About Me

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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 51-year-old Aspergic CAD-Monkey. Sardonic, cynical and with the political leanings of a social reformer, I’m also a toy and model figure collector, particularly interested in the history of plastics and plastic toys. Other interests are history, current affairs, modern art, and architecture, gardening and natural history. I love plain chocolate, fireworks and trees but I don’t hug them, I do hug kittens. I hate ignorance, when it can be avoided, so I hate the 'educational' establishment and pity the millions they’ve failed with teaching-to-test and rote 'learning' and I hate the short-sighted stupidity of the entire ruling/industrial elite, with their planet destroying fascism and added “buy-one-get-one-free”. I also have no time for fools and little time for the false crap we're all supposed to pretend we haven't noticed, or the games we're supposed to play. I will 'bite the hand that feeds' to remind it why it feeds.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

1968; [WWII] British Commados (1st/4th Versions), S32 / 1732 / 01732 / 01732-3 / A01732 - HO/OO / 1:72

From the first time I saw these (a mate's big brother's Pontoon Bridge assault set), I thought they were a pretty poor set, it's all down to the head gear...what are they wearing on their heads? It's supposed to be the sealed woolly tube or "Cap, Comforter, Helmet-lining - for the use of", issued to most troops as some point and was more commonly used as a scarf - the predecessor of the face-veil - but looks more like the little pill-box hat still worn by several commonwealth armies/units or Gurkha soldiers on parade. Face veils were also issued in WWII, from 1942, mostly to airborne troops in a green with brown-blob overprint.

The poses were also rather lack-lustre, while the boat is really nice, and the carriers could be employed to carry the boat (either way up!) or a ladder (...or two!), but the other poses? The officer looks like he can't be bothered to fire his Webley, the wounded guy looks as if he's just remembered he left the gas on, The grapple-thrower could be playing magnetic-fishing (and clearly isn't under fire or stress of any kind!) and most of the other poses seem to be being forced to dance by the Tommy-gunner! Just...not nice...

Once the - much better - replacement set's mould had been scrapped by idiots in France, the new parents of the old mould then added insult to injury by re-producing the awful poses...in an awful colour! I mean to say; What TF! 1st Battalion, Cadbury's Own Chocolate Commando Regiment anyone?

Well...this is what you got for your money...hopefully it was some well-meaning parent or auntie's money...not yours, would you? Really. OK, enough attacking the set...it's got two useful bazooka's and a pair of radio-operators who could be given helmeted head-swaps!

Being one of the later sets issued in 'Airfix Green', this set doesn't have all the darker shades of olive-green and olive-drab you find with the Infantry Combat Group, US Marines or British Paratroopers, so colour matching to make sets from loose examples isn't so problematic, then there are the...err...shit brown ones from France! There have been better colours in recent years...a pale-tan for instance.

Other bugger's efforts, the grenade thrower looks like one of mine from the early 1970's, but I think that's just coincidence, there weren't many colours to chose from then and with Airfix only having a couple of 'Army' greens and 'Khaki' browns in their range, a lot of figures got the same scheme around the nation!

The blue and black guy is probably from a 'private army'...back in the day, various 'Bond movies and similar big screen extravaganzas had us rushing of to create wildly coloured secret armies, space armies, future armies of good guys and/or bad guys ready for final scene denouements! My Brother had one in 1:32 scale, Germans, Americans and the Paratroop officer pointing were brought together with a fetching set of yellow pyjama trousers and black jackets with red head gear!

I don't have many OBE's for the Commandos as I had a big paint-stripping session a few years ago...well, I say a few years; probably 20-odd years ago...where does the time go!

The vastly improved replacement set, waits it's turn in the limelight, they will get their own post, so I won't dwell on them here, but don't you want to slide them out from underneath and forget the subject of this post all together?

Assault ladders; The only real difference - to the naked eye - between the 1st/3rd and 2nd version Airfix is that the cross-rungs on the 2nd version were finer, which causes it to look a little wider, but actually it's pretty-much the same width and length as the 1st/3rd version. The only real fault with the Matchbox set IS the ladder...a short, chunky thing you might use to clear the gutters on an outhouse, but not much use for assaulting 'Fortress Europe'!

