Their origin is inscribed in fine point indelible CD marker underneath – figure number and origin e.g. D of T. This makes for easy stock-keeping, honours the gift or origin and also helps with personalised wargaming.
Yellow and Black?
Like a swarm of wasps or angry bees? The starting original yellow tunic colour is well matched by the vibrant Lufthansa Gelb (Yellow) 36-310, the silk matt Revell Aquacolor Acrylic that I used.
Who could they be?
1. It also gives me a possible Mittel Mittel European ImagiNation or FMS Forgotten Minor State (Principality, Electorate, Empire or Duchy etc) of Gelberg. Gelberg is named after its yellow-tinged rocks and mountains glimpsed above the forest line (a bit like Golden Cap near Lyme Regis).
2. Alternatively the black, white and gold could be a regiment of Kernewek or Cornish Guards in British or ‘foreign’ service, hence the ‘redcoat’ facings. There are Irish, Scots and Welsh Guards, why no Cornish ones? These are led by one handsome Captain Russ Dolparke.
3. Some other bright (yellow) idea …
Pigtails and Details
As I painted, I noticed more and more fiddly details – straps, the powder horn and its thin straps, the tie back buttons, cockades, the pigtail and ribbon. These are well detailed figures for their time, ones that have aged well too.
Checking through Uniforms of The American War of Independence (Blandford) as suitably Tricorne era, I noticed that the British and American troops did not all have white wigs and pigtails, below the senior officer level.
Some left-over figures, possibly intended to be standard bearers, will serve as gun crew as needed.
The odd figure with a (gunpowder?) barrel is actually an awkward chimera that I made of two damaged figures, part French Artillery legs and Washington’s Army body.
You could spend forever tweaking paint on straps etc. I decided against a dark wash to bring out details, as I wanted to keep close to the simple fresh paint scheme on the figures from the original random bag.
There are some beautifully painted and highlighted examples of Washington’s Army online including on the Paul’s Bods blog site.
This poem from A Child’s Garden of Verses (1885) is strongly linked in my mind to the chapter in Donald Featherstone’s Solo Wargaming entitled ‘War Gaming in Bed’. I found the rules in this humorous chapter such useful skirmish rules as a child.
The arrival of a blue chequered blanket into the house recently gave me the game mat for Counterpane that I have been looking for.
Setting up and playing the game, I encountered many of the problems noted by Featherstone about the apparent attractiveness of the bed as toy soldier terrain. If you are in bed, you can make the most marvellous mountains, valleys and hills with your knees and feet.
Donald Featherstone in his Solo Wargames book mentioned in a chapter on “Wargaming In Bed” exploring the apparent possibilities of lying in bed as wargames terrain
“At first glance beds , with their blanket-covered hummocks, hills and valleys, might seem pretty reasonable places upon which to fight a wargame, but experiment soon proves that this is not so.
In the first place, the figures will not stand up and even the most judicious positioning of the legs under the bedclothes so as to make the hills less steep will eventually be defeated by cramp if nothing else …”
This excerpt is from Chapter 20, “Wargaming in Bed” in Solo Wargamingby Donald Featherstone (1973 /2009 reprint p. 139), an excellent chapter full of suitably simple rules for skirmishes with jousting knights or duellists.
“After all, the easiest wargames terrain is a cloth draped over hills made of books, again if only you can manage to get your figures to stand up on it”, I wrote in late 2016.
This was what I had in mind back in late 2016
In lieu of legs and feet, I first tried pillows and long thin cushions that made a great terrain with slopes, but a terrain on which no toy soldier could stand and fight.
Sketch from my 2016 blog post
Instead I resorted to the boyhood standard of big chunky books under the blanket or cloth.
Soldiers still have some issues about standing to fight on rising hill slopes.
My 2016 sketch map of the Land of Counterpane, finally and roughly realised in today’s game.
The choice of book hills was fun. One leg valley was made up of a bound volume of the Strand with H G Wells’ original Floor Games article. Within this volume I keep my original H G Wells’ Little Wars article from the Windsor Magazine 1912/13, Part 2: The Battle for Hook’s Farm.
Another ‘leg’ was made up of 1897 bound volumes of The Windsor Magazine and of The Girl’s Own Annual that I had randomly acquired long ago, both full of ripping yarns. Amongst the Counterpane ‘Two Pillows’ hills was another bound volume – Dicken’s Household Words magazine, Volume 2 from 1851.
Good solid unmovable foundations for my red and blue Pound Store Plastic Warriors to battle over!
Tricky hill slopes – Bluan pound store troops of the rescue party led by old lead veteran Capitano Harry Counterpayne.
Pound Store finest, the Red Rugas-ian troops (Rugaj Manteloj or Red Coats) from Rugas, one of the FMS Forgotten Minor States, can be seen here storming the steep slopes of Wounded Tree-Knee ridge. This is guarded by a single blue-coated Thyer Brigadia sentry (Britains’ hollowcast conversion) standing next to a lovely old Britain’s plastic farm tree from my childhood farm set.
Rugasian Redcoats storm the slippy steep slopes of the ridge
Propped up on the twin peaks or pillow hills, overlooking all is RLS, the child sick in bed from the Land Of Counterpane poem, as painted by American illustrator Jessie Willcox Smith.
The rough sketch map of the Counterpane ‘game bed’ (2021) picks out and names different features, some in Esperanto. Oddly from the 1890s, this became a common neutral langauge or lingua franca in the Forgotten Minor States (FMS) troubled borderlands of Mittel Mittel Europe of my ImagiNations.
It is overdrawn with compass directions, helpful for marking entry and exit points of different troops, selected randomly by d6 dice throw.
View from the hill top ruin position of the Thyer Brigadia waggon party as Red Rugasian troops appear on the ridge opposite.
In part 2 (my next blog post), I shall feature the desperate and bloody fight to rescue the men and women of the Thyer Brigadia (FMS) troops, whose supply waggon cannot cross the missing or destroyed river bridge.
Fearing an ambush in this lawless and disputed border region, they have sent back a rider to bring help. As evening approaches they have unloaded the waggon and taken refuge with their stores in this burnt out hilltop ruin of an old crossing post.
The old lady in their party is sick. The two feisty young Kontraupan sisters ‘Hetty’ and ‘Harriet’ have stayed with the troops in order to nurse her.
The Thyer Brigadia sentry on the opposite ridge sounds the alarm as a small patrol of red enemy Rugasian troops comes storming over the hillside.
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.