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.
What do you see when you look at this polystyrene packaging?
Some may look at this as unrecyclable junk.
I look at it and see …
an adobe fort or compound, especially for tiny troops like my 15mm Peter Laing figures.
What do you see or would you make out of it?
Obviously some kind of walkway needs to be improvised inside around the high walls as a firing platform or raised walkway. This could easily be done with lolly sticks or coffee stirrers laid onto matchsticks or cocktail sticks projecting out of the walls, much in the style of the Airfix Foreign Legion Fort.
Similarly doors and repairs to the wall dips and ‘damage’ can be improvised with coffee stirrers and card.
A rough coat of acrylic off-white for the walls and a sandy base colour should not harm the polystyrene (some glues, sprays and paints can melt it).
One project for a rainy day when hands need to be kept busy.
Some 15mm Peter Laing figures for scale…
Around the time this arrived in the house (the family are now well trained to show me interesting packaging before it reaches the bin or recycling), I also bought a handful of Peter Laing 15mm figures from an online dealer. I spotted these Laings amongst several more lots of “Wild West Infantry” figures and cavalry that were confusingly labelled as (but definitely not) by Laing. Nice enough figures but not Laing ones.
For a few pounds I bought ten settlers or backwoodsmen and rarer still, what I take to be a pair of Peter Laing female settlers. They were all curiously mounted individually on metal squares. Even if they are not Laing females, they are a good enough match.
Sadly now Peter Laing figures (the original or first 15mm figures, launched almost fifty years ago in autumn 1972) are long out of production and the moulds vanished, so second hand or recasting is the only way to acquire them.
I have been collecting Peter Laing figures since about 1982 as a teenager when I began my first proper (i.e. metal) wargames army, spending pocket money and paper round earnings on his English Civil War range. He was a efficient and friendly chap to deal with, even with my tiny schoolboy orders. I still have and use these figures today.
Peter Laing figures have a small and loyal following, with a dedicated MeWe online group run by Ian Dury which has replaced the former Google+ community pages. Here we post pictures of our Laing figures and games, as well as highlighting any second hand Laing figures for sale online that we come across. All welcome!
Christmas gifts for my Arma-Dad’s Army project 2021 – Chintoys 54mm, llamas, vintage Monarch Spaniards and books from heavy hints to the family and centre a Cherilea Elizabethan gift and mounted Conquistador from Alan Gruber
Thanks to all my blog readers and friends for their support, comments and distractions in 2020.
Here is my look back at this disrupted year of 2020 and some New Gaming Year Irresolutions of things I may or may not do in 2021:
Keeping watch towards the disputed border, the Jagers of this watchtower scan the forest edges. These are the Jagers or border patrol for the Duchy of Reissenshein, that Forgotten Minor State of forest and mountains.
Lockdown Sort Out: One of the long surviving and bashed buildings I have is a resin farmhouse from the 15mm of range in the 1980s by Gallia.
This is not as you can tell the original chimney. This was lost sometime in storage over the years. However I found a suitable replacement chimney in a job lot bag which kind of fits, badly, in a characterful way.
If it got anymore wonky, Trumpton Fire Brigade would have to be called to fix it.
This Farmhouse was the only resin building that I bought then as I relied like everyone else on old bashed Airfix railway buildings, Airfix Forts, surviving parts of the Waterloo Farmhouse and homemade cardboard ones. Surprisingly large numbers of my games were fought then around strategic targets such as railway stations!
Gallia resin buildings were expensive enough c.1982/83 to have been chosen as a present. When it arrived, the resin still had a strong chemical smell which has thankfully faded over the years. I never tried their figure ranges.
One downside I found with this resin building is the fixed roof, so that you cannot place figures inside.
Back in 2017 on one of my “recconaissance flights over the digital front lines” or whatever it was Henry Hyde used to call his web, blog and podcast reviews in Miniature Wargames with Battle Games, I spotted this 1.3 kilos of 15mm lead scrap. In this fuzzy eBay picture I spotted some Peter Laing figures – his horses are very distinctive – and “took a punt” on buying for about a tenner with postage.
Now the Laing figure moulds are vanished and probably no more. From time to time I and others of the plucky and ever vigilant members of the Peter Laing Collectors Circle suit up, put on the flying goggles, get the engines running and chocks away, fly high and keep a watching brief on the Web and EBay to see what Laing figures come up for sale, glimpsed amongst the mass of figures far below online.
