Britain’s second grade Zulus have been on the fixing table today, having the fragile and missing knobkerry stub replaced with a spear. Each spear unusually started life as the the metal handle of an indoor firework sparkler!
Ten of these fine Zulu Warriors are awaiting a repaint. Some of the figures have the original rich brown skin colour, but others appear from what paint remains to have simply been painted black.
The reason for the difference may be their painting grade. The lower the paint grade, the less colours used. James Opie records this chunky Zulu figure in Britain’s Toy Soldiers 1893-1932 as “variously catalogued as 4R or 28C or with inferior third grade paint as 21P when sold singly between the wars.” James Opie in British Toy Soldiers 1893 to Present notes this chunky second grade set 22A figure as having been introduced in 1913.
Simple paint schemes for Britain meant restricting the non uniform or irregular troops such as natives or American Indians to three different colours, usually red, yellow or blue colours (Zulus) or red, green and blue (Arabs, Togoland warriors) for robes or loin cloths.
These classic slender Zulus have in their bashed surviving paintwork on loincloths some delightful colourful stripy and spotty loincloths, maybe designed to be exotic animal furs. Too good to overpaint!
The original Zulus figures can be seen on a post from February 2017
The jigsaw set of 12 Broken Britain’s 1906 – 1966 classic Zulus is now almost repaired and rearmed with Dorset Soldiers recast arms – watch this space.
These will go on to become “Generican or Farican natives” as opposition for the colonial invading Redcoats etc, and as such fit as Ashantee warriors into my Bronte juvenilia Imagi-Nations based games.
Repairing these fine but bashed Britain’s is my contribution to the Britain’s 125th Anniversary 1893 – 2018. Happy Anniversary to William Britain and his dynasty!
B.P.S Blog Post Script
As it’s Fathers Day on Sunday, this post is also dedicated to my late father whose lost wartime Britain’s lead figures and general love of Toy Soldiers, even the Airfix and plastic figures of my childhood, are probably the root of my interest in them. He would be pleased that I am still tinkering, drilling and painting such figures many years on. Thanks Dad!
The surviving paintwork suggested that two of the Highlanders were Khaki colonials, the other two were a Redcoat Highlander lying firing made by Johillco and a headless Redcoat torso.
Matchstick legs were inserted into the body through the leg holes and then shaved to a more round shape with a scalpel. Masking tape was then wound round to thicken the leg up to a suitable width.
Suitable heads were mostly found in my homecast 54mm Prince August spares box.
Luckily with two of the figures, the Johillco lying firing Highlander and the Khaki Britain’s standing firing figure, I had battered original figures with which to compare the headless, legless torsos.
The Highlanders had puggrees or wound strips of cloth around their pith helmets, so these were simply added with several fine thin strips of masking tape. The same technique was used to build up the sock strips on the legs.
A puggaree, puggree, puggry or puggary (from a Hindi word ) is a strip of cloth wound around the upper portion of a hat or helmet, particularly a pith helmet, and falling down behind to act as a shade for the back of the neck.
Fimo polymer clay feet were required to finish off the legs, modelled on a Britains Khaki firing British infantryman with feet pointing outwards.
One of the Khaki Highlanders lying firing acquired a WW2 tin hat and arm with binoculars, both recast spares from Dorset Soldiers. An added pistol in a holster from Airfix Multipose spares should suggest an officer’s side arm. A spare right arm had to be built up with wire and masking tape.
The standing firing Highlander also needed a small hole drilled into the missing arm stump with 0.9mm hand drill, a wire arm or armature added (secured with superglue) and built up with masking tape. Glue and paint stiffened and secured the masking tape, stopping it from unravelling.
This figure was easier to do because of the lucky fact that I had a battered Britain’s original Khaki Highlander standing firing figure in my collection to compare it with. This standing firing original figure also needed repair of a broken rifle, so I did that as well.
The looser repaired arms lack the neat slender precision of the original Britain’s limbs but provide character one-off figures. The repaired figures here remind me a little of the looser limbed but spirited poses of Heyde of Germany and Lucotte or Mignot figures of France.
