Topical thoughts during Lockdown, a useful section on scrap modelling and the making of Magic Cities for all, rich and poor, from E. Nesbit / Edith Nesbit’s Wings and The Child, her version of H.G. Wells’ Little Wars and Floor Games of the same period:
My converted bundle of medieval knights turned Cornish rabble or Elizabethan ‘Muster’, watching the coast for Armada Spaniards, finally have some more well equipped back up in the form of the Trained Bands. ￼
Rough and Ready Cornish Boys … the West Country Muster, converted from cheap plastic knights
I have had these old Call to Arms English Civil War 54mm plastic pikemen figures knocking about unpainted at home for about 10 -15 years. They are still available online for example https://www.drumandflag.co.uk/collections/english-civil-war/products/a-call-to-arms-2-english-civil-war-pikemen-1-32-scale-royalist-parliament
High on the Cornish cliff tops, these pikemen run through their pike drill.
I wanted to give them a shiny toy soldier style gloss varnish look, with simple paint style a little like Britain’s Deetail, had they ever made ECW figures like the lovely old Herald plastic figures. I have painted pink cheek dots and traditional toy soldier faces but kept the rest of the detail minimal.
I chose dark and light blue coats and sashes or plumes as blue was a very common colour for the Elizabethan Muster and Trained Bands. My Spanish Fury and Conquistadors are in black and red. Fifty years later, dark blue would also work for dual use of these figures for English Civil War skirmishes.
The plastic pikes supplied by Call to Arms were good and long but far too wonky. Although good spears and pikes for smaller scales can be made from plastic yard brush hairs, I compromised a little on height and went for 100mm steel pikes for my 54mm figures. I can’t remember who in the UK that I ordered these pikes from before Christmas. The MDF tuppenny bases came from WarBases.
So these pikes are not the full 16 to 18 feet in scale, three times the size of my figures, but they are large enough for my purposes.
According to the Cromwell Museum:
“At the beginning of the war many pikemen were equipped with armour, usually a back and breastplate and often thigh plates or ‘tassets’. As it was quite cumbersome, this was rapidly abandoned, and for much of the war most pikemen would have little more than a helmet to protect them.
They were armed with a short sword for hand-to-hand fighting, and a pike, a spear 16 to 18 feet (4.7 – 5.5 metres) in length, made of ash with an iron spear head.”
In a future figure post I shall feature the musketeers and command staff that go with these figures, just a few of these figure left on the painting table. Again they have dual use of Armada era late Elizabethan Muster / Trained Band and English Civil War skirmish.
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN on Pound Store Plastic Warriors, 18th January 2021
Childishly delighted to discover that Airfix are rereleasing six of its classic 1:32 54mm plastic WW2 infantry and paratroop sets for Germany, Britain and America – the toys of my childhood available again – preorder Summer 2021
Classic figures – 64p each or 14 for £9.00 – preorder for Summer 2021.
Pound Store and cheap playset copies of Airfix figures
Now we can play again a fun and fascinating toy shop or pound store plastic warrior sort of game called “Spot The Airfix Original Figure!”
Interesting to have the original figures available again – many of the poses of German or American Infantry and British Paratroops are commonly found pirated, copied and cloned for Pound Store and seaside plastic toy soldier play sets.
and as they shrink, deform and de-evolve into newish figures, useful as stylised generic cheap figures for paint conversion.
Good Airfix pirate figures are handy for conversions – Para officer into scout mistress?
Blog posted by Man of TIN blog, 8 January 2020.
Another pointlessly optimistic attempt to set out what I look forward to doing in my hobby in 2021?
First for the truth, as found on Tony Kitchen’s Tin Soldiering On website:
What I sort of planned for 2020:
NGY 2020 Irresolution One: Carry on Converting
NGY 2020 Irresolution Two: More solo short small skirmish games
NGY 2020 Irresolution Three: Paint More 15mm Peter Laings
NGY 2020 Irresolution Four: Full Metal Hic Jacet – Romans / Ancients Project
NGY 2020 Irresolution Five: Planet Back Yarden 54mm Sci-fi Garden gaming.
