Wo-Manning the OP? BMC Plastic Army Women take over the Three Man pound store plastic soldiers patrol post

2016 – Three Man Patrol of pound store pirated clone* BMC US Marines, officer, radioman and prone BAR man providing covering fire.

Not entirely intended as A Mother’s Day Post March 14th as it is largely about the ongoing influence of toy soldier games in the garden with my Dad.

For the last month or two I have been exploring the origins and early players of H. G. Wells’ Floor Game or Little Wars.

Although I researched the women who saw this happening, it appears to be mostly Edwardian men who would happily be found stretched out on Wells’ lawn or nursery floor, firing spring loaded cannon at lead toy soldiers. This sometimes, according to the tongue-in-cheek Wells, brought “disdain” from lady visitors who did not see the imaginative play going on at floor or garden level.

Some gamers of players with toy soldiers would say that not much has changed 100 years later if middle aged men are glimpsed crawling round their floor or garden in pursuit of toy soldiers. Or worse still, their front garden …

Gardens and floors seem a natural home for toy soldiers.

Ever since I was a small boy in the early 1970s, I have left toy soldier figures in the garden “on Patrol”, usually a three man Patrol Post or Observation Post OP tucked away in a flower bed or safe area, safely away from being dug up, trampled or mown down.

Each three man Patrol had the following usual figures:

  • One officer or someone with binoculars, armed
  • One radio man, armed (usually a bit of a scarcity per box in early Airfix or Matchbox)
  • One rifleman, SMG or LMG infantryman for Patrol protection

These were usually unpainted plastic 54mm figures. Sometimes these would be WW2 troops, sometimes Cowboys or Civil War figures (despite the lack of radios) and occasionally even knights.

Each of these 3 Man teams (in threes, like Lighthouse Keepers) had a way to communicate with each other or raise the alarm, some firepower to defend themselves and their OP and enough men to have at least one sleeping whilst others were on watch.

My late Dad took a slightly dim view if I left the same figures out on Patrol, neglected for weeks or months. It made sense. More regular changeovers of personnel kept the garden and these Patrol Posts tidier.

Patrol bases were hidden amongst these flowerbeds, rock walls and lawn edges of my Dad’s flowers in full bloom in my childhood garden 1970s/80s. Great Little Wars garden lawns – It looks far too peaceful for a war zone!

Usually in my childhood garden, a small stone base was made for the Patrol Posts with flat stone or slate walls, roof and floor base. Small palisades of wood or twig log piles completed the defence. Some kind of plastic stores box was usually included of “food” and “ammunition” such as Britain’s farm sacks or Airfix sandbags.

Inside the house up in my room would be the HQ team, such as the little travel box three man Patrol that I take away on holiday and travels – to keep in touch by radio with ‘home’ and teams in the field.

It’s odd but I still find that keeping the three man Patrol out there provides a calming link back to my childhood games, my late Dad’s vanished flower garden and our shared playful interest in toy soldiers.

*

I liked the Borrowers scale thing, the threat of giant garden wildlife like snails and other minibeasts, the military birdwatching. RLS’ poem The Dumb Soldier captures this well – see also later for a brief quote from the poem:

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2017/04/23/dumb-soldiers-the-past-and-future-of-garden-wargames/

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2019/11/29/lost-and-found-rls-the-dumb-soldier-2019/

*

I wrote a little about this garden before on this blog back in 2016 on a Garden Wargames post, from which I have taken some of these older photos:

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/garden-wargames-1/

Bearing their battered sloppy childhood paintwork … my indoor desktop / travelling Three Man Patrol (TMP) of Airfix figures. About time they got some proper paintwork.

Usually I have used my most expendable pound store figures, as there was always the risk that dogs, lawnmowers and wildlife would trash the Patrol Post.

* Back in 2016 I was using what I now know were BMC clone US Marines

Retiring three man Patrol March 2021 in the latest OP building

The OP has changed from this safari / zoo animal walkway tower to an odd little house that I picked up about 15 years ago in a pet shop. Italian plastic, originally designed as a rodent hamster type house, sadly I have not seen them since. The label says Casetta per Criceti or a Hamster house (see B.P.S. Blog Post Script)

I liked it straightaway for its white walls and pantile roof. Instant Mexican cowboy town or Mediterranean village hut.