Milliput might be easier for sculpting but I cannot use this due to a family / household allergy, so I used what I safely had to hand. I could have ordered and waited for further Dorset Soldier recast Britain’s heads, but impatiently used what Dorset heads or Prince August heads I had in my spares box, even though Prince August 54mm figure heads are a little bigger and heftier than Britain’s original or recast ones. It adds to the toy soldierness of the figures anyhow.
The final non Highland figure was the redcoated torso.
This was the trickiest figure, the Redcoated torso, as I was not sure who the maker was or what the original figure looked like. It had the chunky, slightly oversized look of an early Britain’s Fusilier but having no other fusiliers in my armies, I chose instead found a suitable Prince August line infantry spiked helmet. This would more closely match my other line infantry figures. The legs and base were easy enough to make out of matchsticks, masking tape and the usual Fimo feet and base to fit a tuppeny base for stability.
The right arm was half missing, so I drilled a small hole to insert a bent wire armature that would be both an arm and shouldered rifle all in one piece. Not the usual rifle position for marching or sloping arms, but it kind of works.
A few more useful finishing touches – NCO stripes, maybe some medals – should complete this tiny lead Frankenstein figure.
A satisfying few evenings’ work, mixed in with other figure repair work in progress on more Broken Britain’s, some more Zulus etc to feature in future blog posts.
Hopefully these once lost and battered figures are as bright and proud, as fighting fit as the day they were cast, painted and bought home from a toy shop in a red box. As shiny again as they once were before their curious fate to be bashed, buried and eventually found again over many years by a metal detectorist called Frank in the Southeast of England.
I have based them on tuppeny pieces and made them stout repairs to arms, legs and rifles, stocky rather than thin and elegant, as these figures will eventually will fight once more in gardens and on tabletops. Huzzah!
You might also be interested in my previous blog posts over the last few weeks about other toy soldier repairs.
Just two more tricky figures left from the figure part of the original haul, the headless driver figure who will become a pilot and a half a body figure in longcoat and gauntlets – possibly originally a pilot?
Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN on 11 January 2018.
This 1970s or 1980s (?) Military Modelling Manual article was kindly sent to me by fellow Peter Laing 15mm figure collector Ian Dury from his extensive collection of Military Modelling magazines and manuals. This was in response to my earliest crudest Fimo inspired attempts to repair some bsahed 54mm Britain’s and Johillco figures. Thanks Ian!
Having recently restored trashed metal detecting finds of toy soldiers, I appreciate how much work is involved in turning such damaged figures as the headless horseman on a legless horse pictured into the beautiful Yeomanry repaints shown throughout the article.
Some of the 1970s/ 1980s materials that B.S. Armstrong mentioned are still around.
Plaka casein based paints (now Pelican Plaka) and Testor metallics or Testors paint are still around and available online or from hobby / craft shops.
Plastic Padding “Chemical Metal from Sweden” is still produced by Henkel / Loctite and extensively available, likewise Epoxy Cements.
Interestingly Milliput or Green Stuff is not mentioned to do this job, suggesting this is quite an early article as it was widely used by modellers in the 1980s. I don’t currently use it for repairs as we have a family / household allergy to Milliput type products.
Nitromors or Daz as a paint remover? Choose your own tried and tested, safe chemical method!
Rose Miniatures as a source of heads and arms? Not sure about the heads but a list of recast Rose figures is available from John Eden Studios, who also produce the beautiful FANY First Aid Nursing Yeomanry figures on horseback here at http://johnedenstudios.com/page48.htm
No internet traces of Antony J. Kite of Castle Hill, Windsor replacement alloy heads for Britain’s plastics (Eyes Right?) Soldiers mentioned in the article.
However Brian Carrick commented: “Antony J. Kite of Castle Hill, Windsor, better known as Tony Kite was one of the great old gentlemen of the hobby, the Castle Hill address was a souvenir shop he ran. He produced several ranges of plastic figures under the Cavendish brand, Henry VIII and his 6 wives, Regiments of 1745 and Ceremonials. If memory serves right they were designed by Stadden. He passed away about 10 years ago and was an active supporter of the hobby to the very end.”
However Langley Models and Dorset Toy Soldiers both produce an extensive range of similar recast Britain’s Type heads, arms, horses tails, heads and legs. I recently ordered (May 2018) and received some recast arms from Dorset. http://dorsetmodelsoldiers.com
I will check by email whether GBE Toy Soldiers in Coningsby still produce their spares range, as their undated website suggests.
