About Me

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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 49-year-old Aspergic CAD-Monkey. Sardonic, cynical and with the political leanings of a social reformer, I’m also a toy and model soldier collector, particularly interested in the history of plastics and plastic toys. Other interests are history, current affairs, modern art, and architecture. 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, therefore I hate the 'educational' establishment and pity the millions they’ve failed. 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”.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

B is for Blobs

As well as the '100-figure' carded sets (more on numbers when we get to the guards!) like the Wild West one we looked at last night, there were also '50-figure' sets, but with 49 figures!

It was brash of the Hong Kong pirates to place their products on such obvious display, given the poor quality of most of it, the reason I tend to refer to it as 'shite' even though I collect them - note to non-English speakers; the word rhymes with Kite or Bite, not Kitty...which would make them shi....you get the picture!

And no set required more brashness, even bravery, to put on a card in the full glare of a 1960's corner-shop's flickering bulb than these...

Starting life with Giant branding, even the Giant ones were pretty poor, and 'blobs' is a reasonable moniker in this case. Indeed, next to the Giant originals, there's not much in it, these have a different base-mark, but the detail is only slightly poorer and may well be put down to mould age?

The trouble with these is that they are constantly sold as Giant, yet the true Giant are as rare as their Aliens, while these are as common as muck on a farmer's boots, they were sold on sheets of fifty [49] and a hundred, for pocket-money prices, included in other sets and can be found in three main generations.

The other generations are in storage (which gives us the excuse to come back to them in  a few years!) so you'll have to take my word on the rest...There are two other base types, unmarked and marked in a circle. Nearly all examples are silver, but small numbers of metallic blue (and metallic purple?) turn up from time to time with roughly equal numbers of standard silver versions, these are probably from 50+50 cards like the Cowboys & Indians.

Occasionally, instead of being moulded in the purple plastic, they are just painted - definitely in metallic purple - and this is a brush-splash across either the trousers or upper body or the whole body. In both cases; this would have allowed for two sides....warfare!

On the subject of 'other sets', this one from 1969 has the astronauts, with a Dinky Honest John missile knock-off, a couple of pocket-money paratroopers, a micro-plane and the common (ex-dime store moulding) cannon, along with bunch of copies from Airfix HO-OO figures.

The tactical battlefield nuclear rocket is being ridden (piloted?) Major Kong style (Dr. Strangelove) by two helmeted loons, clearly determined to get forward observation taken seriously! Although, they're faceing to the rear, so seem to have had second thoughts!

A is for A Call to Arms

Which gets them top-billing in some lists, but doesn't stop them coming late to the blog!

Very much a Picasa-clearing, desktop-tidying, box-ticking exercise this - at a time when small scale collectors like myself were celebrating the renaissance in plastic toy soldier production with the output of HäT (I still have two mint sets of Marmalukes!), ACTA and latterly Strelets*R, the larger scale collectors were celebrating too, and these were in that late 1990's/early 2000's vanguard.

(set '4' above is actually set 5, but I can't be arsed to re-do the collage!)

There have been eight ECW sets issued so far by this one-man-band of an operation...

1 - Royalist V Parliament (separate drums and flag-arms)
2 - Pikemen (separate pikes and scabbards)
3 - Royalist Musketeers
5 - Parliament Musketeers
13 - Cannon
14 - Royalist Artillerymen
33 - Cromwell's 'Ironsides'
34 - Haslerigg's 'Lobsters'

...of which; the above photo' shows one each of the foot, excluding the four artillery poses, so we'll have to come back to them one day to tick the other half of the box!

Link to Kent Sprecher's ACTA page;


They were later issued in 1:72 scale in different combinations with two extra poses (nice dismounted cavalrymen looking figures in the 'Command Set'), but the cavalry have yet to appear in the smaller scale which is a shame as the Revell cavalry of the same period have become quite collectable due to their limited availability and the numbers swallowed-up by war-gamers!

Links to the PSR small-scale revues;

59 - English Civil War Royalist Artillery
61 - English Civil War Royalist Infantry
62 - English Civil War Command Set
63 - English Civil War Parliament Infantry

C is for Carded Cowboys (and Indians)

When you are sorting all the non-Giant from your pile of mixed small-scale Hong Kong shite, these are easy to separate...

