15 August 1945 VJ Day 75 2020

75 years ago today WW2 came to an end on 15 August 1945 with the surrender of Japan after the two devastating bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

As a result of VJ Day, my Maternal Grandfather Len on his Royal Navy aircraft carrier out in the Far East had to fend off no more kamikaze attacks. He was then able to sail home to safety, demob and family. VJ Day was secured at a high price in suffering and lives, civilian and military. These two dreadful ‘atomic’ bombs might be argued to have saved the lives of Len and tens of thousands of Allied and Japanese servicemen.

As on VE Day75 in May, I will get out my family medals and photographs of my grandfather (whom I never met) and quietly ponder them before VJ Day is over.

A time to be thankful and thoughtful.

The pandemic has shut down many opportunities to mark this as a national event and publicly remember the efforts of the surviving members of the “Forgotten Army”.

It may seem trivial to some to now mention ‘Toy Soldiers’. Many toy soldier collectors have strong interest in military history. It’s where I learnt a lot of my world history at a young age. There is a short historical article about VJ Day and the Japanese war effort in this month’s issue of Toy Soldier Collector International, illustrated with King and Country toy soldiers.

I don’t buy many wargames or toy soldier collector magazines, even before the pandemic shut the High Street magazine racks for a while. This Toy Soldier Collector International magazine August / September 2020 issue however caught my eye. I was able to browse the contents page online, ordered it online and it swiftly arrived by post straight from Guideline, the publishers.

The attraction? I spotted interviews with Steve Weston Plastic Soldiers and Peter Johnstone of Spencer Smith Miniatures. As I have bought figures from both over the years (see Blog Post Script), I thought it would be an interesting read.

Sadly Steve Weston plans no more new releases of his own 54mm plastic figure releases for the foreseeable future due to the costs of production and the current state of the market. He still has his very useful plastic 54mm toy soldier shop online, selling his own figures and many other makers’ toy soldiers including the quirky Replicants range http://plasticsoldiers.co.uk

Other interesting news in the Peter Johnstone article, well illustrated with his Shiny Toy Soldiers in 42mm, is the forthcoming release of his new 42mm ACW range. This is another bonus for the slowly growing 40-42 mm end of the market with these and Irregular Miniatures etc. No longer will ‘Spencer Smith ACW’ automatically mean 30mm.

http://www.spencersmithminiatures.co.uk/html/new_acw_range_in_42mm.html

42mm is the new 28. Discuss.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 15 August 2020

Blog Post Script B.P.S.

Some of my Steve Weston Toy Soldiers can be seen on my blogs here:

Mexicans https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/05/09/duelling-mexican-peasants/

WW2 British https://lookduckandvarnish.wordpress.com/2020/05/14/steve-weston-ww2-british-infantry-54mm-as-home-guard/

Spencer Smith Miniatures

Close Wars ACW AWI FIW 30mm https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/23/close-little-wars-scenarios-and-inspiration/

STS 42mm Boy Scouts for Wide Games

https://tabletopscoutingwidegames.wordpress.com/2020/04/03/empire-scouts/

Donald Featherstone’s Birthday!

IMG_2632If the father of modern wargaming were still alive, Donald Featherstone would be 101 today – Happy  Birthday!

Last year I marked his centenary with several blogposts including:

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/donald-featherstones-centenary/

I was delighted to discover this year, after reading recent articles in Miniature Wargames, that Don Featherstone’s collection of figures still exists – some colonials are in regular gaming use in the UK and the rest with his manuscripts and books can be seen in the collection of Daniel Borris in Canada. They can be visited by appointment. Daniel has filmed and photographed much of the collection to put them online on his website: https://www.borrisfeatherstone.com

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Toying with some eraser merchant ships I revisited Featherstone’s Naval War Games and noticed another interesting connection:

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2018/08/23/featherstone-and-co-naval-war-games/

Celebrating some of the “old guard” of the hobby, one of the figure makers that Don admired and contributors to Don’s Naval War Games book – Jack Alexander –  is 90 years old and still actively modelling ships.

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I always admired the Jacklex figures seen in Donald Featherstone’s books but had no idea where to buy them from in the 1980s, or if they were still made. His beautiful  Jacklex figures are still available from Spencer Smith Miniatures and so a few maybe added this year to complement my vintage Airfix figures, just as Jack intended in their size and design. http://www.spencersmithminiatures.co.uk/html/jacklex.html

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There is also a delightful blog about Jacklex, well worth reading and following.
http://jacklex.blogspot.com

Another excellent Featherstone related and still active blog is by Rod MacArthur, one of Don’s original 1960s young opponents in Southampton, His blog Rod’s Wargaming features some great Airfix conversions, some like the Zulus cast or aided by Don himself.

https://rodwargaming.wordpress.com/about/

Happy Birthday Donald F. Featherstone! His simple book War Games (1962) is still one of my two Desert Island gaming books. I like the simplicity of his rules including his Close Wars appendix. https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/09/close-little-wars-featherstones-simplest-rules/

Still inspiring many gamers today!

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN on 20th March 2019.

Spencer Smith Figures for Close Little Wars

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As good and simply cast and sculpted on the back as on the front, right down to the raccoon skin tailed hat and knapsacks. (Photo: Man 0f TIN)

Peter Johnstone still sells the Spencer Smith Miniatures range of figures from the 1960s. http://www.spencersmithminiatures.co.uk

They prove interesting and charming toy soldier figures for my favourite rules /  Close Little Wars scenarios based on Donald Featherstone’s Close Wars two page appendix to his 1962 book War Games.

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You may recognise them from the example American Civil War battle photographed for his  books.

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As well as these white metal figures (as yet unpainted) I also have some 30 year old original hard plastic 30mm American Civil War Union troops. For some reason I never bought any opposition, no doubt distracted by another project.

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These packs of Spencer Smith plastic figures seemed a very good deal at the time. The figures are still available individually in metal.

 

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I was especially pleased to recognise these figures in the first Donald Featherstone book War Games (1962) in the Horse and Musket rules for the American Civil War.

Using Featherstone’s appendix 2 in this book to form the Close Little Wars rules I use on the table or in the garden (without a hex scape grid ), there is little role for many if  any massed Cavalry in the cluttered terrain.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/09/close-little-wars-featherstones-simplest-rules/

However here are some fine US or Union Cavalry, again showing their age since schoolboy painting 30 years ago.

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I really like the size, animation and simplicity of these figures. Few of the other SSM figures have survived in my collection, apart from unpainted metal samples, yet  the 18th century figures would work equally well against his small range of natives for French and Indian Wars of the 1750s or American War of Independence in the 1770s.

There is an excellent gallery on his website showing many of these 18th Century figures, including some contributed by Miniature Wargames editor Henry Hyde:

http://www.spencersmithminiatures.co.uk/html/gallery01_0.html

Blog posted by Man of TIN, June 2016.