This pet shop where I found this house was a few doors away from a now closed independent pound store where I bought lots of pound store plastic soldier figure packs (Cowboys, Indians copies of Airfix with wagons, pirates, those 60s divers and sea creatures). Another pound store full of plastic tat, vanished and sadly missed …

I have always liked my Patrol or OP posts to have a certain kind of internal logic to them, otherwise they are just useless and silly. So as part of this, the pantiled roof house OP has a rigging type plastic ladder to the roof.

The boat at the foot of the cliff is their Patrol transport in and out of the situation and route of resupply, if not by air. A rope ladder links the house plateau with the river below. Supplies are winched up on ropes and stored in the house. It all makes its own kind of (non)sense.

The blue cowboy in my retiring three man Patrol in the pictures is one such Airfix clone, the blue speedboat in pictures below from a divers underwater play set kit. You got a lot more plastic tat for your pound 15 years ago.

The retiring Patrol after weeks to months in the field (in winter I forget don’t change figures as regularly) are a mix of figures, (what I now know are) some pirate cloned playset Tim Mee USA infantry, * the BMC clone US marine radio man and the blue Airfix clone cowboy. All expendable beach, garden or sandpit plastic figures.

Now in 2021, expendable plastic army men based on cloned Tim Mee, Airfix and BMC figures are being replaced by –

The incoming stores and Patrol of …

genuine new BMC Plastic Army Women.

Again in our new three woman Patrol we have:

    Female officer figure with binoculars and pistol
    Radiowoman or signaller (with no pistol)
    Sniper on the roof tiles

In my BMC Plastic Army Women Parazuellia Women’s Revolutionary Army figures that I painted for FEMbruary, I gave the unarmed Radiowoman a spare pistol in its holster from Airfix Multipose spares.

Having used up all these spare Multipose weapons, I noticed that there is a handy rifle on the trusty old Britains Herald Cowboy raft cargo boxes. That then is the weapon for the radiowoman – my internal logic says that is so.

A supply barrel (old barrel bead or button) is glued to slate to stop it blowing away. These stores will be packed away into the house whilst this new Patrol gets settled in.

The Cliff House OP: Bit of a Greek island feel here – blue pot, blue boat, whitewashed house …

The Patrol house OP has a handy removable red tile roof, but no closing doors or window – so I will assume that there are internal door and shutters. I like the ability to poke a toy soldier rifle out of the window. The house itself is expendable but this one has withstood many frosts and storms (sometimes the roof blows off in very bad weather!)

The Patrol house OP is a pale imitation of those excellent Timpo Wild West plastic buildings of our childhood that now go for such extortionate sums on eBay, even with the working closing doors missing. Timpo buildings would now be too old, brittle and valuable to be left outside in all weathers anyway.

At some point these patrols may mingle and we may have a mixed Co-Ed Patrol, out in the wilderness for weeks and months on end. For now, we will have single sex patrols.

Who knows what they will see, night and day in the wilds of the Yarden or Garden. We might need to alter RLS’ The Dumb Soldier slightly:

“She has lived, a little thing,

In the grassy woods of spring;

Done, if she could tell me true,

Just as I should like to do.

*

She has seen the starry hours

And the springing of the flowers;

And the fairy things that pass

In the forests of the grass.

*

In the silence she has heard

Talking bee and ladybird,

And the butterfly has flown

O’er her as she lay alone.”

*

Alone? Well, maybe not, as there are three highly trained and well equipped Plastic Army women out there anyway, but you may be alone on watch.

The travelling Box HQ three man team remain the same indoors and should now be in radio contact with the new three woman Patrol.

“Come in, Garden Patrol … come in, Garden Patrol.”

The retiring three man Patrol team await a debrief on their return, before a wash and brush up and some well earned leave.

That’s my family toy soldier tradition garden patrols, still going strong. I have come across Marvin at Suburban Militarism’s tradition of Christmas soldiers.

Anyone else have any strange toy soldier superstitions or strange family traditions to do with their toy soldiers?

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN on 13 March 2021

B.P.S. Blog Post Script

Below – some Casetta per Criceti or Hamster House examples online 2021, but not my exact pantile roofed example.

Hamster or mouse houses in wood or plastic – search around, there are some interesting small house examples online. Hamster or small rodent houses are a source of some possible garden wargames houses or cottages. They may prove an alternative to the converted bird box or the useful aquarium ornaments, something to look out for whilst browsing the pet store ?

