A bit like finding Smaug the dragon seated on gold and jewels in The Hobbit, I found these treasures lurking in the dark back of a gaming shop last month.
I often pop into gaming, railway or model shops when I see them in search of scenery, paint or just out of curiousity.
Gaming shops are often strange places, darker towards the back and occupied by shuffling figures, all dressed in black. Then there’s the mumbling, arcane words about the miniatures games or card systems arrayed on tables. Foreign territory. No eye contact is usually made with strangers in civilian clothing such as me.
(For the record, I have nothing against fantasy gamers and suchlike).
It was quite dreamlike, finding a cache of kits and figures that you had been looking out for for years.
Any second I knew I was going to wake up.
There was a small shelf of kits, vintage Matchbox kits, multipose historical Airfix single figures, things I had not seen for years.
I had little cash on me and little time to stop and recce.
I went straight for the vintage Airfix figures, things I knew I could use rather than stockpile.
Familiar old Airfix OO/HO Waterloo French and British infantry (reasonable at about £6 per sealed box) were one obvious and versatile choice – these partly made up for the odd lack of British Infantry in their box in my last hoard.
They turned out to be the recent 2000s Airfix reissues in bright red and blue but no matter.
The Hat British Rifles or Light Infantry are new figures to me.
Some interesting information on the box back about the Light Infantry, suggesting alternative uses such as Cazadores and Cacadores.
Who could resist the odd brown unit of Cacadores or US 1812 Infantry, like those pictured in Preben Kannik’s Military History of the World in Colour ?
These oddly shakoed Hat figures would pass (for me for games purposes) for 1840s British Infantry or Militia in a railway-related scenario that I am working on.
I also spotted their potential as British or US Infantry in a War of 1812 skirmish scenario that I am working on for 2018 with the Waterloo British Infantry.
There was only one lone box of 1:32 figures to choose from but a good choice – Call to Arms 54mm Zulus – something Airfix strangely never made, despite the popularity of the 1960s ZULU films.
By luck I have a pack of the Call to Arms 1:32 Rorke’s Drift British Infantry to match them, bought several years ago.
I went back to the gaming shop a week or two ago.
The mumbling black clad figures and the private gaming were still there. None of the other vintage material was there. The shop assistant had no knowledge of it. All the remaining kits were gone. Maybe it had been a dream after all …
Occasionally very tiny mixed groups of Peter Laing figures turn up on auction sites or second hand figure sales websites. Sometimes the figures are identified, sometimes not.
I recently bought a group of 18 mixed foot and 2 cavalry – but only recognise a few of them.
Maybe the Google plus Peter Laing group or my blog readers could help me identify these figures?
Some of the native figures may be Mahdists or Dervishes with spear and sword ? Or are they Boxers? These two groups were interchangeable in the Peter Laing range, even appearing as “Suitable Items from Other Ranges” within the same range where Peter suggested F628 Dervish with Spear could be Boxer with Spear.
Ross MacFarlane suggested in the comments: “The others look like Mahdists to me. F612, F628, F629. Your pigtail is probably the tail of the turban which was often left to dangle down the neck. The armoured cavalry looks like M608 Armoured Dervish cavalry. Thanks, Ross!
Ian Dury wrote: Just to confirm Ross’ views on the Colonial and Crimean figures – they are indeed:
F612 (Mahdist) Jihadia rifeleman
F628 Dervish with spear
F628 Dervish with raised sword
M608 Dervish Armoured Horseman
A806 Russian Gunner, sponge
A807 Russian Gunner, Portfire
A few have some paintwork, suggestive of the colourful patches of Dervishes.
The few details on these tiny 15mm figures made them very versatile for paint conversions to other periods or armies.
A few I already recognise like the Zulu, probably F620 advancing raised assegai or F626 Zulu running.
Ross MacFarlane thinks: “The armoured cavalry looks like M608 Armoured Dervish cavalry” which makes more sense in the colonial company it is keeping. I thought at first it might be weird Mounted Norman …
Any help identifying this small random group of Peter Laing figures is much appreciated.
