Civilian figures # 1: the Zoo

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Trying to find interesting 54mm civilian figures is always a challenge. Apart from an unusual set ordered online from China, it usually involves looking out for figures with playsets or vehicles.

An expensive way to acquire a few figures!

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Parading Through The Zoo

It was always frustrating as a child to have a zoo or farm or a parade set out but no visitors  to watch; it usually resulted in lots of troops endlessly parading with their bands through the model zoo  (H.G. Wells Floor Games style)  along with assorted military staff feeding the animals, selling tickets etc.

Zoo animals were an important and long running part of any lead or plastic figure series, from Britain’s onwards.

To be fair, military bands and other forms of entertainment and display from balloon rides and fetes to fireworks to lifeboat launches were not unknown in the Victorian zoo such as Bristol Zoo. A bandstand was an everyday part of parks, seaside promenades, botanic gardens and often zoos.

This carried right through at Manchester’s Belle Vue Zoo from Victorian times into the 1950s, they staged elaborate military and historical tableaux through both world wars with a local cast of hundreds. Their theatrical stock of obsolete muskets were borrowed by the early Home Guard units locally in 1940.

http://manchesterhistory.net/bellevue/fireworks.html

Military mascots often ended up in zoos during after both World Wars  (including Winnie the Pooh at London Zoo) and an informal naval zoo existed, at Whale Island, this was a little uninspiring as a regular play or garden scenario.  http://www.europeana.eu/portal/en/record/2024904/photography_ProvidedCHO_TopFoto_co_uk_EU044495.htmlEven

Today, Edinburgh Zoo has a penguin called Nils Olaf  “commissioned” into the Norwegian Royal Guard and occasionally visited and paraded  by his fellow (human) comrades in their magnificent full dress uniform.

The Zoo and Wartime Morale

I have 1939 ‘propaganda’ press pictures of servicemen enjoying elephant rides at Belle Vue Zoo Manchester. This was sort of true of many British Zoos in wartime – there were  special rates for servicemen (and lady friends) in uniform, entertainments in WW1 for injured servicemen.

In the first few weeks of being closed to the public on ARP grounds in September 1939, London Zoo made arrangements for servicemen to walk round for the animals to look at. ‘The Zoo’ also made their canteen over to the RAF as the big houses around became RAF Regent’s Park full of training aircrew.

Britain’s and other lead toy soldier manufacturers made plenty of civilians and farm workers in the more pacifist aftermath of WW1. Plastic manufacturers haven’t widely followed suit and painted railway figures in this 54mm /1:32 scale are often quite expensive.

 

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Hong Kong farm girl, China made farm labourer and the real thing – Britain’s / Herald Farm Girl.

 

Failing the mounting of a full scale military parade through your zoo, Wild West town etc. all day and everyday,  some normal civilians are useful for floor games, sandpit games or  wargames.

F.E. Perry in his quirky First Book of War Games and Second Book of War Games often featured civilian or town settings alongside his wargames scenario / photographs.

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The 54mm female figure from the left is from the c. 2007 zoo vehicle  playset, whilst the “Marilyn” stylish 1950s unfinished painted figure is from recent Chinese plastics online purchase of civilians. (Photo / figures: Man of TIN)

These  feature sets  came from a zoo gift shop with two zebra striped jeeps handy for conversion, some brilliant wooden watch towers and rope ways (of which more anon), a couple of odd sized animals and these interesting modern civilians. Similar figures are made for dinosaur playsets.

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Something vaguely unsettling about this boy child in his simple factory paintwork. Useful photographer figure though!

Something similar to the girl child in the photos has recently been repainted and reused in a Slinkachu type way on the front cover of an art photography book about the recent group of artists / photographers playing with scale for satiric, unsettling or comic effect.

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Microworlds contains some slightly disturbing dystopian or to some tasteless items from a range of photographers.

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Another candidate to be my Man of TIN blog photographer? (from a 2007 zoo vehicle playset)

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More plastics including civilians are featured on my Pound Store Plastic Warriors sister blogsite –

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2016/09/07/pound-store-plastic-warriors-previous-blog-links/

Police and firefighters are now available sometimes in pound store tubes, suitable for conversion.

Back in the 1980s there were Britain’s Deetail nurses, doctors and  construction workers, not forgetting the Britain’s farm workers ranging from lead to Herald plastic and a modern farm worker range still around in toy shops or online today.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/tag/plastic-police-figures/

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/more-poundstore-warriors/

In future blogposts I will feature more civilian figures to be used for game scenarios from the Chinese made sets available online  to the useful USA manufactured  Toob “heritage” plastic figures roughly in 54mm, also purchased online.