On returning from our Digital Dawn Patrol, “we few, we plucky few” then pass the word round on the Peter Laing MeWe web community pages set up by Ian Dury. https://mewe.com/join/peterlaingfigures
Although “time spent in Reconnaissance is seldom wasted” (family WW2 saying but who first said that?), this haul was a bit of a Peter Laing dud. Not much a ‘show’! Here is the debrief and the photographic reconnaissance:
The remaining 1.3 kilos of of white metal and lead scrap was 99% 15mm, mostly painted and unbroken, although minus the usual musket ends, bayonets and flags. Mixed manufacturers but 90% Napoleonic, no guns, few cavalry. A few stray Ancients and some ACW figures who might become guerrilla forces.
I don’t now know the origin of the various figures but it seemed a bit of crime to melt them down for homecasting. Some gamers somewhere had spent a lot of time painting these figures. It was not their tiny fault they had become detached from their units and so ended up unwanted as odds and ends with no RLS martial pride
Some figures as you can see in the original lead kilo photograph were on unit stands, most needed rebasing and flocking. This would add some unity to the varying heights, build, paintwork and stances of this mixed group.
Dividing the groups up was done mostly by uniform colour and style of head gear. This makes it easy to incorporate further random job lot figures in future.
Before repainting or re-uniforming, I photographed one or two features such as flags
I have temporarily misplaced most of the battered broken and unbased cavalry – no matter.
ImagiNations Inspiration for the Forgotten Minor States
For what follows, if you are outraged in a realist historical button counting way by the misidentification and mishmash of Napoleonic units, I will blame the following:
B) Antony Hope for writing the Prisoner of Zenda, here ably illustrated by Charles Dana Gibson in 1898
C) everyone else’s fictional ImagiNations, maps and campaigns at the moment from the Brontes through Hyboria onwards to Tradgardland and Ascaria.
D) the Brontes
E) Gilbert and Sullivan – not only their many Ruritanian states but also because it was the first time I got wear a “redcoat” (albeit from a theatrical costumiers).
The Forgotten Minor States and Principalitiesof MittelMittel Europe.
Along the Alpen fringes of MittelMittelEurope in the late 18th and 19th century were plenty of now Forgotten Minor States, now subsumed by unification, inattention, cartographical errors, inbreeding, insurrection, migration, invasion or royal marriage into other larger countries.
Few today now remember the triumphs and traditions, victories and defeats, failed colonies, romances and intrigues, scandals and petty squabbles of their plentiful heirs and claimants, Dukes and Duchesses, Princes and Princesses, Emperors and Electors, Statesmen and Generals, Chancellors and Presidents, Rebels, Republicans and Exiles.
Here are some of the fine forces of the FMS – Forgotten Minor States.
Guns for the artillery figures came as game pieces from the Napoleonic version of the Risk boardgame.
Light Artillery of the Verdigris Volunteer Militia – a suitably grey misty day for their grey green uniforms.
In this game world, these early to mid Nineteenth century troops have very light artillery pieces which can be horse drawn or dragged and manhandled on the battlefield by ropes by their four men crews and the rest of the “fire lock” or “fyreloque” company of troops. In mountainous regions the guns are disassembled and carried by Man or Mule.
Some spare Peter Laing horses and holders, artillery and baggage train will have to step in for future games.
The misty mountain regions of Verdigris is allied with Upper or Higher Plumea (see below). Its principal industry is copper mining, copper working for a range of industrial and artistic craft purposes, allied to the use of green pigment by artists. This has slowly declined since more stable green pigments were discovered and became available. As in Bleudelys, its pigment rival, the women of Verdigris play an important role in the processing of the pigment.
The flag reflects the mountain grey mist and the copper green of the Verdigris pigment industry.
Here we see a fine contingent and drums of the Pompomeranian Grenadiers on field exercises, tramping through a field for exercise, as ever poorly commanded by their General Abysmal Notuptodemark. On this occasion he is not with them, being back at his headquarters, having a major fashion crisis trying to decide what to wear.
* Not to confused with the region of Pomerania mentioned by Prussian Otto von Bismarck who expressed a view that involvement in the turbulent Balkan wars was “not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier”.
Pompomerania as a minor state or region has two main industries – goat and sheep herding and turning the wool into the exotic dyed pom-poms supplied to the many military uniforms of many countries worldwide. Dyes are sourced through many local wildflowers and plants in the well grazed mountain meadows of Upper Pompomerania, along with a trading approach to purchase such dye stuffs from many sources worldwide.