Unmarked bases, mixture of Crescent and Britains Swoppet foot poses and the two mounted figures from Lone Star, these - of course - get separated-out further by unscrupulous dealers and sold on feeBay for silly BIN's as Lone Star! There are several copies of these LS mounted figures the others tending toward more or downright blobbyness.

They always appear in this colour-way, so other similar figures are from other sources, the only variation I've found is some batches have a slightly metallic green of a more herby shade ('errby' over the pond or 'air'bee' if you're a pretentious chef!), it's a very poor photograph I'm afraid, but I've just cropped it out of a much bigger show-plunder image, remembering I had them in a shot!

Hummm...ten figures by ten figures, switching from the invasive species to native fauna halfway down the card...they're not wrong; 50 Cowboys and 50 Indians...Hold on! There's a red cowboy - bottom left? I've been cheated! I'd take it back for a refund but they went bust in '79 when the Key Market was replaced by Waitrose.

I present to you the incredibly rare 51 Cowboys and 49 Indians set with the world famous printing-error!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

X is for Cross-shaped Wing-form Star-fighter!

I've been following developments over at Rob's shipyards with some fascination in the last few days, not least because the system is too small a scale for figures so I'll probably never partake, but they are lovely models and what Rob's done with his spare Millennium Falcons is superb.

In the Galoob stuff I found this morning were some Star Wars bits, and while most people are familiar with the Action Fleet toys from Galoob, I though the comparison with a lesser-known X-Wing was worth a short post...

Estes solid-fuel tablet rockets with parachute - the parachute is hidden from view in a little compartment like the old Quercetti catapult-rockets. Compared to a Galoob 'Red-Five' (red? they're both orange-fives!), you can see there's very little in it size-wise, but the engine nacelles are a bit different and the rear of the main compartment is very different due to need to put the fuel tablets somewhere.

I would like to open this and 'muck-about' with it, but I'd need a second one first, and they are bloody hard to find and tend to go for a premium when they turn-up...too many sub-branches of collectors after the one thing! One day I'll just think "F-it, other collectors must have carded ones, lets get it out!".

The other obvious difference is the solid canopy.

Galoob's Red-Three and Red-Five; a few years apart and a few variations in decoration, also - I'm assuming it's later production - the 'five' has no cockpit stickers?

M is for Mortars and Missiles from Micro Machines

Not so much a lazy-post today as a close look at the minutiae of one small corner of the Toy Soldier universe, and it's nice sometimes to compare like with like...I was looking for something else someone was looking for, and found a bunch of Galoob photo's in the files, that I took a while ago, so a few posts from them coming-up!

Shoulder-launched hardware...at the back we have the poorer two, sculpting-wise; a MAW / HOT / TOW 'thingy' and in front of it something which is supposed to be an RPG-7! Then the out-of-scale accessory from earlier MM sets, a Milan ATGW, I think I've posed it facing the wrong-way, but it matters not as the operator is too busy hand-rolling a cigarette to pay attention!

Front-right we have Dragon TOW's on long and short poles, while the rear is defended from sneaky-beaky shitty-Sukhoi attack by a Stinger SAM.

Mortar line...three tubes were modelled, from left to right they are the early Micro Machine (unnumbered) 80mm mortar, the accessory mortar which does good service as a 120mm type and the slightly-oversized later (numbered base) 51mm/2" personal mortar, which is probably meant to be another 80mil (a lot of the late figures are mere blobs), but for war-gaming modern era, that's three mortar-classes done!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

E is for Eye Candy

Naff expression, naff title - I know, but sometimes it's easy to find a title; sometimes it 'aint! I'm no Shakespeare! This is the last of the non- 'Khaki Infantry' ( there's more to come on that page, from Barney and me) shots Barney Brown sent me, and while we have looked at the figures before, it's always nice to look at them again and the scenic items are new-to-blog.

The Speedwell Germans, some repainted, some original, some damaged, but collectively a nice sample with all eight poses and a nice flecked-green figure. Compare him with the similar pose in the damaged group and you'll see they are two different mouldings, common with these, most noticeable with the Trojan Germans and Japanese, there is some thought that it may be indicative of more than one maker (almost certainly true with the Japs).

