Thursday, 27 December 2012

Reprinted Book - Collectors Guide to Plastic Toy Soldiers 1947 - 1987

Just before Christmas I received a note from long time collector and toy soldier dealer George Kearton to say that his book  COLLECTORS GUIDE TO PLASTIC TOY SOLDIERS 1947-1987 had now been revised and reprinted, and here it is:

I should declare an interest in that I was a regular customer of George's when he was selling toy soldiers back in the 1970's and more importantly that I have not actually seen the new revised edition (well not yet anyhow) but here is what I wrote about the original on my old website back in 2002:

"This is an identification guide showing nearly 900 figures from over 80 manufacturers worldwide, there are 43 black and white plates covering categories such as the Ancient World, Robin Hood, US Cavalry, Napoleonic Wars, First World War, Arab World, Pirates, etc. The size and clarity of the pictures has been criticised but this remains probably the best reference resource for plastic figures that there is. Published in a limited edition of just 1,000 copies.  Long out of print but the author is considering a reprint."

Here is what George told me about the additional content in the revised reprint:
"The book has new covers (picture attached) and the following new material:
A new introduction
A very kind appreciation/retrospect by Peter Cole
An article "Grumpy Old Soldiers" which I wrote for Plastic Warrior some years ago.
A piece about my toy soldier museum from 1984, courtesy of Old Toy Soldier Newsletter.
A copy of one of my original mail order lists from the early 1980's listing over 700 items !
The price is £12.95p plus post and packing. It's available through ebay if people search under my user ID 69birley"

Edited by John Curry who is well known for his History of Wargaming Project, the revised addition has 82 pages, ISBN 978-1-291-08553-2.  There has long been a demand for this book to be reprinted and at this price I consider it offers very good value.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

C18th dioramas by John Jenkins Design

With my current kick for the 18th Century growing stronger I was pleased to see these rather fine dioramas on the JJD stand at the December 2012 London Toy Soldier Show.

A lively set to, which I assume to be Culloden but could be any of the clashes from the Jacobite Rising/Rebellion.  The very thought of painting tartans fills me with dread but I can't help feeling that I'm being drawn in by the wonderful animation of those Highlanders.

These Prussian Grenadiers could have just jumped straight off the canvas of the famous painting DieSchlacht Von Leuthen by Carl Rochling, inspiring stuff, I just wish I could get my humble Frederickians to look that good!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

King & Country WW2 Italian Askaris

On Saturday I went to the December 2012 London Toy Soldier Show, which is now operated by Guideline Publications and has moved venue to the Business Design Centre in North East London.  The new venue is large and airy and easy to find but people generally don't like change and a number of the stands I had hoped to see felt the move was a journey too far, in fairness driving in this part of London is a nightmare and parking costs an extortionate £30.  The Skirmish Wargames Group who have to bring most of their kit by public transport did not make the show, this was a major blow to me as the SWG game is always a major highlight of my day.

So what was there to see?  well lots of nice modern metal figures but not a lot to speak of in the way of old toy soldiers, nothing to get the blood racing at any rate, so I have a few bits but not a lot to share over the next few days. 
One thing I did like was this mini WW2 diorama on the King & Country stand, I don't know if this is new but I don't recall seeing it before and as I have "thing" for Askaris I don't think I would have passed it by, I particularly like the Bersaglieri motor cyclist and the chaps in the tower having a piggy back!

I should mention the change of location for the show was forced on Guidline due the proposed redevelopment of part of the previous venue, the organisers have done well to find and alternative site but the show was moved out from Central to North East London once before without success!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The mid C18th game begins to look like a campaign.

Earlier in the week I set the scene for the next play test of the 54mm C18th wargame rules, this time a Hanoverian army were offering battle so the storyline was altered a little: Having previously seen off the French Army Lilly White, the Frederickians have rushed to intercept "Pragmatic" Army Red, while they are strung out on the march, and prevent them linking up with the remains of the Lilly Whites.

The opening move sees the "Pragmatic" Army marching into the safety of a strongly defended town but a forced march by the Frederickians on a convergent road threatens to cut them off so they prepare a rearguard action to hold the bridge open.

The Frederickians deploy, cavalry on the left, infantry centre and right, guns on the heights by the old churchyard.

The town nestles in the bend of a wide fast flowing river, the banks are broad and marshy, the main road crosses a sturdy stone bridge and turns into the town square, a small track leads out of town over a rickety trestle bridge up to the church on the hill.

