Toy Soldiers is an intriguing and funny little film, only six minutes long, made in Canada in 1999 (based around a toy soldier poem or anecdote by Al Rae), all about a young Al’s desire to own a certain rare cereal box toy soldier Teutonic Knight to complete his collection.
Synopsis – “A young boy, desperate to complete his set of toy soldiers, betrays a friend to get what he wants.” Creative team – Writer/producer: Catherine May Director: Jackie May
The figures are familiar Timpo figures, displayed on egg box plinths
Union American Civil War, Waterloo British, Indian Chief, Arab Warrior, Confederate Civil War, American War of Independnce British, Eighth Army, Waterloo Scots Piper, Waterloo Prussian …
and to complete the set the long sought Teutonic Knight who lived at the top of a Lego stand at the house of Brian, young Al’s rival collector who has a complete set.
These Timpo figures were familiar figures from my 1970s childhood, bought in Action Packs and recently reissued by Toyway (now shut).
Glasgow born poet writer and film actor Al Rae (who narrates the film and plays himself as an adult) now lives in Canada and is now known as Lara Rae, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lara_Rae “Lara Rae (born 1963 in Glasgow, Scotlan), formerly known as Al Rae, is a Canadian comedian, best known as the longtime artistic director of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival and as a performer on the CBC Radio One comedy series The Debaters…”
Hing Fat 54mm Samples group 3: The next instalment of painted Hing Fat 54mm plastic sample figures are these WW2 Italian infantry.
You may have read in my previous posts on WW2 French Infantry and WW2 Russian Infantry about how these arrived as a Lockdown gift from Peter Evans. These are spare sample figures – Peter imports these China Made figures and regularly sells sets of Hing Fat figures on his eBay shop figsculpt.
The whole unpainted Italian set in bright green plastic (!) can be seen on Peter’s eBay shop here:
Image: Figsculpt EBay site with permission.
I compared these Italian figures to the Airfix WW2 Italian Infantry which I painted in OOHO and 1:32 scale back around 1980. The latter larger figures are quite the collectors’ item now, due to a short production run.
Something about the gloves and jacket suggested snow clothing, so I checked out a suitable WW2 figure (albeit an Alpini?) Funcken’s Arms and Uniforms 18th Century to the Present Day – see further below.
The boots or legging on these Italian figures range from puttees to leather knee leggings. I like the contrast of the curious green grey leather of Italian equipment with the white snow jacket.
Hing Fat figures are toy soldiers, not military models. They are sometimes criticised for their over large weapons but these would survive vigorous play unlikesome more fragile figures.
One of the other figures has the curious soft fez headgear worn by blackshirts. Again in various uniform books, these are shown in Italian grey or desert khaki, so I opted for a desert khaki figure for contrast.
These fez figures would make some interesting Spanish Civil War conversions.
Finally the figure that look most like the Airfix poses, the lying down crawling whilst throwing a grenade action pose. I have amounted him on an MDF bases so you can see home more clearly and he can stand.
What took a while to track down before posting here were my Airfix Italian Infantry figures, not much used since they were painted c. 1980 / early 80s. I remember these coming out, a brand new set of Airfix figures, an exciting event worth saving the pocket money for.
Here to finish off are some comparison shots of Hing Fat and the nearest equivalent Airfix figures:
So an interesting set, worth a few sets acquiring for games or conversions.
Next week’s sample will be … a surprise. (I haven’t decided yet.)
Meanwhile check out the Hing Fat range on Peter Evans Figsculpt eBay site.
One of Steve Weston’s versatile Mexican peasants figures in a Tudor head-cloth
For those of you who wonder where the Arma-Dad’s Army 1590s Elizabethan Home Guard Project is going, here is my next addition to the Cornish Muster and townsfolk who oppose the Spanish Fury of the raids along the West Country coast.
‘Battling Aggie’ is a versatile Steve Weston Toy Co. Mexican peasant woman, easily adapted with a tissue paper or kitchen towel head scarf into a handy medieval and Tudor through the English and American Civil Wars to the Wild West.
Spanish Invaders – go home! Don’t look round, Don Pedro …
The original pirate or clone Matchbox figures and the Bush hat conversions. I shall paint in the desert / jungle cravat …
These Matchbox 8th Army copies were amongst some of the unlovely but cheap plastic, increasing distorted mouldings that I bought from now vanished local pound stores around 2005/6.
I am intrigued by the way that as figures are copied, they change slowly into the suggestion of different figures. Great for conversion potential?
These sandpit pound store knock offs of long unavailable Matchbox figures have continued to evolve or de-evolve with less and less detail into even thinner shadows of themselves.