We looked at them 3 years ago with the dying camera Here.

Trojan German Infantry and the 14th Army/Australians, of interest here is the Panzerfaust operator moulded in pink and then all-over painted. I don't think I have more than one or two of the jungle troops, but we looked at the Germans Here.

The 14th Army/Aussies are larger than the others at a reasonable 54mm, compared to the 50mm of both sets of Germans and the Japanese and in sand plastic are believed to be 14th Army, with the khaki/drab-green being the plain 'Australians' in the catalogue.

Scenic items, these are issued/included in sets by at least two of the 'khaki infantry' makers; Speedwell (who usually marked, and therefore are probably the originators), and UNA, Trojan and VP may well have put them in sets too?

Thanks to Barney for all the images in this post.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

M is for More Loose-ends

Specifically for Ed. Berg, but also anyone looking to collect/having trouble with the various generations of Britains Deetail 'standard' knights, or - the silver 'original' and black 'Storm' knights; I put this together to try and explain the time-line vis-a-vis the foot figures...

 It takes no account of colour variations, shield designs and such-like, the silhouettes have been drawn without weapons (694 being the only truly weapon specific chap) although they did leave the factory with the same 'chosen' weapon I believe?

[Couple of hours later - re-edited the thing for the umpteenth time, seems to be a little clearer!]

I've also not got bogged down with the thin versions as it's a new development which will require more work which someone else may do as I'm not volunteering at present! I've only identified the two knights and a couple of Turks so far and I think some of the mounted poses got slim-Jim versions?

All dates are very 'approximate', you can't trust the catalogues, and with other variables they may have languished in shops for some time or not been available when they should have been!

This is an earlier draft which may be of more use for printing out and using as a check-list, or to pin-up near the PC for when you are surfing evilBay? Left-click to enlarge.

If anyone would like the original Word .doc, that's doable, but with 12 jpg's embedded, it may not be eMail-able, so some cost for disc and postage would need to be worked out...I'd probably do all the jpg's (30-odd) and the AutoCAD file - if you can use it - as well?

News, Views Etc...Usual Round-up

There is a seemingly never-ending stream of these now, but I never tire of them and they all give you that 'I wish I'd thought of that first' moment!

Tanaka Tatsuya - playing with food

Soldiers in Siloth, a museum of Toy Soldiers is mounting a WWI exhibition, their own website isn't as clear as the press release, so here's the press release!

Cumbria Crack (not sure that's how you spell it Cumbria?)

Nice small-scale dioramas in Belarus

Minsk Museum

And finally...

Giant Toy Soldiers

Sunday, August 10, 2014

L is for Loose-ends

Beginning at the end...or ending at the beginning (unless you're coming to this via 'next post' in a few months or years time, in which case it's in vague order in the dozen or so posts below this one!) we'll look at the early figures and some of the minor variations, and then the final - to date - incarnation.

When I took the initial pictures for the book project, I didn't bother with the commoner figures, and being late to large scale collecting and still not too bothered by common stuff like Deetail, I can only cobble together what's come in, in mixed and junk lots.

The originl 'silver' knights, consisted of six poses on foot and six poses mounted, the standard for a set of Deetail, and most Britains plastic production. First appearing in the 1973 catalogue, they would - along with the WWII Germans - get a second set of 6 foot figures in 1978 ('77 for the Germans), the two ran alongside each other for some years, with 6 poses (3 from each set) being dropped in the early 1990's. Two of the poses would re-appear in the five-pose reissues of the 2000's.

From the mid-1980's the production decision-making process seems to have been moved by degrees to the Hong Kong facility, leading to the realistic paper shields being dropped and replaced with laminate plastic/foil designs with a chromium finish, the advent of the black 'Storm' knights and the oddity of second 'slim-jim' mouldings, and we see two above, in the image top left and the archer on the far right of the lower line-up.

I don't know the reason for this other than demand? The figures are smaller and all external detail (crests, bow, sheaths, feathery-frippery) is thinner or truncated. Also I don't know how many poses were affected, although a couple of the Turks have thin versions as well.

I've never seen information on this, so input would be invaluable for other collectors if you do know something, or have half an idea? The thinnish ones weren't used in the 2000's reissues.

