Chatting by email to Tony Adams of the Miniature Wood Screw Army blog, he mentioned passing on a few Airfix figures that he no longer needed. I little expected an A4 jiffybag to arrive a few days later full of unwanted 1960s version 1 Airfix figures.
I find it interesting to see the mix and the range of paint schemes when buying the odd job lot of figures or seeing the OBEs on Hugh Walter’s Small Scale World.
This lovely gift was heavy on version 1 Afrika Korps but had an interesting early 1960s mix from the Guards Colour Party 1959/60 through to the First World War.
In Plastic archaeology terms this was a short stretch of time from Guards Colour Party (1960) to WW1 figures (1966), as the Version 1 figures were replaced from 1972. The version 1 Airfix figures are those used in Donald Featherstone’s WW2 game in his first book War Games 1962.
The beautiful paperback Airfix’s Little Soldiers (2010) by Jean-Christophe Carbonel has a useful Year by Year chronology of Airfix HO/OO figures. A book well worth getting for the pictures of the figures and their packaging alone.
Version 1 Airfix replaced by Version 2 Chronology
(based on Plastic Soldier Review and Small Scale World Airfix figure listings)
1960 Infantry Combat Group (British Infantry) replaced 1973
1961 WW2 German Infantry replaced 1974
1962 British 8th Army replaced 1974
1962 Afrika Korps replaced 1973
1962 French Foreign Legion replaced 1970-72?
1963 US Marines replaced 1979
The American Civil War figures were all produced in 1962 and the slender and versatile Russian and Japanese infantry in 1964 before the shift to slightly larger figures such as the WW1 figures which appeared in 1966. The Chunky British Paras appeared in 1965.
I wonder what was behind the change from the charming version 1 figures? Version 2 figures are often a scaled down (pantographed) small version of the equivelant 1:32 poses. Was it a change in technology or different sculptor?
Were the Version 1 figures deemed too crude or small by emerging metal figure and kit standards? Jean-Christophe Carbonel in Airfix’s Small Soldiers suggested that John Niblett sculpted lots of the Airfix HO/OO and 1:32 figures for Airfix until 1974 when Ron Cameron took over, Ron having also sculpted figures for Matchbox. Hopefully someone can tell me more.
By the time my pocket money was being spent on Airfix kits and figures in the early to mid 1970s, it was mostly the chunkier or more detailed Version 2 that was available. The same slender and smaller to chunkier and bigger figure shift can be seen in the Airfix platform and railway figures still available in hard plastic from Dapol. Was it a HO/OO scale issue trying to resolve the 1:72 / 1:76 thing?
Sadly figures of this age, condition and style are not accorded much value. Some of these charming Version 1 smaller figures that were my quiet childhood favourites are beginning to crumble now. Usually it’s just lost rifle ends but occasionally heads, arms and bases. These can be carefully repaired or replaced. I wish someone would recreate or recast the Version 1 figures in metal as vintage gaming figures.
Amongst the figures were some odd ones with slightly unusual hats that I take to be from their harder plastic and dark green colour to be Hong Kong copies.
There were some recognisable Airfix kit vehicle crews such as Bren crews (1964) and cut down Afrika Korps version 1 figures, amongst some unusual and very versatile hard plastic German seated troops. Manufacturer identified by Tony Adams (see comments) as Airfix kit crew for the half track towing the 88mm gun (1967). At around 60 seated infantry and 15 drivers, that’s a lot of half track kits ! A seated platoon may possibly be created.
It was interesting to see the change in size from Airfix version 1 to the larger Airfix Version 2 style, whilst also amongst Tony Adams’ figures were some larger pirate copies of other figures, seen here next to one of my Pound Store equivalent 32mm figures.
There were also some larger Hong Kong copies of Lilliput style Herald Britain’s 1958 1:72 or 54mm Herald 1953/54 Modern Infantry or Crescent 54mm Eighth Army figures.
I have a battered few of these Crescent 54mm Desert Rats, seen here in better condition set on Barney Brown’s Herald Miniatures website (archive pages).
Those familiar and classic Britains Herald plastic ‘British’ Modern infantry in 54mm (1953/4) were also briefly issued in 1957/8 as 1:72 figures, similar to the Britain’s Lilliput Range. These tiny figures weren’t issued for long, but long enough to be pirated in Hong Kong.
So the best of these figures will be repaired, painted up and penny based for Future Featherstone vintage nostalgia ‘War Games’ 1962.
With a bewildering variety of scale and figure choice today, harking back to the restricted pocket money choices of the Sixties child or adult gamer of my youth has some Featherstone War Games (1962) charms.
These figures have some unusual paint schemes, probably making the most of the figures in hand, along with cryptographic colour markings on the base that only Tony Adams would understand. Look at his Miniature Woodscrew Army and you will see similar hat, base and body markings for different branches of the armed forces still.
Thanks Tony, for sending these and the pleasant evening sorting through this Airfix Owl Pellet of the Sixties gamer into a Really Useful Box tray for future games inspiration.