The excessively large white PomPoms on their shakos both signify the importance of sheep and goat wool to the national culture and economy, as well as advertising the national wares at any military event and occasion at home and abroad from wars to military tattoos, coronations and state funerals. Approaches and requests can be made through the Pompomeranian Embassy and Trade Delegation in your country.
As result of its military exports, it aims to achieve armed neutrality in most conflicts, except where its trading sources are threatened. When nations are at war, demands for adornments to military headgear increase including for splendid volunteer and yeomanry uniforms. During the occasional “Long Peace”, uniforms become even more impractical and flamboyant. A rare “win win” situation in peace and war.
Additional Note: The small quick firing cannon used in many countries is based on the Pompomeranian quick firing light artillery whose rapid fire sound “pom-pom-pom-pom” is due both to excellently choreographed artillery units (drill days Tuesdays Thursdays and Saturdays) and to the similarity to the rhythmic sound of some of the wool processing machinery powered by water mills in this mountainous and snowmelt terrain of Upper Pompomerania. This rhythm is also reflected in the drums and military bands of Pompomerania and the tuneless near wordless “Pom Pom Pom”ing Chorus Section of the national anthem.
An information request to the Pompomeranian embassy can confirm that the breed of local mountain dogs used to carry the sledge or dog cart artillery is indeed the tough and very fluffy White Pompomeranian breed. These also make excellent sheep herding dogs.
The Duchy of Hesseansachs
An advanced unit of Hesseansachs Grenadiers and military cadets.
This minor region and Duchy of Hesseansachs thrives on the supplies of the jute trade, rivalled only by Dundee and the curiously revolving town of Glasgae in Hibernia.
Like the Pompomeranian economy, Hesseansachs thrives in times of war and peace. In wartime it is busy supplying jute sandbags for fortifications or Hessean Sacks as they are known. In times of peace it supplies shopping bags and in case of heavy rainfall both in peace and war, hessean sacks are supplied as sandbags for flood prevention. The military personnel are trained to assist in these times of deluge. War, peace, disaster or shopping, the Jute mills of Hesseansachs are busy by day and sometimes by night. The national motto roughly translates as “Your disaster is our national income”.
A small Hesseansachs Navy and Marines force exists to protect the shipping and supply lines to the sources of jute such as India and Southeast Asia.
(Above) The “greenery yellary Grosvenor Gallery” uniforms of Gelbania depict the verdant greenery and sunshine of this mountainous state, whose inhabitants frequently indulge in arias and light operettas. They are noted for their harmonic marching songs as they trek up and down the mountain passes. On Sundays, small military bands play a selection of light airs at bandstands in each of the few towns. Here in this small platoon are some cadets and members of the Light Operetta Company of Gelbanian Volunteer Militia – Chorus Section.
Upper or Higher Plumea
Thissmall selection of troops from Upper Plumea shows in its uniform the alliance by Royal marriages of the Duchess Maria of the flaming red hair to the reigning family of the small state of Verdigris.
You can clearly see the similarity to the dark green uniforms of the Verdigris Volunteer Militia, the main difference being the copper buttons and band instruments of the Verdigris troops. The two regions share misty and humid microclimates unusual in the Alpen regions. Verdigris is supported by its copper mining and copper working industry.
Upper or Higher Plumea’s mountainous valley economy is mostly based on breeding birds for their feather plumes to supply the military and civilian millinery industry, much like Pompomerania.
The Upper Plumean troops have a tall plume with red upper part and the lower green section reflecting the alliance with the Verdigris.
No one now remembers whathappened to Lower or Middle Plumea, whose troops must have had more restrained and unimpressive hats.
Another mountainous minor state, its troops wear white uniforms and its few Marines of its tiny lake and river navy have attractive top hats.
We are awaiting uniform information on this calisthenic nation of early risers.
The proudest part of the Thyer Brigadian uniforms is the brass cavalry style plumed dragoon helmets which are often copiedby Fire Brigades worldwide. Interestingly these Volunteer Militia troops are also the Volunteer Fire Brigade in their various towns and villages (hence the variations in uniforms), making sure that their native Alpine wooden houses and mountain forests do not catch fire. A fireman’s axe is carried on fire duty and state occasions. The woodenfire towers are also part of Militia watch posts in each valley.
Theseexcellent Rifleman are from the western edges of Southern Europe. Their brown uniforms provide good cover and camouflage.
