Repairing Broken Toy Soldiers # 1 Waifs and Strays

A post about Repairing Broken Britain’s, Crescent and toy soldiers from other makers including these battered Hanks and Sutton Zulus, c.1912

54mm Khaki Infantry, Cowboys and Injuns, redcoats and home cast flats with an interesting back story, all needing repair. One of my winter projects …

See more toy soldier pictures here:

https://manoftinblogtwo.wordpress.com/2021/10/09/repairing-vintage-toy-soldiers-1-waifs-and-strays/

Posted on my Man of TIN Blog Two site, set up ready for when I reach my free 3GB capacity on my original Man of TIN blog WordPress.com here.

“And for the more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys games”

Famous or infamous quote from H.G. Wells https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2018/08/25/that-more-intelligent-sort-of-girl-who-likes-boys-games-and-books/

Female war gamers often describe themselves as legendary or mythical creatures.

Search around, there are now a fair number of female war gamers blogging (usually more fantasy than historical).

Other Mythical Creatures – https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2017/12/22/military-unicorns-of-the-world-in-colour/

Cards on the table: I am not a club war gamer or club board gamer, never have been and probably never will be. I have always been essentially an occasional solo gamer, but mostly a repairer, converter, painter, collector and general hack-abouter of toy soldiers.

However the ‘social history’ of gaming and war gaming is an interesting one to me as it spread out from a military training tool in the nineteenth century onwards via H.G. Wells’ Little Wars, avoiding a destructive swish of skirts on the nursery floor to a more diverse civilian audience in the 1960s and 1970s boom.

I was intrigued whilst casually researching ‘war games’ on the British Newspaper Archive to come across this curious snippet from The West Briton November 18, 1971 (interestingly around the Armistice / Remembrance period):

Wargame Society

“A meeting of wargaming societies from Truro School and Truro Girls Hugh School was held last week at Truro School to discuss the possibility of forming a Wargaming Society which would be open to members of the public of Truro.

About 20 attended the meeting, which was presided over by Mr. Derek Burrell, headmaster of Truro School.”

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What makes this noteworthy fifty years later is the words “and Truro Girls High School“.

Both schools are still in existence, both long established (nineteenth century) independent, fee-paying or private schools in Cornwall.

The time of the event is not surprising: 1971 was midway through the ‘first Wargames boom period’ from Featherstone’s War Games 1962 onwards with Airfix riding high: cue vintage wargaming sort of nostalgia.

A month or so later a further interview turns up in the West Briton, 20 December 1971: almost no mention of any girl gamers or female gamers.

Club spokeswoman sixth former Bob Aldridge on “Britain’s fastest growing hobby” West Briton, December 1971. (Bob Aldridge was still active on Facebook in the last few years.)

I can find no further trace of this Truro Wargames Society involving girls or female gamers.

As club members move on, it may not have lasted very long. Clubs schism over rules, scale and periods played.

A Fantasy and Wargames Society was announced in the same area in the 1983, according to the article, one particularly seeking female members to play Dungeons and Dragons.

Kevin Roke, organiser of a Fantasy and Wargames Society of Cornwall, (21 March 1983 West Briton) sought more members including women gamers. Keen to “attract some women, secretary Kevin Roke believes, the games being played have appeal not only for men.”

This type of press article is always fascinating, as bemused local journalists try to get their head round a quirky niche hobby and make it sound interesting to outsiders:

West Briton 15 December 1980 – Trevor Jones and Grant Pettit name checked – Grant is still active in the Cornwall Wargames Association Facebook group forty years later. Life-long lasting hobby!

An Armageddon Club of gamers also met in the Truro area in the 1980s, maybe not the most sensitive of naming in the Nuclear 80s when the phrase The War Game in the British Newspaper Archive ironically throws up multiple 1980s listings of the local CND groups showing ‘The War Game’ film in village halls.