Author: 26soldiersoftin

Hello I'm Mark Mr MIN, Man of TIN. Based in S.W. Britain, I'm a lifelong collector of "tiny men" and old toy soldiers, whether tin, lead or childhood vintage 1960s and 1970s plastic figures. I randomly collect all scales and periods and "imagi-nations" as well as lead civilians, farm and zoo animals. I enjoy the paint possibilities of cheap poundstore plastic figures as much as the patina of vintage metal figures. Befuddled by the maths of complex boardgames and wargames, I prefer the small scale skirmish simplicity of very early Donald Featherstone rules. To relax, I usually play solo games, often using hex boards. Gaming takes second place to making or convert my own gaming figures from polymer clay (Fimo), home-cast metal figures of many scales or plastic paint conversions. I also collect and game with vintage Peter Laing 15mm metal figures, wishing like many others that I had bought more in the 1980s ...

18 thoughts on “Wo-Manning the OP? BMC Plastic Army Women take over the Three Man pound store plastic soldiers patrol post”

  1. You’re right about the amount of good plastic tat you used to be able to pick up 😦
    I’m always envious of the stuff that still seems to be on sale in the US for almost nothing and appears on Ebay for an arm and a leg

    Like

    1. Shipping 😦
      I think this is the grass always greener form of international plastic tat envy.
      I know what you mean …
      however American gamers sometimes say the same about the figures available here and the Nottingham lead belt etc.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s an impressively kept garden! I’d be proud of achieving anything like that.

    I’m sure I left some figures out in the garden, possibly even permanently. My parents still have a photograph somewhere of an “Action Man wash day” where all the military clothing had been washed and my brother and I were hanging them out on the line. Those Action Men would have certainly had some earthy outdoor patrols.

    As for floors, my bedroom floor would see many a battle or parade of my plastic soldiers. I had a rug which was a kind of shaggy affair and doubled as a Belgian cornfield on many occasions!

    Like

    1. My late Dad was a very happy flower and veg gardener, yet tolerant of the toy soldiers. I recall this childhood garden almost down to inch by inch because of these garden games down at toy soldier level.
      What you can’t see in the photo is where above the veg plot (off the top of the photo) is how the back garden was on a hillside above our house and got pretty steep but wilder at the top (again excellent for toy soldiers) before it disappeared into tree line and common ground.
      Sadly after he died over twenty years ago and my family moved house, the people who moved in and the people after that etc. (we saw the photos on estate agent details) just laid it all to grass and it was never the same again.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s very sad. I’m not much of a gardener but I do recognise their value. Even grass has some very basic value, at least.

        Both my neighbours have obliterated their gardens under tonnes of concrete, hot tubs, decking and building work. One of my previous two neighbours buried their entire back garden in gravel. Literally. Just gravel – not even any pot plants! It all makes my very humble attempts seem more essential somehow.

        Like

  3. Good morning Mark,
    A most enjoyable read with coffee this morning. I really enjoyed the photo of your late Dad’s garden which shows his endeavours greatly. Strangely enough I have been thinking much of my childhood gardens ( one up to 13, the other 13- 26 when the house was sold) and wondering if my plastic soldiers still stand subterranean guard in the first to this day. As an adult when moving l put quite a number of assorted wargames figures into the canal which ran just over the wall and down a bank from the house. I did this for a mix of reasons, fun , laziness, a nod to Bronze Age sacrifices but mainly for archaeologists of the future. The story of the patrols was moving and charming, thanks for posting it. Of an evening I look out at the 16mm railway folk spending a winter at the halt to see how their paint gets on. I wonder what they say, see and do…

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    1. Sorry, slow reply, busy working day. I think your river gift a fine idea, as you say just like an ancient deposition burial.
      I sadly think our childhood plastic ‘dumb soldiers’, not knowingly left behind, might not survive so well as the metals sometimes do.
      I hope the 16mm railway figures in the varnish and weathering experiment has gone well through snow, ice, sun and rain. What they must have seen …

      Odd how childhood gardens (school playgrounds, parks, streets) have such a strongly detailed visual memory …

