My local history research project talk on WW2 in my local area (as a fundraiser) was postponed by COVID from autumn 2021 to late May 2022.
I think the NGY Irresolutions 2020 will still stand after a year or two interrupted but who knows what might happen in 2022?
New Gaming Year’s Irresolutions 2022
In no particular order
1. Cataloguing Peter Laing 15mm figures as part of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the now out-of-production Peter Laing figures, possibly the first 15mm figures when they launched in October 1972.
As well as cataloguing what I have over the next ten months, fellow members of the Peter Laing collectors circle on MeWe have been helping me identify figures and supplying photos of figures I don’t have. Then there’s painting and basing more of my unpainted Laing figure stash and getting in some more 15mm skirmish games?
Peter Laing 15mm Chasseurs d’Alpins (WW1 Range) complete with walking sticks!
2. England or Cornwall invaded – Variations on Operation Sealion / Leon Marino
Still playing around with skirmish ideas as part of my Look Duck and Varnish Blog ongoing Operation Sealion Home Guard games, but also found out more about the WW1 ‘Gorgeous Wrecks’ or Volunteer Training Corps, good for futureVTC Wide Gamesand Victorian / Edwardian / WW1 era ‘what if’ games.
Arma-Dads Army! 1590s Home Guard Elizabethan Muster of conversions and ECW figures against the Spanish Fury, Chintoys Conquistadors and pound store Pirates …
Two Britain’s Ltd. broken Scots charging – a favourite pose – with part repaired rifles, two more figures from the Waifs and Strays group of figures 2021 – “Waifs and Strays” sounds like it should be a Victorian Regimental nickname.
4. I look forward to some more enjoyable tinkering with 54mm repairs of broken lead figures to add to various units. Over the years I have been stashing away battered and broken figures from various donations – cowboys, Indians, redcoats, Scots and Khaki figures – along with the odd intriguing figure bought online.
Arrived last year and put away for Christmas – some very heavy, solid lead and fairly paint distressed Terraton 54mm-ish German semiflats to repair and rebase. Indians, redcoats, trees and farm animals …
5. What else might happen?
Weather permitting maybe will even get some more home casting done outdoors?
Pound Store Plastic figures, Early War Miniatures 1940 Range (for Svenmarck invaded!) and vintage Airfix OOHO figures to restore or rebase for some skirmish games.
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’).
In my battered (and so affordable) copy of The War Game (1971) by Charles Grant, the final chapter XXX lists War Games Figures and Equipment –
After a roll call of eight 1960s now classic / vintage figure makers, the last at No. 9 is surprisingly Airfix Ltd. –
No. 9 Airfix Ltd, Haldane Place, Garratt Lane, London SW18
“It would be improper not to mention the products of this firm, whose inexpensive plastic war games figures (20mm to 25mm – they do vary) have started the career of many a junior and not a few senior wargamers.”
“They are quite the cheapest on the market (about 15p for boxes of 20 to 30 figures) and the war-gaming world owes Airfix a not inconsiderable debt.”
The “war-gaming world owes Airfix a not inconsiderable debt” … true words indeed.
By 1970/71 when this book was written, Airfix had by the mid 60s issued horse and musket era figures for the American Civil War, the first Waterloo figures arrived in 1969 although the most suitable American War of Independence bicorne and grenadier figures for The War Game had yet to arrive, advertised in the Airfix Catalogue and Airfix Magazine for late 1971.
Had they been available, a few well placed Airfix box pictures of these AWI figures (as Featherstone did for the latest Airfix releases in his books) would have done much to make The War Game 18th Century era even more accessible to many war gamers.
No Airfix figures appear on the hallowed pages of Grant’s The War Game.
Ironically all the photographs in The War Game book are of Charles Grant’s 18th Century figures, mostly Spencer Smith Miniatures in 30mm plastic that appeared to have vanished by 1971:
Chapter II – “The bulk of the photographs used in this work to illustrate various tactical points and battle narratives show 30mm figures. It is sad they are no longer obtainable, especially as they were do startlingly inexpensive that a few shillings would enable one to recruit a brigade or a regiment. They were immensely durable …”
Interestingly, just as Spencer Smith figures disappeared for a time, Airfix historical figures like the AWI sets often disappeared from the Catalogue and the shelves in the 70s and 80s.
