One of those presents put away on the Christmas presents shelf for this Christmas … and well worth the wait!
I like old toy shop packaging and this Battle Ground Military Series pack caught my eye online on EBay a few months back for £5, one pack opened and one still in the pack.
I can’t put a date on this box of Matchbox 1:76 German Infantry copies but it’s obviously post 1976 when these Matchbox figures came out. I only have a few surviving original ones from the time, so they inexpensively fill a gap.
They have a CE mark on the lower right hand corner as well as on the importer label, the CE mark about origin or toy safety is more modern than the 1970s /80s and standard in the EU area from 1993 onwards. So probably 1990s …
There is a maker’s or packager’s company logo of an H? in the top left corner which I don’t recognise. The figures themselves have no Hong Kong or China base markings.
The vibrant flaming orange packaging reminds me a little of today’s ‘Combat Force’ type pound store figure packaging.
In the cheerfully bizarre way of cheap copies and playsets, the packaging images showing vaguely WW2 to Vietnam era American soldiers but this is not matched by the content of German WW2 figures in dark green plastic but oddly does match an American flag!
Oddly included in the pack are some tiny walk-in talkie radiomen.
Accompanying this unopened blister pack was the contents of an opened pack, mixed in with a handful some Airfix American Infantry copies (copies of which still around today).
These look like they have got jumbled in from elsewhere, as I can see no such American figures inside the unopened pack.
Adding to the impression that this is someone’s jumble of figures, a much older stray metal diecast anti-aircraft gun (on a circular vehicle mounting?) with nice elevation gearing is mixed in with the bundle.
Anyway some cheap and cheerful recruits for the toy soldier box …
Nothing much new in the online Pound stores this year? 2020/21
What with ongoing Covid restrictions I have only been into pound stores a couple of times on the high street only for ‘target: toy section’ for a minute or two.
And visits to charity shops, jumble, steam fairs, junk markets? None.
This paucity and Covid drought of penny dreadfuls and plastic tat has been relieved partly by some kind donationsfrom blog readers of old unwanted Airfix figures, some great samples of Hing Fat 54mm figures from Peter Evans and also from strategic reserves laid down in the past.
These strategic reserves are laid down according to my Pound Store Plastic Warrior wise hoarding maxims –
1. “Buy them when you see them, they’re sometimes only around for a short while”
2. “They’re only a pound”.
3. “You may not need them now, but in the future …”
2020/21 saw a couple of games using Pound Store plastics ranging from snowballing fights of Yukigassen in August …
To an RLS “Land of Counterpane” game in April on an old squared blanket …
Some curious Pound Store conversions, padding out the more expensive Chintoys plastics or old lead …
October 2020 onwards: My Arma-Dad’s Army Elizabethan muster or militia Home Guard 1588 1595 slowly builds using Pound Store knights
This of course having Spanish Fury Conquistadors and Armada troops means Aztec types are a natural match or extension (Peter Laing style ‘dual use figures’ )
With found cheap scenery from scrap … inscribed stones, temple steps, obelisks …
The Super Cheap Wargaming group on Facebook has been good for such affordable scrap terrain ideas as well.
Sometimes my Pound Store Plastic Warriors posts crossposted material or projects from my Man of TIN blog (main blog) or linked to these including:
Fembraury – The new BMC Plastic Army Women becoming Women’s Revolutionary Army of Parazuellia, part of the 1960s Morecambe and Wise comedy film The Magnificent Two whose other government and rebel troops will be padded out with Pound Store GI copies …
January 2021 – Scrap modelling Edwardian style with E Nesbit’s Wings and the Child on the building of Magic Cities
and January also involved archive history research to identify more about H.G. Wells’ connections, family and friends involved in playing his Floor Games and Little Wars c. 1911-13. Well our Pound Store Plastic Warriors strapline is “Little Wars on A Budget”.
Who knows where 2021 and 2022 will lead us?
Thanks for reading and following.
Blog posted on my Fifth Blogaversary 13 September 2021
**** Delayed post from late May / early June 2021 ***** shelfie photo *****
I had to go into town for a medical appointment on a quiet day at the end of May 2021. With a few minutes to spare, feeling more Covid secure after two jabs, and masked up, I checked out my local poundstores for the first time in over a year.
In Wilko there were no Lego compatible blocks, block ‘pick and mix’ and no toys to be seen. Maybe nothing until Christmas …
However Poundland, wonderful Poundland, had these “penny dreadfuls” (as some unkindly call them) back on sale at a penny each in bags but tubs as before.
Check the shop label: 100PCS – £1 – 1.00p each
That is affordable gaming – and two colours / forces per bag!
Hing Fat figures are a new brand to me – I wasn’t very familiar with Hing Fat figures other than the versatile pirates, which Brian Carrick turned into Chinese figures or a fantastic Maratha Indian army. I’m not quite sure if the seaside shop pirates I have bought are real Hing Fat ones or pirated clone pirates. There must be some irony there?