Above - a box of mounted figures as they came into the retailer, there are 3-each of the six poses, each three decorated the same, so when you encounter colour variants they were from other boxes from other out-painters or other production batches.

Below - comparison between all bar the swivel-waist and Robin Hood figures, you can see how big the Gold 'Great Shield' knights are, next to the others and also how the black 'Storm Knights' are compared to the blueish-charcoal of the original Turks.

Toward the end, gimmicks came in and they are rather fun! Running alongside the Robin Hood sets in blister-packed carded pocket-money ranges were various tilting or 'Tournament Knights' with pull-back motored jousting horses and a dragon.

The other image shows a mounted version of the gold knights we look at a few posts below, with the black helmet and grey mail highlights.

Slight colour variations exist of at least three of the horses (the blue one wasn't present - on the day - in a large enough sample to present a variation, but I'm sure there will be some), and the horses visible areas (tails and a bit of neck) could be black, grey or a pinkish-brown.

The most resent issue, nearly a decade ago now (2006/7?) were the realistic-paint version, with only 3 mounted figures each for knights and Turks, all 6 foot Turks but only 5 knights, two of which were among the poses dropped from the consolidation - from 12 back down to 6 poses - years earlier. Also, the old large sculpt/moulding of archer was present in the five, suggesting that the skinnys were second moulds - not replacement moulds.

When I was working for my dealer mate, we retailed these straight from the UK arm of Britains, and I think they ran for just  two or three years around the dates above? Have there been other issues?

R is for as Rare as Rockinghorse-shit

Speaking of George Erik as I was...er...n't (Reamsa figure in next post below!); as well as designing for Reamsa, George also designed for various UK manufacturers and often re-used a pose. One of the more original poses from his hands was the crawling figure from the Turkish WWI set, and it also got re-used for the Reamsa US Cavalry set...

...and for the Kentoys set of three Space Police Commandos. This is a hard lot to track down, I photographed this on Adrian's stand at a show, the set was only three poses, with a further three 'Terra Nova' figures, the whole to enhance the Dan Dare set. The Terra Novans don't seem to have left the factory for retail (they can be seen in one or two of James Opie's books - as he owns the test-shots. and the Plastic Warrior Kentoy special), while the Space Police Commandos only got a limited distribution.

Paint's poor on this survivor, and the disc shaped badge on the shoulder should be yellow.

M is for 'Mostly' Unknown!

When I did the WWI post the other day I nearly included this image as a source of potential WWI figures, but realised it needed a toy soldier related text, and as that was a PPE rant, I held it over. These are all either unknown or of an early 20th century style that makes them potentials for WWI.

The first figure on the top row is a Bata figure from Czechoslovakia, he's really a later figure, but with the pack and puttees looks the part for WWI, he's also that rare thing, a true rubber figure who doesn't melt into a puddle like so much of the contemporaneous Italian-made rubber production.

Next to him is a Marx re-issue - probably polypropylene, from the old hand-painted 'Warriors of the World' mould, and while technically an 8th Army/North Africa WWII figure, could just as easily be marching to Baghdad in the First war.

Then we have a complete unknown - definitely polypropylene, I think he's from a construction site toy, but the little tin safety-helmet looks like our old piss-pot, so he could be painted up as a WWI chappie! I have a mental note that he's from New Zealand, but suspect that's actually bollocks and he's just a Hong Kong 'generic'?

Last one in the top line-up is the Reamsa Turk, falling wounded in the Dardanelles - defending his homeland, the best way a soldier should die, not attacking some god-forsaken shit-hole thousands of miles from home. This is a late unpainted example; he's a nice figure and I wish I had the rest of the set!

Bottom left would also seem to be a Spanish figure, but buggered if I could find him on Google the other night, even trying search terms like 'Spanish Ceremonial Cavalry Modern', Spanish Lancers, etc...Included here as he would paint-up to a nice German cavalryman of the immediate pre-war period? Anyone know who made him, or what unit he represents?

The final figure would make a nice British officer from either war, and could be in WWI Palestine/Iraq, Gallipoli, WWII North Africa or even Burma. He turns up quite a bit, in charity shops and vintage toy soldier shows, he's metal, and while it's probably an alloy, it's not the granular Zamac/Mazac of die-cast toy vehicles, being a heavier material which holds fine detail. I'm sure he is actually a tourist keepsake of a Hong Kong Policeman from the pre-1997 period, and must have been quite a common purchase.

