, and they can work it out that way.” — Rhonda Markowitz, Tracks Vol. 1 Issue 7 February/March 2005 SideTracks

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Photograph by Carl Fox

http://chalkhills.org/articles/Tracks200502.html

“Yet for one so vehemently anti-violence, Partridge has a craftsman’s passion and skill for toy soldiers. He loves military history but only as it is encapsulated in the tiny, controllable world of the miniature battlefield. “I must be a tender little Napoleon, a benevolent Mussolini,” muses the man who describes himself as “very optimistic, repulsively so”. But it is the shabby, badly made, naive, folk-art toy soldier that truly engages him.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/interview-andy-partridge-andys-plans-work-out-but-theres-no-room-for-nigel-1196333.html

It also appears that Andy Partridge designed these charming Irregular Miniatures ranges, some of which figures I hope will complement my 40-42mm Pound Store Plastic armies.

http://www.irregularminiatures.co.uk/42mmRanges/42mmIntroduction.htm

http://www.irregularminiatures.co.uk/42mmRanges/42mmMarlburians.htm#MAP5

http://www.irregularminiatures.co.uk/42mmRanges/42mmDeutscheHomage.htm

According to Japanese XTC fan site

http://long-live-xtc.seesaa.net/archives/201310-1.htmlf

PAINTING FACES by Andy Partridge
Here’s a couple of good rules that seem to work well. After you’ve painted the face you must add THE one toy soldier ingredient, cheeks. They are naked without them.

Virtually every maker filled in the ruddy blush of their little heroes,you must do the same. Mix up some red and white to make a pink that is tonally similar to the flesh but with no darkening, it will zing out more. Load the brush and wipe it in a patch on either side of the face.

If your soldier is a real Victorian man he will of course have a moustache, some thin black on a fine brush will do well, quickly {always!} apply across the face. If he is the fresh faced type,  dab a spot of red in a small blob where the mouth might be.

Don’t be tempted to add a mouth under a moustache, one or the other, never both please, it always looks wrong, Britains and others knew that.

Same rule applies for beards.Hair can be a swift wipe with black or a reddy mid brown across the back of the head but don’t bother with sideburns as they always look like you’ve over messed with the face.

You have a choice with eyes. Most makers painted one simple black dot each side,which oddly looks better the farther away they are from each other. Nearer in to the nose comes over rather cross eyed. It’s a matter of taste as to whether they’ll have eyebrows or not, the rule seemed to be the farther back or simple the headgear, the more the likelihood of brows. Britains tended not to paint them in except for Scotsmen and some sailors?? I always leave them out.
Don’t try to give them whites of the eyes. Again it looks too fussy and not classic. A few German makers did so on their larger scale figures but even then the soldiers still looked like stunned madmen. Shell shocked?

Unfortunately for its minstrel connotations, Africans were always given whites to their eyes, but it seems okay as the contrast makes them look more toyish.

Check the photos of the ‘native’ figures in the Deutsche Homage picture section of the Irregular Miniatures website.

Text source: Irregular Miniatures website

I have used many of these painting tips from Andy Patridge over the last year, whilst repairing broken Britains, especially the one about rosy or pink cheek dots. It really does suggest the classic Toy Soldier style.

I reprinted these blog interviews as online web stuff has a habit of vanishing when you look for it again.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN on Advent Calendar Day 12, 12th December 2018.

 

Man of TIN Advent Calendar Day 10 – The Boys to Entertain You or Broken Britains rearmed

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“Meet the gang, for the boys are here, the boys to entertain you …”

That was the  familiar opening to the 70s WW2 Jungle sitcom by David Croft and Jimmy Perry,  It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, stalwart of my childhood along with their other sitcoms such as Dad’s Army.

This group of Broken Britain’s have the look of  a dodgy ENSA show or music hall chorus line, cheap comics in a strange troops revue.

Seen from another angle, they are more Broken Britain’s – East Kent Regiment in Khaki on guard –  from a donation by John Forman, all broken  figures that would otherwise probably be scrapped.

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The East Kent Regiment based and rearmed, defending my stylishly camouflaged gun emplacement.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2018/10/14/from-old-digital-radio-to-54mm-houses-and-coastal-gun-emplacement/

There were seven types of Broken Britain’s infantry in the group kindly donated by John Forman, variously missing feet and bases and all missing rifles.

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1. Britain’s Guardsmen firing – six classic figures with broken rifles – not sure which Guards Regiment, as they were play-bashed enough to have no obvious plume colours.

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The figures as they arrived from John Forman.

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Rifles repaired, busby repainted and figures tuppeny based, otherwise I have kept the patina of battered body and face paint.