Steve Weston’s Plastic Warrior website also feature an excellent set of Mexican Wild West civilians or peasants.

http://plasticsoldiers.co.uk/index.php/manufacturer/weston-toy-co/

Posted by Mr MIN, Man of TIN, January 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

Pound Store Wilko Heroes

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One of my Christmas gifts, these delightful 35 –  40mm  charging plastic soldiers … a crossposting from my sister blog: 

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2016/12/27/wilko-heroes/

Posted by Mark, Man of TIN blog, 28 December 2016

 

Pound Store Plastic Warriors our sister blog established

imageTo try to separate the joy of ‘Pound Store Plastic Warriors’ from the other gaming content on the Man of Tin blog, I  set up in early September a sister blog site for this material in future, subtitled “Little Wars on a Budget“:

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com

It will also extend my ‘free’ 3GB allowance of photos per blog on the WordPress site system as this is soon used up photographing games or figures.

A summary of some previous pound store links on the Man of Tin blog:

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2016/09/07/pound-store-plastic-warriors-previous-blog-links/

Some thoughts and links on Garden Wargames:

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/garden-wargames-1/

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Posted by Mr MIN, Man of TIN, September 2016.

 

 

 

Reverse Colours Khaki Redcoats # 1

 

As well as the odd redcoat repaint of dull khaki figures, some figure manufacturers did the opposite and painted their ceremonial or redcoat figures khaki.

This interesting khaki Scotsman figure joined my collection as a Father’s Day gift. It has a damaged base but was with several Johillco khaki figures.

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Left is the base of Johillco Khaki British soldier, right the damaged base of my khaki Scotsman. Figures: Man of TIN collection.

Several of these khaki redcoat figures are featured in the interesting “Unknown or Unidentified Manufacturers” section of Norman Joplin’s beautiful Great Book of Hollowcast Figures.

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Sketch book of possible Khaki highlanders – I think mine is a Charbens Khaki highlander. Figure / sketches: Man of TIN

Maybe this was wartime expediency, converting a parade or ceremonial range into utility khaki for topical or patriotic appeal?

Maybe this was a childish or parent overpaint?

Interestingly Norman Joplin notes of toy soldier manufacturers that: “Khaki was sometimes repainted with red or blue when Khaki uniforms fell from favour” (page 95, The Great Book of Hollowcast).

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Ladybird Leaders first information books No. 16 Soldiers with text by John West and illustrations by Frank Humphris (1975),  another of my bashed childhood information sources.

When Khaki replaced Red

Khaki came into use during Victorian Colonial Wars; the redcoats last were regularly worn by British troops in 1885 at the Battle of Gennis in the Sudan Campaign.

Insert your own reference to Corporal Jones in Dad’s Army here in his old red coat, fixed bayonets and “they do not like it up ’em!” Several companies now make redcoat and khaki figures of Corporal Jones.

The factual basis of Corporal Jones’ character in his redcoat and khaki days is set out here:  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lance_Corporal_Jones

A fascinating illustrated article on the development and decline of the Redcoat uniform in Britain and its ceremonial survival worldwide can be found here:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_coat_(British_Army_and_Royal_Marines)

Another good example of hobby learning: how technology of cloth, dye and weapon along with politics, geography, climate and (social) history are all to be found in the now deemed slightly odd but still pleasurable hobby of painting toy soldiers!

The two Boer wars were probably the turning point in tactics and uniforms, developing a trend for clothing matching the battlefield and climate that had unifficailly been going on in India and across Empire since the early Nineteenth century.

It was the end of black powder and smoky battlefields, an age of more individual fighting, snipers and improved rifles, not to mention binoculars, balloons and aeroplanes; all these made bright colourful uniforms too conspicuous. The French poilu soldiers in their red and blue, almost Napoleonic French flag uniforms learned this the hard way in the first years of World War One. The age of drab camouflage colours and in the toy world  “green army men” had arrived.

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The drab but interesting final page of Ladybird Leaders No. 16 Soldiers, 1975,  illustration by Frank Humphris. Interestingly  the Germans are not pictured in this book from about 1870 onwards.

Repainting the drab green toy soldiers in bright colours has been my mild reverse protest against the age of drabness ever since:

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Figure Painting / photo: Man of Tin
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Pound store warriors: Figure painting / photo: Man of TIN.

Other people’s repaint efforts now in my collection: https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/16/obe-repaint-figures-1/

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Airfix 1960 Infantry Combat Group  repainted as Victorian redcoat British Infantry (figure painting / photo Man of TIN)

Including my  Trumpton / Camberwick Green Pippin Fort inspired redcoat repaint of Pound Store figures and Airfix Japanese infantry:

RIP Gordon Murray, inventor of Trumpton, Chigley and Camberwick Green.

