I am quite pleased with how my Desert Warrior conversions from Poundland penny soldiers (£1 for a tub or bag of 100) are shaping up so far.
Several coats of white paint were required on the kitchen roll and PVA glue or the better alternative of tissue paper and PVA.
For a penny each these 36mm plastic figures have lots of conversion potential although I have yet to try splicing one body onto another. It is quite hard plastic compared to Airfix figures.
I enjoyed adding the brass or copper strips on the long barrels on the rifles or jezails of these hill and desert warriors.
Desert or mountain rocky sandy base was in fact the base painted with flesh tint artists’ acrylic then quickly dipped in a small box of red Devon beach sand, collected on a recent seaside trip.
I tried a very very weak or thin umber wash of acrylic to bring out the folds and shadows of the white desert robes, without losing the toy soldier look.
The warriors are not based on any one tribe – they are part Mahdist, part Desert or Bedouin type ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ Arab Warrior and part Pathan North West Frontier hill tribe. They are destined for fighting in the distant deserts of Farica or Generica.
Donald Featherstone was one inspiration for these figures, shown in my Man of TIN blog:
My other inspiration for these desert warriors, apart from Featherstone’s tribesmen in SoloWargaming, was an early 1970s childhood Ladybird book, Soldiers by John West and illustrated by Frank Humphris.
The page on tribal warriors was pretty useful – I like the surprising 1970s Ladybird equality sentiment about:
Soldiers of other lands
“Not all soldiers had regimental uniforms.
They were fighting men too.
They were just as brave.”
The long rifles of the oddly moulded or copied original pound store modern troops suggested details or conversion possibilities like a long Jezail type musket. Their bulky head gear or helmet looked oddly like a turban or the head scarf of a late 19th Century desert or hill tribesman.
I need to run up two of three dozen more of these conversions for a suitable skirmish encounter. Then I need to make some suitable red or khaki Colonial infantry as opponents.
I have started work on some trial Colonial infantry figures such as this rough unfinished Redcoat engineer or signaller with a heliograph, crudely converted from a modern machine gunner. Kneeling artillery gunners are another conversion possibility for this figure. Still some work to do on the heliograph.
I look forward to trying some other tribesmen variations, more Pathan or more Mahdist, some more colourfully robed Airfix type Bedouin of Desert warriors, even a mysterious tribe of black cloaked Desert Warriors.
All for a penny each …
B.P. S. Blog Post Script
I shall come back in another blogpost to this handy little 1970s Ladybird book Soldiers and its simple clear view of history and occasional sentiments about the waste of war.
Lovely charity shop find, this one was found on its own amongst lots of other no doubt highly desirable collectibles (to someone else). One slightly battered, slightly wonky of wheel Matchbox Ford Model T 1912 lorry, only 99p and some careless previous owners.
The price label below the 99p reveals it has sat there for a while at £2.99 attracting no interest. I checked it out later on EBay, they are common enough and battered ones are worth about £1 to £2.
Sold to the gentle-Man of TIN for transporting tiny footsore Pound Land pound store plastic warriors of just the right size (£1 for 100 figures).
Unfortunately the back doors don’t open, but there is space to put some suitably converted or Fimo-made figures in the driving compartment.
These Pound Land 100 figures for £1 are about 32-34 mm high, and I’m sure this Ford Model T would stretch or shrink to working with 30mm or 28mm figures. A little too big for HO/OO First World War Airfix figures.
Alongside the Poundland figures is one of my c. 28 to 30mm silicone toy soldier mould creations, described below:
Maybe a paint scheme for early 20th century “Imagi – nations” would turn this into an Army supply lorry? Ambulance?
I might change its paint work to something more ‘War Department’ requisitioned, reflecting the fact that the British Army had on Available to requisition a number of subsidised motor lorries of civilian origin at the start of WW1, glimpsed in a recent book gift 0f C.F. Klapper’s British Lorries 1900 to 1945 (published by Ian Allen, 1977).
I was given this book as I am finding out a little more about steam wagons and steam lorries; one of my great uncles was a ‘steam waggon stoker’ in civilian life before his conscription and death in WW1.
I am also considering the Matchbox ford Model T lorry’s possibilities for Home Guard WW2.
The Poundland £1 for 100 plastic figures look at first a little too modern / American for this WW1/2 role. I thought I had no suitable WW1 / WW2 figures around the 30mm size, until I remembered some curious pound store partybag figures that might just do the job.