A full set comparison, the four figures bottom right (3 Airfix, 1 M'box) having no real opposite. The Matchbox are a lovely set of figures and go very well with the 2nd version Airfix, but they make the 1st/3rd versions look like the toy clowns they mostly are! fair shout though....I prefer the canoe to the wet-weekend-in-Margate's rubber-boat of the Matchbox set.

Nitto had a stab at copying this set - or at least one pose of it - for their US Infantry...the mould-tool for which is now owned by Fujimi. They gave him  a helmet and then cut his arm off...I'm sure I should have one somewhere, but couldn't find it for this photo-shoot, so when (if? It may never have been on the runner?) it turns-up I'll re-take the image.

It IS all about the headdresses though isn't it? He looks quite good with an M1 helmet, yet the original looks like a loon escaped from Rampton* with a carved rake-handle...and a sword-bayonet he stole from a museum!

* Overseas readers need to know Rampton (along with Ashworth and Broadmoor) are where we send our REAL loons, to protect society and them...from themselves! As a kid we used to listen-out for the alarm-test on Thursday mornings which would drift over Bramshill forest and penetrate our classrooms, if it wasn't Thursday morning (or whichever morning my memory is tricking me into thinking it wasn't)...we panicked!

Thanks again to Kostas for the scans of the 1974 catalogue, which provides us with the classic 'blue box' artwork...no it doesn't - the white 'corner' boxes were being phased in at this time, and while the blue boxes make up most of the images in the '75 catalogue, all the WWII sets were illustrated in their new clothes!

A conversion I've never got round to finishing! One of the features of this blog will be a certain amount of repetition from time to time, and this is one of those times, as the same images will also have to go on the 'Aussie' page when I get it up and running.

One day I'll retake the images for one random page and paint them-up, then one page can have the painting in progress and the other the finished figures. For now...at least the legs are useful, huh? The donkey is from a board-game called Trek (I think), and while there is only the one pose, there are a whole bunch of them, very useful for war-gaming supply columns.

The boat floats, but low in the water, it also fills-up, so a seal with silicon paste would help, or a few foam off-cuts stuffed in the hull might help it ride a little higher?

1968; [Civil/Colonial/Media Related] Tarzan Figures, S33 / 01733 / 01733-6 - HO/OO

The Airfix figures compared with the few contemporary or near contemporary figures of similar ilk. The upper shot shows soft plastic 'Jungle' figures from the later window-box mini play-sets from Marx's Miniature Masterpiece range. Bottom left has the playing piece from Waddington's board-game 'Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs', to the right are two generations (larger, painted, 1st and smaller, unpainted, 2nd generation) of Hong Kong copies of cavemen based on figures by....hummm...I used to know! MPC? Tim-Mee? I'll get back to you on this one! All much bigger, so Airfix were out on a limb here with the Tarzan subject matter.

Comparisons with Preiser's Circus animals - technically, a black big-cat in Africa would be a melanistic variant of the Leopard, not a tiger from Asia, but it gives you an idea!

Cheeta's been a  busy boy then! The wives have left him in charge of the nursery while they go hunting fruit and talking hair-dos! Also Preiser; these are the circus chimpanzee troop!


1968; [WWII] British Paratroops (1st Version), Patt.1712 - 1:32 scale/54mm

You would have thought that someone at Airfix from the art-room to the printer over several months would have said "Do we really want to issue this set with 9 guys shooting their mates while they are still in the air?"

The main colour variations of this set, it ran for a while, but being the first has suffered from brittleness which means good examples tend to carry a premium. Dark green is the hardest to locate, although seems not to be as brittle as the similar batch of early US Infantry.

The full set of poses, these are the same as the HO ones, I've seen someone try to suggest that they were pantographed 'UP' from the HO set! Just because the HO set came out first....Airfix always produced masters from larger sculpts, like Britains, and over the years one or two metal masters have appeared in Plastic Warrior Magazine.

That bazooka man is actually 4 pieces so lets hear it for Loctite superglue 'Plastix'!

1969; [Ancient Era] Ancient Britons, S34 / 01734 / 01734-9 - HO/OO

Not just another of my favourite sets, but the one I would have saved from a fire in the late 1970's, I had about two sets, which was actually bits of three or four sets including the lesser common grey ones, I added various metal figures (Vikings, Normans, the odd Role Playing Adventurer) in various scales and most of two Airfix sets of Robin Hood, painted them all up to match with oxide brown bases, and they took-on all-comers!

