Crossposted from my Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog, see more pictures of my latest painted sample 54mm plastic figures from Hing Fat (thanks to Peter Evans who sells them via Figsculpt https://www.ebay.co.uk/usr/figsculpt on eBay)
There’s also a comparison with the scarce Airfix 1:32 Italian Infantry figures.
A simple scrap kitchen towel for a headscarf transforms one of Steve Weston’s 54mm plastic Mexican peasants into a spirited serving girl, scolding Goodwife or feisty fender-off of invaders from medieval to Tudor times through to the English and American Civil Wars and the Wild West onwards.
This is another figure for my slowly developing 54mm figure and pound store conversions towards a raggle-taggle Arma-Dad’s Army militia muster and civilians to fend off the Spanish Fury of Armada invaders of the southwest coast in the 1590s.
And the title?
Crossposted from my Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog – read the more fully illustrated blog post here:
What, no Soviet women in these 54mm figures? Annie Norman of Bad Squiddo Games is producing a new range of 28mm Soviet women of WW2 on Kickstarter and then via her web shop. I don’t collect or play with 28mm figures at the moment but I have bought several vignette packs of her interesting female figures like her Land Girls. https://badsquiddogames.com
Childishly delighted to see that Airfix are rereleasing six boxes of their classic 1:32 / 54mm scale WW2 figures in Summer 2021 – maybe in time for the 80th anniversaries of WW2 events over the next few years?
Some exciting skirmishes can be fought with Paratroops and Infantry.
Six sets of WW2 1:32 figures is a start. Thanks Airfix! What can we expect next?
Strangely there are no desert war figures – German British or Italians – for the 80th anniversary of the desert battles of 1941/42?
No Waterloo 1:32 figures? No Wild West ones? No Australians or the versatile Japanese figures for the anniversary of Pearl Harbor December 1941? No Russians for the 1941 Invasion of Russia anniversary?
Looking through the website now is like poring over the lovely Airfix catalogues of our youth.
The last release of 1:32 Airfix figures in the early 2010s are still around online and in some shops including British Infantry Heavy Weapons Support Set and German Mountain Troops.
These figures are 54mm Chintoys Conquistadors, an unfinished unpainted project kindly gifted by Alan Tradgardland Gruber.
For some ideas of colouring, I checked Blandford’s trusty Warriors and Weapons of Ancient Times, Funcken and eventually some old Ospreys on the Conquistadors and the Spanish Armada. The Spanish troops did not have our modern conception of a uniform.
I struggled to decide how to paint the Spaniards – motley colourful or more uniform?
In Osprey 101 Conquistadors there is an interesting quotefrom The Broken Spears (the Aztec account of the Spanish invasion) describing Spanish cavalry:
“There were about fifteen of these people, some with blue jackets, others with red, others with black or green, and still others with jackets of a soiled colour, very ugly, like our ichtilmatli [cloak made from the fibres of the maguey cactus]. There were also a few without jackets. On their heads they wore red kerchiefs or bonnets of fine scarlet colour …” (p. 12)
“The clothing was colourful, red being an especially popular colour, and feathers were often worn in the hats.” (p. 12)
Osprey Elite 15: The Spanish Armada – “It has already been noted that the Spanish frowned upon uniformity of dress as bad for a soldier’s morale, but the circumstances of English military service led to a more advanced attitude … The counties had no fixed regulations for outfitting their militia.” (P. 51)
“Uniform colours were not adhered to, as individuality in clothing was thought to inspire soldiers to valour and pride in themselves. The red cross of St Andrew and a red scarf or sash were worn as identifying marks of the Spanish service.” (P.9)
The front cover plate by Richard Hook of Spanish command figures shows an intriguing black clad light pikeman from Plate K1 “This unarmoured pikemen comes from the ‘tercio of the sextons’ who were famous for their sombre dress.” (Osprey Spanish Armada p.62)
“The nicknames given to the Spanish tercios in the Netherlands – the ‘ tercio of the [beribboned] dandies ” , “ the sextons ‘ and so on – reflect a sense of pride and corporate solidarity.” From The Army of Flanders and the Spanish Road 1567-1659 by Geoffrey Parker, John Elliott, Olsen Hufton (2004) .”
Motley, red or black … a colour scheme is slowly emerging.
Overall the Tudor British colours were originally white and green but steadily blue coats became more standard for the English, “guarded” by edging stripes of their unit colours.
Taking the dominant Spanish red colour, this avoids a motley painting nightmare of coloured stripes and varied uniforms.