Buyer beware: Always worth checking by email, post or phone that the manufacturer of any of these ranges still exists before parting with cash! A small plea to figure makers: I wish manufacturers would make this more apparent on their website that they or their ranges are still currently in production.
I’m not too sure about the dreaded Lead Rot mentioned by B.S. Armstrong but I did seal trashed earthy metal destructor toy soldier finds once cleaned up with an outer coating of acrylic primer paint and the inner coating with paint or glue as much as possible could be oozed through holes such as missing legs or heads.
An interesting and inspiring article!
Inspired? Here are some of my previous recent blogposts on restoring Broken Britain’s:
Copyright remains with B.S. Armstrong for this Mil Mod article, produced in the days before websites, blogs and emails, I have no way of contacting him to ask permission or express my thanks for his encouraging article. I will withdraw this post if Mr. Armstrong he wishes. Hopefully he will be pleased that this article continues to inspire another generation of lead Dr. Frankensteins and toy soldier Remount and resurrection men.
All comments via the usual channels and comments page.
Alongside repairing some other Broken Britain’s figures, I have been painting and restoring these wrecked figures to gaming and playable condition or fighting fitness.
The aim is to give them the kind of glossy toy soldier factory painting bench finish that they might once have enjoyed.
Ahoy Sailors Ahoy!
A small Royal Navy Landing party restored from earth battered bodies.
Two bashed sailor bodies required a lot of restoration, although some of their original blue paint remained. These Britain’s sailors were once proud part of either the prewar Royal Navy Reserve set 151 or the second grade paint set Royal Navy Bluejackets Set 49N, an attractive simple fixed arm figure like one I have in my collection.
Legs were repaired or restored with matchstick and cocktail sticks, wrapped round and round with masking tape, then sealed with paint.
The sailor figures had no base and feet remaining. Fimo bases were made, fired and painted to match my other Britain’s figures which are mounted on 2p pieces.
A 1mm hole was drilled through the shoulder where the rifle is broken off to insert some 1mm metal to rebuild a barrel. This was thickened to rifle size again by winding a small width of masking tape around it.
Two sailor’s heads with different hats were found in my bits box, both recasts from Dorset Soldiers, and the neck and sailor scarf area built up on each one to take these heads.
These figure repairs need to be stout and strong as they will once again be in tabletop action or campaigning in the garden, H.G. Wells’ Little Wars style, albeit without firing real projectiles at them.
I do not use Milliput due to a family allergy, instead I use the masking tape, matchstick and Fimo (polymer clay) method of repair. I also do not yet know how to solder such small figures.
The pink or red cheek dot on the faces is a useful gloss paint toy soldier style trick. Nothing very Military Modelling or realistic about this type of face.
I worked on the swagger stick torso figure and made this figure out of him, using a peaked cap Prince August 54mm Toy Soldier head that I had previously cast in one of their traditional toy soldier moulds.
He got one of the disembodied pair of legs with puttees, along with a separate wooden leg. This (Crescent Models?) figure’s body is curiously rather short in the arms!
These Guardsmen needed both leg and rifle repairs.
Two of the broken figures were clearly Britain’s Guardsmen marching and firing.
After preparing new legs as required, replacementbases were made from Fimo (polymer clay). Metal replacement bases can be bought for some footless damaged Britain’s figures from companies such as Dorset Soldiers. As these are being repaired back to gaming or fighting condition, rather than restored to red box display condition, I thought Fimo and tuppeny mounted bases like my other restorations were suitable, as well as cheaper and to hand.
Until some suitable recast Guardsman heads arrive, I am showing these figures with a spare loose fusilier or guards busby head.
As these old soldiers are special, restored to life and recalled to the colours, I have given several of them suitable status with various stripes as Corporals and Sergeants / NCOs.
My favourite figure of this bunch so far is one of the most wrecked figures whom, with the addition of a Dorset recast bare head and moustache, I have made into a brave bare-headed Battling Sergeant.
This bareheaded “on guard” pose reminds me of Victorian Battle paintings. I have painted this brave fellow with the yellow facings (colour and cuffs) of the Buffs (East Kent Regiment), one of the popular Britain’s Toy Soldier Line Infantry Regiments.