Blog posted by Mark , Man of TIN, child of the 1970s nostalgic for version 1 Airfix, 2 August 2019.
B.P.S. Blog Post Script
The first figures repaired and put on penny bases. Have run out of spare pennies for now …
I don’t check my blog stats that often but I noticed in passing a little spike on June 26th Of over 300 hits on one old blog post from two years ago in a week of not posting much new. The referrer site was the TMP website http://theminiaturespage.com/boards/msg.mv?id=510247
GAmerica, America … no this is not a post about the Women’s World Cup.
To celebrate the 4th of July, here is a short blog post on the Marx Boy Scouts Of America figures. Of which I have exactly – one. No idea why I have it, it’s just part of the family collection.
Researching early Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts for my Wide Games on the tabletop, I frequently come across references to the American branch of the scouting family. They developed in different ways in a different culture than how scouting and guiding happened in Britain.
After 40+ years I have finally painted a fragile survivor in my family / childhood collection, what I discovered to be a Marx 54mm to 60mm Plastic Scout. He used to hang out with the Cowboys in my childhood games, his fragile scout hatchet long gone.
This fragile old figure needs a final coat of gloss acrylic, to get that toy soldier look, then final varnishing. There are some good details to pick out such as a torch or rope loop on the belt.
I could drill through the hand and insert a Boy Scout staff or stave but I think he is probably too fragile for this. Part of one foot and the base have already gone.
I often wonder how we acquired just a single American plastic scout figure. I never remember any others as a child.
Coming from a scouting family, he might have been bought by or given to my cub master Dad. He might also have come from a 1960s / 1970s job lot of odd plastic figures that my late Dad bought for us all (c. Very Early 1970s) from a neighbouring family when their boys were grown up and beyond such childish things. (This stage thankfully hasn’t happened to me or many of my blog readers yet).
Here is a glimpse of the gorgeous tin club house, a tiny part of a large and interesting Marx website. Looking through this website, I realised that I have or had no other Marx figures in my childhood toy collection. This makes the single Marx Boy Scout more of a mystery!
I was lucky enough earlier this week to catch up in person with Alan The Tradgardmastre of the noble Duchy of Tradgardland on his Ducal travels. We met for a cup of coffee in a beer and coffee tavern which is also a bookshop full of fashionable and political reading material. This sounds suitably Eighteenth Century for the Duke and the Duchy! Sadly it was too hot to wear a tricorne.
The Duke is a jolly nice chap, as you would expect from his blog (we were discussing A Very British Civil War at the time). We chatted variously about gaming, Toy Soldiers, interwar History, Scout Wide Games, the events overlap of gaming and re-enactors, the joy of simple rules and finished off talking about blogging and its many positive aspects such as the unusual openness about men’s mental health.
Unfortunately due to heavy traffic (too many stage coaches, ox waggons and sedan chairs on the road) I didn’t get a chance to make it home en route to pick up any ‘minis’ to show Alan such tiny delights as my new Phoenix 43 Scout trek cart or these space rangers to see if he recognised them. At least without ‘minis’ on the table, we were spared the curious, pitying or withering looks of onlooking drinkers and customers.
Once Upon A Time in a Garden-axy Far Far Away …
In return for home-casting some metal Scout figures, Alan the Tradgardmastre of the Duchy of Tradgardland blog sent me via the Duchy Post Office last month some American Tim Mee plastic space figures and some odd homecast and lead figures.
Looking at the post war GI or paratroop figures, I thought the unusual rifle and round helmet might make for some good space figures.
Just the ticket for a 1970s Airfix boy derailed by Star Wars and American 1970s Star Wars spin off sci-fi series …
A bit of a stylish Flash Gordon / Dan Dare 1930s / 1950s Sci Fi thing going on here.
The heads on the kneeling metal figures look like they have possibly been swapped or repaired.
A grey painted tuppenny 2p base gives the kneeling or plastic figures some stability; grey I thought is more spaceship like, metallic and neutral than the traditional sap green or bright emerald green of many old toy soldiers. I wanted to keep that shiny gloss 1950s Dan Dare space figure / toy soldier look though.
Anyway these three one-off 54mm figures from Alan might give me the colour scheme for my ongoing 54mm space figure project, one that has worked in smaller Pound Store Plastic 32mm scale:
You can have too much of Khaki Grunge. I like the chance to use some unusual bright colours from my collection of gloss acrylics – orange, sky blue, purple, gold, silver, red. I’m sure the Flash Gordon 1980 movie with the Queen soundtrack might have something to do with my space uniform bolder colour schemes.
You can see the 32mm Pound Store Plastic basis of the 40-50mm Pound Store pirate clone figure above:
Kev Robertson over in Australia, a long term sci-fi fan, has used his his past engineering skills to great effect on his latest blog post. As well as his own new series of 35mm space figures with a retro feel, he has been busy with scratch built sci-fi vehicles, walkers and mechs. Pure Pound Store Plastic Warrior blog scrap
build material this! Always an interesting blog to browse, Kev has blogged on various projects from sci-fi figures to railways.