2. Britain’s Line Infantry (spiked helmet in black home service  with black facings firing  rifle – Royal Irish Regiment set 156, wearing gaiters – 1 figure.

3. Britain’s Line Infantry (spiked helmet white foreign service) with yellow facings  on guard with rifle – Worcester Regiment set 18 c. 1930,  wearing gaiters – 1 figure.

4. Britain’s East Kent Regiment on Guard, The Buffs Set 16 – yellow facings,  second version with square base, on Guard. Produced 1910 – 1930, wearing gaiters – 2 figures.

5. Britain’s  East Kent Regiment on Guard, service dress set 326a produced postwar in Steel Helmets (my “boys to entertain you”, above) – 5 figures.

6. Gloucester Regiment (Boer War) firing, produced 1901 to 1941 – 3 figures

7. The 3 charging Highlanders seen in a previous blog post

East Kent Regiment in Khaki Service Dress 

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They have rifles missing as well as feet or base missing, so replacement bases are required, easily made from Fimo polymer clay to suit tuppeny 2p coin bases.

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Rifles repaired, feet made from cocktail sticks glued into Fimo polymer clay bases. Third figure   East Kent Regiment in Khaki service dress  and fourth, Gloucester Regiment firing.

The rifle repairs are more fiddly, requiring drilling a hole with a 1mm pin vice or hand drill into the broken section. If this is a stubby section of broken rifle this is quite tricky, whereas it is much easier to drill into the hand section where it grips the rifle, which has a greater thickness of lead.

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Drilling into the rifle hand of another of John Forman’s damaged Britain’s Guards riflemen..

So finally  how did the ENSA “boys to entertain you” turn out in the end?

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My Boys to Entertain You (and Mr Hitler) from the Britain’s East Kent Regiment …just a little work to do on tidying and painting the Fimo and tuppenny bases.

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And for a suitable ear worm … the theme song to It Ain’t Half Hot Mum. Whilst the services / Seventies humour might have dated and the Indian characters would be handled differently today, as a child and still today, to me Windsor Davies is every bit the archetypal comic Sergeant Major to his “Lovely Boys”.

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN on Advent Calendar Day 10, 10th December 2018.

 

 

Man of TIN Advent Calendar Day 9 – The Russians are Coming 1873 New Zealand hoax

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Advent Day 9 – Another unpublished blog draft finally sees the light of day!

17 February 1873: Daily Southern Cross editor David Luckie publishes ‘The Russians are coming!’ hoax in New Zealand

If you want to read the whole article, you can find it here:

http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/DSC18730217.2.19

During the 19th century the Russian and British empires were involved in a number of conflicts. With nothing but clear blue water between New Zealand’s shores and Russia’s Pacific ports, many New Zealanders feared a sea-borne invasion.

On the 17 February 1873 the editor of The Daily Southern Cross, David Luckie, published a hoax report of a Russian invasion of Auckland by the Russian ironclad Kaskowiski (Cask of Whisky).

Aucklanders were alarmed to read that the crew of the Kaskowiski had seized gold and taken the mayor hostage.

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Story reprinted in full here earlier on my blog

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2018/10/01/auckland-invaded-1873/

This hoax was believed by a considerable part of the city’s population, despite a footnote appended to the article which ‘explained the whole romance’.

Crowds besieged the offices of the Daily Southern Cross and the ‘incident’ was discussed in the streets throughout the city. This sounds much like the American public’s response to Orson Welles’ War of The Worlds on 1930s radio.

To a general reader or a gamer looking for a historical scenario, there seems almost too much detail.

Harking back to the ‘nobility’ of Allied actions against a hereditary or past enemy in the Crimean War  grounds this fictional warning in the reality of recent colonial history. It foregrounds the new barbarism of secret weapons –  a mephitic sleeping gas that knocks out the crew of enemy warships, a submarine pinnace.

Today in a world of fast jets, drone strikes, aircraft carriers and chemical weapons, warring governments and insurgencies  still compete to slur or smear their rival over the minimising of civilian casualties. The other side has to appear more barbaric to justify military intervention. We want a war where “our side” (the good guys)  fights with decency and clean hands …

Rereading the article today in a 24 hour rolling news culture, it seems quite clunky.  

Hard to believe it caused the upset and public outcry it did. To us in retrospect it reads more like H.G. Wells’ prophetic  Victorian Science Fiction. It sits comfortably within a genre of  “The Battle of Dorking” and Edwardian invasion narratives against Britain.