NGY 2020 Irresolution Six – Developing my Scouting Wide Games for the Tabletop games and rules including snowball fights rules for the Little Wars Revisited Woking 54mm Little Wars Saturday 14th March 2020.
NGY 2020 Irresolution Seven – Develop my Bronte inspired ImagiNations in 19th and 20th Century https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/gaming-the-bronte-family-imaginations-of-glasstown-angria-gondal-and-gaaldine
I think there is often much truth in the ‘wargaming humour’ meme picture Tony Kitchen reprinted above, but in Covid Lockdown this year it was very much about keeping going, interested and busy as one Lockdown day blurred into the next.
What really happened in 2020:
January to March 2020: I continued working on Scouting Wide Games and Snowball Fight Games towards the Woking 2020 54mm Games Day in late March – which I didn’t attend due to Covid.
I enjoyed building up towards my Vintage Airfix figure Long Range Desert Group LRDG raid on Wadi Yu Min game with pound store scrap modelling.
The village Spring Flower and Craft Show in March 2020 didn’t happen either so nowhere to show my FEMbruary figures thanks to Lockdown.
April 2020 was a busy month the first of Lockdown and Furlough, summed up by Ann Wycoff of Ann’s Immaterium blog painting challenge to “Paint all the Stuff You Already Own”: https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2020/05/02/what-ive-done-in-april-for-anns-immaterium-paint-all-the-stuff-you-own-challenge/
April Lockdown saw a Scratchbuilt Martello Tower (Fort Crumble) to match some past joblot 15mm Redcoats and pirates, finally painted and based.
April was also a nostalgia month, looking through my Blue Storage Box, a time capsule of random 1980s figures that I have carried intact from house move to house move, pretty much untouched. I finally finished or based some 15mm Peter Laing units from the box that had been hanging around for over 35 years https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2020/04/13/unboxing-the-blue-box-of-1980s-gaming-figures-time-capsule-parts-1-to-3/
May 2020 saw a series of small Close Little Wars skirmishes with 54mm plastics or hollowcast figures using the gift of my lovely Bold Frontiers trees and Featherstone’s Close Wars rules. These ranged from Robin Hood duelling to battles between Pound Store Redcoats, repaired and repainted old hollowcast Indians and Replicant Confederates.
It was all helped by the Bold Frontiers trees and a handy family gift of a Tiger Toys Fort renamed Fort Macguffin and the adventures of the daughter of the fort, the feisty Miss MacGuffin and her dog Patch.
The Close Wars forest games extended to painting a batch of figures that I’d had in store for ages, some old US Lucky Toys plastic 2D flat ‘comic book’ Redcoats and Indians. Last of the Mohicans was a theme in May 2020.
June 2020 saw the reprinting or republishing of the tiny Warrior and Pacific Magazine for the first time in a 120 years since 1901!
June also saw my first pound store playset figures interbellum border skirmish game of the FMS Forgotten Minor States involving Esperanto!
In June there was also a lot of fixing broken figures including outsized 60mm plastic figures from job lots, gifts and my childhood.
2020 was otherwise a year of not being able to go browsing in pound stores and charity shop due to Covid and shielding in the household. Apart from the joy of discovering online pound stores, I was lucky to have instead some timely gifts from other friendly gamers.
If I had had firmer plans for 2020, they would have been derailed and happily sidetracked by some Lockdown ‘clearing out’ gifts of surplus 54mm figures of conversion scrap from Michael Brightwell and several boxes of figures from unfinished projects by Alan Gruber – 54mm Armies in Plastic Rogers Rangers and Woodland Indians for my Close Wars Forest Games, along with some Call to Arms Maryland AWI Infantry.