Happy hobby learning, painting, collecting and gaming to you all!

Posted by Mr MIN, Man of TIN, 30 June 2016.

Pound Store Possible Warriors # 1

 

Further Pound Store plastic warrior possibilities sketched out in my notebook!

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Roman infantry for A Modern Roman Empire from “The Gory That Was Rome”?

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Pound Store small ‘pirate’ copies of other figures. (Figures: Man of TIN)
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Pound Store Plastic Warrior Redcoat sketch (Figure / sketch / photo: Man of TIN)

From Pound store plastic red coat to “Berlin Gray” / Space police?

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Lots of paint conversion possibilities.

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I like the way that familiar figures randomly reappear in different sizes in pound store bags.

I have these three different scale versions of the original Matchbox WW2 US Infantry Radio Man and probably the original Matchbox 1:72/76 and 54mm ones from childhood somewhere!

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

 

DIY display for Pound Store figures

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A quick and easy teleport station for a space figure game?

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These tubes come with poundstore figure selections, although unusually the Fire Crew Wilko one has a moulded helmet on the ‘base’ or lid .

I like these great space graphics from this Wilko “glow in the dark” solar system (£3) – this was the tube and lid I cut down to make the display tube after assembling the solar system.

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Airfix British Redcoat Infantry 1960

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Trying out different colour schemes:  Airfix Guards Colour Party repaints escort the Governor General’s Daughter (originally / promoted  from the  Airfix Waggon Train) Photo/ figure paints: Man of TIN. 

Amongst the proliferation of so many plastic gaming figures today , I sometimes  wonder what would have happened if the gaming clock was a reset to 1962, the year of first publication of Donald Featherstone’s War Games book.

Imagine, Groundhog Day style, that all you had available (going back in an “it’s 1962 again” time loop) were conversions of these figures:

  • Airfix  S1 Guards band 1959
  • Airfix S2 Guards Colour party 1959
  • Airfix S3 Combat Infantry Group 1960
  • Airfix S4 Farm Stock 1960
  • Airfix S5 WW2 German Infantry 1960
  • Airfix S6 Civilians 1960
  • Airfix S7 Cowboys 1961
  • Airfix S8 Indians 1961

Donald Featherstone in his WW2 example game used Airfix figures and tank kits, featuring Set S3 Combat Infantry and Set S5 WW2 German Infantry. These gave me much pleasure as a gaming child as they were the same as figures that I recognised and had in our family collection.

By 1962 when Donald Featherstone’s War Games went to press and was published, the following lovely Airfix sets were issued, expanding the conversion possibilities:

  • Airfix S9 8th Army 1962
  • Airfix S10 Foreign Legion 1962
  • Airfix S11 Afrika Korps 1962
  • Airfix S12 American Civil War Union Infantry 1962
  • Airfix S13 American Civil War Confederate Infantry 1962
  • Airfix S14 American Civil War Artillery 1962
  • Airfix S15 Wagon Train 1962
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Some simple ideas on wargaming with the available figures 0f the time in this much thumbed (Ex-library) copy of Donald Featherstone’s Tackle Model Soldiers This Way, written in 1963. 

So circa 1960-62, what were the paint and conversion possibilities available to gamers then or vintage gamers today?

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From sketch book to first draft painting or repaint, I’m happy with the results so far with these Victorian British redcoat paint conversions of Airfix 1960 Infantry Combat Group:

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Still a few final details to add to these figures, along with some natives or opposition.

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The opposition could be these blue coated Danish style guardsmen, still unfinished in fine detailing.

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I hope the late Donald Featherstone would have liked these simple redcoat figures c. Airfix 1960/2.

Several years later, many of the conversion ideas of his and others featured in his book Military Modelling were made easier by production of WW1 figures, the American War of Independence figures and the Waterloo range.

Colonial redcoats could by 1966 be made from Airfix WW1 German Infantry:

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These are part-painted, first draft Victorian Redcoats formed from some spare  Airfix WW1 German Infantry, a suggestion made in books at the time.

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Unfinished / Rough first draft repaint into  Airfix British redcoats or steampunk VSF Victorian British infantry? Some more brass and silver required for steampunk! (Figures / photo: Man of TIN.)

And if these redcoats on land required any naval back up, Airfix Cowboys could make a passable Royal Naval landing party …

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turning these Cowboys (top right) from American Civil War infantry conversions into Victorian sailors something like these Fimo cake mould conversions sailors.

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More paint conversions and retro / vintage Airfix c. 1962 to share with you in future blogposts.

Back, back, back into the past in our Airfix time machine …

Happy gaming!

Posted by Man of TIN, June 2016.