B.P.S. Blog Post Script – Prussian or Russian?
In his comment, Ross thinks that the infantryman has the look of a Crimean Russian infantryman, rather than Prussian Landwehr. This is a sensible suggestion with it being lumped in with stray Crimean Russian gunners.
This would probably make it F824 Russian infantry advancing (cap)?
Hopefully someone with Waterloo Prussian or Crimean Russian Peter Laing figures might have thoughts on this.
Ian Dury’s fine collection of Peter Laing Crimean Russian figures in caps advancing are shown here on Bob Cordery’s blog
Just as the Russian gunner figures look like they have long coats and /or baggy breeches, these figures in Ian’s photographs look to have slightly longer baggy coats. We are only talking a difference of up to a millimetre!
The new unpainted figure is so close to one that I bought from Peter Laing as samples of his Waterloo range in the 1980s that I think the figures, if not the same, are pretty much interchangeable – a bonus really for building up an army!
I photographed my Waterloo Prussians alongside for comparison.
The full extent of my Prussian intervention in a Waterloo setting is currently shown here – tremble, tiny Napoleon!
I am still slightly swayed towards the figure being Napoleonic Prussian rather than Crimean Russian. However it is close enough to the Crimean Russian figures in Ian Dury’s photographs that, thanks to Ross’s suggestion, I could easily use these Landwehr type figures for Crimean War scenarios.
2017 has been a bit of a ‘jammy’ or lucky year for me for vintage Airfix, especially welcome now that I have restricted and almost stopped using a well-known online auction shopping website after being hacked.
2017 saw a charity shop haul of Airfix OO/HO blue boxes and figures which should help with future projects this coming year.
I could not believe my luck and bought them all on sight without any chance to check contents. Each box was only £3.99 and all the money to a good cause.
Thanks to the excellent box art shown in Jean-Christophe Carbonel’s Airfix’s Little Soldiers, I do not need to own lots of vintage cardboard Airfix packaging. I have no idea where many of my childhood Airfix boxes went but I was always interested by the early Airfix box art.
The accidental chance to own and enjoy some vintage boxes and figures was very welcome.
I noticed with many of the matched figure boxes – Union Infantry versus Confederate Infantry, Waterloo French Infantry versus British Infantry – that there is a bit of a left / right thing going on. The same with artillery and cavalry.
A game of two halves, the two boxes make up or suggest one scene. The Union figures are skirmishing and firing towards a barely glimpsed enemy and their officer on a wooded ridge to the right side of the box. On the Confederate box, the implied enemy troops are firing down from such a ridge to a Union enemy below and on their left.
Quite frequently the British or Allied troops are coming in on the left, the enemy troops from the right on a matched pair of boxes. At least opposing sets usually form two halves or sides of an illustration. Looking through Carbonel’s book, however, this “to the left = victorious, on the right = bad guys” theory does not hold true from a British or Allied point of view for all the Airfix sets.
Alternatively the enemy are glimpsed – French Cuirassiers appear along the ridge or skyline for the Waterloo British infantry, a Waterloo British Highlander in an implied square bristling with bayonets against the charging French Cuirassiers on this cavalry box.
This is in picture terms almost a “Dogfight Double” as Airfix would make for their matched fighter / bomber kits. In this figure case, it encourages you to buy the opposition figures inferred by the illustration.
There is more about the box art and artists in Arthur Ward’s excellent books on Airfix.
The Back of the Box
I have always admired the black pen and ink line illustrations of figures and the later coloured painting guide pictures of figures on the Airfix box backs. So at least I have some not very valuable Airfix packaging to enjoy, as well as the contents.
These box illustrations formed a simple and effective painting guide for the figures inside. One or two of these coloured figures would be included tantalisingly in Airfix catalogues.
Between first sight and returning to the shop a few minutes later with enough cash, two boxes had sold. The two boxes that sold before I bought the rest were Airfix Waterloo Highland Infantry and French Cavalry (Cuirassiers).
I’m not too sure what would have been in those ‘lost’ boxes, as some of these boxes were a curious mix.
They all obviously belonged to the same person as contents were sometimes scattered amongst different boxes.