Later in September, Alan Gruber of the Duchy of Tradgardland blog sent me some unusual 54mm Chintoys Mixtecs and Spanish Conquistador figures. This sparked the Spanish Arma-Dad’s Army project for which I converted pound store knights as an Elizabethan Coastwatch Home Guard. I tracked down and added some more Chintoys figures for Christmas 2020 – Spanish infantry and Conquistadors set 2.
I joined Facebook as Mark ManofTIN in 2020 for the wargaming and toy soldiers groups including several Historical ImagiNations groups, the Super Cheap Wargaming scrap modelling group and the wonderful Americana site that is the Forgotten Georgia Facebook group and website. This encouraged a bit more pound store figure conversions and Scrap Modelling including my steam punk tank from a milk carton and some pound store Steampunk infantry / tankers.
Paper Soldiers arrived in March 2020 – thanks to Peter Dennis’ 54mm Little Wars (of the Worlds) PaperBoys (Helion) volume. They were dormant whilst I was on furlough and Lockdown away from printers and scanners. However they spawned in July 2020 an unusual Suffgraffiti game of poster pasting paper suffragettes on roller skates version of my Splaffiti game (which used plastic skateboarders).
This itself was created by trying a pound store soldier chess board version Splattack of the video game Splattoon. All three games remain ‘Work in Progress’ through into 2021. Paper Soldiers reappeared – on stage – in December 2020 with the colourful arrival of a Victorian style toy theatre advent calendar.
August 2020 saw some strategic buying for Christmas / 2021, supporting smaller manufacturers who were missing the Trade Shows postponed due to Covid. I acquired small skirmish batches of Sergeants’ Mess 20mm Scouts, EWM Early War Miniatures 20mm 1940 Danish and Dutch Infantry and some Bad Squiddo 28mm RAF women Pigeoneers.
I also made Annie Norman of Bad Squiddo cry – in a good way – with a picture posted of my 2019 village Flower Show entry of her Bad Squiddo Land Girls.
I returned to part work, part furlough in September and as my job fully returned in November, I found I had less and less craft and hobby time. I find I have less energy for hobby stuff in winter anyway as it darkens. I make this dark time useful with reading around the subject instead, in this case mostly about the Armada land invasion plans and the Tudor/ Elizabethan army at home.
Working from home through Teams for part of this uncertain year made me value not only the downtime of e-chat with other bloggers and Facebook users but also the crafting focus of the hobby doing something physical and creative with my hands.
December 2020 had an ‘Eagle of The Ninth’ Roman feel, as I was reading some Rosemary Sutcliff historical fiction and her autobiography Blue Remembered Hills for her centenary on 14 December. This turned out to have more wartime and toy soldier content than I imagined.
Plans for New Gaming Year NGY 2021?
I think the NGY Irresolutions 2020 still stand for this year – a year interrupted – but who knows what might happen in 2021?
#FEMBruary figures – BMC Plastic Army Women figures and possibly Bad Squiddo WW2 RAF Pigeoneers if the village Spring Flower and Craft Show happens in March.
Woking 2021 54mm Little Wars Revisited Games Day? March? October? Covid dependent of course.
Mid year – Covid willing – I have a local history research project talk to do on WW2 in my local area, following up similar ones on WW1 as village fundraisers during the WW1 centenary. Time for some more newspaper archive research online. This research doubles up as good for the Home Guard games and I also found out more about the WW1 ‘Gorgeous Wrecks’ or Volunteer Training Corps, good for future VTC Wide Games and WW1 era ‘what if’ games.
Doubling up 54mm skirmish gaming figures 2021?
Arma-Dads Army! 1590s Home Guard Elizabethan Muster of conversions and ECW figures against the Spanish Fury, Chintoys Conquistadors and pound store Pirates …
Conquistadors who in turn fight the ManoTINcas and Mixtape tribes in the forests and mountain cities of central and South Generica (a thinly disguised South America) …
Which looked at in a different way, leaves me with half an ECW skirmish to build upon and some fresh generic Forest AmerIndian natives for ImagiNations and Colonial gaming.