I do recall that SSMs reappeared in plastic c. 1982 in the back pages of gaming magazines at affordable bag prices for me to buy a few ACW figures.
Plastic SSM figures from the 1960s are now becoming brittle with age, snapping at the ankle or hoof joint, like some 1960s Airfix figures also have.
Charles Grant’s Battle! WW2 Wargaming book has recently been reprinted with additional chapters from the first incarnation as chapters or articles in Meccano Magazine in the 1960s to 1970 when Battle! was first published in book form.
Here is a Wargames Illustrated “flip through”of Charles Grant’s Battle! book on this short video on YouTube: photographs in the book clearly shows early Type 1 Airfix figures in action. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=0JW9-pcLaw0
More of my childhood Airfix Veterans painted and based for the first time.
These OOHO Paratroopers’ figures Set S23 were first produced in 1965, sculpted by John Niblett who produced many of the slender first version Airfix figures.
Some of these “bunch of chubsters“, as Gary Cumston light-heartedly called these figures on this Facebook group (below), have fought bravely in my boyhood battles since the mid 1970s, but oddly never got painted. Maybe their useful khaki green plastic handily required no painting?
They were indeed tall “chubsters”, compared to the slender Version 1 Airfix infantry figures that preceded them.
Parachute regiments were usually made up of men from many regiments and sources. The same is true of my Airfix Figures. These are mostly the green colour 1970s ones but some brown 1990s Playset Coastal Fort / Gun Emplacment ones crept in. (Why make them in brown?)
Now my childhood elite veterans have been joined by a few 1960s/70s figures from Tony Adams and my former work colleague and friend Ken from his 1960s/70s tin of Airfix. Their figures are suitably coded with initials under the base.
To consider this chubster question, what better than to look closely at the figures, whilst painting up and basing some of these veterans?
Yes I know it’s a Bazooka rather than a PIAT. Support weapons mounted singly except mortar team vignette. Scrim helmet experiments (see later in post).
*** Digital camera or iPad photos do tend to show up forgotten or unpainted chin straps, mouldlines and flash etc but I have to remind myself that on the games table, you are seeing them at a distance. These are old figures / moulds too. ***
A few figures and fine fiddly bits were missing from my childhood originals including the two part mortar and base, the officer checking his watch with his “whatever” hand signal and the two deflated parachutes. I searched around and added these from my unused brown plastic 1990s play set figures, many of which were still on the sprue.
There are some surprising details to paint on these rather generic allied Paratroops like the ‘monkey’s tail’ tailpiece or crutch strap, that ran from back to front to button up the smock tight whilst parachuting.
Illustrations – Airfix boxes 1970s OOHO called generic ‘Paratroopers’ – with a US Airborne look on the left? – in this still used artwork by Brian Knight. Source image: Plastic Soldier Review.
The box art illustration by Airfix artist William Champion from the second version British Paratroops 1:32 boxes (shown in Denison smocks below) – still in use 2021.
Where can I get some?
WW2 Airfix OOHO or 1:72 figures seem to go in and out of production, as the British Paratroopers currently are (summer 2021). Recent releases of the Paras up to Red Box packaging style (2012) onwards are still around online for much the same price as the OOHO figure selection currently on Airfix.com
Airfix 1:32 British Paratroops are being re-released late summer 2021.
Painting my Paras at last
I had intended at first to do my usual childhood ‘Airfix basics’ simple painting of black boots, flesh faces and weapon colours.
Usually I use Khaki Afrikabraun for faces as it is not quite so pink and bright pale as flesh paints usually are.
Once I had painted in packs, gaiters and webbing in Khaki (Afrikabraun Matt in Revell Acrylic Aquacolor), it became necessary to use Flesh for the faces toned down with a hint of khaki or green. Any other webbing colour from the paints that I had available and had tried was too grey. I hadn’t considered using any washes at this point.