Sample Figures 1. WW2 French Hing Fat 54mm plastic figures
Sample French WW1 / WW2 figure No. 1
In the parcel were samples from a variety of figure ranges from Knights and AWI to WW2. The hard plastic figures are usually in a base colour relating to where they fought or their base uniform colour. They would withstand fairly rigorous play handling by children (and ageing garden gamers).
I thought I would start with the most unusual, which are the Hing Fat WW2 (or at a push WW1) French infantry in light blue plastic.
At first sight I thought this Poilu poses was pantographed up from the familiar OO/HO WW1 French Infantry by Airfix.
The full range of twelve poses of Hing Fat French WW2 figures can be seen here on Peter’s Figsculpt eBay site:
They wear greatcoats (the capote), puttees and the Adrian helmet without backpacks.
Paint notes: Revell AquaColor Acrylic – Horizon Blue uniform and helmet light blue gloss 361-50, for other equipment paint colours see paint notes figure 3 (bayonet fighter) below. Gloss varnish acrylic spray for that traditional simple shiny toy soldier finish.
Preben Kannik’s Military Uniforms of the World, my childhood branch library standard features this Belgian Infantry Officer in Khaki 1940.
Painted khaki rather than ‘les bleuets’ of the Great War, these Adrian helmeted French infantry could pass as Belgian as well as French Infantry. Maybe even WW1 Italians?
If you were not too fussy, many of these rifle wielding poilus and the officer and bugler could be used for WW1 French or late WW1 Belgians.
Similarly, if you were a 54mm wargamer not looking too closely at buttons, webbing and equipment, these would work for a range of other nations in WW1 and WW2 who adopted the greatcoat and Adrian helmet, as suggested below looking at a few uniform books.
My trusty Preben Kannik, Military Uniforms of The World suggests Belgian and French in WW2, wearing khaki greatcoats and Adrian helmets.
My battered Funcken WW2 Uniforms part IV volume suggest Free French Infantry WW2 and an interesting colonial French Moroccan Riflemen in Uniform in WW2 Part IV (see figure 3 below with bayonet)
Funcken WW2 part III has Norwegian forces in their Norway 1935 Pattern Helmet which looks a little like an Adrian Helmet. There is also a Navy blue great-coated French Navy sailors in Landing Rig. I don’t have Funcken WW2 Uniforms parts 1 and 2 yet.
The Funcken 18th Century to the Present Day volume shows “les bleuets” from WW1 and khaki Belgians in late WWI, along with khaki French and Belgians in WW2.
Let’s look at the other two sample figures, No. 2 and 3:
This almost war memorial poilu statue 54mm figure has a large Bren type LMG, probably the FM 24/29 French LMG (in service from 1924-60s and beyond. I cannot find information about a French stick grenade from WW2.
FM 24/29 type Light Machine Gun
The third sample figure was in the act of bayonet fighting.
My painted version of this 54mm figure in shiny gloss toy soldier style portrays this bayonet warrior as a French Colonial Moroccan Infantryman in Khaki overcoat:
French Colonial Moroccan Infantryman in Khaki overcoat WW1 / WW2 – Paint Notes – painted using Revell AqauColor Acrylic paints – Olive Green silk matt 361-36 for the uniform greatcoat and helmet, Mud brown gloss 361-80 for boots and leather equipment, Leather brown matt 361-84 for wooden rifle parts, Dark Earth matt 361-82 for face and Copper paint cheek dot. Gloss spray varnish finish.
Further Uniform Possibilities?
The two volumes of The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Uniforms of WWI and its WWII companion volume suggest various troops wearing the Adrian Helmet:
Various figure suggestions including the Polish Legion, Russian Civil War and various other conflicts including French Foreign Legion in khaki.
Belgium 1940 – khaki Infantry greatcoat and helmet with Belgian lion badge for officers, men and support troops.
France 1940 – khaki French greatcoat and Adrian helmeted colonial infantry such as African Tirailleurs Senegales and Zouaves (when not wearing a fez)
Some (Free) French Infantry were still wearing the Adrian helmet in 1944-45 with US or British uniform.
Polish lancers in 1939 in khaki, shown without greatcoats.
These figures could represent the unsavoury figures in dark blue uniform and Adrian helmet of the Vichy France (Gardes Republicaines Mobiles) paramilitary police so feared by the Resistance. They are shown in tunics without greatcoats.
The French WW2 soldiers are shown in my trusty childhood Ladybird Leaders book of Soldiers, illustrated by Frank Humphris:
I hope you have enjoyed this taster glimpse of these sample figures which I enjoyed painting. I think a box or two of these poilus might be on my Christmas list.
As you can see, some Hing Fat WW2 figures seem to echo Matchbox WW2 figure poses.
Size or scale wise as 54mm / 1:32 figures go, here are three of the Hing Fat WW2 sample figures against my ‘standard’ figures of Britain’s 54mm hollowcast and Airfix plastic 1:32.