Another West Briton newspaper snippet about a new Wargames West society was announced at a local boys club in Truro in 1993 suggesting the other 1971 Society or 1980s ones were no more?

As mentioned, the Cornwall Wargames Association and other SW games societies still exist, with a few outposts of Games Workshop stores down West and a declining number of local model shops.

Maybe other readers know more?

There may be some veteran Truro High School for Girls female war gamers in their sixties and seventies out there with vague memories in 1971 of pushing lead and plastic figures around a table

but sadly I somehow doubt this …

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Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, down far West, 2 October 2021.

Title Quote from H.G. Wells https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2018/08/25/that-more-intelligent-sort-of-girl-who-likes-boys-games-and-books/

Here is a bit of background research from early 2021 into the women around the Wells household when Little Wars was written.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2021/03/07/the-dread-broom-and-the-swish-of-skirts-jessie-allen-brooks-part-of-the-h-g-wells-household-floor-games-and-little-wars/

Harry Potter’s Headless Toy Soldiers in the Cupboard Under The Stairs

In several Harry Potter films, magical orphan schoolboy Harry is shown living under his aunt and uncle’s stairs, living on their charity and cast offs, playing with his Cousin Dudley’s cast off toy soldiers. These are all shown as broken and headless. Very symbolic …

Toy soldiers, wargames and chess sometimes appear in films, books and adverts as shorthand symbols for tactics, scheming and strategy (Bond Living Daylights film, Callan, The Crown.)

At the end of the first Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone book and film, there is a giant, living and deadly chess game that Harry and friends must play and win to solve their quest.

Image source: https://harrypotter.fandom.com/wiki/Toy_soldiers

According to Harry Potter fandom site, these toy soldiers apparently only appear in the film of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

The headless toy soldiers from “The Cupboard Under The Stairs” also appear briefly in the part 1 of the film adaptation of the final lengthy tome Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. They are briefly glimpsed as symbols of his deprived childhood as Harry leaves the magical protection of his neglectful blood relatives the Dursleys and their house on Privet Drive for the final time when he comes of age.

They did not appear in the books, although in a short interview clip with screenwriter Steve Kloves, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling approved of the film’s visual shorthand and symbolism of the headless soldiers, the “broken army” of cast out, cast off figures:

https://www.mugglenet.com/2012/09/video-new-sneak-peek-of-j-k-rowling-and-steve-kloves-conversation-from-wizards-collection/

The YouTube clip of the interview and film clip of the soldiers under the stairs is also here
https://youtu.be/XhnhHnViLCQ

Harry Potter screenwriter Steve Kloves interview quote – Screenshot from the attractively named Hello Giggles website!

Toy Soldiers as Symbols in Books and Films

Obviously the headless soldiers have a symbolic role, as toy soldiers in films usually have. They symbolise his abused, second class, neglected, cast-off status as an unwanted, unloved orphan child.

Symbolic headless soldiers – Maybe Harry Potter is both a helpless pawn or a increasingly clever game player in the quests and riddles that run through the Harry Potter books?

The Harry Potter fandom site suggests: “It’s not known if these toy soldiers were a cheap birthday present for Harry on one of his birthdays or if they were inherited toys from his cousin Dudley that he most likely no longer wanted.

It is not very easy from these screen shots to recognise which original figures they were, ones that the props department found headless or beheaded as props?

Anyone recognise the originals or makers of these figures?

https://whatculture.com/offbeat/45-easter-eggs-you-might-have-missed-on-the-making-of-harry-potter-tour?page=3

Gaming Scenarios?

Maybe a good Halloween fantasy scenario (Pauline Clarke, Twelves and the Genii or Return of the Twelves style) where the headless figures must seek out their heads or the headless soldiers are some zombie automata …

I enjoyed reading the Harry Potter books, and later watching the Potter films, partly for their punning wordplay and also for their look, both the CGI fantasy of Diagon Alley and increasingly grungy, gritty look as the real world and the magical world collide.

