Prince August Toy Soldier Moulds

During a recent sale on the Prince August website I was able to buy the boxed “54mm Toy Soldiers on Parade Moulds”. Indeed I was fortunate enough to have a voucher which meant I only paid a couple of dollars for the set, including postage. I’m looking forward to casting some figures from the moulds and painting them in the full splendour of the shiny toy soldiers that captured my imagination so long ago. The moulds don’t represent a move to another size of wargames miniatures; they are simply a welcome return to creating and collecting traditional toy soldiers.

PA Toy Soldier Mould Box PA Toy Soldier Moulds

Solo Nostalgia!

After a long search I managed to acquire a book that had considerable impact on how I have viewed wargaming since my teenage years. I found “Solo-Wargaming” by Donald Featherstone during a late night trawl of EBay a month or so ago and at a ridiculously low price compared to the few copies I had seen on sale previously. Upon its arrival in the mail, I voraciously read “Solo-Wargaming” from cover to cover. Every page proved so familiar to me and inspiring despite the years that have passed.

Solo Wargaming

I believe “Solo-Wargaming” was one of the first books on wargaming that I read. I can’t be entirely certain (My memory is a bit fuzzy these days). It was an old book by the time I found it on the library bookshelf and I had long been aware of wargaming as a hobby through reading wargaming articles in “Military Modelling” and watching episodes of the television spy series “Callan”. I had even managed to play games using basic rules of my own devising and then with rules obtained from a shop in distant Launceston.

However, reading “Solo Wargaming” back then proved an absolute inspiration and provided me with an understanding of how greater depth and enjoyment could be had out of games using a wider variety of devices than I had previously been aware of. Re-reading it so many years later I was struck by the elegance of those mechanisms and that even now they can provide real depth in both solo games and those against opponents. Indeed, many of those ideas are still being used in wargaming today. After some forty-four years since it was published “Solo-Wargaming” by Donald Featherstone still inspires and is still relevant to every gamer.

Reading Roundup

Summer is now long past but I haven’t as yet resumed painting toy soldiers and I don’t have much inclination to do so at the moment. However, I have acquired some new books over the past few months. The first of these was “Great Military Disasters from Bannockburn to Stalingrad” by Julian Spilsbury. It proved to be an accessible read that gives some interesting perspectives on how great military disasters arise. While the causes prove to be many, good old human incompetence tops the list. Of course the book equally demonstrates how great victories were achieved by the opposing forces, and it certainly proves what a perilous undertaking it is committing your forces to battle.

Great Military Disasters

Next on my list of new books is “Wargaming an Introduction” by Neil Thomas. As the name suggests it provides an introduction to wargaming the major periods from Ancients to WW2. It also provides some excellent rules for gaming each of those. I read this book some nine years ago when I borrowed it from the local library. I enjoyed reading the book then and appreciated the elegance of the rules. The book still stands up as an enjoyable read and rules are still well-designed even all these years later.

I was prompted to buy “Wargaming an Introduction” after reading some online reviews of the WW2 rules it contained. I had been looking for a set of WW2 rules that weren’t too tortuous to play. I have played the WW2 rules contained in “One Hour Wargames” by Neil Thomas and enjoyed them immensely but I wanted to try something that could handle larger and more varied forces. I haven’t as yet used the “Wargaming an Introduction” WW2 rules but I look forward to doing so.

Wargaming an Introduction

“The Battles of Tolkien” by David Day I picked up in a local bookshop. It is a beautiful book to behold with its many gorgeous illustrations and faux tooled leather cover. The book came plastered with the warning “This work is unofficial and is not authorized by the Tolkien Estate or HarperCollins Publishers”. However, it proved an interesting read that more addressed what inspired Tolkien’s depictions of warfare in Middle Earth than an analysis of the weapons and structure of the forces involved. More care should have been taken in the preparation and production of the text in “The Battles of Tolkien” as there are some issues with its clarity and typography. The battle maps could also have been clearer. Despite that, the book is a handy reference and would bejewel any bookshelf.