      Like

  4. The RHS are concerned about the decline in natural gardens , gardens being replaced by concrete. I was horrified to learn that the glorious apple trees of my childhood which gave so much fruit had been cut down. Goodness knows what happened to the fully functioning 1930s greenhouse and mature Hamburg black grapes vine in my second childhood home…
    In our current home the garden had got too much for the previous owner who put many borders under plastic and red chips. Jan was instrumental in bringing the garden back assisted by me , a job that continues…

    Like

    1. Gardens are a tag team effort over the years, often working with a team you have never met, a job which you are carrying on …

      Looking at Estate Agent photos of the most recent sale of my childhood garden / house, by the looks of it, the two old apple trees appear to have gone as well but they would have been almost 90-100 years old anyway from our 1920s / 1930s house. They were enjoyably gnarly.
      Hopefully we shall all find some mid course between garden and concrete, especially in the new parking areas that replaced underused front gardens.

      Like

  5. I found myself here courtesy of Alan’s blog. This is fantastic post full of happy memories. I too am a veteran of the Garden Wars of the 60s and 70s. Being of a slightly older cohort, I was rotated out before your tour of duty ended.
    I tried the Airfix HO/OO figures but they were too small for outside use. 1/32 we’re just right. The lawn providing perfect undergrowth for the Japanese, Aussies and Gurkhas. The exposed soil in the flower beds were great locations for trenches, once compressed and smoothed out. Action Man even got a look in with a deep trench at one point (though that became flooded). I never knowingly left any patrols out there at night. I was far too protective of my lads – probably too soft on them.
    Glad to see you’re keeping the vigil going.

    Like

    1. Thanks Chris –
      Dear fellow Veteran of the Garden Wars, I too found that the HO/OO Airfix figures did not do so well in the garden, some vanished fighting in a pile of builders sand never to be seen again. Too small.
      Action Man did see some service – I think Harry Pearson’s book Achtung Schweinhund sums up his drawbacks quite well. Too big.
      As you say, 1:32 was just right – Goldilocks in fact!
      The vigil continues …

      Like

  6. Lovely post Mark. My parents were the same, a generation that felt obliged to have a well kept garden. In the late 1960s I would stay with my Nan, and occasionally find WW1 British and Zulu lead figures in the garden, formerly belonging to my father in the 1930s. Unfortunately, they were in a very bad way. Fifty years later and I’m now restoring old Britiains!
    Michael

    Like

    1. Michael, That is a fantastic RLS “Dumb Soldier” story across the generations – were any of them salvageable?

      Sadly my late dad’s collection of odd wartime WW2 Britain’s figures (RAF firefighters, peaked cap firing British, whatever was available before production ceased in 1941) were not handed down to us – they vanished well before the 1960s. Sadly he died before I had a chance to replace them via Junk Shop Finds in the days before EBay.

      Sometimes when I have bought job lots of battered figures for repair, sold as people downsize, there will be a family story to them such as the WTC figures which belonged to a Miss Sanderson (or more rightly, her father) from the 1920s along with some Rivolet guns and gilt figures, literally according to Andrew Rose and Norman Joplin’s books as spring cannon fodder target figures.

      She was delighted they were going to a good home and going to be repaired and treasured. She even shared a photograph of her father grown up in wartime uniform in WW2 (sadly I do not have a copy) but to me these battered and broken figures are together forever “Miss Sanderson’s Own” Regiment.

      Some of the Miss Sanderson WTC figures here:
      https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2018/08/01/the-duchess-of-wellingtons-own/

      And the 1910-20s gilt figure in peaked cap ( Joplin – unknown maker) here

      https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/26/home-cast-antique-and-gilt-paint-finishes/

      Like

      1. Mark, unfortunately, they were too badly damaged to restore. Yes, its nice to respect those that formerly held these miniatures.
        Michael

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  7. I haven’t decided whether to create a Russian-influenced Imagin-nation, but if I do, it will follow the Russian WWII example and create entire battalions of women warriors–To the West for the Motherland!

    Chris Johnson

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  8. I’m glad that these versatile female figures are around – BMC can’t make enough of them at the moment as they have decades of unsupplied demand to make up – and the ultimate accolade (of their assimilation) is the day they start popping up unremarked, slightly wonky copies in figure bags dollar / pound stores. I’m not sure BMC would see it as success but Imitation is a form of Flattery …

    Like

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