Related blog posts – book nooks

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2020/07/19/book-nooks-and-book-ends-from-bbc-news/

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 26 September 2021

Pirate Ship Playset Joy Ahoy – cross posted!

Out of scale crew and stylised pirate play set joy alert – Ahoy there, Ship Mates!

Re-Crewed on a smaller scale by my mystery 15mm Chinese pirates …

Crossposted from my Pound Store Plastic Warriors sister blog

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2021/09/18/pirate-ship-play-set-ahoy/

Home casting figures – functional repairs and old toy soldier DNA

Useful tools of the repair trade – pin vice and file – to repair a miscast musket.

Miscastings or half castings that are not too bad do not always go straight back in the ladle.

To avoid fumes and mess, I restrict my casting to days outside in warmer weather with no threat of rain; hot metal and moisture make an explosive mix.

As a result casting days (or days when I have time and feel like casting) are infrequent enough that I save the 90+ % figures that are ‘nearly all there’. I can then do some simple repairs on missing musket tips and other fiddly bits. Even missing heads can be swapped …

“Where’s your head at?” Missing a head, why not try swopping one with a Pound Store figure?

Such repairs that I make are usually fairly simple ones, such as drilling out a miscast musket to insert a short piece of wire.

Second casting session a few days ago – a few missing musket tips, heads and bows to repair.

On the repair tray where missing musket tips are replaced, heads swapped and bows repaired …

The perfect casting, the half cast musket and a masking tape, wire and glue repair.

Old Toy Soldier DNA

You might notice from photos that I often drill, file and repair over sheets of white A4 paper, which I have folded into four and unfolded again to make a cross shaped crease.

This is because I keep the metal filings, drilling ‘swarf’ and trimmings from old Hollowcast figure repair, roughing up the base when rebasing or cleaning up home castings.

From time to time during repairs, I carefully slightly fold the crease-crossed A4 page and slide the metal filings and trimmings into a small lidded pot.

Why do I keep this toy soldier ‘magic dust’ mixed together in a small pot of this “old toy soldier DNA“?

It not only keeps the workbench of my roll-top desk clean but it also means that I can then add a minute pinch of this unique and special mixture from time to time to the casting ladle when home casting.

Each new shiny casting might then have inside it a tiny nano-percentage of an old Britain’s hollowcast casting or old flat tin figure.

Each shiny new casting then might have a small part of all the accumulated bravery, courage and adventure from the countless battles that the old damaged hollowcast veterans (from various makers and owners) have been through over the last hundred years or more.

Reinforcements for Tradgardland, Lurland or Afrika?

A small number of these unpainted Schneider castings of pith helmeted Colonial figures and fierce Natives will soon be heading towards Alan Gruber at the Duchy of Tradgardland blog as reinforcements for his interesting Lurland and Ost Afrika campaigns.

http://tradgardland.blogspot.com/search/label/Afrika

http://tradgardland.blogspot.com/search/label/Lurland

Alan has sent me some interesting spare figures and heads to keep me busy throughout Lockdown, so this is a small thin flat thank you heading to the Duchy of Tradgardland Post Office.

Fight well my tiny men, you have the brave DNA of old toy soldiers in you!

Previously on Man of TIN …

Here is one of the first blog posts that I wrote back in 2016 “type casting”. My WordPress avatar / host page @26soldiersoftin is still named after these famous “26 soldiers of Lead” of Gutenberg (or whoever first said this quote).

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/27/typecasting/

We finish with a fine picture of a dapper, almost Duke of Edinburgh looking Donald Featherstone, casting away on the kitchen stove in his cheerily enthusiastic 1960s book Tackle Model Soldiers This Way.

“In the author’s house, everyone slaves over a hot stove”. Note the plate drying rack and safety equipment of a shirt and tie. An inspiration to us all!

Inspired?