To match a Matchbox lorry for £1, what could be better or more fitting than a very cheap pound store type 30mm-ish set of Matchbox WW2 copies?
The first set of these c. 30mm figures came as free bonus pack of soldiers with a cheap set of 8 mini friction bizarre tank plastic kits bought for a few pounds at a garage / convenience store. These strange snap together tanks deserve a separate blogpost in themselves at a later date.
Searching the Internet, I found a supplier of these 30mm-ish WW2 figures via a party bag supplier for about 16p a pack of 6 soldiers. I bought all the last 16 packs they had and haven’t seen them around much since.
Some of the figures suffer heavily from plastic flash so you will need to spend time with your scalpel.
An unfortunate lack of enemy troops means the ‘British’ might have to fight ‘American’ troops unless you have some suitable enemies from other 28/ 30 / 34mm figures like the Poundland £1 for 100 figure buckets / bags.
…maybe these ones could look like suitable enemy infantry or paratroops with a suitable paint scheme.
Some of the Pound Land figures which have modern / American helmets might make passable German or Euro Imagi- Nation troops for the WW2 British / Americans to fight against with suitable paint conversion.
The American figures have their own pound store transport cribbed from past packs of mixed scale pound figures (you know the type, range of scales, 54mm figures, smaller vehicles and aircraft, strange accessories).
O I do like a gift shop by the seaside … Outside this gift shop were the usual wire baskets full of plastic tat and seaside flim-flam.
£1 per pack of average 19 soldiers, a free plastic castle tower and bizarre flag choice. What more could you want?
The figures are manufactured in China, imported or packed by PMS.
Although these are supposed to be modern American infantry, their slightly distorted moulding gives them a space marine 1930s/1950s look, suitable for paint conversion.
They are remarkably spindly, very thin pressings or mouldings, a bit of flash to clean up, almost semi-round or semi flat but fun all the same. The usual minimal basing to save plastic …
What attracted my eye amongst the seaside plastic gifts were the echoes of my other favourite pound store figures of different scales seen here, 54mm ish versus these smaller 30 to 40mm-ish figures, currently available in Poundland bags or buckets (£1 per 100!)
Trying to to find interesting 54mm civilian figures is always a challenge. Apart from an unusual set ordered online from China, it usually involves looking out for figures with playsets or vehicles. An expensive way to acquire a few figures!
Britains and other companies used to make civilian and railway figures in 54mm lead but few in plastic, the occasional keeper figure or farm worker.
It was always frustrating as a child to have a zoo or farm or a parade set out but no visitors to watch; it usually resulted in lots of troops parading (H.G. Wells Floor Games style) endlessly through the zoo along with assorted military staff feeding the animals.
Evn today, Edinburgh Zoo has a penguin called Nils Olaf “commissioned” into the Norwegian Royal Guard and occasionally visited and paraded by his fellow (human) comrades in their magnificent full dress uniform.
This was sort of true of British Zoos in wartime – there were special rates for servicemen (and lady friends) in uniform, entertainments in WW1 for injured servicemen. I have 1939’propaganda’ press pictures of servicemen enjoying elephant rides at Belle Vue Zoo Manchester. In the first few weeks of being closed to the public on ARP grounds in September 1939, London Zoo made arrangements for servicemen to walk round for the animals to look at. ‘The Zoo’ also made their canteen over to the RAF as the big houses around became RAF Regent’s Park full of training aircrew.
Britain’s and other lead toy soldier manufacturers made plenty of civilians and farm workers in the more pacifist aftermath of WW1. Plastic manufacturers haven’t followed suit and painted railway figures in this 54mm /1:32 scale are often quite expensive.
Failing the mounting of a full scale military parade through your zoo, Wild West town etc. all day and everyday, some normal civilians are useful for floor games, sandpit games or wargames.
These feature sets came from a zoo gift shop with two zebra striped jeeps, some brilliant wooden watch towers and rope ways (of which more anon) , a couple of odd sized animals and these interesting modern civilians.
Something similar to the girl child in the photos has recently been repainted and reused in a Slinkachu type way on the front cover of an art photography book Micro Worlds about the recent group of artists / photographers playing with scale for satiric, unsettling or comic effect. An interesting book but one which contains some slightly disturbing dystopian or to some tasteless items from a range of photographers.