1980 catalogue image collaged with its 'blurb' and courtesy of Kostas again, the artwork is quite accurate to the contents, but the artist seems to have had Timpo or Marx (even Cherilea?) Roman figures on his desk...he certainly wasn't working with Airfix's own sculpts!

Check-list by the numbers, a few of each pose works well here has you want a blood-thirsty mob, not 'units', and the part count is made-up with all the little bits for the two chariots...well...carts! They are modelled with what were - at the time - recent archaeological finds such as the Sutton Hoo treasures, so a very wealthy war-band!

Conversions of the old-school type, card and drawing-pins with a bit of arm-bending (top left)...possibly for Jacobite pike man? The chariot 'commander' does tend to lose his little wings, which were based on the decoration of a Greek-style, Gaulish helmet from the late 4thC B.C Italy, now in the Louvre, Paris.

Some of my old army, they are tending to brittleness now, especially that grey batch from the late 1970's, but a few soldier-on as mercenaries for hire, they could do with a tan, but Airfix said M7 = 'flesh'...who was I to argue!

Main Colour changes through the years, really only oxide brown and that soon brittle grey lot, along with the 1990's HäT/Play Set reissue in an easy on the eye sand/beige brown. I don't know what colour they are coming out of the box in now (the box-art shows a return to grey), but they managed to avoid the awful excesses of the Palitoy/Heller years that reduced other sets to tearful clowns!

Horse comparison, a simpler exercise than the Roman Chariot as there were only the two sculpts, both repeated once for 2 identical pairs. The Roman horse/s is/are the lowest in both images with the larger holes.

Full set in Full war-cry, a complete set as set-up straight out of the box. The Chieftain's helmet seems to owe more to Marvel's ideas on Thor, than to any actual helmet, worn by anyone, anywhere in the known universe between about 8,000 B.C. and 1066! The charging guy has a version of the Waterloo Helmet now in the British Museum.

1990's re-issue - just a gratuitous shot to add to the scrap-book look I'm aiming for in the pages, like the other eight sets used for the play set re-issues (and those carried by HäT), the mould tool had been cleaned-up and they were a 'tight' flash-free issue that - despite the new colour - were a real nostalgia-hit for those of us who had noted their long absence!

Avalon Hill produced an 'ancient barbarian' type in their History of the World, and while probably a Viking (I don't have the details to hand) he can hide in a war-bad and is a reasonable match, a tad smaller, but nothing paint won't hide. he has mail though, so probably better suited to the Sheriff of Nottingham's troops than this set.

Running Press...the Henge! Looked at on the main Blog a while ago, this henge is sub-scale, but there were probably henges other than the surviving ones (long since broken-up for building material...Norman Keeps mostly!), and given the size of stones at other henges, this kids educational toy/book-thing provides a nice set of resin lumps mid-way between Stonehenge and Avebury size-wise to give you a war game aim/target, or just a bit of background scenery.

Oops...no driver? Construction instruction for instructing on the construction of the 'chariot'...apart from getting the smooth-side of the wicker walls showing there's not much to go wrong, but kids these days, huh! better safe than sorry...

The ancient Celts used very light chariots with thin wheels that bore more resemblance to Egyptian armoured-corps than this stone-wheeled silage/turnip cart. But that was still a big hole in the archaeologists field waiting to be dug back when this set was turned-out, and as a cart it has it's usefulness...after-all, the massacre of Boadicea's forces was due to them being pressed against a mass of baggage/followers-on in the rear, with a convoy of vehicles like this.

Although: it's only the missing wheels that can be compared to Pharaohs cavalry, the flat square deck with thing central pole/draw-bar is not a bad stab at the real thing, which would have had lightweight hand-grips/guard-rails and leather strapping-suspension, like the springs on an old army bed!

Ceaser's [sic] gate (Caesar's gate), the main play set with/for these guys, a Roman mile-fort (Hadrian's Wall) or city-wall's gate tower (Colchester is typical), without the continuing walls you would normally find along the flat-side, it works and is a nice piece.

The walls are a bit thin - like all these Airfix forts and one day I intend to try lining the inside with a second set of walls, cut-down, to give them the required thickness, putting the out-buildings, err...outside!