‘Original’ unaltered pound store copies and my Bush hat conversions …
The bush hat conversions are made using a hole punched circle of card trimmed down to size and attached by PVA or UHU glue. These early crude attempts do have a unfortunate fashionable Edwardian ladies’ bonnet look.
Once varnished or sealed, they could be useful for sandpit games or garden gaming, as well as on the tabletop.
They may not be lovely copies but ..
Over the years, many of my original Airfix and Matchbox 1:32 figures have not survived various house moves and downsizing into adulthood, so these copies were a good way in 2005/6 to bulk up available gaming and conversion figures for a cheerful pound a bag.
There are cheapish, (not quite) pocket money alternatives out there again now, ranging from Hing Fat 54mm to reissued late 2021 Airfix (£9 a box for 14 figures or 65p each!)
Again, these are painted in simple or traditional toy soldier style in Revell Aquacolor Acrylics. These will then receive the shiny toy soldier gloss varnish treatment, which also protects them during handling.
How many kilted bagpipe Eighth Army figures do you need?
54mm Matchbox copy figures 2021?
If you search around online, you will find these Matchbox copies of four colour, four different nations Matchbox copies of German, Japanese, American and Eighth Army Infantry in its various incarnations or tubs. The Americans are widely available as reprints.
How many kilted bagpipe Eighth Army figures do you need?
These are attractive figures that remind me of Airfix and Matchbox, which I would happily have bought and played with as a child and that work well today.
I have painted these with glossy shiny toy soldier style with pink cheek dots but I have yet to gloss varnish these. These were painted using Revell Aquacolor Acrylics. My gloss spray varnish supplies nursed through Lockdown have finally run out.
Some lively Russian figures and a curiously posed rifleman, shooting from high up or aiming low.
I like the range of costume and headgear, as well as the one with shovel tucked into a belt, protecting the back? Armour plating?
Size comparison with 1:32 Airfix Russians that I painted and gloss varnished when I was a child.
One of my 45 year old Airfix Russians had a crumbling base and missing SMG barrel end, so this has been repaired with wire and a new MDF base. He lives to fight again alongside the new Hing Fat recruits.
Curiously the old Airfix 1:32 Russians are not currently in the Airfix winter 2021 rerelease / preorder. Previous releases are around secondhand online.
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.
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:
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 –
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 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.
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 ?
Amonongst my favourite Saturday films as a child was this 1967 Morecambe and Wise oddity, the last of their three films The Magnificent Two, set in the fictional (?South American? Mexican?) Republic of ParaZuellia.
Taking its title from the popular Magnificent Seven film (1960), you get a good flavour of this odd cowboy western town / war movie meets Carry On style comedy mash up in the short official Rank Film 1967 trailer here:
As the trailer boldly claims, the film is “A Saga of Fear. A Drama of Courage. the Time is Now. The Place – Campo Grande, Parazuellia, flashpoint of a troubled continent.“
The synopsis or plot of the film
Mid 1960s: Two British Action Men travelling salesmen [Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise] arrive in Campo Grande in the (Central or South American?) country of Parazuellia to sell their goods.
During the train journey Eric accidentally opens a train door leading to the accidental death of the returning British educated Fernando Torres, the son of an assassinated Revolutionary president and figurehead of a revolutionary movement, and a government secret policeman who is trying to arrest him.
Upon arrival by train in the city of Campo Grande, Eric is mistaken by the revolutionaries for Torres. When they discover the death of the real Torres, they pay Eric and Ernie to maintain Eric’s impersonation of Torres to lead a revolution to oust the unpopular dictator President Dias.
However once the revolution is successful, Eric gains an inflated opinion of himself, promises lots of unaffordable reforms to the people and has to be “assassinated” by his own side in a myriad of absurd further comic plot twists and turns and betrayals.
Aided by chief of the women’s army General Carla (Margit Said), once he is “dead” Eric rescues the President’s young children (who were due to be executed by the revolutionaries). Morecambe and Wise then try to flee the country.
Having delivered the President’s children to the President’s secret hideout, a military museum in the forest on the site of a great Parazuellian victory in the past, they are then warned by Revolutionary Captain Juanita Negra (Isobel Black) that a mobile armoured column of the revolutionaries led by the shady General Carrillo (Virgilio Texera) have followed them.
The bizarre “Battle of Campo Grande” (as the trailer calls it) takes place and the few Presidential forces are bolstered by old cannons and by dummies from the military museum manning the battlements in true Beau Geste / Fort Zinderneuf style.
