Saturday, 27 July 2019

Book Review, The History of Toy Soldiers

Way back in March I mentioned a new book on the history of toy soldiers due out in September. This morning my copy arrived from Amazon (other suppliers are available) and I have had a quick shufti through it. As I'm not a toy soldier expert, merely an aficionado, I won't attempt a detailed review, you might have to wait for weeks while I studied it, just pass on the salient points. Someone with more knowledge can do the critique.

The book is titled (naturally) The History of Toy Soldiers, by Luigi Toiati (of Garibaldi and Co Toy Soldiers), is published by Pen and Sword at £40. ISBN 1473897297. It comes in at a massive 613 pages long, not including index, and has colour photos ,culled by the author from many sources, on practically every page. Throughout the book there are line drawings reminiscent of those in H.G.Wells' Little Wars done by the author. Some of which I've used to illustrate this entry.

After the introduction by James Opie there is a foreward 'the miniature through the ages' and then we get into the main body of the book. Some 16 chapters (plus some 'cameos' or asides from various authors and collectors) giving the story of toy soldiers* from 6000BC to the end of the 20th century. This covers every aspect of social and political aspects of the toy soldier

The text is extremely readable, almost conversational, and will probably end up being dipped into rather than read cover to cover. Some of the makers stories have the authors personal reminiscences included. Many manufacturers, large and small** are covered in the text, with all the well known names amongst the lesser known. All sizes are covered including wargame figures and large scale plastic kits such as those from Airfix and Aurora. Even the terracotta warriors get a mention in passing.

Each chapter ends with a list of books covering the subject matter, and there is a full four page bibliography at the end of the book.

I've spent the afternoon neglecting my chores just browsing the pictures. I can really recommend that anyone who enjoys toy/model soldier history should get a copy for their shelves.

* in this respect, toy soldiers also includes the more static type of model soldier that was not classed as plaything but used ornamentally.
** I was astonished to find my short-lived endeavours of the late 1990s mentioned in the text.

as mentioned, the drawings are taken from the book, and were done by Luigi Toiati in the style of J.S.Sinclair

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Introducing a new blog by yours truly.

Soldiering has taken a back seat of late. I've been given the delightful task of looking after two young (pre-school) granddaughters for four days a week. They keep me active and by the time I hand them back I'm too tired to do much. I'm left with one weekday to myself, as MrsJ keeps me occupied at the weekend, so not much gets done.

I have, meanwhile, slowly been planning a model railway for the garden shed. Rather than bore anyone with details here I started a new blog under the title of Joppy's Model Railway Trials and Tribulations. This isn't really intended as a social endeavour but is a kind of diary of my efforts. It is quite boring at the moment but should get better as construction begins.

In the meantime, if you want to check it out feel free. No compulsion.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

A title to look out for

This book has just been flashed on my Amazon recommendations and I've put an order in based on the names involved. The writer of the introduction needs no introduction, as James Opie is a well known name in toy soldier circles, having a number of books on the subject to his name, a valuer for auction houses and a large collection of his own. The author, LUIGI TOIATI may not be so familiar. For many years he and his wife attended the London Toy Soldier Show with their stand of GARIBALDI & CO toy soldiers. Mainly of Italian subjects with an offshoot to the Jacobite Rebellions, these were delightful miniatures. He has evidently written a history of toy (and model)soldiers with passion and affection, with many little personal anecdotes of his own added. I look forward to browsing for many hours. My only hope is that there is not too much emphasis on Britain's and more on the many small makers that have been around.

While a little expensive at £40 I think this reflects similarly to the large volumes by Norman Joplin, James Opie and so on that are already available. Published on June 30th by Pen and Sword, 640 pages of nostalgia can be pre-ordered from your preferred dealer.  .

Monday, 11 February 2019

Hinton Hunt and others

While rooting about in the storage boxes to check what I had in the 54mm lead pile (which is larger than I thought) I came across some momentos of how I got into the military model side of things. Along with assorted notes on uniforms, postcards and booklets I found a Hinton Hunt catalogue dated 1969 and a couple of figures that I must have painted about that time.

These show that I must have had some sort of Imagi-Nation ideas even then, as the lancer (originally Prince Poniatowski) is labelled as the Nanneghat (Nannygoat) Lancers , a non-existent Indian regiment, while the highlander is one of 'McCordle's 9th' (?). Evidently I couldn't be bothered to paint a tartan then.

These two figures came from a toy shop in Loughborough market place when I was working there as assistant manager at W.H.Smiths. They had a showcase full of unpainted models, which I see from the catalogue would have been 13/9d. Rather a hefty sum when my weekly wage was about £12. No wonder I only have two.