A hasty reconnaissance shows the town is well prepared with entrenched guns covering both bridges and a wide field of fire.

The garrison hastily stand to as the shout goes up "the Frederickians are upon us!".

"Pragmatic" Army dragoons take up position on the bridge while two regiments of infantry stiffened by a composite battalion of grenadiers form up to hold the road open.  Further out, two regiments of horse and another of dragoons hurry towards the bridge.

Five regiments of Frederickians march in oblique order across the face of the enemy to concentrate against the two regiments holding the road, while their cavalry wheel to the centre and charge home on the "Pragmatic" line.

Enfilade fire from the guns across the river drill through the Frederickian lines with devastating effect, further punishment is inflicted by volleys from the line, the bridge and the garrison.  The cavalry charge breaks against the "Pragmatic" line and is countercharged in flank by a regiment of their horse.

The Frederickian infantry reach their objective but an entire regiment lays shattered in the fields behind them.  On the right there are not enough troops to effect a breakthrough and the attack collapses, in the centre two regiments fall upon the remnants that have just withstood the cavalry charge and wipes them out, on the right the regiment of fusiliers turn aside to face the second regiment of  "Pragmatic" horse who are closing in from the flank.  A volley fails to see off the horsemen and after a short melee the fusiliers are overrun.

The final scene of carnage, both sides have fought themselves to a standstill but with only one regiment still intact and fresh enemy troops approaching, the Frederickians beat a fighting retreat.  Watching the defeat unfold the King exclaims "Teufel! I need more men" before quiting the field and sending off gallopers to call up the regiments from his Eastern Provinces, hire mercenaries and call in the pledges from his Allies.  "A battle is lost but the fight goes on!"

Ahh the joys of wargaming with larger scale toy soldiers rather than just leaving them to gather dust on the shelf!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

New book - Toy Castles and Knights

Toy Castles and Knights - A Guide to Toy Castles and Knights from Around the World.  Written by Joseph W. Svec III, published by Infinity Publishing, ISBN 978 0 7414 7323 3.  A4 softcover, 104 pages illustrated in full colour throughout.  I bought my copy through ebay where it costs US$ 26.95 (GBP £17.00) plus postage.

This is a very big subject to tackle in just over 100 pages and this book is an enjoyable romp through what appears to be the authors own collection rather than a purely academic history.  Over 100 Castles from ten different countries are featured ranging from the traditional King Arthur/Camelot/Robin Hood types to Sword & Sorcery/Lord of the Rings up to the 90mm Schleich and Papo types.  There is also a nice chapter on the Spanish made Exin castle building sets, which are like Lego but for making medieval and wild west buildings.

The majority of castles included are of the plastic clip together or vacuformed types and it's good to see these documented as many are already no longer available, there are also some tin litho and wooden examples.  The book is packed full of colour pictures showing the castles, often under state of siege by their attendant figures, and the box art they came in.  My only criticism would be that some of the pictures are a little dark, so overall a fun book at a reasonable price and lets face it how many of us would have the room to store 100 castles?
I would have liked to see more of the earlier wooden makes of castle but that leaves room for a Book 2, until then you can see more on the history of Toy Forts and Castles at the toyforts website

Saturday, 10 November 2012

7YW game of battle with 54mm toy soldiers

Earlier this week I visited my erstwhile gaming opponent PW to trial the new C18th rules for 54mm wargaming he is working on and a jolly good fast running game it turned out to be.  Both sides had about 70 infantry, six/eight cavalry, two guns, two mortars and a gaggle of staff in command.  The terrain and buildings are in scale for 28mm figures but worked very well, they give definition to the landscape without imposing so much on the visual aspect or the space that larger items would need.  This is how it went:

An overview of the initial dispositions from the Prussian lines.  In the left foreground a company of Grenadiers cover the flank of a Fusilier Regt. supported by two battalion guns.  On the right the Prussian command have established H.Q. in the hamlet and formed a strong defensive position with two Regiments of Line infantry, two mortars have been brought forward and a unit of Cavalry stand in reserve.

Opposing them the French begin to advance through the fields on either side of the road, on their left the Irish Dillon Regt. are supported by a heavy gun

In the centre dismounted Dragoons form a skirmish line in extended order supported by an elite French Regt. and a second heavy gun.

