This time I repaired and based a handful of some old battered Infantry Combat Group figures which Tony had painted grey but with colourful yellow and blue hats.
They reminded me of some of the oddly coloured helmets in our family collection of OOHO sized Airfix, often also yellow or blue helmets. I have no idea why. It obviously meant something at some time.
I thought Tony’s few figures could stay grey and keep their colourful original painted helmets, becoming vintage Airfix figures which are flocked and based in a modern way using Warbases MDF penny bases.
Oddly some books and websites say that the Airfix Infantry Combat Group came out in 1959 (others say 1960) so we’re issued possibly a year earlier than their opponents the German Infantry (version 1).
It wasn’t uncommon in early Airfix figures for Enemy or opponent troops to emerge a year or two later. Foreign Legion had to wait a few years for the Arabs, US Marines had to wait a year for the Japanese etc.
As a result c. 1959 /60, it might have been the only way to get a modern enemy to fight was to paint another pack of the Infantry Combat Group as grey opponents (unless the Infantry Combat Group took on the ceremonial rifleman of the Guards Colour Party?)
Many comment on the Infantry Combat Group’s modern rifles and helmets as being 1950s issue, certainly the National Service uniform of my late father.
So even if the WW2 German Infantry appeared alongside them in 1960, these Infantry Combat Group could still be painted as generic 1960s Enemy Cold War Troops (Russians, Tintinesque ImagiNations, etc)
More tempting archive / SOLD pictures on Barney Brown’s Herald Toys webshop
Rather than paint them green and add Tony’s battered figures to what is left of my few dozen Infantry Combat Group, I wondered whether they could stay grey and represent “the enemy” for training purposes.
This was a clever trick that Britain’s Herald did with their Fifties plastic khaki infantry – just paint them grey with black webbing as the Enemy.
Herald, Britain’s Lilliput and early Airfix British Infantry seem to have shared similar poses.
These photos are from the excellent Barney Brown Herald Toys website and web shop.
I had a number of the Herald Khaki troops as a child and have since acquired a few more in dribs and joblot drabs but I have never seen the Enemy Troops grey variant in the flesh (or plastic).
I love a good map on a blog or in a book. I noticed this beautiful map on Tony Adams’ The Woodscrew Miniature Army blog. He has been writing recently about his reimagined Earth in the form of his ImagiNations world Tian.
Please note his map is personal and copyright and not to be used or published without his permission.
Screenshot from Greg Shipp’s website Lost in Maps.
Tony has been setting out in print over several blog posts the background to his reimagined version of the world for his ImagiNations.
One of the interesting points he made is that his reimagined world and its armies c. the Eighteen Nineties has only coal and therefore steam power, but no reserves of oil or petroleum. So effectively, what some others would call ‘steam punk’.
As Tony says in his first Tian related post on Thursday 5th March 2020:
“In most respects my planet has evolved in the same way as Earth and has now reached the equivalent of the 1890’s on Earth. At this time however, progress has slowed in some areas. My planet’s development is firmly harnessed to the horse and steam train as the only forms of transportation and apart from the very earliest experiments in coal fired steam generation of electricity, the future holds no prospect of an Earth like oil based revolution.
Small quantities of oil for lubrication purposes and a little gas are becoming available as by products from steaming of coal for the production of coke for iron smelting but these are still very infant technologies. However, radio technology has advanced a little faster than on Earth and is at a level similar to that on Earth in 1918. In addition the telephone and telegraph are in widespread use and general industrial capabilities are very close to those on earth in the 1890s.”
I was intrigued by some of the colour schemes and set about repairing some of the American Civil War figures first. Hats of reddy brown, yellow and blue as painted by Tony many years ago were kept, refreshed or patched where needed. On a ragtag Confederate Unit, who would notice a bit of patching?
So there we have some new life breathed into some old figures, along with a few repaired rifles. I bet they thought in their tiny increasingly fragile plastic heads that their fighting days were over forever.
although in my mind they might be needed as ‘Japanese’ as I have ideas for an updated Gondal or Gaaldine type Bronte ImagiNations Pacific based island which is invaded by Japanese style troops 100 years after the Bronte’s 1830s / 1840s ImagiNation settings. A chance to use my spare Airfix first version Eighth Army figures as defenders (they are wearing shorts – perfect for the tropics) or use the ACW figures above as the Island militia.
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 …