This Sergeant matches two of the Buffs “on guard” figures amongst the Broken Britains figures recently given to me by John Forman, whose broken rifles I have repaired.
Compared to what he was a few weeks ago, he’s looking quite handsome! I like the fact that his painted red coat is still showing even after years in the soil and now sits within his new red gloss Acrylic painted tunic.
Next task – watch this space
Amongst the next figure challenges from amongst the metal detectorist’s finds are these fine kilted colonial Highlanders by Britain’s and John Hill Co. (Johillco).
I would love to know their previous history, past battles and how these battered toy soldier figures ended up in the earth to be found by metal detectorists decades later.
Great fun, I am really enjoying this quiet, slow and colourful restoration work.
Recently toy soldier collector John Forman very kindly sent me a small box of “Broken Britain’s” from his family collection which were otherwise going for scrap.
Some had lost heads, bases, hooves, rifles and arms from being played with by John and his father before him, these were the battered toy soldier veterans of battles going back from the 1960s into the 1930s.
Three Charging Highlanders
One such casualty amongst John’s Broken Britain’s figures was this charging Highlander. He had come off his base and had previously also lost his head.
I love this pose and pick these figures up at reasonable price if I ever see them. In addition to these three new repaired ones, I have about ten to fifteen Highlanders of this pose in various regiments to repair to make a small mixed unit.
In some cases I was repairing previous repairs, such as the traditional head repair of sticking the head onto a matchstick and glueing in place. This repair from many years before needed resticking.
Using a fine 1mm drill bit and hand drill (or pin vice) bought from Prince August, I drilled into the Highlander’s leg and inserted a short piece of 1mm stiff garden wire. If you run out, paper clip wire will do as well.
Drilling through the ankle right through to the base, it was then easy to fit leg to base, secured with a tiny drop of superglue.
To secure the weak ankle join into place, as these figures will be fighting tabletop or garden battles again, at the risk of slightly thicker looking ankles, I wrapped a thin bandage of masking tape around the glued and pinned ankle. A thin smear of superglue supports and seals the join. This masking tape ‘sock’ can later be painted in an off-white to match the other of the white spats or gaiters, worn over black shoes. The red tops to the white spats are tartan red socks
Two other Highlanders in John’s scrap pile had intact bases but broken rifles.
Out came the 1mm drill again and I drilled behind the rifle and hand into the body to secure a long piece of wire to make a new rifle barrel.
Alternatively you can clip or file the rifle back to the hand and drill carefully into this hand to anchor your wire rifle barrel, but there was enough rifle here on these two Highlanders not to want to lose this original section.
Wrapping a small piece of masking tape tightly round and round the barrel bulks out the 1mm wire to the desired rifle thickness and also gives a rough base for painting. I usually put a very thin line of superglue on the wire first to secure the first fold / wrap and then to seal the final fold. This stops the masking tape unravelling later on.
Looking at the surviving paintwork, some of the Highlanders seem to have an all gold or bronze painted rifle. I continued this colour scheme but painted an undercoat of black on first before putting on the top coat of gold or bronze.
I usually use Revell Aquacolor Gloss Acrylic paint (the square tubs) as they are low odour, dry fast and any brushes wash out easily enough, especially with a spot of washing up liquid. Unlike enamels, I find a second coat of Acrylic is usually required for good deep colour. They colour mix well enough and can be thinned with water. My current mixing palettes are plastic milk bottle tops.
The paint condition is playworn but reasonably good, with an attractive patina of past battles, so apart from painting the feather bonnets and hackles again, as this is where a figure is usually picked up, I have left them much as they arrived.
Which Highlanders are which Highland Regiment?
The repaired broken ankled figure with yellow cuffs or facings is an Argyll and Sutherland Highlander, Britain’s Set 15 produced in this style from 1903 onwards. The dark green kilt has light green stripes, according to Andrew Rose in his excellent book The Collector’s Guide to Toy Soldiers.
Our broken example has yellow facings on collar and cuffs and red kilt stripes, suggesting a Seaforth Highlander (James Opie, Britain’s Toy Soldiers 1893-1932).
The Black Watch have black cuffs or facings, a red hackle or plume in their bonnets and dark green kilts with black hatching or stripes.