B is for Black Storm

No - not today's unseasonal weather, pointing to permanent damage of the ecosystem caused by yours truly and his fellow monkeys, but rather the first major change to the Deetail Knights range, the simple expedient of changing the colour! Actually the first change was from realistic to silly-chrome shields, but that move seems to have occurred at the same time as the new vinyl colour.

We're only looking at the mounted poses here as - eventually (a day or two) we will have looked at the foot figures above! Just a few colour variations and an unpainted one who sneaked through.

Sorting for a dealer friend (which kicked-off the original book idea), and all six bursting-forth upon the stakes of the English long-bowmen....Well? They've got black armour...they've gotta'be bad guys, and none badder than the Fr...we're all friends now!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Q is for Quandary

Can anybody help with information on these, they keep turning up in bulk, this is a shot of the contents of two lots and I have a third larger sample in storage. Clearly designed like Christmas Cracker or Gum-ball machine charms, and probably to be pined to a lapel through the loop of the tail.

The thing is; I suspect a corporate link to them, I used to think the British Rail 'unicycle' lion (hence the photo!), but he was arched, the British Lion egg lions also doesn't fit as he had a crown, as do 'royal' lions...does anybody know where these keep appearing from and what they were intended for? Staff? Flag-days? Premiums...if so for what?

They are made of a dense glass-like polystyrene or a late phenolic resin polymer and are sculpted with a clearly defined collar. If it was the odd one or two I would dismiss them as the above mentioned charms, such as the little black cats that have been put in Christmas Crackers for the longest time (in glass, coal, slate and all polymers), but the numbers that turn up sugest something more...intriguing?

Other similar lions I've ruled out include the lion of Judea (crown with cross and standard on pole), the Rhodesian Forces lion (facing forward, holding tusk) and the Wesley collage lion; other paw up, tail curls round, under itself.

L is for Limey

Corr'blimy lauve-a-duck [there are laws against that now] Meh'reey Pop'uns...it's a box-ticker and no'ew mistake!

Marx - smaller 54mm size, WWII British Infantry with early above and reissues below (if I'm not mistaken?)...that's it...click on the image and it gets bigger, click again and you need to scroll to see it all!

Friday, August 8, 2014

P is for Pop-waist Personnel

The second development in the Deetail knights history (approximately 1984-9) was/were these additions, I've seen them described as 'like swoppets', but with limited articulation in one plane - at the waist - and the 'swivel' moniker more accurate for the later knights we looked at below somewhere, I call them the pop-waist knights, or; Poppets - which is the title of various plastic bead sets of the time!

Six foot figures, some of these are a bit static or wooden, and the colours, for the most part are a tad wishy-washy for heraldry methinks But, they were more poses for the battlefield, and when you're 8, 10, or 12-years old that's all that matters really! And several of them were heavily armed...bargain!

By swapping weapons, you could have guys with three swords, one in each hand and a spare at the wiast should one slip out of a bloodied steel glove!

I don't seem to be the only one who thought the colours were a bit weak as they regularly turn-up with no decoration at all, just a coat of the silver paint - possibly produced at the end of the run to counter the plain-gold Great Shield guys?

There were also a set of mounted legs, and it was in this guise, with a coat of gold paint that they were carried through to the Great Shield range in 1988 as 'enemy', from where they would march-on into the mid-1990's.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

C is for Corporate Carnage

So, the mawkish sentimentality has started, we have four years of pointless hand-wringing, international glad-handing, historical naval-gazing, looking back, looking forward and rewriting to look forward to, along with endless anecdotes and the minutia of 'social history' to face.

I'll get mine out of the way now; my great-uncle Ernest was gassed in WWI, his breath rattled like a miner's but he lived to a ripe-old age. I never got to talk to him about his experiences, I don't know what his opinion of the Germans was (his sister was married to one), and I don't know where he was gassed, but I do know he saw things and experienced things that civilians - especially vacuous, money-grubbing fuckers like David Cameron - can never begin to understand, they just can't - if you live in a developed country and haven't served in the forces, you don't (and will never know) how frightened, cold and wet, hungry, tired or dirty you can be and still manage to function.

