Cakes of Death Guardsman

 

 

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1970s cake decoration plastic Drum Major (photo / figure: Man of TIN)

This 30mm white plastic cake decoration guardsman was around when I was a child, whether  I hope a left over ‘treasure’  from a family birthday cake or maybe just part of a random jumble sale bag.

I can’t recall his origin but this Drum Major  was too big to fit with my other figures, so I kept him aside in my odds box.

The idea of a parade or band of these marching over a cake seemed highly appealing.

I always loved the decorated cakes on display in our local bakery window. Beyond the reach of most ordinary families in the 70s and 80s,  who did you know who had a ‘boughten’ birthday cake from a shop? I recall staring for many years at the same  pale green and white line iced football match cake with players and goals. Clever but by then very very stale!

It was also fascinating to rummage through the boxes and boxes of cake decorations in bakers or stationers, but they were pretty expensive for such cheap and badly painted plastic. Seemingly the boxes always seemed far too full of wedding cake figures or ballerinas, rather than useful, convertible figures for gaming.

Sadly I have yet to find an online museum of vintage cake decorations to find out more about this Guards Drum Major.

Fimo / Polymer Clay and Resin figures online now seem to have replaced these cake decoration selections in shops. Some of these offer creative possibilities!

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/bearskin-cake-of-death-warriors/

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/27/back-to-basics-toy-soldiers/

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/27/more-diy-gaming-figure-making/

The silicon cake decoration moulds around online now prove pretty handy for a range of gaming figures or tokens – from guardsmen to nativity shepherds and cowboys and Indians, lots of polymer clay and gaming play possibilities.   If you like your figures on the cartoon, game token or ‘toy soldier’ side …

Defend the Cake Tin!

Posted by Mr MIN, Man of TIN, July 2016

 

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Peter Laing WW2 figures

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I only bought these four sample 15mm World War Two figures from Peter Laing back in the 1980s and now wish I had bought more.

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Peter’s range was very limited, British and German infantry and some American infantry which I never bought.

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Peter Laing WW2 British Infantry Rifleman advancing F2001 and Bren Gunner F2004, German infantry machine gunner F2016 and 50mm light mortar man F2017  (Photo / figures: Man of TIN)

These Peter Laing metal 15mm figures had to compete for my limited pocket money with the burgeoning and cheaper 20mm plastic figure scene (Matchbox, Esci, Atlantic, erratic Airfix) in the 1980s. I wish now that I had chosen differently, although my love of cheap plastic figures still extends to Vintage Airfix, Britain’s Deetail (not so cheap), Atlantic Wild West figures and pirated / pound store plastic warriors.

Luckily I am now collecting and painting my way towards Peter Laing WW2 infantry tiny skirmish games “at platoon level … To give a most satisfactory infantry action game” as Peter Laing describes it in his catalogue.

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Peter Laing 15mm WW2 British Infantry Ammo Carrier (F2006)

I have been lucky enough to spot some distinctive Peter Laing WW1 and WW2 figures in job lots of other 15mm figures recently.

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Peter Laing WW1 Stretcher bearers (A743)
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Peter Laing’s charming and spirited WW1 British Despatch Rider (A742)
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Peter Laing WW2 British Infantry Rifleman advancing, painted and unpainted castings (F2001)
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Peter Laing WW1 British Infantry sappers and shovels SH (Steel Helmets) digging (A744?)
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Bolstering my Peter Laing WW2 German army platoon with WW1 German steel helmet figures: WW1 German Infantry with rifle advancing F743, WW1 German Officer with pistol F744, WW1 German with stick grenade F745.
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WW1 British Sapper A744, British kneeling gunner with shell in Steel Helmet A718 , WW2 British infantryman Ammo Carrier. Cheap plastic gun from a job lot bag. Bit big for my platoon level game rules!  (Figures / photo: Man of TIN)
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Peter Laing WW2 British Infantry Ammo Carrier (F2006) and WW2 British 2 inch  mortar man (F2005)
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Peter Laing WW2 British Infantryman Ammo Carrier F2006 and WW1 British kneeling gunner with Steel Helmet A718. Simple plastic artillery game piece from long forgotten board game makes good little field gun or anti-tank gun.