Most of my collection of catalogues seem to have disappeared, probably in one of our recent house moves as MrsJ insists we need to downsize, and most of the makers are no longer in the market, though some, like Replica, Glebe, and others have been absorbed by others I regret losing people like Whittlesy Miniatures, G.B.& E, and others, while there don't appear to be many newcomers to the fold.

I discovered recently that Patrick Willis, owner of Sarum Soldiers, is no longer with us, and that the range (along with the Marlborough figures that he took on) is in limbo at the moment.. Oh I wish I could go back 30 years with todays bank account, to stock up with items I can't get any more. I had a quick browse around e-bay and found very little on offer.

Where are the collections of Blenheim, Nostalgia, etc, that were among some of the first in the 'New Toy Soldier' market? Are they hoarded away, dumped on decease of owners, or passed on as playthings to grandchildren? I notice that the BMSS, in their occasional auctions, don't seem to offer much in this line, concentrating more on old Britain's and such.

On another subject entirely, I notice that lately none of my comments on other blogs seem to get through to publication. I haven't stopped reading them, just can't praise you. Apologies.

Monday, 28 January 2019

Procrastination, and overcoming it.

I have a number of projects in the pipeline, with a list of models to make (military, naval and railway) as long as my arm, which don't appear to be progressing. I happened to catch an item on BBC Breakfast the other morning about research done recently into  why people procrastinate like this, and it was mentioned that some feel that unless they feel they can do a 'proper job' on something they can't start. This rang bells, as I often put off something because I don't think I can do it to my best efforts. So the job doesn't get started, or fall by the wayside half finished.

Recent scares on the heart scene have made me think of the time I have left to do these things, and that I shouldn't be sitting around trying to find motives to get on with them. Hence, over the last few days I've been in the shed digging out my military lead mountain and looking at it. I find I have quite a few things that have been sitting in boxes for years (literally) some for twenty or thirty!

A lot of them are 54mm figures, including a Langley artillery team, a Replica screw gun team and assorted cavalry figures. It's my intention to get on with these this summer and I have re-opened my painting table in the lounge with a set of Artists Rifles, an old Steadfast set that I obtained as castings and have had waiting since. More news of these later.


In the meantime, here are a couple of pictures of the most recent unit I painted, which I see by the date on the bottom was 2016. They are from Brigadier of Australia, and though they no longer operate I was able to get the figures cast as a favour by the old owner. They are painted as the West Yorks Rifle Volunteers ,1862, to fit in with my Tetrarchy armies.
I hope to be more forthcoming in the future, feel free to remind me of that promise if I seem to be slipping.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Boston Bomb Fall - new book

I don't post for ages, then three come along at once, almost like London busses. But I just thought I'd let you know about this new book, published on the 16th and launched at the WW2  Home Front Museum in Boston, Lincolnshire.

This book is quite locally specialised, covering, as it does, the various air raids on the town and area through two world wars. Boston was, at the time, a medium sized market town and small port on the east coast. Its only claim to fame being the large parish church of St.Botolph, known as "The Stump" and a connection to the original Pilgrim Fathers. The book came about through the author hearing that a schoolteacher had told a pupil that Boston had not been bombed in the war.

Using newspaper reports..... "a small East Coast town last week..." etc., with county and national archives, the author has produced a detailed account and analysis of the sixty or so raids, along with the types of assorted bombs that fell. He also covers the casualties and damage to the town. (I always wondered why there was a single bungalow in the middle of a terrace of houses in the next street to us). The town actually got of very lightly. Out of a population of about 30,000 there were 21 civilians killed in the area.

Probably not a title of general interest, it gives an overall picture of time and place, worth a read if you are interested in the air war or civil defense.

There's also a picture of my mum in her AFS (Auxilliary Fire Service) get up, so it's personal.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

A Range Re-appears


Way back in May of this year I mentioned the passing of one Pat Campbell, one time supplier of solid recast Britains (and others) 54mm toy soldiers. It came to my attention yesterday, via the Funny Little Wars Yahoo forum, that the range has been taken on and reintroduced under the name of Replica Model Soldiers.
There is a website which is relatively new and (I found) a little awkward to travel round, with many photos still to appear. Andrew, the new proprietor, intends to get the whole range on the go, along with a spares section. Both unpainted castings and painted sets will be available.
 Worth investigation by those of us who have units for 54mm gaming, and to encourage the new owner to persevere. Up top the picture is a page of the pdf catalogue that can be uplifted from the website.