Army Red on Army Blue at 54mm scale? How very H.G. Wells and Little Wars. All the more reason to keep the toy soldier style of painting shiny!
The solution was found on Barney Brown’s Herald Toys website:
I really liked the black, red and silver colour scheme with leather brown. This was it, dark colours, the black and red diabolical colours of flames. I have painted them as fearsome as the Cornish might have seen or talked of them.
From Osprey, Elite 15 – The Spanish Armada:
“As for the common soldiers and people of England, they had been brought up on stories of Spanish cruelties against the Dutch. They had heard how the people of Naarden had been massacred, and that the garrison of Haarlem had been executed despite having surrendered on good terms. They also knew that as a result the people of Leiden had starved rather than surrender to the Spanish; and that the Citizens of Oudewater had set their own Town in fire rather than let the enemy enter.”
“The people of London knew that 8,000 citizens had been killed and 1,000 houses destroyed when the ‘Spanish Fury‘ had burst upon the great city of Antwerp. With the pamphleteers telling them that the Armada was loaded with Jesuits and instruments of torture, it seemed that the coming battle would be to save not only their Protestant faith, but their very lives.” (Page 55)
(At this point to offset this Protestant propaganda, I feel I should point out that some of my best friends growing up were / are Catholics.)
They are painted in shiny toy soldier style (including pink cheek dot) using Revell Aquacolor Acrylics (gloss and matt) and then spray varnished in gloss. I want them to have look of factory painted shiny Britain’s straight out of a red box lead hollowcast figures. Bases are 2p mdf bases from Warbases.
Off the painting table, waiting for the varnish to dry. Red, black and shiny.
The Chintoys Conquistador Set 1 figures have a variety of weapons of the time, there are 8 poses in the set.
The figure poses from the Chintoys bag header or graphic insert
Reading the Osprey books I began to recognise some details of the uniforms and weapons. Each figure carries a light sword.
1. The Swordsman with the sash and Combed Morion
The strangely pointy helmet of the combed or Spanish Morion was not just worn by stereotype Spaniards. He also has a breastplate or cuirass. The stuffed breeches apparently gave some protection against sword cuts.
2. The Crossbow figure
The flat cap and slashed or pinked jacket to show different colours shout “Tudor” to me. If only such recast heads with these hats existed or were easily available.
In the conditions of South America, bow cords soon wore out and the winding cranequin and working parts rusted so they were steadily less serviceabl. Even still crossbow bolts could easily pierce the cotton padded body armour of the native warriors. Slow to reset though. Not so good in the rain either. A sword is also carried, just in case!
3. Arquebus figure – firing
Again, an obvious codpiece and stuffed breeches. This shorter weapon (a caliver or arquebus?) require no musket rest. In the humid jungles and mountains of South America, these weapons became rusted and less serviceable.
4. Arquebus or musket figure – standing
Note: The musket style rest and leather strap with powder charges – a bandolier of boxes. Again, an obvious codpiece and stuffed breeches. A plainer Morion helmet is worn.
Awrquebus, Caliver or Musket?
Before anyone objects to my firearms ID, both the Osprey Spanish Armada and the Wikipedia entry on the caliver and arquebus say that the distinction between these and the ‘musket‘ are not clear and definitive. It partly depends on size.
Whilst the Conquistador figures are c. 1520s-1540s and in their Armada roles I am using them for the 1580s-90s, both armour and dress styles were in slow transition. These figures are from an age where the bow and crossbow are slowly and steadily being replaced by the arquebus and musket as easier to learn for unskilled troops. The Cornwall or local Muster of untrained, ‘unfurnished’ troops and even the Trained Bands in 1588 in many areas still had a fair complement of bowmen and polearms, which by the late 1590s Armada invasion scares were steadily being replaced by ‘pike and shot’.
In this way I can mix in some later English Civil War figures of musketeers, ensigns and pikemen to represent the most well equipped Trained Bands. The minimal pike armour of helmet, breastplate or corselet and tasset thigh guards are relatively unchanged 50 to 60 years later.
5. Swordsman with round buckler shield
This sword and buckler (shield) man wears a burgonet helmet with slight swept back peak or crest. As well as a corselet backplate and breastplate armour he also wear tassels or thigh armour plates.
6. Swordsman with heart shaped shield
He wears a cabacete helmet with swept back metal crest. He also wears the cotton or maguey Caruso fibre quilted padded jacket in place of plate armour, similar to the native tlahuiztli body armour of Aztecs and Mixtec seen on some warriors here and in the Osprey Elite Conquistadors book.