As far as WW2 rules go, I have always opted for bits from Donald Featherstone / Lionel Tarr’s simplest WW2 rules in Featherstone’s 1962 book War Games. I look forward to a “mash up” with his Featherstone’s Close Wars Rules appendix to War Games. https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/09/close-little-wars-featherstones-simplest-rules/

As Peter Laing didn’t make vehicles for WW2, I intend using the troops as he intended “at Platoon level” wood field and forest bocage bolt action and bayonet game version on suitably cluttered terrain hex boards of my usual Little Close Wars games.

The bulk of the WW1 Peter Laing Germans in my collection are wearing Steel Helmets and carrying rifles, so will easily suit. A couple of Peter Laing WW1 maxim guns F746 and loader gunners  F747 will pass muster for German Machine Gunners with Steel Helmets.

These rules for natives versus troops will require a little  alteration to incorporate machine guns, light mortars, small field guns and motor cycles! No natives but plenty of awkward terrain and no vehicles. Still an infantry slog!

The various WW1, native  and late Colonial figures I have would also make an interesting African campaign:

” Few collectors seem interested in World War 1 , although there is much of value to be found in the battles of 1914 and 1915, before the war bogged down in a mass of trench warfare – a fascinating little campaign can be made of the German East Africa fighting in which natives can be used.” Donald Featherstone, War Games (1962) , p. 20.

These figures came with a small online job-lot  of what may be Peter Pig 15mm WW2 figures, some of which are similar in style and scale to Peter Laing figures. There are a number of peaked cap officers, some French resistance ladies and some paratroops with bikes to add some variety. It may be possible to mix a few of these in as needed with the Peter Laing figures. Peter Laing purists, look away now!

I even have a few surviving unmade card sheets of John Mitchell’s card buildings to make up to match Peter Laing’s catalogue suggestion that “these items can be used in conjunction with John Mitchell’s building sheets … to give a most satisfactory infantry action game.”

A lovely couple of posts on the  Tims Tanks blog about meeting with Peter Laing and showing some of his WW1 / WW 2 range.  I too found Peter Laing was always very helpful, encouraging and efficient dealing with young gamers with small pocket money orders by post. Often Peter included a free sample figure or two from his new ranges to offset breakages and postage costs – and no doubt to tempt more purchases.  Smart marketing!

http://timstanks.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/peter-laing-15mm-miniatures.html

http://timstanks.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/peter-laing-15mm-miniatures.html

Note some  interesting post blog comments (June 2016) that the elusive Peter Laing moulds may have turned up in the collections of the late John Mitchell with many Peter Laing figure fans interested in re-establishing these ranges. Me too!

But which ones would you produce or buy first?

Blogposted by Mr. MIN, Man of TIN, July 2016.

Father’s Day RAF Firefighter

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This Father’s Day gift this year has a double significance.

My late father had a small and much loved collection of lead toy figures during the Second World War.

Somehow these figures did not survive the war, given up for the war effort or passed on to other children. I can’t recall how they vanished but I kept a look out for suitable lead toy soldiers for him as possible birthday presents.

My grandfather was a professional driver and later chauffeur  and probably handyman / gardener to one of the directors of  a prosperous southern English building firm. My grandfather was given some lead toys to pass on to his little boy such as a 1930s coronation coach that had carelessly been dropped by his employer’s children into the garden pond.

This driver grandfather went on to serve in the  RAF, driving airfield vehicles such as petrol bowsers throughout the bombing of airfields during the Second World War.

My father as a wartime child in his Morrison shelter played with a plaster and lead barrage balloon toy, hoisting it up through the mesh sides. (William Britain’s made such a toy). He also had a small plane carved out of aircraft crash turret Perspex, long since lost.

I recall my father talking about a boxed set of Britain’s RAF firefighters that he was given amongst his lost legions, but never  found such a replacement figure for him as a present.

The choice makes sense with his father’s RAF ground crew wartime experiences,  who would have seen these RAF firefighters in their protective Asbestos Bestobell Suits.

Maybe these strange figures  were all that was available when the supply of toys became scarce as companies including Britain’s turned their factories over to war production.  I think he also had some Britain’s peaked cap khaki infantry firing.

Apparently this Britain’s Firefighters of the Royal Air Force set no. 1758 of 8 figures (or 2 in larger display set 2011) was only produced for a short while, introduced circa 1939 /1940 to 1941, which explains why it took too long to track one down.