Battles of Tolkien

My most recent acquisition is “The Soldier” by Chris McNab and was procured from ABE Books for a tiny sum. I bought this book after reading a very comprehensive review of it on the Man of Tin blog. The edition I have was only published last year and is very up to date. The book endeavours to describe the personal experiences of soldiers from the Seven Years War to present conflicts. It is a really well put together book filled with useful information and excellent illustrations and detailed colour plates of uniformed soldiers. It is best described as an “Eyewitness Guide” style book for adults.

The Soldier

Napoleonic Voltigeurs and a Small Mishap.

I completed the 40mm French Napoleonic voltigeurs some time ago but only finally varnished and photographed them in December of last year, so I thought it was about time I actually posted them. I am very pleased with how they turned out as they capture the shiny toy soldier look rather well. The figures are home cast from Zinnbrigade moulds and painted with acrylics and then gloss varnished.

voltigeurs-front

voltigeurs-rear

The voltigeurs will join the nascent French army opposing the equally growing Tasmanian and Imperial forces.  They will of course, and despite any anachronisms, participate in future battle games involving a fictitious Victorian conflict after the fashion of “The Great War in England in 1897” by William Le Queux.

voltigeurs-march

voltigeurs-advancing

On a more frustrating note, a few hours before I prepared this post I was moving stuff around and managed drop a tin full of the 20mm WWII British that I posted about last November. It proved to be something of a disaster as I now have a tin full of figures with chipped paint and bent weapons. There is also one figure that will probably require some deft work with the soldering iron. The temptation is simply to ditch the figures and buy replacements to paint or to strip them back entirely and repaint them from scratch.

I have, for the moment, set them aside until I can do an assessment with a calm analytical eye. I may simply get away with careful retouching of the damage but it is still immensely disheartening. Needless to say it will be a long while before my WWII British will be ready to take to the field again.

Garde Mobile Toy Soldiers

This batch of toy soldiers are from Irregular Miniatures’ 42mm Franco-Prussian War range that I have painted up as some better equipped Garde Mobile from 1870. They are, as usual painted using acrylics and varnished liberally to give them that glossy toy soldier look that I have come to prefer

garde-mobile-parade-front

garde-mobile-march-past

garde-mobile-parade-rear

The Garde Mobile came into being in 1868 to provide the French with an army reserve in the fashion of the Prussian Landwher. However, they were a somewhat neglected force and the quality of training and equipment they received was quite variable , those from rural areas being worse off compared to those units from the large towns and cities.

I also have some more French in the form of home cast Napoleonic voltigeurs but I haven’t photographed them yet. They will be the subject of my next post.

Battledress Brown, Hedges and a Highland Fling.

With an impending WWII game, I felt that I should finally finish some British for Normandy and the European theatre.  The figures are, I believe, old Hinchcliffe 20mm that I bought of EBay a couple of years ago and promptly stored them. Most of the figures are riflemen in various poses, with one officer and a PIAT. I originally had not intended to paint them as I thought they were already painted to a reasonable standard but I noticed the paint work was worn in a few places and one thing led to another. I completed the repaint back at the start of the year but have only just flocked the bases.

ww2-british

advancing-british

british-firing

en-garde

piat  british-officer

I have also recently completed some hedges. I made four lengths of hedge from an old unused luffa sponge.  It had been knocking about in a draw for quite a few years while I worked out the best way of turning it into a useful piece of terrain. I cut the sponge into quarters along the axis and then glued the pieces to MDF. I added some gravel to texture the bases and help conceal the bottom of the hedge. I spray painted the lot in dark brown and then over painted it to provide some contrast. Finally I flocked the top of the hedge and the base. The photo below is a sample to show how they turned out.

hedge

Last weekend my wonderful wife and I went to see the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards in concert and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, my darling wife being particularly enamoured with men in kilts. The theatre was fully packed and the audience very appreciative of the performance, resulting in two encores. There was plenty of singing, sword dancing, piping and drumming, to stir the blood. Indeed it has taken a full week to get one my favourite tunes, “The Black Bear”, out my head.