Further ‘Doubling Up’ comes from using similar scenarios for the 54mm Arma- Dad’s Army games and 54mm Look Duck and Varnish WW2 Home Guard vs German coastal invasion / paratroops occasional games. Seelowe / Operation Sea Lion 1940/41 and Operación León Marino 1580s/ 90s
I look forward to further poking around researching the early ‘History of Wargaming’ (Donald Featherstone, RLS, H.G. Wells etc)
Several sources of 40-54mm metal figure moulds in metal and silicon came up on on EBay in 2020, these are now stored away as presents for the next 2021 Birthday or Easter present fest.
Who knows what 2021 will bring?
Thank you to all those bloggers and readers who have encouraged me through this uncertain and disrupted year with their enthusiasm, humour and kind comments. Happy New Gaming Year 2021.
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN 30 December 2020
Four more packs of £1 joy
Q. Why are these the perfect toy soldiers for Christmas?
A. Read on below – be patient … it’s almost worth waiting for.
Part of the joy of Christmas is new toys, either a surprise or a long awaited gift. Here are four bags of delayed gratification!
I featured their arrival by post and stowage back in August during Lockdown and Covid Shielding when I could not go browsing in pound stores, seaside shops or charity shops. I opened one packet for review and stowed the other four in the Christmas cupboard.
They cheered then and cheer now my inner seven year old that this much richness could still be bought for a pound. If these were metal figures, this haul would cost a small fortune.
I remarked a little upon the strangely worded bold claims of the packaging then. They have some discerning small customers to attract and persuade with serious pocket money.
When life and shopping was more normal before Covid, it was often a quiet delight to quickly cruise at speed through several pound or discount stores, looking for Pound Store toy conversion gold. Sometimes I would overhear those sort of toy discussions between children and parents about how much their gift pound would get them each and witness that painful indecision in the toy aisles that I had when I was originally seven.
If you only have one pound to spend, which toy do you choose?
If I’m spending serious child pocket money in a pound store, I want a lot of bang for my buck (or pound). Tiny pictures of military hardware, camouflage packaging, ziplock bag for storage – all good for Christmas or party bags – and big words:
METAL SLUG – SUPER SYSTEM – WORLD PEACE MILITARY EQUIPMENT –
and best of all the para wings or elite forces insignia – WINNER. I’m feeling like an elite highly trained veteran five star general already before I open the bag.
As I notice now, this is not just special forces – this is SPECIA FORCES.
This makes them the perfect Christmas Toy Soldiers.
Q. Why are they the perfect Christmas Toy Soldiers?
A. No L. No L.
A suitable Christmas Cracker joke for the season. If you’re not sure why, check the packaging again. Quality proofreading on the packaging!
The contents of the bag I discussed a little in my August post, the thin contorted nature and brittleness of the plastic may disappoint some. The amount of flash. Too many useless Officer ‘waving with binoculars’ poses.
They are not constant scale, the usual pound store playset irritation of slightly different sizes to annoy the scale purist – but then so many ‘proper’ expensive toy soldier manufacturers are guilty of the same scale creep.
They may be mass produced in China without much love or care but in the right imaginative hands, they could be great heroic stuff!
My favourite figures are the WW2 US style infantry with rifle advancing.
The original pound store toys webpage I ordered from is on hold at the moment over Christmas – no doubt the pound store elves are exhausted. https://toysforapound.com
Quantity, as Stalin and so many others supposedly observed, has its own quality.
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN on Pound Store Plastic Warriors, 29th December 2020.
After months watching and reading about these new figures being designed, mastered and made as my first ever Kickstarter pledge, these BMC Plastic Army Women are finally here – and well worth both the patient wait and the effort by Jeff Imel and team at BMC.
What better way to celebrate their time under the Christmas tree than a snowball fight with some of these new recruits out on the parade ground and assault course soon after they were unwrapped?
Camp Benjamin is named after the comedy film Private Benjamin (1981) with Goldie Hawn about American female army recruits in training.