Police and firefighters are now available in poundstore tubes. Back in the 1980s there were Britain’s Deetail nurses, doctors and construction workers, not forgetting the Britain’s farm workers from lead to Herald plastic and a modern farm worker range still around in toy shops today.
In future blogposts I will feature more civilian figures to be used for game scenarios from the Chinese online set to the useful USA manufactured Toob “heritage” plastic figures roughly in 54mm, also purchased online.
Plastic Warrior website also feature an excellent set of Mexican Wild West civilians or peasants.
A large part of my childhood was spent on my knees.
No, this is not as pious or religious as it would have sounded in Victorian times. I spent a lot of time crawling around on the floor, lawn and flowerbeds in epic battles with tiny men.
When I first saw John Boorman’s WW2 childhood autobiography film Hope and Glory, I immediately identified with the opening scene when war is declared over the radio on that first Sunday of the war. The young boy / Boorman is at lawn and flowerbed level, playing with a tiny Britain’s style metal knight and an odd wizard figure (a filmic nod to Boorman’s Excalibur movie?) as the Sunday lawn mowers stop and the radios are switched on for Chamberlain’s speech. It’s that playing with real plants and pretend characters, the play with scales, which says something about the make-believe between acting, film making and playing with colourful toy soldiers (which remains the heart of our hobby).
From tiny Airfix HO/OO (or 1:72/76) which were really too tiny for outdoor use (many of them went ‘missing in action’ and perished in the pile of builder’s sand in the garden that passed for our sandpit or sand table) to the much more practical 54mm plastic figures (or 1:32) that could stay out at night, throughout the week and resume action next weekend or the next spare teatime or evening.
I can recall parts of my childhood garden in tiny texture and colour detail inch by inch. More than I can the house, my schooldays or many people.
If I obeyed the rules, Knights, Soldiers, Cowboys were welcome.
Simple rules: Keep them clear from blocking paths, not left out on any lawn that was to be mown (death by flymow didn’t just happen to tortoises in the 1970s) and above all, not to damage any plants.
Other than this, I pretty much had free rein to invade the flowerbeds, rockeries and wilder more overgrown areas of our thin uphill sloping back garden.
Rocks, twigs and stones, collected but not broken off, were all useful for making tiny camps and fortifications.
Flowerbeds were forests and jungles. Lawns were seas between flowerbeds and rockery cliffs. Or open fields, airstrips … Whatever game life your current figures and imagination breathed into them.
Oddly it’s a habit that has never gone away. Following my late dad’s playful instructions, you should always post a three man patrol out in the garden equipped with a radio (radioman were often scarce plastic figures) or signalman, depending on the period. I still do.
The radio or signalman is so that they can contact back to base and summon up air strikes, rescue and reinforcements depending on period. Ideally you should have another patrol elsewhere within flag, beacon or radio range either indoor or outdoor to pick up this intelligence and reconnaissance info.
Don’t forget to change patrols over regularly otherwise they get sleepy and inefficient. Rest in billets required!
Alongside the radio man, ideally you should have some kind of patrol leader or officer with binoculars. They can then observe all possible troop and wildlife movements, hostile natives, cats, snails etc. This was probably a tiny toy soldier precursor of today’s BBC Spring Watch or the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch?
When I am away travelling, I still have a tiny wooden box with a three man garden patrol that often goes with me, just to keep me in touch with the (tiniest) folks at home.
What is it about garden wargames?
Is is it the texture and smell of real mud and wet that makes this garden patrol and Yarden / garden gaming thing an attractive memory and occasional current pastime?
Is it the heady effects of the free burst of Vitamin D from the sun on your skin?
Is it the not quite having to grow up and have a ‘sensible’ garden?
Is that the same attraction of the more complicated process of running a garden railway or creating a model village with its dwarf plants, deadly ponds and the interplay with scale and reality?
Is it that Borrowers tiny people thing who are really alive and tweeting when you are not looking?
Who knows, but despite the older I get and the creakier the knees (maybe knee pads would convince people I really was sensibly gardening), the attraction and the wonder still lurks out there – under a bush, behind a stone – playing at toy soldiers down at ground level in the mud.
Garden or Yarden Rules
You can pretty much use any game rules in the garden, scaled up to your figure size. I use scaled up period versions of my Close Little Wars rules (my version of Donald Featherstone’s Close Wars appendix to his 1962 War Games):