I wonder if my interest in toy soldiers, replaced by plastic by the time I was born, came from my father’s lost legions?

Dad was always keen when I was small to join in toy figure games on the floor, garden or tabletop. Later he encouraged my collecting of yet more  Airfix or other plastic figures with the gift of history, modelling or gaming magazines; I’m sure he enjoyed reading the history articles on the train home.

He had many stories to share from his National Service years in the British Army, which I will save for another figure and another blogpost.

That was the history of my family in toy soldiers part 1.

Posted by Mr. MIN, Man of TIN, June / July 2016.

Tintin and Imagi-Nations Games

 

imageOne of the things I like about Tintin are the interesting ‘Euro’ nations and enemies that Belgian author and illustrator Herge created as foils for his intrepid young reporter detective Tintin.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Adventures_of_Tintin

Great uniforms amongst enemy troops, but as a child I couldn’t work out why the Police in Tintin for example of what I took to be a supposedly British / English setting for Captain Haddock of Marlinspike Hall looked so odd.

Had Herge (I wondered as a child) never been to Britain? Slowly as I got older I realised that Herge was drawing mostly European / Belgian settings and that the books are translated all over the world.

This  ‘Glocal’ World (both Global and Local) of Herge in translation has strange villains and fake euro Imagi-Nations such as Borduria in the Calculus Affair and the regime of the villainous Kurvi-Tasch with his strangely fascist moustache logo on his very Nazi looking generals, troops and 1950s looking tanks.

Even though Tintin goes back to the 1940s, to me his books are the ‘Funny Little Cold Wars’ of the 1950s and 1960s in graphic novel / comic strip version,  akin in style and feel to the early 1960s James Bond movies with the suave and stylish Sean Connery and his menacing enemies.

A range of plastic Tintin figures / key ring figures is available online in various sizes.

Great inspiration for some enemy troops as shown with generic enemy  “red troops” or “red guards” in my Back to Basics DIY figure making blogpost:

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/27/back-to-basics-toy-soldiers/

 

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Unfinished faceless hordes of red guards based on a 1950s US Barclay podfoot dime store lead figure representing ‘enemy troops’, defending the secret base of whatever enemy regime or Imagi-Nations you choose (photo/ figures: Man of TIN)

Tintin should prove equally good inspiration  for some paint conversions of Pound Store Warriors from modern / WW2 green / toy army men.

So why not make up your own Imagi-Nations, uniforms and all?

If Tintin is not your gaming thing, then there is of course Asterix and this fabulous wargaming Asterix and the Romans website http://romansgohome.blogspot.co.uk

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Fictional Enemy, Threat or Aggressor Troops  

Making up your own enemies, uniforms and all isn’t that far from the truth.

The Milihistriot Website (c/o Sheil family USA website) has an interesting section with coloured plates of threat, enemy or “aggressor” troops with adapted uniforms from military exercises:

 

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Green crested helmet enemy troops as just one example of some colourful training enemies from a 1964 MIlihistriot article soldiers of Never-Never Land by James Glazer,  based on US troop manuals. These are archived at: http://www.thortrains.com/online/aggressor1.htm

Examples of 30-101 / these US troop manuals can be seen at:

https://ia600302.us.archive.org/4/items/FM30-101/FM30-101.pdf

http://www.alternatewars.com/WW3/Trigons/FM30_101_1959.pdf

The fictional (Esperanto speaking!) aggressor troops had a white ensign or badge with black triangle.

http://www.thortrains.com/online/aggvehicles1.htm

These manuals have obviously inspired many of the imaginative paint finishes and uniforms on the Sheil range of vintage home cast Toy Soldier Art figures. More have been created on the same principle at their Spy Troops page: http://www.thortrains.com/online/spytroopies.htm

 

Herald infantry (like those from my family collection above) had ready made plastic ‘enemy’ troops made briefly in what the Sheils call ‘Berlin Gray’, http://www.thortrains.com/online/berlinggray.htm

http://www.thortrains.com/online/Berlin%20Grays%20%20and%20Spies.htm

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Atlantic 54mm plastic soldiers, a junk shop find. (Figures / photos: Man of TIN)

Back to Tintin and Imagi-Nations

The Tintin / Calculus Affair  Kurvi-Tasch troops also have a look of the strange Atlantic modern troop figures that occasionally and erratically  appeared in shops in the 1980s, featuring an odd sort of  Euro army appearance. They looked strangely foreign, even futuristic on occasion (not quite American, not British and not German). Only later did I discover that they are meant to be Italian / Euro troop types. Atlantic figures and their strange box art are well covered in the Airfix’s Competitors chapter of my much-thumbed copy of  Airfix’s Little Soldiers by Jean Christophe Carbonel (Histoire & Collections publishers, 2009). Some of the Atlantic figures were recently reissued by NEXUS.