I tracked down some suitably plastic pound store items that match their traditional army men or women style such as this rope bridge and towers, the odd plastic wall sections as well as other snowball fight cover made from white Lego and old Playmobil snow sections.
Add some Christmas trees and you have that spirit of the Snow Ball!
Turn 3 – already some of the snowballers can shoot from behind Snow cover
Snowballing round the base of the Rosie the Riveter statue (also a BMC copper colour freebie)
Each of the squads of four had a box of chocolate rations (colour themed Lego block tan or green) in their sentry box, something to be defended.
Victory Conditions / End of Game either:
a) all four of the rival squad defeated after 6 snowball hits on each
b) capture of the rival squad’s chocolate rations
Range measured in lolly sticks.
Firing per single figure rolling 1 standard d6 dice
Long Range (LR) 3 lolly sticks – 6 required to hit target
Medium Range (MR) 2 lolly sticks – 5 or 6 required to hit target
Close Range (CR) 1 lolly stick – 4,5 or 6 required to hit target
If target hit when behind partial cover (low snow wall etc), roll casualty saving throw of 1d6 – 6 means deflected / saved by the cover, otherwise 1-5 counts as normal snowball hit (lose a point)
Movement is one half lolly stick per figure per turn. Anything like climbing fences, walls etc takes one turn.
IGO YUGO rules. Roll two suitably coloured dice (in this case, tan and green) – highest score moves first, other side second, first side to move shoots first, second side to move shoots second.
Solve any melee as they happen or after firing, as you wish.
Each figure (numbered or named as you wish e.g. Green 1, Green 2 …) needs to have a tally kept of life points – use spare d6, tally chart etc.
Figure removed when hit by 6 snowballs.
If figures are touching bases, this counts as Snow Melee – extreme close range fir snowballing, close enough to shove snow down each other’s necks sort of thing.
Attacker is whichever colour side went first – roll on dice
Roll one d6 per two duelling figures in melee
1 or 2 – Hit on attacker – loses one point
3 – Both attacker and defender hit – both lose one point
4 – Both sides miss
5 to 6 – Hit on defender – lose one point.
(Melee system adapted from Gerard De Gre via Donald Featherstone Solo Wargaming and simplified by Kaptain Kobold)
Snowball Fight variations – Alan Gruber, Duchy of Tradgardland – six life points for each character, one point lost each time hit by a snowball.
Our original rules – Scouting Wide Games / snowball fights:
Blog posted by Man of TIN, 27 December 2020
The Super Cheap Wargaming Facebook group featured a post by Ron Lumbis about the current 30mm-32mm (ish) pound store figures.
I like the retro style of the packaging from Schyllyng with on the back of the box the pen outline of the figures inside, a little like the early 1960s Airfix boxes.
I also like the slight overselling – “INCLUDES TWO ARMIES” – obviously serious defence cuts have happened. What they mean is includes two different colours of figures, in this case the traditional green and tan of some plastic army men figures sets.
I see echoes of the famous Russ Heath Lucky Toys page adverts in US comic books for disappointingly flat mail order figures. https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2020/05/10/classic-close-wars-and-comic-book-soldiers-back-to-the-forest/
You can also see similarly stylish packaging (short lived packaging and sold out) from 2017, the “WW2 Soldiers” tag a little misleading with the Russian Army looking troops.
Either box would make a good attractive mail order gift, one that I would happily have played with as a child, then have somewhere to put them back in the box afterwards.
The alternative packaging I have found for these figures over the last few years ranges from a flimsy plastic bag and header card of two different colours per bag …
… to the useful storage tubs of single colour figures occasionally found in Poundland UK.
Same figures, different colours, varying prices per figure, different packaging.
To me these are the modern cheap small plastic equivalent to the Airfix figures of our youth.
They are surprisingly versatile and at a penny or two each (prices are steadily creeping up) these anonymous and widely available ‘Made in China’ plastic figures can be cheaply and easily converted to a range of periods past and present – and future.