A Bevy of Books.

It has been a while since I have been able to update this blog, so I thought I would write a quick post about my book purchases over the past few months. I have read a couple in full already and will gradually read all of them as time and inclination allows.

First up: “World Uniforms and battles 1815 – 50” by Philip Haythornethwaite and Michael Chappell. It is a book with which to while away time looking at fabulous uniforms of the post-Napoleonic period until the middle of the Nineteenth Century, before uniforms started down the path to practicality. The many colour plates and descriptions provide plenty of inspiration for toy soldiers. This second-hand book was published back in 1976 as part of the excellent Blandford Colour Series on military uniforms. This series provides my favourite “go to” books on military uniforms.

world-uniforms-and-battles

Another second-hand purchase was “An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Military Uniforms of the 19th Century” by Kevin F. Kiley and Digby Smith.  As the name suggests, this book covers in reasonable detail the uniforms of the combatants in the various wars of the Nineteenth Century. It is beautifully and lavishly illustrated and is sure to provide further inspiration for toy soldiers.

military-uniforms19th-century

I found “Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies and Three Battles” by Bernard Cornwell at a local bookshop and bought it on a whim. I am very familiar with Bernard Cornwell’s “Sharpe” series and was quite intrigued how his first foray into factual history would go. I found it a very enjoyable but informative read. It is an accessible and refreshing look at a battle that has probably had more books written about it than any other.

waterloo

“Napoleonic Infantry” and “Napoleonic Cavalry” by Philip Haythornethwaite from the Napoleonic Weapons and Warfare series, published by Cassell, were a serendipitous find in a local second-hand bookshop. While I have not read these as yet, the books endeavour to provide an overview of the weapons and tactics of the mounted and foot arms of Napoleonic armies.

napoleonic-infantry

napoleonic-cavalry

I picked up “Generals: Ten British Commanders Who Shaped the World” by Mark Urban on the sale table of a local bookshop.  I have only just started reading this but it seems a quite interesting history of a selection of generals from Monck to Montgomery.

generals

From the same sale table came “How History’s Greatest Pirates Pillaged, Plundered, and Got Away with It: The Stories, Techniques, and Tactics of the Most Feared Sea Rovers from 1500-1800” by Benerson  Little. The title says it all. I have read a few chapters of this entertaining book, despite the over the top title.

pirates

I hope after this little literary interlude to have some more toy soldiers to show,  it is simply a matter of me getting motivated enough to apply the final finishing touches to them. In the mean while I am greatly looking forward to attending a concert by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards next month.

Tasmanian Toy Soldiers

For my first batch of 40mm home cast toy soldiers I wanted to do something unusual but meaningful to me. I decided my first lot would have to be a Tasmanian colonial unit. I chose the Tasmanian Volunteer Rifle Regiment / Southern Tasmanian Rifle Regiment.

Little Wars

Until 1870 Tasmania was protected by imperial forces but in 1859 the Hobart Town Volunteer Artillery Corps was formed. This was followed by more local units, including quite a few of rifles.  In 1878 the Tasmanian Volunteer Rifle Regiment (TVRR) was created with four companies based in the South and two in the North.

TVRR parade front

In 1880 the two northern companies were split off to form the Launceston Rifle Regiment and the remaining companies became the Southern Tasmanian Rifle Regiment. In 1897 the regiment was incorporated into the Tasmanian Regiment of Infantry of the Tasmanian Defence Force. (The Queen’s and Regimental Colours of the TVRR were eventually laid up in St. David’s Cathedral in Hobart in 1922 and 1949 respectively).