Bleudelys Republican forces (below) wear light blue plumes on their darker blue uniforms. These are a selection of the Bleudelys Grenadiers (the ‘Grognards’) or the Old Guard. The uniform is based on that of the Royal Guard of the former Royaume de Bleudelys.
Bleudelys forces include the Blue plumed Line Infantry, Artillery and Bicorne clad Marines.
This Bleudelys Republic is currently run by one Revolutionary turned Emperor, the short and far from boney and skeletal Mediterranean-born former artillery officer Napoli de Leon (Napoli the Lion).
And finally the Marine Corps and boatmen with their distinctive bicorne hats
Great Butlinnia and Hibernia
The redcoats of Great Butlinnia, a large island off the coast of MittelMittelEurope with its cheery Redcoat Army, its Navy, Marine, are allied with its North, the kilted Celtic redcoated troops of Hibernia.
Ruled by King William or ‘King Billy’, Great Butlinnia does not maintain a large standing Army except for the oppression of democracy and reform. In times of peace its Redcoats double up as family entertainers and variety artistes, its wartime barracks serving also as holiday camps for its many citizens and tourists.
As a result of its dual Redcoat nature, each regiment and branch of the armed forces is in great rivalry with its ornate uniforms, showy parade movements, music and marches on state occasions.
The Republic of the Uwessae
Uwessae, the phonetically spelt former colony of Great Butlinnia in the Neu Welt or New World of Northern Generica has kept the military shako of its former masters but changed its coat colours throughout revolution and independence to a Republican inspired Bleudelys dark blue to avoid confusion with the Redcoats.
A troubled border exists to the north of the Uwessae where a mountainous forested country was once occupied by Bleudelys as a trading colony, alliances with warring tribes of the native Generican inhabitants and simmering friction with the existing dominant power of Great Butlinnia – the colony of Butlinnian North Generic or BNG.
For much of the rest of the early 19th Century world in this Napoli-de-Leonic Era of world war and Minor States, look no further than the Bronte ImagiNations of Gondal, Glasstown and Angria.
If you missed any parts, here are links to all three posts about my Unboxing my Blue Box of drawers, my ‘bits and bobs’ box of 1980s figures that I unpacked, explored and sometimes finished off this week.
What lead mountains, unfinished projects, forgotten boxes or stockpiles of your own figures have you raided over these Lockdown weeks?
Part 1 – 1/300, hair-rollers and other scales and the background to these posts:
I was already buying from Peter by then so it was interesting to see the man behind the figures.
What were your favourite parts, figures or drawers in the Blue Box?
Already the White Company pikes are in place, a new unit finally finished after 35 years patient waiting for basing and arming. These will eventually join my other Laing ECW regiments in Really Useful Boxes. They are no longer ‘odds and ends’.
What next for the Blue Box figures?
The box’s contents should give me some dedicated “Blue Box days” painting or gaming with the limited resources that I have in the Box.
Some of the random solo figures may be “returned to unit” if more exist elsewhere, packed away in my collections.
With unlimited figures available online now, it is quite restrictively creative in a ‘Desert Island Discs’ scenario that this Blue Box is all that you have …
This used to be the same going on holiday as a child (and still today) where you can only take a really limited box of figures, so you had to choose very carefully!
What If this was my Desert Island Discs box, my ‘fire box’, if this Blue Box from my 1980s gaming were all that survived, I think there is enough interesting variety to scratch together some skirmish games.
If these were the only figures you had in the world, what fantastical ImagiNations games these would be.
There would be enough for some Ancients and WW2 1/300 games, some 15mm ECW and Marlburian era games and OO/HO or 1/72 Plastic and metal figure games from various manufacturers and several 19th and 20th Century periods.
In an era of too much choice, I sometimes do this Time Machine thing with vintage Airfix games restricting the figures selection to those boxes available from 1959 to 1969.
What have I learned from several days rummaging through the Blue Box?
I have enjoyed sorting through the mixed figures, sample figures, lost figures, revisiting past projects begun and unfinished, sample figures. Some may have been long forgotten swaps. Sometimes I have no idea or memory why these painted figures were left unbased and unused.
It tells me I am still the easily distracted “Wargames Butterfly” that I was as a childhood or teenage gamer, who just likes collecting toy soldiers. Nothing much has changed.
Some of the junk bits and bobs have quite strong memories attached, from Owzthat dice to parts of long vanished 70s games or bits of houses like the old lead wiring cover strips from my childhood home that I planned to include in castings for my Dad.