Several fantasy or sci fi gaming bloggers have used these same figures such as the Wargaming Pastor for his Death Zap future games.
Ross Macfarlane of the long-established Battle Game of the Month blog paid these figures and conversions a sort of dubious tribute when he described them as:
Hence my nickname for them of the “Penny Dreadfuls“, as this is what I once paid for each 100 figures for £1.
I have used them for many things from my Boy Scout rough conversions …
to Flash Gordon style space marines and little green men aliens.
The alien ‘cape’ is a card paper hole punch strengthener from cheap old luggage labels.
These figures adapt to modern as well as 19th Century colonial figures
Various theatres of War and historic periods suggested by paint conversions here
Simple cardboard hat brims (again from hole punch paper strengtheners or card circles)
Colonial highlanders from Carry on Up the Khyber … tissue paper and PVA kilts added
Simple desert or native warriors created by scalpel and PVA / tissue paper conversions
As you can see these are very versatile figures, with a little imagination, they can become many different types of ImagiNations figures.
Transport easily requisitioned from charity shop cheap finds …
Arguably Airfix figures have or had the advantage of scale model kits and buildings to complement their figures (although both often in and out of availability or production).
However, with a little imagination, suitable Pound Store playset or charity shop vehicles, terrain and buildings can be found.
A full blown pound store colonial skirmish for under a pound …
Suitable sized gaming accessories add variety to conversions – here an old Prince August homecast gun.
Or light railway battery ‘train in a tin’ style …
This paint conversion or scalpel and PVA approach works with any size or scale of cheap plastic Pound Store type figures as you can see from meandering through my blog.
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN on his Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog, 21 December 2020
Following up my post on my recent painting of 54mm Mixtec and Zapotec figures, I saw this and thought South American stone carving!
Unfortunately we had already eaten the rest of the packet of these ‘speculoos‘ or Spekulatius spicy Christmas ginger biscuits by this time, delicious seasonal picture biscuits which are:
“traditionally baked for consumption on or just before St Nicholas’ Day in the Netherlands (5 December), Belgium and Luxembourg (6 December) and around Christmas in Germany and Austria.” https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speculaas
Unfortunately we had already eaten the rest of the packet of these ‘spekulaties’ spicy Christmas ginger biscuits by the time I found this odd one.
I coated this biscuit with several coats of PVA, having thoroughly dried it out first on the heater.
I then painted this Revell Aquacolor Acrylic stone grey and mounted this into a wooden block, painted grey.
Chintoy 54mm Conquistadors puzzle over these mysterious fierce stone carvings.
The original Spekulatis design up close. I wonder what is it supposed to be?
I’m not sure how long this biscuit will last before it breaks down, the PVA glue coating will only preserve it for so long.
But it will be fun while it lasts!
To keep this super cheap or Pound Store, even the jungle foliage is scrounged, being unwanted old cleaned-up fake aquarium or vivarium plants …
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 7 December 2020
54mm Spanish Armada troops that I have enjoyed painting in shiny toy soldier style – Chintoys Conquistador Set 1 plastic figures.
Crossposted on 30 October 2020 from my Man of TIN main blog for you to enjoy!
“Cry Havoc and let slip the Dogs of War!” (Julius Ceasar)
My latest conversion from cheap plastic Black Prince Knight or men at arms into Armada era Elizabethan / Tudorbethan Muster (my Arma-Dad’s Army) is the aspiring hack-scribe Bill Shaxbeard. Journal-ist, traveller, ballad writer, poet, dramatist, news hound, soldier?, spy?, inventor of words and phrases. Upstart Chough. Theatre Rival of dramatist Christopher Kit Marlowe, who came to a violent and mysterious end.
Conveniently nobody knows what Shaxbeard really looked like, especially as a young man.