Top off! And the contents are revealed as one set each of both the Ancient Britons and the Romans along with the fort. This was the best thing to find under the tree at Christmas!

Tonight's objective, Olaf, should you choose to accept this mission is...

The fort was also available as a stand-alone model should you experience trouble getting the play set to appear under the tree at Christmas, you could go the 'save your pocket-money' route...itself quite a feat as this was several shillings when those who where lucky enough to get pocket-money, tended to get sixpence a week or something...but a few car-washes and some weeding later...a shiny new piece of invader-architecture was yours!

HäT artwork and nicely painted figures, if I have one criticism of this set it's that actually got too many piece of high-art from burial digs like Sutton Hoo, but worn as everyday workaday weapons. I understand that returning to actual sources is a good thing, but that shield is an aristocrat's burial-treasure, one-off (in the whole world), giving it to 7 figures in a small set is a bit OTT!

And they added another colour, a dark brown, presumably from the Heller lucky-dip of ethylene granules. but for once - not too bad a choice!

1969; Waterloo Highland Infantry, S35 / 1735 / 01735 / 01735-2 / 901735 - HO:OO

A timeless set that still holds its own today against the subsequent sets from Esci/A-Toys and Italeri. A whole bunch of mostly useful poses, the standing firer was a tad odd, but painted-up it wasn't that awkward, and a lot of people don't like the stabbing-down pose, which is seen as a waste of box-space for something more useful.

As a kid I thought maybe they were just cleaning the fresh sorry; French blood off their bayonets!

 1980 catalogue, this was also one of the little 'thumbnails' (as we'd call them now) on the 'Long Box' box type.

1982 catalogue image gave us two of the thumbnails, these make for nice painting guides.

 In the Crimea, the whole regiment was layed-low by a bug that went round...hey; old jokes work!

Hermitage Dairy tea-leaf collectors cards - Black Watch 1800's, officer on the left, private on the right.

Prince/Prinze August painting guide

01735; 01735 1986 to 1996; 01735-2; 01735-2 1973 to 1978; 01735-2 1980 to 1982; 1/76 scale; 9 01735; 9 01735 1983 to 1984; 9 01735 Limited Availability 1983; Airfix Figures; airfixfigs.blogspot.com; Card Board; Cardboard; Cardboard Model; Colourful; Dawson & co; Dawson Castle; Highland Toy Figures; Highlanders; Hours Of Fun; In Pack; Instructions Enclosed; No Cutting; No Gluing; S35; S35 1969 to 1972; Slot Together; Slots Together; Small Scale World; smallscaleworld.blogspot.com; Soldiers Not Included; Surbiton; Surrey; Tower of London; Waterloo Highland Infantry; White Tower;
One of those weird throwbacks to that point in print-history where commercial art was giving way to full-colour photography; yet some editors continued to use artists, to convert what were obviously photographs! Think also; Hamlyn's Wargaming book (David Nash) or Usborne's model guides.

On this card model of a castle from Dawson & Co., we see the Highland Infantry have been used to illustrate the scale of the fort (and its play value) which the artist has rendered beautifully - even down to their bases, or the shadows of the drawbridge where it stands slightly proud of the table after folding and/or gluing.

01735; 01735 1986 to 1996; 01735-2; 01735-2 1973 to 1978; 01735-2 1980 to 1982; 1/76 scale; 9 01735; 9 01735 1983 to 1984; 9 01735 Limited Availability 1983; Airfix Figures; airfixfigs.blogspot.com; Card Board; Cardboard; Cardboard Model; Colourful; Dawson & co; Dawson Castle; Highland Toy Figures; Highlanders; Hours Of Fun; In Pack; Instructions Enclosed; No Cutting; No Gluing; S35; S35 1969 to 1972; Slot Together; Slots Together; Small Scale World; smallscaleworld.blogspot.com; Soldiers Not Included; Surbiton; Surrey; Tower of London; Waterloo Highland Infantry; White Tower;
All bar the 'stupid' poses from what must be one set, although one 'stabbing-down-guy' has got into shot and you might have expected the piper and standard to be used? Either the bases were painted to match where they were to be positioned on the finished model, or they were posed unpainted and the artist added colour? I don't suppose we'll ever know!