However to get them battle ready, I based them on tupenny (2p) pieces. British 1p and 2p coins minted after 1992 are also slightly magnetic, handy if you use magnetic strip in your basing trays, travel or storage boxes. I attached the figure base to the coin with hot glue gun adhesive. The tuppeny base gives good stability during a game, storage and transport.
To cover the coin colour, I painted any coin metal that was still showing in several thick coats of chrome or sap green acrylic to near match the original Britain’s green base paint. A simple bright green base easily gives that old toy soldier look as the pink cheek dot on a toy soldier face. The faces on these figures had survived well and were quite ruddy cheeked. Being pre-war figure, they had the dapper dignity of a moustache painted on before Britain’s stopped this on routine figures postwar.
The repairs may not be pretty on parade but they are designed to be robust enough for handling in war games as H.G. Wells and Britain’s intended.
More Broken Britain’s to be featured in future blogposts.
And now Mancraft mending time over for the day, it’s time for coffee …
Having a mixture of Highlanders that I don’t want to repaint over the original facings (colours, cuffs) and mixed tartans, I have merged them all (“Royal Regiment of Scotland” style) into one Composite (Camp Coffee) Highland Brigade, following the inspired lead of Bob Cordery as he did did cleverly on his blog with his The Works sourced Cordery’s Composite Cavalry Brigade:
* If you’re puzzled, CampCoffee is not their Regimental Barracks, though it probably will become so. Camp Coffee is the Victorian liquid coffee essence, the one still with the Victorian style label Highlander and Indian seated drinking coffee together, although originally the Indian was a servant or batman. Their motto for this instant coffee and chicory blend? Ready, Aye Ready!
“Legend has it that Camp Coffee was originally developed as a means of brewing coffee quickly for military purposes. The label is classical in tone, drawing on the romance of Empire. It includes a drawing of a Gordon Highlander (allegedly Major General Sir Hector MacDonald) and a Sikh soldier sitting together outside a tent, from which flies a flag bearing the drink’s slogan, “Ready Aye Ready“. That was also the motto of the Frontier Force Rifles of the old British Indian Army, and the Frontier Force Rifles, now part of the Pakistan Army, still use the motto. In this context, the Scots word “aye” has the meaning of “always” rather than “yes”, and indicates, in the case of the drink, that it is “Ready Always Ready” to be made.”
The label has changed much over the years:
“The original label, by William Victor Wrigglesworth, depicted a Sikh servant waiting on a kilted Scots soldier. A later version of the label, introduced in the mid-20th century, removed the tray from the picture, and was seen as an attempt to avoid the connotation that the Sikh was a servant, although he was still shown waiting at attention while the Scottish soldier sipped his coffee. The current version, introduced in 2006, depicts the Sikh as a soldier, now sitting beside his former boss, and with a cup and saucer of his own.” (Wikipedia)
I rather like the new equality logo of both soldiers sharing a cup of tea together, and rather like the taste of Camp Coffee too! It has fuelled many happy hours of painting, this Victorian convenience product of Field Campaigns in the old Empire days.
There is another form of equality at issue here as well, as the original Gordon Highlander depicted is said to be modelled on the interesting figure of Sir Hector Macdonald or “Fighting Mac” –
Having lost soldiers in my childhood garden and found others on the beach recently, I am fascinated by these lost and found soldiers out on an “unending mission”.
Occasionally lost toy soldier figures turn up on online auction sites amongst the hoards and hordes of metal detecting trinket sites.
I spotted this interesting collection from a metal detectorist called Frank in the Southeast of England on offer for a couple of pounds. I asked if they were from one hoard or toy mass battlefield burial but they were apparently collected over many years and many sites.
Whilst I wait for some recast arms to arrive from Dorset Soldiers for my current Broken Britains restoration projects, I have been busy this bank holiday weekend in the sunny garden, gently cleaning these finds up prior to restoring what I can to fighting or parade fitness. The others will go in a display box.
I often wonder about the stories behind how such figures and toys came to be buried or discarded. Were they lost toys or were they discarded because they were broken in action or accident?
They once belonged to someone, probably a small boy. Did they lament their loss or hardly notice it?
Before I post pictures of the cleaned up figures, what familiar figures can you see in the online auction picture?
Hint You can see toy animals, soldiers and more. Enjoy!
Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, Bank Holiday weekend 5/6 May 2018.