Shaxbeard? I have long been intrigued about a world before Samuel Johnson’s dictionary where names and spelling were still fluid. Shakespeare, “Shakspere,” “Shaksper,” “Shakspear,” and “Schakspe(a)re,”Shaxberd … lots of variations in print and signature https://www.shakespeareauthorship.com/name1.html
How can I mix in this Shaxbeard character with the Armada and Spanish Raids scenarios for my figures?
Helpfully for the Operation Sealion / Arma-Dad’s Army nature of these Skirmish games, the Spanish Raids were often seen as an early form of Tudorbethan amphibious combined ops and commando raid warfare.
Above – Some of my Elizabethan Muster conversions so far, same figure origin as Shakespeare – https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2020/10/16/from-black-prince-knight-to-elizabethan-arma-dads-army-muster-or-militia-54mm-plastic-conversion/
The Mousehole, Paul, Newlyn and Penzance Raids on Cornwall c. 1595 saw coordinated naval bombardments and volleys from Spanish landing parties, sufficient that many of the local townsfolk and the poorly trained and poorly armed Muster (a forerunner of the Militia) wisely retreated or sought cover.
Born in 1564, Shakespeare himself was old enough to be drafted for the Trained Bands, overseas Levy or local Muster. Some suggest in his ‘missing years’, the years of the Armada and Anglo Spanish War, that he ‘went for a soldier’ in the Low Countries. There are some convenient useful biographical gaps in his life between 1585-1592). Others such as Catherine Alexander dispute this.
One of the ‘Seven Ages of Man’ in a speech from As You Like It is the soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the canon’s mouth.
As far as I know, Shakespeare had no direct military experience but would have seen the blue coats of the Trained Bands drilling in London, heard ballads and news of “foreign quarrels” or warres and no doubt met many people who had served overseas.
As he grew in social stature and mixed with more influential people and patrons, the real ‘Bill Shakespeare’ would have been more aware of the requirements of gentlemen and parishes to provide men and arms as the Queen commanded.
Shaxbeard would have heard of the Armadas of 1588, the Spanish landings in 1595 etc.
The Elizabethan and Jacobean world in which Shakespeare grew up was riven by Protestant / Catholic conflict, regime change and the ongoing endless continental wars especially the proxy wars against Spain. Any reference to soldiering and warriors, even those set in the distant past of antiquity, would have been seen then (as today) in the light of Shakespeare’s audience and wealthy (Royal) patrons’ recent experience of war.
Type in ‘Shakespeare’ and ‘War’ or ‘Military’ to your internet search engine and you find many interesting references to his plays and the military world of Tudor or Elizabethan England ranging from dubious ’50 things’ type lists through Wikiquote:
to full academic articles and a PhD thesis.
‘Was Shakespaeare a Soldier?’ 2011 blog article includes details of an Armada Muster Roll for Stratford upon Avon http://theshakespeareblog.com/2011/07/was-shakespeare-a-soldier/
1928 Article on Shakespeare and Military History
Military Culture of Shakespeare’s England by Dong Ha Seo, PhD thesis
I have been looking out for such details when creating and converting a small army of plastic toy knights into an Elizabethan poorly armed rabble called the Muster (poorly armed compared to the better armed and drilled Trained Bands). Elizabethan foreign wars including Ireland drained men and arms overseas from each parish and County in the Levy system. The ‘Was Shakespeare a Soldier?’ blog post has an interesting section on Shakespeare’s scenes of military life including:
“the recruitment of would-be soldiers. In Henry IV Part 1 Sir John Falstaff describes the soldiers he has recruited, “discarded unjust serving-men, younger sons to younger brothers, revolted tapsters and ostlers trade-fallen, … and such have I, to fill up the rooms of them that have bought out their services.”
In the follow-up play, Henry IV Part 2, he dramatises the actual process by which men were put on the muster roll. Four men are needed, but the two likeliest ones buy their way out leaving the “scarecrows” appropriately named Shadow, Feeble and Wart.” (‘Was Shakespeare a Soldier?’ blog post.)
These characters of Falstaff, Shadow, Feeble and Wart must be the Elizabethan ancestors of Captain Mainwaring and Private Pike etc in my Arma-Dad’s Army Elizabethan Muster.