Afrikabraun – gaiters, webbing pouches and haversack
Tar Black – for boots and weapons
Leather Brown – for hair and wooden parts of weapons
Silver and black mixed for gun metal and grenades
Dark Green – for helmets
Shade and Wash?
Having done the old Airfix figure basic colours, I thought I would try some Citadel shade wash to pick out the detail and shadows of pouches, clothes and faces. I used a Christmas gift from the family last Christmas of Citadel Shade Athonian Camoshade (dark green) and Agrax Earthshade (brown). Nuln Oil (black) was generally too dark.
Flocking and Basing (F and B)
MDF 1p Penny bases from Warbases were used for individual figures, Tuppeny 2p MDF for lying down figures and support weapons.
Apart from lying figures, figures were glued with UHU onto these 1p bases before painting started. It makes them generally easier to paint.
The flock used was a mixture of several Woodland Scenics flock types, some Jacklex packing sawdust, fine beach sand and beach micro-gravel (gathered from beach trips).
PVA Glue mixed with brown and green craft acrylic was placed by cocktail stick onto the Airfix figure base and MDF penny base before burying them in flock in a small tray.
A little later, the figure bases were buried in a tub of the fine beach sand and micro-gravel.
Uniform Research – Denison Smocks
Some online sources, painted sample figures in ads and book illustrations show quite garish bright washes of brown cream and green for camouflaged Denison smocks.
Initially I did not even intend to paint the green sections of these already khaki green plastic figures, unless they required this like Tony Adams’ grey painted figures or the 1990s Brown issue Airfix OOHO Paratroops.
Once I had done the green or brown wash, I thought this might suffice.
However, having done the Citadel wash which seems at first to add a shine on matt colours, I went back and spent some time adding brush shade mixes onto the Airfix plastic green base colour of Olive (dark) Green and Dark Earth (brown) Revell Acrylics.
Whilst I did this, I listened for the first time to the DVD Special Features film makers’ commentary by “special effects, designers, cinematographers and film production staff” on my trusty A Bridge Too Far DVD.
After I had done this and it had dried, I couldn’t easily tell what I had done, which is hopefully the opposite of garish.
Early Denison smocks were supposed to slowly fade and the colours wash out.
These familiar Airfix Para figures seem to hold up well enough for me for gaming, especially considering that these figures that are almost 60 years old. Their modern equivalents are probably these 28mm Warlord Games Paras or any other plastic 1:72 / 1:76 British Paras you can find.
A Bridge Too Far 1977 quote: Anthony Hopkins as John Frost: “D’you know something’s just occurred to me. We’re wearing the wrong sort of camouflage … all very well for the countryside but I doubt if it’s going to fool anyone in the town …”
I tried this out but found my old time-expired bandages, once cut up were more like cotton fluff plastic than cloth, so I only did one trial figure in this style. I then trimmed a few millimetres of edging from a green gaming cloth, which had more of a weave to it and the benefit of green shade colours. I tried this finely chopped material out on a damaged figure and a few lying figures.
To Scrim or Not to Scrim and how?
Scrim Plus point: It does hide the unfortunate mould rim line or dent across across the top of the helmet.
Scrim Minus point: Many of the archive pictures that I looked at did not show British Paratroops with helmet scrim net or a leafy head scrim.
I want these figures to be as versatile for (ImagiNations) gaming in different theatres as possible, although generally on grass flocked bases.
What do you think?
Essential Reading Matter
Wargaming Airborne Operations by Donald Featherstone (1977) – same period as A Bridge Too Far film. The appendix sections show Airfix publicity shot pictures of the new German Paratroops OOHO and German Mountain Troops, along with OOHO British Paratroopers with minimal painting style.
In the game photographs, it shows that generally Featherstone barely painted his British Paras, or the newly released 1974-76 issues of Australian, US Paratroop, German Paratroop or Mountain Troop Airfix figures.
By chance, timely figures or the stimulus for producing this book?