TVRR rear view

Tasmanian contingents served with distinction in the Second Boer War and earned two Victoria Crosses and battle honours. After the formation in 1901 of the Commonwealth of Australia, the successors of the Tasmanian Volunteer Rifle Regiment continued to serve with excellence and are now represented by the 12th/40th Battalion Royal Tasmania Regiment.

TVRR march past

The figures are home cast from Zinnbrigade moulds depicting late nineteenth century Prussians and glued to standard size MDF bases. They were painted using acrylic paints in the fashion of the old toy soldiers manufactured by Britains. The figures were then lavishly varnished to produce a suitably high gloss. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of casting and painting these figures and I am now looking forward to completing some more and having a game with them. In the meanwhile my first company of TVRR shiny toy soldiers stand ready to defend Queen and Empire against all comers.

Sizing up the Future

Some time ago I contemplated my approach to this hobby and what I wanted out of it now and in the future. The first of my deliberations was on what gave me the most pleasure. After some thought I concluded that I simply enjoy playing games, particularly with toy soldiers, and have done so for as long as I can remember. That simple pleasure was best expressed by my love of traditional brightly coloured, jewel like, glossy toy soldiers.  The second consideration was how to continue collecting and playing with toy soldiers long term while keeping expenditure to a minimum. The answer was to cast my own from moulds. I considered 54mm figure moulds that would fit with standard toy soldier ranges but after some research concluded that the cost of the moulds and the metal would be prohibitive. Further research revealed a fairly wide range of 40mm moulds and 42 mm toy soldier ranges that would address my needs.

So over the past year or so I have been seeking out and acquiring home casting moulds for toy soldier style miniatures. This has not proven an easy task as I have had to purchase them via German EBay when I could. Despite the difficulty, I have managed to build a reasonable collection of moulds for casting. The moulds include Napoleonic, Franco Prussian War and late 19th Century figures in fully round and semi round forms.  In order to supply metal for casting I have been melting down old miniatures from long abandoned projects and I am now considering the fate of a number of projects that have stalled and may be better pursued in other ways.

For inspiration I have chiefly looked to “Little Wars” by H. G. Wells and “The Great War in England in 1897” by William Le Queux, along with “Vanished Armies” by A E Haswell Miller and “Armies of Europe Illustrated” by Fedor Von Koppen. I have decided that the figures will be painted in either the old British or German fashion (although more neatly), as fancy takes me, with plenty of gloss but without any black lining or shading, for that proper traditional toy soldier look. As yet I haven’t decided on any of the available rules but will give the matter more thought as the project develops. Alternatively, I will draft a set of my own or cobble a set together from aspects of different old and modern rule sets I like, as a sort of Frankenstein’s monster of toy gaming rules. I have, however, chosen to organize my units along the lines of my childhood forces.  So my units will be formed around six man infantry companies and 4 man cavalry squadrons with officers, musicians and standard bearers extra.

Airfix Bren Gun Carrier and 6pdr Anti-Tank Gun

I am generally not keen on building model kits as I don’t normally find the process relaxing. It is something to be endured. However, late last year during a rare trip to Launceston I acquired the old Airfix Bren Gun Carrier and 6pdr Anti-Tank Gun in 1:76 scale with the intention of adding it to my small WWII British force.  I thought the process of putting the kit together would be particularly painful as the sprues for such old kits are often derived from somewhat less than perfectly engraved moulds.

I was surprised to find (amidst a wave of nostalgia) that I pleasantly enjoyed building this model kit, even with its wonky parts. I suspect the simplicity of the kit made making adjustments to the parts so they fitted together less of bothersome.  The kit was an easy build and a delight to paint. I am pleased with how the carrier and gun (with crew) turned out. So now they are completed, the carrier and 6pdr anti-tank gun are ready to take on the might of the German panzer divisions.

6 Pounder and Carrier

AT gun and tow.jpg

Bren Carrier