(Above) Elizabethan armour stage view of Henry V and Agincourt two hundred years before? Interesting illustration by John James in a cut-away type children’s book Inside Story series called Shakespeare’s Theatre by Jacqueline Morley (1994). I also have the 19th Century Frontier Fort and 19th Century Railway Station.
Lots of interesting background detail for our Armada era skirmish games.
Shakespeare’s plays are full of warriors and battle, mostly offstage (to save on extras?) from medieval warfare in Macbeth through more recent Tudor history in the Wars of The Roses (several Henrys and Richards plays) to Agincourt in Henry V.
A description of Macbeth’s warrior achievements offstage in a battle well describes the gory and visceral nature of medieval and Elizabethan warfare.
Arguably hand to hand fighting with boots, fists, bayonets and melee weapons at the sharp end of battle has changed little since then.
Sergeant “… The merciless Macdonwald–
Worthy to be a rebel, for to that
The multiplying villanies of nature
Do swarm upon him–from the western isles
Of kerns and gallowglasses is supplied;
And fortune, on his damned quarrel smiling,
Show’d like a rebel’s whore: but all’s too weak:
For brave Macbeth–well he deserves that name–
Disdaining fortune, with his brandish’d steel,
Which smoked with bloody execution,
Like valour’s minion carved out his passage
Till he faced the slave;
Which ne’er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him,
Till he unseam’d him from the nave to the chaps,
And fix’d his head upon our battlements.”
From Macbeth Act 1 Scene 2
“Some Shakespeare productions seem to fit neatly into this account, fashioning a patriotic, national theatre that supports the government’s military action and functions as a form of wartime propaganda. Perhaps the most famous production is Laurence Olivier’s film adaptation of Henry V during World War II. It presents a chivalric, airbrushed Henry, achieved by removing some of the play’s most troubling scenes, and was patriotically dedicated to the ‘Commandos and Airborne Troops of Great Britain, the spirit of whose ancestors it has been humbly attempted to recapture’.”
From a interesting blog that looks at the often controversial wartime staging of some of Shakespeare’s plays over the centuries https://blogs.kcl.ac.uk/english/2018/11/28/shakespeare-at-war/
I can never watch this Henry V without thinking it was possibly the first colour film my late father remembered seeing as an eight to nine year old after return from evacuation, a free cinema schools showing as part of Victory celebrations in 1945/6.
Henry V opens with the famous chorus about creating battles on the Elizabethan playhouse stage and in the audience’s imagination, nicely done in the film with scenes of Shakespearean London and a rousing William Walton score.
“O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,
Assume the port of Mars; and at his heels,
Leash’d in like hounds, should famine, sword and fire
Crouch for employment. But pardon, and gentles all,
The flat unraised spirits that have dared
On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
So great an object: can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of France? or may we cram
Within this wooden O the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?
O, pardon! since a crooked figure may
Attest in little place a million;
And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
On your imaginary forces work.
Suppose within the girdle of these walls
Are now confined two mighty monarchies,
Whose high upreared and abutting fronts
The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder:
Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts;
Into a thousand parts divide one man,
And make imaginary puissance;
Think when we talk of horses, that you see them
Printing their proud hoofs i’ the receiving earth;
For ’tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
Carry them here and there; jumping o’er times,
Turning the accomplishment of many years
Into an hour-glass: for the which supply,
Admit me Chorus to this history;
Who prologue-like your humble patience pray,
Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play.”
Henry V, Chorus / opening speech
All in all, not so very far from what wargamers do on the tabletop, in the toy theatres and scenery of our games tables and scenarios. All of this is useful for a background feeling of Elizabethan warfare in the age of Shakespeare (or Shaxbeard).
Next up, almost finished on the painting table: those feared Spanish raiders!
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN 26 October 2020.
B.P.S. Blog Post Script
More recent performances have explored Shakespeare for the PTSD generation of modern warriors: