First unplanned build and paint of the year, a versatile toy wooden cottage kit that I received for Christmas with a ‘blackbird’ colour scheme inspired by the Falklands, Forgotten Georgia and filmmaker Derek Jarman.
See more photos of the colour scheme inspiration, construction and finished product here, crossposted from my Man Of TIN Blog Two:
Unlike many in the world I am fortunate enough, being of “the Airfix generation” and clinically vulnerable, to have had my third Covid ‘booster’ jab on Friday. Thanks NHS.
**** Pre-emptive note: Any Anti Vaxxers or conspiracy theorists who are upset reading this first paragraph, please note that I am not debating this topic on my hobby blog or for that matter, politics or religion either. Enjoy the toys instead. Thank you.****
Knowing that I might feel a bit rough, as indeed I have done with the common side effects of aches, tiredness and headaches, I planned a quiet weekend with two good books to see me through.
The Timpo Model Toys (A to Z of TIMPO) 4th edition 2020 by Michael Maughan
This was a family gift, as I ‘look after’ the family “hand-me-down” collection of Timpo 54mm / 1:32 figures.
It is a great little book, akin to the Airfix OOHO reference books, and fully colour illustrated. This will help greatly in putting our surviving collection back together as close as I can manage – right legs, heads, torsos, horses etc. – with a slight nod towards Timpo purism!
Available through Amazon (Amazon Createspace online publishing) at a very reasonable £26.
The book has the cheerful feel of a Plastic Warrior magazine series of articles, which is what it originally developed from. Fourth edition – this is obviously an ongoing labour of love for the writer Michael Maughan.
The book covers only the ‘swoppet’ style plastic Timpo range, not the solid Action Pack boxed figures or original metal hollowcasts.
Seeing the illustrations of packaging, buildings and the railway stuff was a rare treat, and this book ultimately saves me from bankruptcy having to track down, buy and store this stuff!
I didn’t buy many Timpo ‘swoppet’ type figures myself, except the Vikings and a few WW2 figures (probably in the Toyway packaging). Most came down to me through the family toy box, a motley collection of knights, romans, Mexicans and Wild West figures alongside a few solid Action Pack figures.
Usually the weapons were missing, losable parts being one of the things that I disliked about Timpo and Britain’s Deetail, especially when gaming in the garden.
No Timpo purist as a child (or now), all of these figures were mixed together in my skirmish games alongside a happy medley of 60s plastics, Airfix and my own Britain’s Deetail figures. I played with what we had. Our few Timpo figures, both solid and swoppet, provided some great character figures.
Timpo, like Airfix, sadly crashed out c. 1980 in the Great British toy company apocalypse of the early Eighties, so supplies of much of the fun stuff (waggons, railways, buildings) was not around for me to buy. This ‘boom and bust’ supply drought or even complete wipeout of toy ranges still affects my approach to collecting gaming figures today – buy them when you see them, even if you have to store them away in the ‘next Christmas’ cupboard!
The Timpo wagons etc. looked really good alongside hollowcast and early plastic figures in F.E. Perry’s Second Book of Wargaming which I bought in the late 1970s / early 1980s. Oddly I didn’t find the First Book (of Wargaming) to make it all make sense until a few years ago, a gap of almost forty years.
Looking through, I don’t recall seeing many of the short lived 1970s Timpo ranges at all in toy shops, even if I had the pocket money.
This fascinating A to Z of Timpo book by Michael Maughan showed me what I had missed. It’s a little like having a book of beasts or birds which became extinct within living memory. Well worth buying.
Timpo rarity value?
About ten to fifteen years ago whilst sorting our family 1960s-70s toy collection, we sold off a small handful of some spare Timpo bodies and bits that did not make up whole figures. We were astonished when one torso went for £20 to £30 on eBay, obviously we had a rare-ish colour variation without knowing.
Not missed – from a purely gaming point of view, who cares about the rarity of colour combinations?
My second book to curl up with this weekend:
The Folklore of Yorkshire by Kai Roberts (The History Press 2013)
This book is a lucky survivor of Storm Arwin blowing open our parcels box and soaking the contents. There’s wuthering for you!
Fortunately a shiny book cover and the very soggy Blackwells cardboard eco packaging took the brunt of the water and protected the contents.
Haworth gets the odd mention, the Brontes very few.
What struck me was the overlap in English folklore from my ancestral Cornish folklore and the Yorkshire versions. The fairish, fairy, changeling or elf stories were very similar. This was of interest to me because the Bronte sisters (and brother Branwell) had a Cornish mother and aunt.
Admittedly some overlap in folklore was by direct migration – the ‘ghostly shift’ tales of Yorkshire miners were similar to those of the Cornish hard rock miners with their tales of mine spirits (known as “Knockers”). Skilled Cornish miners were recruited to other mining districts in Britain or they emigrated further afield, especially when times were hard.
Anyway an interesting book on Yorkshire folklore that joins the Cornish folklore and Bronte books on my book shelf.
Beyond the Booster bleurrgh?
Normal ‘gaming butterfly’ blogging service will hopefully soon be resumed, booster bleurgh over. Hobby blogging is usually interrupted or slowed as it is each year at this time by the dark winter nights, festive preparations and working for a living.
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.