Happy Imagi-Nations Gaming!

Posted by Man of TIN, June 2016.

 

 

 

Gilt Finish Terracotta Warrior

 

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This Terracotta Army  Chinese warrior came from an  unlikely pound store source of a local Spar shop a few years ago, embedded in a block of plaster like those ‘dig your own dino’ gifts.

In these blind bags you had no idea if you were going to get a warrior, a horse or what inside the plaster block.

What I like about this figure, once excavated, is the black undercoat with simple gilt finish. A quick and simple  to try on smaller plastic or pound store figures maybe?

I wrote about quick gilt finishes and pewter effects on homecast figures in a previous blog:

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/26/home-cast-antique-and-gilt-paint-finishes/

The figures are about 50mm high, so almost 1:32 scale and would make an interesting figure for various games.

The figure  would look good painted up as a space emperor – Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon?  They also have a slightly automata robotic look about them. These figures have no weapons.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terracotta_Warriors_and_Horses

Similar terracotta army figures can be made in silicon cake moulds using Fimo or other mould materials; look on Etsy or EBay for example at https://www.etsy.com/listing/155432388/terra-cotta-warriors-3d-flexible

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The Terracotta Army Chinese Horse figure also surfaced in my sometimes chaotic collection recently again showing the black and gilt paint finish.

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If you want to build up a Chinese Terracotta Army in tiny plastic  you could of course bulk buy on a retail scale,  minimum order only 10,000 pieces,  here is the current link: https://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/Terra-cotta-warriors-archaeological-fossils-toys_60399762717.html?spm=a2700.7724857.0.0.wO6hVa

Happy painting! Happy excavating!

Blog posted by Mr MIN, Man of TIN, July 2016

Charbens US Army Men

An attractive paint scheme (if poor face painting) for a Charbens G I American infantryman figure of hollow-cast lead.

This colour scheme would work well in gloss acrylic on pound store plastic figures.

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This figure in my collection is one half of a stretcher party, Charbens figure set No. 210.

 

They are notedly similar in style and paintscheme to Timpo lead hollow-cast GI figures of the 1950s.

Some of the other Charbens GI figures in my collection appear to have been simply repainted (by their original owners?)

Made of hollow-cast lead, they have an animation to them that you could see followed through into plastic figures like Airfix, Timpo, Crescent and Lone Star / Harvey. The lack of bases to the kneeling figure or minimal bases on the Grenade Thrower are ways of saving expensive metal and similar in this way  to the American ‘pod foot’ dime store figures.

Their modern plastic pound store warrior equivalents often have similar minimal plastic saving bases, making them cheap but annoying if they keep falling over!

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Charbens American GI soldier No. 200 repainted 
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Charbens American GI soldier Mine Detector No. 209
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Charbens American GI figures Grenade Thrower No. 200, Mine Detector no. 209 and Kneeling Firing No. 203 (Photo / figures: Man of TIN Collection)

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These repainted figures with few colours are not unlike some of the postwar paint colour reductions by figure manufacturers. To keep production costs down, an increasingly smaller palette of colours was used by many figure manufacturers. Some figure painters were paid according to / by the number of colours per hundred figures completed.

Reference numbers are to the Charbens figure list in Norman Joplin’s The Great Book of Hollow-Cast Figures (New Cavendish, 1993/99) which shows this range on page 77 / plate 143.

All these figures are postwar hollowcast lead figures produced by Charbens (London, 1920-66) from 1945 to 1960s when lead figures were phased out in favour of plastic.

The Charbens name came from brothers Charles and Benjamin Reid who set up their own hollowcast business in the early 1920s, one of them having previously worked for William Britain.

Blog posted by Mr MIN, Man of TIN, July 2016.