Nest sample figures: Three Hing Fat WW2 Russian sample figures
B.P.S. Blog Post Script
These WW1 / WW2 French Infantry reminded me of the tantalising glimpse in a late 70s / early 80s Airfix catalogue that promised 1:32 WW1 British Infantry in soft caps, based on the OO/HO ones. Sadly, this never happened and was never again mentioned. Did I dream this one?
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 ?
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
From High Priest to Princess / Queen in a few easy steps …
One of the challenges of toy soldiers made for modellers and not gamers is the “too many chiefs” problem.
The Chintoys 54mm Mixtecs and Zapotecs featured on my last post have several high profile, high ranking priests, warlords and officer figures with battle flags in each bag of 8 figures, not the rank and file “lumpen proletariat” of the PBI (poor bloody infantry) that you actually want.
It’s like having a Wellington or Napoleon on every sprue of Napoleonic figures or a free Hitler or Stalin on every WW2 German or Russian infantry one.
The Chintoys Mixtecs and Zapotecs are closely modelled on Angus McBride’s colourful plates in the Osprey book of Aztecs, Mixtec and Zapotec Armies.
So the solution to three Oracular High Priests is to paint one like the colour plate, keep one spare for a Celtic or Native Shaman in future and promote the third to a Mixtec Queen.
This striking Queen figure is shown in the colour plate but sadly not included in the Chintoys set.
The priest face and mask is not very feminine, nor are the massive sinewy muscly arms and giant hands but this priestly left arm and hand is transcribed from her Queen pose to the Priest in the Chintoys figures.
Cheap architect / railway civilian figure in hard plastic became the head donor
The challenge to behead or deface required sprue cutters and scalpel. A square of the priest’s face and jaw mask was removed and kept for further statue / carved pillar use.
I removed the head of the female civilian railway passenger (not often you get to type that sentence) from this figure in hard plastic.
The challenge was to trim and shave in small slivers with a scalpel the back of the female head down to a squarish face plate to fit onto the faceless priest – and not slice your fingers off at the same time.
The priest needed to have the face platform further trimmed back into the head.
Once I had the female face down to as thin as possible without damaging the front and the slot on the priest suitably trimmed back, I used a small hand drill to pin the new female face in place and superglued to secure it.
A colourful turban and hair was created to fill the edge gaps using kitchen towel and PVA glue.
The Princess / Queen figure had her arm in a different position holding an obsidian tipped spear rather than the blue stone club or war hammer in the Priests hand. I trimmed the arm off with sprue cutters, reangled with drill and pun and the shoulder gap filled with tissue paper / kitchen towel.
The muscly arm was slightly trimmed down to make it more feminine.
The war hammer was removed and the hand drilled to take a spear or staff. The obsidian blade tip was made with masking tape, the pompom was made from a shaved plastic flag or banner pompom section from another figure.
Her giant left hand still needs trimming or obscuring, possibly with bloodied cloth of a sacrifice?
Now with added Britain’s Zoo plastic Eagle …
A valuable and regal addition to my semi fictional ImagiNations ManoTINcas tribe.
For further information on each figure in the Angus McBride illustration, here are the plate notes by John Pohl the author (below).
From this I took the idea of her painted face, although I did mine on copper, not yellow pigment.
The turban around the hair intwined with coloured cloth and the obsidian blade were two other features that I took from this description and painting.
Flying Tiger, that strange mash up of quirky Scandi design and Pound Store (Ikea meets Poundland) had this clever little section of their Newsletter. I have no stores very near and sadly they do not yet have mail order but the ideas are good.
This reminds me of the childhood Ladybird book ‘Toys and Games To Make’, a great use of those everyday childhood items, things like old date boxes, matches, matchboxes and fag packets.
A terraced row of these carton houses or warehouses reminds me of H.G. Well’s Little Wars type games and Alan Gruber’s Tradgardland biscuit box houses of 2017:
I look at these play sets part with the eyes of the child I once was and part with the slightly more adult eyes of the gamer and figure converter.
The calves are small enough to be cows in a smaller railway or gaming scale.
The piglets are pleasingly stocky and wild boar like (lunch for Obelix and Asterix).
The rabbits (?!?) are just plain bizarre. The chickens and ducks repainted are good for farm vignettes.
The wobbly fencing would make good corrugated iron panels at smaller scales.
What I find most fascinating are the cloned farm figures which are in that indeterminate 40 to almost 50mm sizing. They are in slightly soft plastic, rather than hard and brittle.
I think the figures will repaint well enough for civilian figures, as will the outhouse repainted to a small distressed farm outhouse. It is a clone of Britain’s Plastic small farm buildings that I still have.
Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 2 September 2018
The Mini Farm set is manufactured by www.keycraft.eu, an interesting low cost plastic toy trade retailer with lots of business retail insights on their website. The Sceince of Impulse Buys? Note: Trade only.