I still like, collect and use the Peter Laing 15mm figures that I eventually focussed on, choosing these above the odd 15mm Mike’s Model samples and for some reason (money?) never went with the 15mm or 25mm Minifigs.
The metal figures were part of the ‘eye candy’ temptation of what I was seeing in the wargames and modelling magazines. Outside of Featherstone books, ‘grown up gamers’ in magazines didn’t seem to use plastic figures. Plastic figures were for kids.
The Platoon 20 metal 20mm “Moderns” samples were good but expensive compared to similar Airfix, Matchbox, Atlantic or Esci plastic figure. That us, if you could find them in stock at the time. I still like and still use these plastic figures.
There was obviously in the early to mid 1980s a lot of distracting new figures, scales and ranges around to explore and choose from, ranging from tiny 1/300 to 54mm figures. Nowadays there is even more distractions and choice …
1/300 offered such a lot of figures for such a little amount of money. Such a lot of little figures. 1/300 were maybe too tiny for the skirmish level small group or individual figure games that I enjoyed then and still do now. The simple Featherstone War Games 1962 rules and Close Wars appendix still does nicely for me!
What is missing in the Blue Box is much trace of 54mm figures and 54mm gaming. Thankfully a representative sample of some of these original heroic plastic figures from my childhood have survived, despite paring down and house moves, in a separate metal engineers suitcase. For obvious ‘safety’ reasons, Lead 54mm and home casts were just not around in the shops and toy boxes of my childhood, metal 54mm meant Britain’s Deetail with metal bases.
I spent a busy lockdown sunny day sorting through these final four drawers, finally basing Peter Laing and other 15mm figures that I painted mid 1980s and never got around to basing or using in games. Probably a shortage of plastic card pennies at the time.
These white coated musketeers and pikemen need their flag painted, pikes finally fixed and their officer finished. An ECW unit only thirty five years in the making.
There were several other units that I haven’t quite finished since starting them 35 odd years ago including these purple coated musketeers and pikemen. Well worth finishing off.
Fixing or refixing these Peter Laing supplied pin pikes will be a fiddly blast from the past.
A collection or muster of old Peter Laing pikes and useful pins.
Marlburian Peter Laing figures are even more slender and shorter than the later Peter Laing figures – they were Peter’s first figure range c. 1972 and probably the first 15mm figures designed in this new scale. The artillery and wagons are useful for several periods from English Civil War through to Napoleonic and 19th Century.
Marlburian artillery pieces
I featured some of my rebased Marlburians and ECW Peter Laing figures in 2016 here:
I chose Peter Laing figures because they offered me figures that Airfix didn’t do. That’s probably why I didn’t collect his Ancients, Napoleonics, 19th Century, ACW and WW1/WW2 as I already had small Airfix forces of these. Esci plastic Colonials and Zulus also appeared at this time.
I think it might have been the colourful uniforms and especially the ECW flags that won me over after years of plastic khaki grunge.
As well as Peter Laing’s ECW figures and a few Marlburians, I really liked the Scots ECW extension range to do the 1715 / 1745 period.
Amongst some unfinished lowlanders in trews, which I will finish in hunting Rifle Green for another project, I picked up a year or two ago this vibrantly prepainted colourful handful of Lowlanders and Scots, with bashed muskets.
These overlapping ranges – English Civil War with Scots that did for 1715/1745 if you added some Marlburian troops which could share the baggage train helped to double up on figures and save money and paint.
I wonder now why I never went the next step to do the Featherstone ‘Close Wars’ type of French Indian Wars forest skirmishes with my Marlburian tricorne figures and some Laing Indian figures. Probably because I had this covered by Airfix Indians and AWI Washington’s Army tricorne plastic OO/HO figures.
A few odd Peter Laing 15mm Ancients and Pikemen. I have no idea why they aren’t with the rest of their units in Really Useful Boxes. That is the nature of the Blue Box and its drawers, a sanctuary or safe place for odds and ends.
15mm ECW cavalry and personality figures – old Minifigs? – but too chunky and large to match my slender Peter Laing ECW figures. These lances will need repair. Maybe they can join some of my ImagiNations “Cordery’s composite cavalry” type forces.
There are a few odd 15mm figures that were probably “S.A.E for list and samples” including these D&D like dwarfish 15mm English Civil War figures from Mikes Models. Having seen these versus the 15mm Peter Laing English Civil Wars samples, I chose the more slender Laings. Each to his own.