 

Hobby Learning # 1: Andrew Wyeth

What I like about gaming and toy soldiers are all the incidental things you learn.

Such “Hobby Learning” you might assume  to be all about battles, weapons and suchlike.

“The pleasure does not begin and end with the actual playing of the war-game. There are many pleasant hours to be spent in making model soldiers, painting them, constructing terrain, carrying out research into battles, tactics and uniforms …”

Donald Featherstone, War Games 1962

However you find out a lot about many other subjects, including art and painters such as Andrew Wyeth.

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Andrew Wyeth, Christina’s World  (Image source: MOMA / Wikipedia)

 

I had only known of  Andrew Wyeth (1917 – 2009) through his famous and much reproduced Americana painting Christina’s World.

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Harold Pestana’s lovely redcoat toy soldiers feature on the front cover of Richard Scholl’s Toys Soldiers book.

 

However reading Richard Scholl’s Toy Soldiers book about the Malcolm Forbes Toy Soldier Collection (2004, Courage Books USA) I came across this delightful ‘Borrowers’ style tiny figures by a sunlit window frame sketch by Andrew Wyeth, a 1962 painting known as “The British at Brandywine.”

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Andrew Wyeth toy soldier sketch in Richard Scholl’s book Toy Soldiers (Courage Books, USA, 2004) about the Malcolm Forbes Toy Soldier Collection.

This letter / sketch was sold at Sotheby’s in 2010: http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2010/the-malcolm-forbes-toy-collection-n08706/lot.197.html

After Richard Scholl’s book I looked up “Andrew Wyeth” +  “Toy Soldiers” or “Military Miniatures” and found an interesting YouTube video “Andrew Wyeth Military Figurines”  (Lora Engelhart, 17 April 2012) about his dimestore / composition collection of American Toy Soldiers at his house / studio being curated and conserved.

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1940s composition pilot in my collection (Photo / figure: Man of TIN collection)

I have a few of these interesting American and composition figures in my own collection.

There are lots of other YouTube interviews and features about Wyeth and his artistic family and landscape to follow up.

Wyeth’s 1962 “The British at Brandywine” seen in the top right of the framed letter features a typical Wyeth “looking out of a window or slanting light through a windowpane” motif,  repeated through over 300 Wyeth sketches and  paintings, something picked up in a recent US National Gallery of Art in Washington exhibition: https://andreapawley.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/andrew-wyeth-at-the-national-gallery-of-art/

There is also a very interesting blogpost biography and a few photos of his toy soldiers seen during a visit to Wyeth’s preserved studio at Chadd’s Ford, PA (Pennsylvania).

http://ashorthistoryblog.com/andys-world-the-life-of-andrew-wyeth/

Wyeth’s world was the terrain of the American War of Independence and where the Battle of Brandywine Creek was fought. Hence the gift of the Revolutionary War soldiers being highly  appropriate.

Andrew’s father N.C. Wyeth was a well known illustrator of books featuring historical topics. He was part of the Brandywine School of painting, an artist’s colony set up by American artist and illustrator Howard Pyle, famous for his pirate and battle paintings.

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Nationmakers, painting by Howard Pyle in 1903 depicting Washington’s troops at  the Brandywine Creek battle of the Revolutionary War (now hanging in the Brandywine Creek Museum) Image Source: Wikipedia.

The Brandywine School was a style of illustration as well as an artists colony in Wilmington, Delaware and in Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania, near Brandywine River.  Both were  founded by American artist Howard Pyle (1853–1911) in the late 19th century. Many of these pictures were widely published in adventure novels, magazines, and romances in the early 1900s. http://www.rockwell-center.org/essays-illustration/the-nation-makers/

See the collection in http://www.brandywine.org/museum/collection

including an interesting N.C. Wyeth dream painting http://www.brandywine.org/museum/collection/collection-highlights/dream-i-meet-general-washington

As well as N.C. Wyeth, one of the other pupils that Howard Pyle tutored was American illustrator Jessie Wilcox Smith. Wilcox painted this interesting illustration of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Land Of Counterpane poem, about which we will post a separate future blog post on gaming and toy soldiers in bed.

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Land of Counterpane by  Jessie Willcox Smith  (Image source: Wikipedia)

The things you learn … All good gaming inspiration.

Blogposted by Mr MIN, Man of TIN, July 2016.