At the same time today to a modern audience,  it almost reads like a Carry On Up The Khyber script with its clunky puns about the Khazi of Calabar and Bungdit Din. The Russian ship is called the Kaskowiski (Cask o’ Whisky).  It is captained by one Admiral Herodskoff (Herod’s Cough?) , Herod being the traditional Nativity bad guy and abuser of civilian populations. The story is simultaneously trying to give itself away and create and maintain realism, partly to pardon or excuse the Editor against exactly the reaction it wants to stoke up. The story says “I showed you it was nonsense, full of  Herodskoff, Kaskowiski and other puns, set and dated three months in the future but you believed the truth behind it.”

It is an elaborate practical joke but written with a political aim. It has to be read in the spirit of the technology and times of 1873, of remote posts of Empire when there were very few news outlets, telegraph being the most modern, newspapers already full of old news.

The Crimean War with its on-the-spot reporting by William Russell of disastrous logistics and medical care was only a decade in the past. An expansionist Tsarist Russia was still a rival and traditional enemy of the British Empire.

After all, it’s not as if  we live in a world where fake news and social media storms no longer happen. It’s not as if countries go to war anymore  in coalition, based on a now infamous “dossier” about Weapons of Mass Destruction against a former enemy of ten years before.

The day after the hoax was published in 1873, the Editor David Luckie stated his intention was to publish the article as a warning, which would hopefully lead to future protection.

The Russian war scares of the 1880s caused the New Zealand Government to erect batteries overlooking the harbours of the four main centres.

Elsewhere across the British Empire the Volunteer Regiment movement was being formed, partly for Home Defence.

Remains of these Victorian batteries, some updated to meet the threat of a Japanese invasion during the Second World War, can still be seen on the NZ coast.

http://www.heritage.org.nz/news-and-events/this-month-in-history

For games scenario ideas based on the Kaskowiski incident see below

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/30/kaskowiski-1873-inspired-scenario/

More NZ Heritage Links

You can explore more about these historic places associated with New Zealand’s coastal defence, on the New Zealand Heritage List, by following the links:
Fort Takapuna / O Peretu, Auckland http://www.heritage.org.nz/the-list/details/86

North Head –Devonport, Auckland http://www.heritage.org.nz/the-list/details/7005

https://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/north-shore-times/94337030/historic-disappearing-gun-goes-off-with-enormous-bang-on-aucklands-north-shore

Blumine Island Battery Historic Area, Queen Charlotte Sound http://www.heritage.org.nz/the-list/details/7529

Wright’s  Hill Fortress, Wellington http://www.heritage.org.nz/the-list/details/7543

Battery Point Battery Historic Area, Lyttelton http://www.heritage.org.nz/the-list/details/7553

These NZ preparations look very much like the 1850s / 1860s Palmerston Follies preparations against a possible  French invasion in early Victorian Britain. They would continue in New Zealand to be prepared for active service against the Japanese threat in WWII.

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN, Advent Calendar Day 9 – Sunday 9th December  2018.

Man of TIN Advent Calendar Day 6 – Clothes Peg WW1 biplanes

Man of TIN Advent Calendar Day 6 – another long delayed blog post

How to make very simple WW1 and interwar aircraft from clothes pegs.

https://www.allfreekidscrafts.com/Homemade-Toys/Clothespin-Military-Airplanes

I’ll save making these for myself  until I dig out Donald Featherstone’s book on Air War Games again.

These would make reasonably simple (15mm Figure compatible?) biplanes and you could also use curved edge lollipop sticks for a different look to the planes.

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Simple materials and clear instructions 

Raiding the craft store, you should be able to knock up a quick dogfight squadron of these clothespin biplanes using normal or even miniature sized wooden clothes pegs.

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https://www.allfreekidscrafts.com/Homemade-Toys/Clothespin-Military-Airplanes

They might need some simple undercarriage or wheels block to land them safely.

Snoopy and the triplane  of the Red Baron anyone?

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN as Advent Calendar Day 6 on Thursday 6 December 2018.

Man of TIN Advent Calendar Day 5 – Dancing with The Black Dog?

Advent Calendar Day 5 – Banishing the Black Dog?

Christmas and New Year can be a stressful, rough old time for many people, with or without their loved ones around.

I am impressed by the way that some men can talk about their mental health and how they are feeling throughout the year through the medium of their hobby blogging. It opens up a difficult subject for others in the blogging and gaming community.

Bob Cordery’s blog on Wargaming Miscellany is one example of someone who has been open about those dips in motivation and low moods like a black dog hanging around you sort of days (the Black Dog was what Churchill famously called his low moods).

http://wargamingmiscellany.blogspot.com/2016/09/the-black-dog-has-paid-me-visit-but-now.html

The responses from fellow sufferers,  blog buddies and readers all over the world to Black Dog posts that I have read have always seemed very supportive whenever a hobby blogger mentions that  the black dog is sniffing around or that they have lost their gaming mojo because difficult things in life get in the way.