Their right flank is secured by a company of Cuirassiers and two mortars (out of shot)

The Irish Regt. halt at the line of a picket fence where they take a hard pounding from the Prussian mortars

The Prussian regiments contain many recent new recruits resplendent in their pristine undress undercoat No.1 uniforms.  The cavalry unit have left the hamlet and moved to cover the gap between the Fusilier and Line Regt's.

The French skirmish line has reached the low stone walls in the centre of the field and a battalion of Fusiliers move forward to extend the line but receive a strong volley from the enemy Dragoons and are forced to retire.

The Prussian cavalry race up the central road towards the French command but are countercharged by the enemy Horse.  The Prussian Line infantry have moved up in support.

The French Horse brush the Prussian cavalry aside with devastating effect and career into the supporting infantry where they face close range volleys from the front and flank.

A general advance of the Fusiliers and Grenadiers on the left leads to a melee which forces the French to retire.

On the right the advance of the Irish "Wild Geese" is counterattacked by a brigade of Prussian Line, who pay a fearful price to buy time for the remaining brigades who prepare a volley which succeeds in forcing the Irishmen to retire.  At the end of the day the French showed their marksmanship and ferocity in melee to be far superior to the enemy but they were badly served by their artillery, while it is fair to say that the day was saved by the judicious siting of the Prussian guns.

Guns and infantry only fire every other move so wafts of smoke are placed in front of units that have fired to indicate they are reloading next move, this gives the attacker a chance to close with the enemy without being massacred.  Artillery shots are taken using ball firing cannon, wherever the ball hits it ploughs a file through the enemy line.  Infantry fire is simulated by firing a matchstick dipped in ink at a paper template of an infantry line to determine casualties, it may sound a bit messy (and it is) but it's more tricky than you'd think and it's a lot more fun than continually bowling fist fulls of D6.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Towards a 7YW wargame in 54mm

Been a while since my last post, nothing wrong just haven't had any toy soldier news or anything particular to say.  Over on the Vauban and Shandy blog Paul Wright has treated us to an airing of his new C18th wargame and pretty impressive it is in my opinion.  Some years ago I bought the BMC Yorktown playset as I needed some figures in mitre caps to paint up as Napoleonic Russian Grenadiers but when they arrived they weren't what I was expecting.

In the left foreground are the command figures with a couple of drummers converted from Accurate AWI, behind them going clockwise are figures in stages of completion from basic undercoat up to the finished items in right foreground - BMC Hessians painted as Prussian Fusiliers.  In the centre are Grenadiers by CTS and the BMC artillery crew.

The BMC Hessians have short mitre caps not suitable for the Russians I had in mind, somewhat annoyed I searched through various uniform books and found they would be perfect for 7YW Prussian fusiliers, also the other infantry in the set had rather large floppy tricorns which just didn't look right for the American Revolution but perfect for Prussian line infantry.  Just what I needed, another wargame project with lots of fussy uniforms to paint, it started enthusiastically enough but then ground to a halt.

Subsequently I have had an invite from the aforementoned PW to help playtest the new rules so the Prussians have been dusted off and I am undergoing a frenzy of basing and painting to bring the numbers up to a decent muster - just the impetus I needed!  No doubt there will be game reports on blogs in the not too distant future.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Three new books on Toy Soldiers.

We have an old saying in London, "you wait ages for a bus then three come along together" and this used to be the case until the introduction of GPS Vehicle Management Systems and Bus Lanes but the saying has been retained as a euphemism for a period of scarcity followed by plenty.  Thus it has been recently with regard to books on toy soldiers, nothing for ages and then three land in my lap together.

The title translates as "Small Handbook for the Identification of German Lead Toy Soldiers" it appears to be self published by Dr. Hanns Roth as there is no publishers name or ISBN number quoted, Dr Roth has included his email address (which I won't post on the Internet but will happily pass to collectors who email me) so you could contact him direct to buy the book, my copy cost £30.  Soft cover, it has 99 pages and is illustrated in full colour throughout. 

The problem with German 40/45mm semi flat and fully round figures is that they never carry the makers name on the base and the sculpting style varies very little from one company to another.  This book does exactly what it says on the cover, it points out the subtle differences that distinguish between the the figures of Haffner, Heyde, Heinrich, Norris, Spenkuch, Krause and various other smaller manufacturers.  The text is in German but there is little of it so it's easy enough to follow with the help of Google translate and it is overflowing with illustrations, which makes it my kind of book and a long overdue addition to the wealth of toy soldier knowledge.