Interestingly he also hadn’t added or updated to the Version 2 British Infantry or German Infantry, still using his Version 1 Infantry Combat Group and German Infantry from his WW2 game in War Games (1962) fifteen years earlier. Along with Matchbox US and German Infanty, he had surprisingly used Atlantic German and US Infantry in his games though instead.
Osprey Combat: British Paratrooper versus German Fallschirmjager (Mediterranean 1942-43)
A Bridge Too Far by Cornelius Ryan (extract) from True Stories of World War Two (Reader’s Digest). This thick hardback book of extracts was a welcome teenage Christmas or Birthday present from my parents.
“Hard to choose from the raft of westerns and 50s/60s war films and Battle Victor comics etc, the Zulu, Waterloo films mentioned. Probably ‘A Bridge Too Far‘ from its plan of ops beginning, suggested flaws before the gliders launch, its series of plucky little character vignettes, unlucky blunders, plucky heroism, independent individual skirmish actions and IGO YUGO-ness (now the Allied side, now the German side). Obviously the same could be said of The Longest Day and Battle of the Bulge movies, all a bit mashed together in my head. This happened roughly around the same time as finding Donald Featherstone’s Airborne Wargaming book from the library.”
This film has its detractors https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Bridge_Too_Far_(film) but this broadly accurate film by producer Joseph Levine, scriptwriter William Goldman and director Richard Attenborough is a suitable memorial to many brave young men who died in this tragedy of human flaws in the planning and general bad luck.
Like Attenborough’s earlier film version of Oh What a Lovely War! and many late 1960s and 1970s war films, it is arguably / almost an anti-war film. (‘Discuss’. Film Studies 101).
These Para figures will one day grace the gaming table again as they did in my childhood and teenage games but probably not in a historical reenactment game.
Maybe in ImagiNations games as the First Angrian Parachute Brigade?
I have kept the paintwork on any ‘new’ figures or any refreshed paint style very simple to match the original figures. No washes, no outlining straps and cross belts, and also no varnish (yet).
These early 1971 Airfix AWI figures have a surprising amount of detail to choose to paint or not to paint such as pigtails, powder horns, straps, turn backs, facings and buttons. Plastic Soldier Review are not so impressed by these vintage 1971 figures: http://www.plasticsoldierreview.com/Review.aspx?id=43
I wonder if one day the original painter of these “King’s Guard” figures will spot these figures online and recognise their handwriting and their handiwork?
Future vintage Airfix plans
There are several more colourful but undermanned ImagiNations units from the original plastic bag hoard who need reinforcements –
Recently Ian M. Dury my fellow Peter Laing collector posted the remains of a surplus box each of Airfix British Grenadiers and Washington’s Army to add to the colourful Rainbow ImagiNations figures. Thanks Ian. Ironically they will probably delay some Peter Laing figures on their journey across the painting table.
Naturally these are now marked up on the bases as ID, ready for future painting, along with a handful from Tony Adams (TA) and about half a box from former colleague Ken (KA) of Washington’s Army figures.
Having no intention of starting proper historical Napoleonic gaming, this gave me leave to experiment with colour and ImagiNations using these familiar vintage figures.
I searched and found some side and back views as well again from Etsy:
Although not exactly the same, the Wade figure having a longer tail coat and no gaiters, it gave me an idea of how to develop these spare random Artillery figures and a future use for any stray French shako troops that I might find whilst sorting.
The first attempt painting involved a multi racial unit but somehow the ones painted with darker skin tones worked better (Revell Aquacolor Acrylic Dark Earth colour).
An attempt at a flag colour. Blue sky, sandy beach?
One of my family said they thought the figures had a Caribbean look to the bright uniforms.
Equally they might suit the Bronte ImagiNations islands Gaaldine and Gondal set in the South or North Pacific.
Borrowed a couple of Esci French Napoleonic Artillery pieces that I painted in the 1980s
I have painted a few Airfix Waterloo Napoleonic French Infantry (including some chewed up or melted ones) from the same gift to join with firelock troops from the Napoleonic Artillery set.
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).