I thankfully do not have a black dog yet in life but I found it interesting reading through Mark Pacitti’s memoir and website about dealing with the black dog .

https://www.dancingwiththeblackdog.com/about-dancing-with-the-black-dog/

IMG_0179Dancing With The Black Dog is a registered charity (ABN 71157667411) dedicated to the worldwide eradication of the stigma of anxiety and depression. We are based in Melbourne, Australia and have helped provide hope to sufferers of anxiety and depression all over the world.

Founded in 2011 by Mark Pacitti, an ex-pat Scot of Italian descent, Dancing With The Black Dog started off as a fledgling blog where Mark openly shared his experiences of how he suffered from and ultimately beat anxiety and depression.

Mark’s free e-book or memoir is available online https://www.dancingwiththeblackdog.com/introducing-the-black-dog/

Wishing you all a Black Dog free Christmas and New Year!

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN on Advent Day 5, Wednesday 5th December 2018.

Kaskowiski 1873 inspired scenario

The Kaskowiski invasion hoax of 1873 set me thinking about future games scenarios that could be based around the supposed or suggested incident. After all, that is what the author or newspaper editor of the Daily Southern Cross David Luckie intended in his May 1873 article,  published in February 1873, to stir up concern over New Zealand’s naval and land defences. Eventually continued concern led to the building of fortified batteries.

Where would I get a suitable coastal fort or battery as a focus for a game?

I  have explored Victorian and later adapted wartime forts and gun batteries  in the West Country ranging from Pendennis Castle

https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/pendennis-castle/

in Falmouth and its sister fort of St Mawes (both English Heritage) along with the St. Antony Battery and Lighthouse nearby (National Trust) and similar adapted fortifications in the Scilly Isles. I was familiar with the underground passageways and ammunition stores, mess rooms, ventilation grilles and concrete gun emplacements that might be found in such coastal  forts.

There are some interesting photographs of Victorian coastal forts and artillery on the internet, ranging from Britain to New Zealand.

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Fort Jervois (New Zealand) https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/fort-jervois

Closed by recent earthquake damage, Fort Jervois has been photographed by Urbex photographers https://urbexcentral.com/2016/01/27/earthquake-island/fort-jervois-ripapa-island-95/

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A little picture research brought up this massive gun (or tiny people)

Seeing these last few pictures of grassy concrete batteries and giant coastal guns convinced me that I had a  suitable fort or two packed away from childhood – the Airfix Gun Emplacement.

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With a little repainting, these would serve from Victorian times onwards. At a pinch they should suit my 15mm Peter Laing figures as well as  the larger OO/HO 20 to 25mm plastic Airfix sort of figures.

 

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Repainted and flocked, this old Airfix fort with gun shield off makes a reasonably old-looking  coastal gun position.

My 15mm and 20mm figure bases are a little large for the narrowest passageways, so I may have to trim any bases slightly before painting up a suitable garrison or attackers. I remember it being a tight fit anyway with the later larger Airfix OO/HO second version figures (the first version 1960s  ones had smaller but more topply bases).

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I also have a passable Airfix coastal defence fort from childhood that could be added, much like the one featured on the front of John Curry’s recent reprint of Donald Featherstone’s unpublished Wargaming Commando Operations.

The 1873 Kaskowiski Russian Invasion of New Zealand Hoax focuses on an amphibious raid or landing by Russian Marines, Naval Infantry  or Sailor, supported by a Russian Ironclad like the PavelPavlosk.

The closest ‘Russian marines’ I currently have are some 15mm Peter Laing Russians (painted as Bulgarians)

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Russian Ironclad of the 1870s the Petropavlovsk https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_ironclad_Petropavlovsk

I do have about four Russian Marines from a brief flirtation in the 1980s with new Platoon 20 figures  (metal, 20mm, which wiped my pocket money). These Platoon 20 figures are still available.

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The officer with pistol and rifleman with bayonet might be suitable for such Kaskowiski scenarios, rather than the LMG and SMG figures.

I shall have to look through and see what Peter Laing figures I have that are suitable. Here are my 15mm Russians, disembarking near a lonely customs post.

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The customs officer and volunteer rifle Militia man confront the Russian Marines.
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The good old Airfix Pontoon Bridge boat makes a handy pinnace or Invasion barge. Heroscape Hex landscape.

It will be interesting to research suitable Victorian uniforms for 19th century Colonial figures.

The Volunteer Rifle movement had reached New Zealand by the time of the Kaskowiski invasion hoax of 1873, as this account shows in the Daily Southern Cross  newspaper around the hoax date of 17 February 1873.

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O should the Cask of Whisky / Kaskowiski come? The Volunteers will sort it out, as this ditty poem suggests.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, November 2018.