Die Zinnlaube, translates as The Tin Arbour (summerhouse?) and is more of an almanac than a book, it is set out in the form of individual articles on various types of old toy soldiers and I understand that it is to become an annual publication.   Produced by the German society "Friends of Old Toy Soldiers" it is edited by Dr. Ignacio Czeguhn, again there is no ISBN number and contact details available from me on request, my copy cost £20.  Soft cover, it has 85 pages and is illustrated in full colour throughout.

Articles include, figures of "Der Alte Fritz", The Huns, two smaller manufacturers of Flats - Seidel and Zufall, Anni Schweizer nativity figures 1926,  Theodor Salomon - manufacturer of 30mm solids in the 1930's, Charles Dickens' charachter figures, Abd el Kader and the Spanish Moroccan War, Interview with Dr. Hans-Henning Roer, Collectors favorite figures, book review and a photo roundup of the club Freunde Alter Spielfiguren.  Main text is in German but each article also has a precis in English and French, as you can see it's quite a good quality publication.

Tinasotilas, Tin Soldiers.  Written by Yrjo (George) Larmola, published by Gummurus Publishing Ltd. ISBN number 978-951-796-529-3, my copy cost £20

Covers the history of toy soldiers, playing with them, uniforms and then the author takes us through a potted history of the world (from a European viewpoint) illustrated by the figures from his own collection.  A novel approach but nothing new or interesting from a toy soldier perspective most of the figures illustrated are Schneider homecasts or modern white metal models, and there is no mention of SIRO the only Finnish toy figure manufacturer I know of.  The text is in Finnish so this book is only really worth getting if you speak Finn, collect books about toy soldiers or are a complete toy soldier nut.  I plead guilt on two of these charges.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Rose Model Soldiers catalogue 1957

I never really got the bug for painting the white metal Military Models that proliferated during the mid 1970's, I dabbled of course but never really developed the skill or patience for all that shadowing and highlighting which became the fashion so beloved of the international modelling magazines. Some people painted them sumptuously in oils others went for the ultimate in authenticity by using vegetable dyes, for me, that path would ultimately have led to madness so I stuck to my tins of Humbrol gloss enamels and did them in Old Toy Soldier style.  Probably my favourite manufacturer of this time was Rose Models sculpted by Russell Gammage so I was delighted to discover this:

I recently bought up a selection of old magazines and while flicking through them what should fall out but this rather quaint Rose Models Soldiers catalogue from 1957.  It is an A4 sheet folded into A5 and printed on one of those old Roneo reprographic machines that we used in school before the advent of the photocopier, the sort that you fitted a carbon sheet to and turned the handle.  The smell of solvent filled the room so you felt high as a kite by about page 15, then the paper feed went askew but you didn't notice until about page 60 so every sheet had to be amended by hand where it had misprinted.  They were great days.

It's not a great document in the scheme of things but it gave me a moments amusement so I thought I would share it for anyone with a memory of Rose.  I never realised they'd been in business since the 1950's (never gave it a thought really) so I was interested to see the prices - 5 shillings (25p in today's worthless coinage) for an unpainted foot figure, in the late 1950's that would have bought you at least 5 pints of beer, today that would make the castings £17.50 each (all figures based on London beer prices).

There is no mention of Gammage's smaller scale wargame figures so I guess they didn't come out until some years later.  Since publishing this post Rob (Xaltotun of Python) has kindly directed me to a post on the Old Metal Detector blog showing that the first two Rose wargaming figures were listed in the 1956 catalogue and I subsequently noticed that what I have here is a supplement to that list.

Posts to this blog have been rather sparse of late because we recently suffered a burglary, thankfully little was taken (causing Mrs C. to observe that our electrical goods are so big and obsolete as to be not worth nicking) but the haul included my camera, and as my web/blog philosophy is to be big on images while short on text this loss has had a very limiting effect on me.  Even greater disruption has been caused by the subsequent fallout - dealing with Police and Insurers (both very helpful) changing locks, adding locks, raising the height of fences and installing an alarm system (the latter a neat piece of kit based on wireless technology which will even send me a text if the miscreant should return for a second round!).  Hopefully normal service will be resumed as soon as the insurance claim is settled, in the meantime I am reduced to the use of my scanner and whatever stock photos I can dig up.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Authenticast 40mm semi flats - mystery solved!

