Trying to to find interesting 54mm civilian figures is always a challenge. Apart from an unusual set ordered online from China, it usually involves looking out for figures with playsets or vehicles. An expensive way to acquire a few figures!
Britains and other companies used to make civilian and railway figures in 54mm lead but few in plastic, the occasional keeper figure or farm worker.
It was always frustrating as a child to have a zoo or farm or a parade set out but no visitors to watch; it usually resulted in lots of troops parading (H.G. Wells Floor Games style) endlessly through the zoo along with assorted military staff feeding the animals.
Military bands and other forms of entertainment and display were not unknown in the Victorian zoo and right through to Manchester’s Belle Vue Zoo into the 1950s. Whilst military mascots ended up in zoos (including Winnie the Pooh at London Zoo ) and even a naval zoo existed, at Whale Island, this was a little uninspiring as a regular play or garden scenario. http://www.europeana.eu/portal/en/record/2024904/photography_ProvidedCHO_TopFoto_co_uk_EU044495.html
Evn today, Edinburgh Zoo has a penguin called Nils Olaf “commissioned” into the Norwegian Royal Guard and occasionally visited and paraded by his fellow (human) comrades in their magnificent full dress uniform.
This was sort of true of British Zoos in wartime – there were special rates for servicemen (and lady friends) in uniform, entertainments in WW1 for injured servicemen. I have 1939’propaganda’ press pictures of servicemen enjoying elephant rides at Belle Vue Zoo Manchester. In the first few weeks of being closed to the public on ARP grounds in September 1939, London Zoo made arrangements for servicemen to walk round for the animals to look at. ‘The Zoo’ also made their canteen over to the RAF as the big houses around became RAF Regent’s Park full of training aircrew.
Britain’s and other lead toy soldier manufacturers made plenty of civilians and farm workers in the more pacifist aftermath of WW1. Plastic manufacturers haven’t followed suit and painted railway figures in this 54mm /1:32 scale are often quite expensive.
Failing the mounting of a full scale military parade through your zoo, Wild West town etc. all day and everyday, some normal civilians are useful for floor games, sandpit games or wargames.
These feature sets came from a zoo gift shop with two zebra striped jeeps, some brilliant wooden watch towers and rope ways (of which more anon) , a couple of odd sized animals and these interesting modern civilians.
Something similar to the girl child in the photos has recently been repainted and reused in a Slinkachu type way on the front cover of an art photography book Micro Worlds about the recent group of artists / photographers playing with scale for satiric, unsettling or comic effect. An interesting book but one which contains some slightly disturbing dystopian or to some tasteless items from a range of photographers.
Police and firefighters are now available in poundstore tubes. Back in the 1980s there were Britain’s Deetail nurses, doctors and construction workers, not forgetting the Britain’s farm workers from lead to Herald plastic and a modern farm worker range still around in toy shops today.
In future blogposts I will feature more civilian figures to be used for game scenarios from the Chinese online set to the useful USA manufactured Toob “heritage” plastic figures roughly in 54mm, also purchased online.
Plastic Warrior website also feature an excellent set of Mexican Wild West civilians or peasants.
Posted by Mr MIN, Man of TIN, September 2016.