Being some illustrations of ‘The Dumb Soldier’ poem by Robert Louis Stevenson (RLS) from A Child’s Garden of Verses (1885), as featured in our recent garden games post:
I was fascinated by the discovery by Tony (of the interesting Tin Soldiering On blog) of this type of crude wartime or postwar hollowcast figure, the plastic pound store warriors of their day, buried in the garden of the house he grew up in whilst digging the garden
He is about 54mm (2″) scale, I’m not sure where he has come from, my parents moved into the house in about 1946 shortly after it was built and I have lived here all my life and can’t remember ever owning him as a child so he is a bit of a mystery, but he will stand guard on my painting tray from now on … it ties in with the age of the house which was built just after the war, my mother and father moved in on his demob in 1946 I think . Tony, Tin Soldiering On blog
So I was curious to see the same type of figure unearthed and turn up for sale on an online site and bought this “Dumb soldier” to go with several others that have turned up in joblots.
They are very similar in style to the crude moulded figures that I produced from vintage metal moulds.
The Dumb Soldier Illustrated
First is a three page spread by British illustrator Hilda Boswell (1903 – 1976) in watercolours, from her illustrated version of a Child’s Garden of Verses, published in 1963. The first two pages are a double page spread, broken down to page by page to see more details. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hilda_Boswell
Archaeologists of the future might see this toy soldier burial as some kind of strange ritual practice. (In my experience anything Archaeologists do not understand is linked to strange ‘ritual’ practice).
Her “Dumb Soldier” looks much like the 1960s Herald Plastic Guardsman I grew up with, first introduced in the early 1950s as plastics steadily took over from lead figures for children. So this Herald figure could easily have been the model.
The other illustration in my collection is from the late Brian Wildsmith (1930-2016), a well-known British illustrator.
I was amazed and pleased to see that his 1960s illustrated version of A Child’s Garden of Verses is back / still in print (Blackwells, 2017). So you can own a copy too!
Lost or deliberately buried in the garden?
My late Dad as a wartime child was given some ‘lost’ metal figures including a coronation coach dredged up from his father’s employer’s garden pond, presumably unwanted by the previous, possibly careless child owners. Long lost again many years beforei was born, I often thought of these treasures whilst launching amphibious assaults across our garden pond and then sometimes having to root around in the pond bottom mud for the heavier casualties.
I lost plenty enough small Airfix figures in the pile of builders sand we called a sandpit. Digging one into the lawn, however good his trench or fire pit, would have led to pretty quick decapitation by 1970s hovermower.
I was amazed and pleased to see that Wildsmith’s 1960s illustrated version of A Child’s Garden of Verses is back / still in print (Blackwells, 2017). So you can own a copy too!
Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 30th August 2017