Back in March I posted an entry about a couple of 40mm semi flat sets made by Authenticast and questioned whether they were sculpted by Holger Erikssson because they were similar to his style but didn't carry the distinctive HE monogram.   Here is a picture of one set to remind people:

I subsequently received a comment and a more detailed email from Hans Jacobson in Sweden telling me that "They are slightly modified figures from about 1910 first manufactured in Stockholm by "Gamla Santonska Tenngjureiet" (The Old Santesson Tin Foundry) originally moulded in slate moulds.  Later the slate moulds were bought by the owner of Autenticast Kurt Wennerberg.  Autenticast modified some of the figures and kept some of them as they were.  He made then new rubber moulds of them that could keep up to commercial use. I think." 

Hans also told me the original figures were made for the Morocco crises 1910-11 and very kindly sent the following picture of the other figures in the set.
I think the mounted figures are stunning particularly the rider firing from under the horse.

The name of Holger Eriksson has become so synonymous with the firm of Authenticast that it is easy to forget that he was just one of the sculptors, the main one certainly, employed by Curt Wennberg who set up the venture in The Irish Republic on behalf of Comet Metal Products of the USA in 1946.  Before that in 1937, Wennberg had set up a company called Treforest Mouldings (in Wales) who are best known for their 1:1200 scale waterline model ships (under the brand name Tremo) but are also on record as making 40mm toy soldiers.  While the ships turn up regularly (at horrendous prices) the soldiers have never been seen, so I am wondering if Wennberg originally made copies of the Santesson figures at Treforest before issuing them on a more commercial basis at Authenticast?
Hans also discovered the origin of the standard bearer, it is a Turkish Janissary from another set by Santesson depicting the 1713 Skirmish at Bender, an action from the Great Northern War which I had never heard of but which would make a great wargame scenario.  Finally Hans sent me a link to the Swedish Toy Soldier Club website which shows early Swedish 40mm semi flats as well as some 54mm figures by Holger Eriksson and another of the Authenticast sculptors, Lennart Norrke.  Here is the link the site takes a bit of navigating but it is well worth it, from the menu list on the left hand side click on "Galleri" then on "Aldre tennfigurer" for the 40mm and "Rundmassiva figurer" for the HE/LN figures.  If you have an interest in old waterline model ships, 40mm semi flats or want some inspiration for Funny Little Wars armies you'll find plenty to interest you here.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

King and Country - The Crusades and Imperial Chinese

Just a quick look at some more of the rather sumptuous dioramas by King and Country seen at the London Show last month

You need plenty of standard bearers for your medieval armies, if like me, you can't afford their figures you can always take inspiration and make something similar by downloading flags from free sites such as Flags and Banners or Alex's Flags

These Chinese troops are from the Imperial Collection series based on the Imperial Court from 1865 to 1904, I never tire of looking at them.

Friday, 27 July 2012

There's going to be a BIG PARTY in London tonight.......

No.......... it's not the opening of the Olympics......................

There'll be lots of Music..............

Lots of Women..............

Lots of Dancing..............

Lots of Eatin' and Drinkin'............

Everybody'll have a good time...........until the drink runs out, then.........

Lots of Fightin'.............

Have a Good Day!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Battleships belching Smoke and Flame by Heyde?

This rather nice little set of Battleships has left me with something of a quandary. 

I think they are meant to be Pre-dreadnoughts (though I am no expert in ship design) and show two ships of the Imperial German Navy battling it out with a sole Frenchy off the coast of Denmark, as denoted by the lighthouse sporting the Danish flag.  But what does this group represent?  I don't think it could be a Franco Prussian War encounter because the ships look much later and anyway the Imperial Navy wasn't founded until 1871, also I can't find any mention of an action between German and French Naval forces in the North Sea in WW1. 

Who made them?  Well Haffner and Spenkuch seem to have been the the main providers of semi flat battleships but I've looked through several books on early German leads and the examples I've found by these companies don't look anything like the above.   The nearest thing I could find in terms of sculpting and paint style is by Heyde, which is curious because this firm mostly made it's vehicles, vessels and accessories 3D in tinplate.

A great set, I particularly like the ram on the French ship but the secondary armament firing from a cupola half way up the mask seems a bit incongruous to me, is this correct?