Inside the Waterloo British Infantry box were not the usual custard yellow Wellington’s veterans. Instead there was an interesting red / brown figure mix of Airfix Indians, Wagon Train figures and wagon and a few Ancient Britons! Not unwelcome figures.
Even the odd one out old set of the Afrika Korps had a surprise – it had a fair number of the vintage series one Eighth Army figures included as well. I much prefer the vintage series one tinier Airfix figures to the larger and still available series two figures.
What to do with lots of lovely Airfix figures?
These are all very useful figures, some part painted, all for future Napoleonic and Civil War games or more generically painted or differently flagged, ready for Imagi-Nation skirmishes in the fictional Bronte kingdoms of Angria and Gondal.
I know that many of these Waterloo figures were made recently available again in 2015 for the bicentenary Airfix Waterloo gift set but I have enjoyed seeing all the old boxes again.
To speed the journey to the tabletop, some of these figures are part painted and surprisingly, the horses are stoutly glued. Fixing horses to bases and riders to horses was one thing about Airfix and Esci figures that I disliked, compared to Atlantic horses.
Apart from not being based, it looks as if some of these figures have been enjoyed and deployed on the games table. I hope they will have many more skirmishes to come.
I hope you have enjoyed a closer look at my lucky discovery!
Little shop hoards like this don’t happen often and it is a different more exciting experience from bidding or buying online. It makes up for all the days that you don’t see any figures at all in charity shops or market stalls.
A couple more lucky hoards for 2017 to share in future blogposts, so that you can share in my joy at a bit of a ‘jammy’ year for figures.
Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 16 September 2017.
One of my kind older modeller colleagues at work, who is currently downsizing, handed me a tin that “might be of interest to me”.
Unopened for years, these appear to be relics of his late 1960s figure gaming days.
The heady smell of vintage Airfix plastic was the first thing I noticed.
A few Bellona vac-formed walls and a ruined house and bridge.
Underneath these were a surprising mix of old 1960s Airfix figures, some still on their sprues. Figures, guns, horses.
Like many Airfix figures, some of them are fragile or broken. Some of them are cut up ready to be converted.
A few WW2 British paratroops and a few scrapbox items aside, this was a fantastic and kind addition to what survives of my family 1970s historical Airfix figures although I am very conscious of how fragile some of these figures now are.
The bottom of the tin has a scurf of fragile broken bits of figure and the trimmed off kepis from past conversions.
I look forward to painting some of these figures this winter.
Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 8th September 2017.
Sadly my nearest branch of Waitrose does not stock these stylish 2015 award winning tissue box beach huts at £2 a box, although they are available by Waitrose order if you spend over £40 online, but that’s an awful lot of tissues!
Peter Laing 15mm collector and enthusiast Ian Dury has set up a Google+ Community page / forum to celebrate these early and charming 15mm figures, which are sadly no longer available.
As Ian Dury wrote: “I hope you will all join and contribute – pictures, notifications of e-Bay sales, personal sales and wants are all welcome.”
“If you know of anyone else who would be interested – please let them know!”
Ian also hopefully mentioned: “For those of you who aren’t already Google+ users, you will probably need to register for a (free) GMail account to make full use of the community. You can link this to an existing e-mail account if you use another provider – but you may need to change your G-Mail settings to do so.”
I’m already signed up with a Gmail account and it was easy enough.
This Google community looks to be great fun. Already featured are Peter Laing blogs including Man Of TIN, lots of figure photos and a full Peter Laing catalogue.
Rod has posted photos of some of his imaginative 1960s Airfix conversions of British troops from the Airfix Guards Colour Party and Airfix Red Indians converted and recast as Zulus (in a latex mould made for him by no less than Donald Featherstone!)
I am thinking of adding some more figures to my favourites, my simple Zulu War British Redcoat paint conversions from first version British Infantry Battle Group. I have yet to finish my Airfix Indians repainted as Zulus, “Farsunds of Em …” (well, a few dozen).
Airfix Blue Guards
Army Red, Army Blue, hostile natives, never fails.