The Spanish plate armour apparently went rusty in the tropic heat of South America, despite being painted black, and was heavy and hot to wear. No surprise the Spanish went native in their body armour, sandal footwear and lack of hose.
The unusual heart shaped shield is made of hide and is called an adarga.
7. Halberd Man
The halberd with red tassel – the sign of a sergeant in British Trained Bands and soldiers. Note the obvious codpiece. In the Osprey Armada book cover, the Spanish officer carries a fancy halberd – a sign of rank, rather than common polearm?
8. Spear Man
In place of a jack (jacket of jerkin) or breastplate, he wears a padded quilted cotton jacket based on the Aztec / Mixtec body armour (see No. 6). He also wears a simple sallet type helmet.
I enjoyed painting these, once I had settled on an impressive if unhistorical colour scheme. The Mixtec / Aztecs from Alan Gruber are already half painted in unhistorical generic South American tribe colours, again shiny toy soldier style.
Elizabethan figures in 54mm are quite scarce. Recast or replacement Tudor or Elizabethan heads are not easy to find.
Although the Chintoys figures appear expensive at £2 to £3 each, expensive to someone who mostly works with cheap plastic poundstore figures, Chintoys figures are good unusual figures to add character in amongst cheaper converted alternatives. This obviously dilutes the overall cost of building up skirmish forces for the Armada and South America.
To further dilute the cost, I have a few bags of seaside cheap Hing Fat / China made pirate figures of a later century can also stand in for Armada seamen and landing parties with their swords and primitive firearms. I also have a handful of some Safari Toob Jamestown settlers (1607) sailor and civilian figures to mix in.
I didn’t realise that Chintoys made a second Conquistador set which have now been bought from a U.K. Dealer and stored away for Christmas as Spanish and English reinforcements and character figures. The Chintoys Spanish warriors is already in the family presents box.
Set CHT012 has eight good individual figures or characters and their varied weapons, figures could be either Spanish or English. The Chintoys Spanish Warriors set CHT024 appear to be in slightly earlier 16th century costume and armour but still have a crossbow and primitive firearm.
Although I balk at paying £20+ for eight admittedly good figures, the price is diluted by padding out the skirmish forces with Pound Store and cheap plastic knights and pirates.
Here is one such weird Greco- Roman cheap plastic knight with stuffed Tudor style breeches converted with kitchen roll and PVA glue hair into a fierce and furious Spanish raider!
Howdy! The Fabulous Flying Gruber Brothers needed a leader of their Gang, so they kept it in the family.
Meet Al – some say Big Bad Al, some say Heap Good Al.
Some say that he is the Father of the Gruber boys, others that he is their Cousin, Uncle or Older Brother. Some wisely choose not to say anything.
Some say that Al may in fact be Twins, just never seen together in the same place.
Those that have opinions on the matter and keep their mouths closed generally live longer lives out on these Wilde frontiers and borders and may even get to die in bed of old age.
In the wilds of the Wyrd Wilde West, anything could be a fact or true.
Big Bad Al or Heap Good Al? It depends who’s asking and who’s paying.
Whether they are protecting the Bank with their firepower or relieving it of some of that tiresome shiny metal, it’s a matter of opinion – it all depends on who is asking and who is paying (usually the most but they like to pick and choose their work).
The Fabulous Flying Gruber Brothers Abe, Zeke and Frank can be seen here in their repaired state:
The Armies in Plastic figures Rogers Ranger’s kindly gifted to me by Alan Tradgardland Gruber are seen here after unpacking. They are now painted or repainted, gloss varnished and awaiting final shiny metal work before they set off to explore my mighty fine Bold Frontiers forest trees.
TSAF Recon Mission Report, somewhere in the twin mists of The Great River and the 1930s:
The TSAF (Toy Soldier Air Force) is continuing and widening its search of the Yarden Forests of South Generica for any traces of missing explorer Colonel Bob “Jumbo” Fazackerly.
The skilled TSAF Pilots and their Observers / Navigators in their newly delivered Hybrid twin seater single engine monoplanes are scouring a wider and wider area around the upper reaches of the Great River, the Colonel’s last known position.
Colonel Fazackerley, a seasoned veteran of many a past military campaign, was last seen several months ago heading off “Up River” into the South Generican forests and mountains. Some say the Colonel was in search of inscriptions and artefacts in a rumoured lost cave temple of a lost ancient Generican tribe etc. etc.