Captured by Carillo’s Revolutionary forces, Morecambe and Wise are rescued in the nick of time by General Carla, Capatin Juanita and the Women’s Revolutionary Army in an unexpected and not fully clothed tactical manoeuvre that befits a late 1960s British comedy in the style of the Carry On series …
This can be clearly seen on the trailer, various film posters including the one above and on IMDB.
This comically handled tactical manoeuvre, it could be argued, slightly undermines the film’s potentially late 60s feminist credentials.
My need for a colour scheme for these Revolutionary uniforms does not extend to the underwear, which for the record is camo khaki green, red or black in the revolutionary and national colours for the women. I’m not sure if the film dwells on that level of modelling information for all the characters beyond a white vest or khaki shirt and shorts from Eric and Ernie.
Somehow it’s quite abrupt ending parade not long after this Carry On moment is a curious mixture of Gilbert and Sullivan humour about ‘female troops’ (Princess Ida meets Castro’s Cuba) and “sisters doing it for themselves” 60s feminism.
Fifty years on from The Magnificent Two, we now live in a world where many armies worldwide have removed the bar or glass ceiling from allowing women into front line combat roles.
A more detailed, plot spoiler / synopsis from the BFI:
As a child what I most remember was the Action Men battle bit at the start (with some Britains 155 mm guns) and the larger Action Men joke of the Military Museum ‘Beau Geste’ dummies on the battlements trick. I liked watching Morecambe and Wise then, as harmlessly silly, and I still do.
Many people dismiss this and the trio of Morecambe and Wise cinema films from the Sixties as uneven and a box office flop.
I rather like the three Morecambe and Wise films in the way I prefer the early Sixties Bond movies to any of the others.
As one commentator or critic pointed out, it has a rather high body count for a comedy. It would be a proper blood and guts gritty western / War movie, if only Morecambe and Wise hadn’t blundered into it – therein is the joke.
Watching this again on DVD as an adult, I was intrigued by the fictional ImagiNations uniforms and equipment. The Parazuellian Presudentail forces of El Presidente Diaz (Martin Benson) wear American style sand coloured uniforms.
The ‘heroic’ Revolutionary forces of men and women wear American style Green uniforms, men with US green helmets and the women wearing British WW2 tin hats with a red revolutionary star on white circle badge.
Green and Tan 50s 60s US uniforms – what does this remind me of? This Magnificent Two film costume universe is like a large bag of cheap green and tan pound store play set figures and mismatched equipment writ large in its simple colour schemes. The film is a comic Little Wars of an American plastic playset of the 1960s.
An equally odd mix of equipment – British scout cars, trucks, American half tracks and jeeps, FN Armalite rifles, Vickers HMGs, Sten and Bren Guns – scraped together by the film company help to give the impression of the Government and Revolutionary forces using any equipment they can get their hands on.
Many of the lobby card images by The Rank Organisation are now copyright / licensed of Alamy, so I will not reproduce them here. The Rare Film photo montage gives a good flavour of the adapted uniforms.
The Film Set-tings
The station (based in a now vanished station from Longmoor Military Railway) and city set of Campo Grande can be seen on Reel Streets (set up by John Tunstill of the Soldiers Soldiers website – it’s a small world sometimes).
As ImagiNations go, Parazuellia is obviously a mix of Paraguay, Venezuela and an “-ia” ending. (Presumably there is another nearby country called Vene-guay-a?) A further fictional South American country is mentioned: Urapania, made up of Uruguay and Hispania?
I am reminded strongly of the South American ImagiNations in the Gran Chapo War in Tintin’s 1930s The Broken Ear, based on the real Gran Chaco War.
Anyway it’s an enjoyable Saturday afternoon slice of childhood comedy nostalgia with some interesting possibilities of gaming scenarios with pound store figures and the new BMC Plastic Army Women figures.
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 4 March 2021
B.P.S. Blog Post Script
The New Zenda / Ruritania for film makers in the 1960s was obviously South American revolutionary ImagiNations. Recently there have been some blogposts about Viva Max! a 1969 Peter Ustinov fronted ‘comedy Mexican’ screwball film plot about Mexicans retaking the Alamo in 1969. See the trailer here as the IMDB article is sparse:
The Mexicans in Viva Max! wear very similar desert tan uniforms to the Presidential army of Parazeullia. Red Green And White national colours and thinly disguised Mexican type National and Presidential flags crop up in The Magnificent Two. (IMDB Notes them as a blooper.)
IMDB Website Quotes for The Magnificent Two
Ernie: We’ll never sell anything here. I don’t suppose anybody’s got two pesos to rub together.