If you want to have a go at casting, these companies sell new moulds and casting equipment:

Prince August (Ireland / UK/ EU) do some great starter sets at their website

https://shop.princeaugust.ie

or their official eBay shop mouldsandminis https://www.ebay.co.uk/str/mouldsandminiatures?_trksid=p2047675.l2563

Berlinner Zinnfiguren (Germany / EU) https://www.zinnfigur.com/en/Casting/

In America, Rich at Dunken has now acquired several old manufacturers’ collections of moulds https://www.dunken.com

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 17/18 April 2021.

Steadfast Man of Tin #2

imageAnother part of my collection of different  illustrated versions of the Steadfast Tin Soldier  by Hans Christian Andersen is this one illustrated by John Patience, undated but looking 1960s or 1970s.

John Patience was born in 1949, and you can see more of his work at:

http://johnpatience.deviantart.com/gallery/

http://www.patience.co.uk/john/

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A Napoleonic shako wearing set of tin soldiers with Danish blue trousers and white cross belts.

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A dramatic battleground backdrop for John Patience’s Steadfast Tin Soldier book.

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Strong black and white patterns along with a psychedelic wizard or jack in the box suggests a 1960s to 1970s date of illustration:

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Amphibious adventures for Napoleonic toy soldiers result.

Menacing rats …

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A very heroic lack of reaction …

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A  collage of real newspaper in this lovely underwater scene.

And then the tragic end or the romantic blending into a tin heart, at one with the ballerina …

The tin heart features in the Prince August mould.

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Posted by Mark, Man of TIN, April 2018.

Steadfast Soldiers of Tin #1

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A lost post draft from June 2016, in my first month of Man of TIN blog: I have several copies of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Steadfast Tin Soldier“, which was originally published close (1838) to the Brontes imagi-nations writing of the Angria and Gondal stories, also inspired by a box of toy soldiers.

The illustrations and story sections in some illustrated Andersen editions are darker and more troubling than others. A quick Google or Pinterest search on images throws up dozens of different illustrations for the Steadfast Tin Soldier.

There is more about Andersen’s disturbing or inspiring tale of ‘steadfastness’, interpretations of its psychology and its many variations from Balanchine ballet to punk songs on the Wikipedia entry for the story:

On his birthday, a boy receives a set of 25 toy soldiers and arrays them on a table top. One soldier stands on a single leg, having been the last one cast from an old tin spoon.

Nearby, the soldier spies a paper ballerina with a spangle on her sash. She too is standing on one leg and the soldier falls in love. That night, a goblin among the toys in the form of a Jack in the box angrily warns the soldier to take his eyes off the ballerina, but the soldier ignores him.

The next day, the soldier falls from a windowsill (presumably the work of the goblin) and lands in the street. Two boys find the soldier, place him in a paper boat, and set him sailing in the gutter … (Wikipedia summary)

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Rene Cloke’s illustrations for the Steadfast Tin Soldier.

25 Soldiers of lead (or tin), so nearly our blog title!

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Rene Cloke illustration.

Surely there is the opportunity for further adventures or alternative endings rather than what usually happens. Is this the making of a board game, a figure game, a new story?

The usual ending goes:

… the boat and its passenger wash into a storm drain, where a rat demands the soldier pay a toll. Sailing on, the boat is washed into a canal, where the tin soldier is swallowed by a fish.

When the fish is caught and cut open, the tin soldier finds himself once again on the table top before the ballerina. Inexplicably, the boy throws the tin soldier into the fire.

A wind blows the ballerina into the fire with him; she is consumed at once but her spangle remains. The tin soldier melts into the shape of a heart. (Wikipedia plot summary)

Prince August do a superb little home metal casting starter set based around the Steadfast Tin Soldier: http://shop.princeaugust.ie/pa111-the-brave-tin-soldier-mould/

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A very Danish Life guard design for the Steadfast Toy Soldier (Image source: Prince August home casting website.)