Others mention that it is also known that descendants of these ‘lost’ tribes are not always friendly to outsiders. Rumours of unrest amongst these Yarden and Great River tribes have also reached the Colonial Governor, one of the many sons of Sir Sidney Ruff-Diamond.
The exact nature of the Colonel’s Mission or Expedition has not been disclosed by the Governor.
How I made Colonel Fazackerley
Colonel Bob started life amongst the ranks of Johillco Line Infantry (shown right below).
At some point during his previous life or military career he lost his head and his rifle, as well as his left arm.
When he arrived amongst a job lot of Broken Britain’s and other damaged hollowcast lead toy soldiers that I am repairing, he barely had any paint left either.
I repainted his scarlet jacket and blue trousers with Gloss Acrylics but then had other ideas.
The Colonel was reborn from my Bits Box, Frankenstein style, thanks to a spare Dorset Soldiers head, and a homecast officer’s sword arm from the Prince August 54mm Traditional Toy Soldier set.
I could have repaired or restored him, as I have done with other similar broken Johillco figures, back to his original Line Infantry firing role.
However something about the look of the stub of the broken rifle reminded me of a chunky automatic American style revolver. This suggested an officer, so next it was finding the right individual sort of hat.
Johillco 54mm figures are a little heftier than the more slender Britain’s figures, so can more easily take the Prince August 54mm cast arms and head. I tried various heads. Eventually I settled on a Dorset Soldiers head with slouch or bush hat from my Bits Box.
This still left the problem of the missing left arm.
Rather than making a new one from a wire “arm-ature” wrapped in masking tape and a Fimo polymer clay hand, I rummaged through my Bits Box again and found a spare Prince August officer’s right sword arm from a past casting session.
Snipping and filing this sword arm at the elbow to match the left arm stump, it was simply attached by drilling stump and arm with a fine 1mm drill bit to insert a short wire stub which joined the two, secured by superglue.
This gives the look of a sword or long machete for slicing through jungle creepers and stylishly seeing off any hostile natives or fierce animals.
A shaved cocktail stick glued on made a simple scabbard.
A spare Dorset Soldiers backpack made a knapsack.
All that remains to make or find to equip the Colonel for campaigning is a suitable water bottle and pistol holster.
Leather knee boots and Sam Browne type belt / knapsack strap were simply painted on.
His shiny new shooter was painted in silver.
This Dorset head had no cast moustache, so I added a painted one and pink cheek dots to keep that old toy soldier look to the face. A coat of Gloss varnish over the Matt Acrylic Khaki suggested a more vintage toy soldier look too.
What I wanted to achieve was a simple, old-fashioned toy soldier factory paint scheme, nothing too fussy or realistic, more toy soldier or Tintin cartoon.
The Natives are (not always) Friendly …
I have spent several weeks repairing and repainting broken Britain’s and other 54mm hollowcast figures to form some suitable native tribes and troops for future garden, yarden and tabletop skirmish games. Spears and weapons were often missing, sometimes bases, legs and arms.
A mixture of Broken Britain’s and Johillco Zulus, Crescent and Britain’s Indians have so far joined the North and South Generican native tribes defending their hard-won territories against various civilising (for which read aggressive) Colonial Imperialists of many nations.
Rifles or spears were repaired or added with wire and masking tape.
These natives will give Colonel Fazackerley and friends something to watch over the shoulder for. I shall show more of these rearmed and repainted colourful tribes in the coming weeks.
A Man of Many Missions
When he is not lost in the Generican forests and mountains of my Yarden, Colonel Bob can relive the glories of his youth out and about on campaign with a variety of field forces from the Bore War (sorry, Boer War) to the North West Frontier, Boxer Rebellion, Burma, the old West and WW1 East Africa, a military family career stretching back and far and wide to his relatives fighting in the American Civil War (but on which side is not fully known). Did he ever tell you
Danger follows him where others fear to tread …
Look out Fazackerley, they’re behind you!
He is rumoured to have disappeared and spent some time in his youth soldiering in the ranks of the French Foreign Legion.
Fazackerley is a man who has served in many forces on many expeditions and missions under many Aliases, thanks no doubt to his gift for getting by in many languages.
Not all the Natives are Unfriendly …
Soon all will be ready for the forests, mountains and rocky plains of the back garden, Yarden or cluttered Close Wars terrain of the tabletop.