Some bold and colourful ImagiNations repainting of a handful of Type 1 vintage Airfix Desert War OOHO figures by the Wargaming Pastor, author of the Death Zap blog (Strapline: ‘Anyone can afford wargaming’).
One of the aerial photo mysteries of the desert airstrip raided by my commandos was this curious heavy ‘brass’ biplane. A surprise gift from the family at Christmas …
Obviously this has the possible desk mount missing, just the screwhole fixing, and the propellor section missing. With the flux weld or solder marks and screws showing, this has a charming amateur, slightly stout DIY feel to it. Proper vintage …
Apparently the vintage shop had a desk mounted similar plane, and I have an old larger moulded ‘brass’ Spitfire in this desk style.
Such shiny desk ornament mounted planes are still produced and similar antique versions can be found online, in a naive faux trench art style.
Both van and biplane are very useful for games scenarios. I am reminded a little of Corporal Jones’ van in Dad’s Army …
Blog posted by Mark, Man of TIN on 22 January 2020
B.P.S – Blog Post Script
Dexey mentioned in his comments kits found on eBay to convert Lledo type vans into generic Armoured Cars. The pic-link I found below was a dead URL but gives an idea of what could be done with cardboard, plasticard etc. Most armoured cars in civil wars or irregular warfare were improvised lashups anyway.
Chatting by email to Tony Adams of the Miniature Wood Screw Army blog, he mentioned passing on a few Airfix figures that he no longer needed. I little expected an A4 jiffybag to arrive a few days later full of unwanted 1960s version 1 Airfix figures.
I find it interesting to see the mix and the range of paint schemes when buying the odd job lot of figures or seeing the OBEs on Hugh Walter’s Small Scale World.
This lovely gift was heavy on version 1 Afrika Korps but had an interesting early 1960s mix from the Guards Colour Party 1959/60 through to the First World War.
In Plastic archaeology terms this was a short stretch of time from Guards Colour Party (1960) to WW1 figures (1966), as the Version 1 figures were replaced from 1972. The version 1 Airfix figures are those used in Donald Featherstone’s WW2 game in his first book War Games 1962.
The beautiful paperback Airfix’s Little Soldiers (2010) by Jean-Christophe Carbonel has a useful Year by Year chronology of Airfix HO/OO figures. A book well worth getting for the pictures of the figures and their packaging alone.
Version 1 Airfix replaced by Version 2 Chronology
(based on Plastic Soldier Review and Small Scale World Airfix figure listings)
1960 Infantry Combat Group (British Infantry) replaced 1973
1961 WW2 German Infantry replaced 1974
1962 British 8th Army replaced 1974
1962 Afrika Korps replaced 1973
1962 French Foreign Legion replaced 1970-72?
1963 US Marines replaced 1979
The American Civil War figures were all produced in 1962 and the slender and versatile Russian and Japanese infantry in 1964 before the shift to slightly larger figures such as the WW1 figures which appeared in 1966. The Chunky British Paras appeared in 1965.
I wonder what was behind the change from the charming version 1 figures? Version 2 figures are often a scaled down (pantographed) small version of the equivelant 1:32 poses. Was it a change in technology or different sculptor?
Were the Version 1 figures deemed too crude or small by emerging metal figure and kit standards? Jean-Christophe Carbonel in Airfix’s Small Soldiers suggested that John Niblett sculpted lots of the Airfix HO/OO and 1:32 figures for Airfix until 1974 when Ron Cameron took over, Ron having also sculpted figures for Matchbox. Hopefully someone can tell me more.
By the time my pocket money was being spent on Airfix kits and figures in the early to mid 1970s, it was mostly the chunkier or more detailed Version 2 that was available. The same slender and smaller to chunkier and bigger figure shift can be seen in the Airfix platform and railway figures still available in hard plastic from Dapol. Was it a HO/OO scale issue trying to resolve the 1:72 / 1:76 thing?
Sadly figures of this age, condition and style are not accorded much value. Some of these charming Version 1 smaller figures that were my quiet childhood favourites are beginning to crumble now. Usually it’s just lost rifle ends but occasionally heads, arms and bases. These can be carefully repaired or replaced. I wish someone would recreate or recast the Version 1 figures in metal as vintage gaming figures.
Amongst the figures were some odd ones with slightly unusual hats that I take to be from their harder plastic and dark green colour to be Hong Kong copies.
There were some recognisable Airfix kit vehicle crews such as Bren crews (1964) and cut down Afrika Korps version 1 figures, amongst some unusual and very versatile hard plastic German seated troops. Manufacturer identified by Tony Adams (see comments) as Airfix kit crew for the half track towing the 88mm gun (1967). At around 60 seated infantry and 15 drivers, that’s a lot of half track kits ! A seated platoon may possibly be created.
It was interesting to see the change in size from Airfix version 1 to the larger Airfix Version 2 style, whilst also amongst Tony Adams’ figures were some larger pirate copies of other figures, seen here next to one of my Pound Store equivalent 32mm figures.
There were also some larger Hong Kong copies of Lilliput style Herald Britain’s 1958 1:72 or 54mm Herald 1953/54 Modern Infantry or Crescent 54mm Eighth Army figures.
I have a battered few of these Crescent 54mm Desert Rats, seen here in better condition set on Barney Brown’s Herald Miniatures website (archive pages).
Those familiar and classic Britains Herald plastic ‘British’ Modern infantry in 54mm (1953/4) were also briefly issued in 1957/8 as 1:72 figures, similar to the Britain’s Lilliput Range. These tiny figures weren’t issued for long, but long enough to be pirated in Hong Kong.
So the best of these figures will be repaired, painted up and penny based for Future Featherstone vintage nostalgia ‘War Games’ 1962.
With a bewildering variety of scale and figure choice today, harking back to the restricted pocket money choices of the Sixties child or adult gamer of my youth has some Featherstone War Games (1962) charms.
These figures have some unusual paint schemes, probably making the most of the figures in hand, along with cryptographic colour markings on the base that only Tony Adams would understand. Look at his Miniature Woodscrew Army and you will see similar hat, base and body markings for different branches of the armed forces still.
Thanks Tony, for sending these and the pleasant evening sorting through this Airfix Owl Pellet of the Sixties gamer into a Really Useful Box tray for future games inspiration.
Blog posted by Mark , Man of TIN, child of the 1970s nostalgic for version 1 Airfix, 2 August 2019.
B.P.S. Blog Post Script
The first figures repaired and put on penny bases. Have run out of spare pennies for now …
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.
I managed to finish my American Civil War skirmish today with my rebased vintage Airfix figures – The Battle of Pine Ridge River crossing – fighting for a railway bridge over a rocky ravine cutting of the good old Hicksville River USA, sometime in 1861 whilst zouaves still had confusing uniforms.