Metal and wooden toy soldier inspiration from the Steadfast Tin Soldier:

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Dorset Soldiers’ Toy Town soldier casting (photo / painted by Man of TIN)
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Wooden Toy Soldier Guardsmen and policemen from London Wooden toy building  sets (Collection: Man of TIN)
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Pound store pirate copy of German infantryman painted up in Toy Soldier gloss paints. (Painted / photo: Man of TIN)
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Charming toy soldier drummer boy brooch alongside wooden London guardsmen toy soldiers. (Collection: Man of TIN)

These steadfast toy soldier figure styles can be achieved by imaginative gloss paint schemes, such as these Pippin Fort Trumpton inspired figures using spare 54mm Airfix Japanese infantry.

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Steadfast Tin Soldiers or plastic Airfix Japanese Infantry? (Painted / photo: Man of TIN)
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Salute the Steadfast Tin Soldier! This one of my Prince August 54mm home cast guardsman was created as a rather heavy brooch gift with suitable backing clip. This is also My Man of TIN / 26 Soldiers of Tin profile picture / Gravatar. (Painted/ photo: Man of TIN)

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

The Hex Files – Thing are Getting Strange …

“Things are getting strange, I’m Starting To Worry, This could be a Case for Mulder and Scully …” (Catatonia)

On the distractions or gaming riches of binge watching box sets during Lockdown …

What series or TV programmes distract from or inspire your gaming scenarios?

Crossposted by Mark Man of TIN from my Pound Store Plastic Warriors blogposts

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2021/03/24/the-hex-files-things-are-getting-strange-im-starting-to-worry-this-could-be-a-case-for-mulder-and-scully/

Robert Louis Stevenson’s Toy Soldiers

Image source: Robert Louis Stevenson Museum / Nancy Horan / Pinterest

Reading again Robert Louis Stevenson’s toy soldier poem The Land of Counterpane on the Duchy of Tradgardland blog made me look again at some blog posts I had written about RLS’ toy soldier poems from A Child’s Garden of Verses.

I came across a link to these “old leaded soldiers” belonging to Robert Louis Stevenson at the RLS museum in California (currently closed due to Coronavirus):

https://stevensonmuseum.org/the-museum/collections/personal-objects/

Sounds a museum well worth a visit if you live nearby.

I wondered if there were pictures of these soldiers on their RLS Museum website or on the web of RLS’ “old leaded Soldiers”, RLS being a pioneer of early wargaming with his stepson Lloyd Osbourne, their battle or game reports written up stylishly in their “Yallobelly Times”.

I found this picture from the museum of these 19th Century (European? German manufactured?) tin flat toy soldiers with which RLS might have played these pioneer games.

Close up : Image source: Robert Louis Stevenson Museum / Nancy Horan / Pinterest

Famous as the author of Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson was also an early war gamer.

His role as ” grandfather” or “great uncle” in the history of wargaming (depending where you place H G Wells) was acknowledged by “father of the modern wargame” Donald Featherstone in his book War Games (1962), a book that began the hobby careers of so many of us.

RLS mention from Donald Featherstone, War Games (1962)

Stevenson at Play, a magazine article describes a complex strategic wargame that the author and his 12 year old stepson, Samuel Lloyd Osbourne, played in the early 1880s which you can read reprinted here:

http://vintagewargaming.blogspot.com/2009/11/robert-louis-stevenson.html

Stevenson’s complex game does not seem to have had the attention that H G Wells‘ Little Wars has had, even though despite the popgun driven firing system, there are many surprisingly modern features: four man units, concealed movement, ammunition logistics … well worth rereading.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 2 October 2020

Blog Post Script – some RLS and others toy soldier poems that I have featured on my blog over the years

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/13/block-city-rls-and-

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2018/02/17/more-dumb-soldiers-in-the-garden/

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/07/rls-martial-elegy-for-some-lead-soldiers/