Actually I have two anecdotes...the other being a dreaded 'social history' one, and all the more fascinating for having nothing to do with the combat in Western Europe. Uncle Ernest's sister's future husband was being 'evicted' from Nottingham city centre by gangs of stone-throwing miners, who burned his German refugee parent's butchers shop down, more than once! Because, when food is short, burning butchers is the way to go, if the rioters were alive today they would all be voting UKIP!

Later 05/08/2014 - It's even more interesting...Uncle Ernest was one of the German's sons, he served with the Sherwood Foresters and was gassed by his parents old countrymen!...his brother marrying an English girl he met after the Nottingham 'eviction', the parents having set-up a soup kitchen to serve the locals (for free) before their shop was burnt down! AND taken British citizenship as soon as they arrived in the country, something that probably saved them from forced repatriation by a right-wing government! Even if they lost their shop...that's the patriotism scoundrels run to!

Crescent WWI Infantry - five of six poses

Poppy-red - this IS a vaguely political post. There is a third anecdote; I think my grandfather Hall was co-opted from the Merchant Navy into the Indian Navy during the First World War but I'll have to check that one. Later - He was co-opted from the MN to the RN on his 18th Birthday and served with HMS London at Gallipoli (JTSH). The point is, we all have links to the 'Great' war (nothing great about it, unless you were in arms sales!), although a lot of people don't necessarily consider it, realise it or dwell on it.

The problems between Russia and the neighbouring Ukraine and Georgia, in Transnistria, the - hardly mentioned in the media - 'bloody clashes' on the Armenian/Azerbaijan border, the Kurdish question, Cyprus, and all the problems in the Middle East (Israel/Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Libya and in the wings the undemocratic Saudi and Bahrain funding it all with the Americans) are the here-today legacy of the First World War....the "war to end all wars" is still being fought, having already led to to a far more horrific second world conflagration in the 1940's.

Crescent WWI Cavalry - complete set of three poses

Tonight we were invited to switch out our lights at 10 o'clock, why?

The nations street-lights remained lit, so there was no effect noticeable by the crew of the international space station, the last crew of which contained a Japanese crew commander, Russian craft commander and US astronaut. The dead have been worm-food for more than eighty years and couldn't give a stuff if the lights are on or off, indeed a lot of them left houses that didn't have electric light and wouldn't until the 1950's! And the declaration of war was at 11am not 10pm?

It was a combination of grandstanding by the leadership of Europe today, along with the usual mawkish-pap from the tabloids.

Today's leaders being no more than puppets of big-business, who having nearly allowed our civilisation to collapse a few years ago still have few ideas for long-term recovery other that a lurch to the right, an series of attacks on the vulnerable, the drip-drip imposition of draconian police-state practice (water cannon, really? In Britain?), drip-drip privatisation of the NHS, schools, prisons and government science while the welfare state - our (the 'peoples') reward for the sacrifices in both wars - is slowly dismantled. The dead must be turning in their graves.

Armies in Plastic (AIP) - recent production

I have been listening to the WWI day-by-day thing on BBC Radio 4, and it seems plain to me that all the nations who went to war this week one-hundred years ago, did so with the best of intentions, or because they felt obliged to, with one notable exception.

Serbia went to war because it had to defend itself, Russia went to war because it had signed a treaty to defend Serbia, France had a treaty with Russia, Belgium wanted to defend its sovereignty against German incursion and Britain had a treaty with Belgium to help defend it...looks like the Germans are the bad boys huh?

Well, no actually, the German Kaiser had tried as hard as everyone else to avoid war, but he had a treaty with Austro-Hungary, and they were the bad boys. They wanted war, they wanted Serbia and they ignored every opportunity to avoid war presented to them by Serbia, Russia and France. And - once they had destroyed three empires (Russian, Ottoman and their own) they gave the world the little Austrian corporal who would lead Europe into a second Armageddon in 1939. they then elected a Nazi (Jorg Haider) to party leader in the '89 coalition while the equally divisive Kurt Waldheim was president. All the while trying to lay the blame for both wars at the feet of the Germans, next-door.

So while our poxy tabloids and equally poxy football supporters continue the risible anti-German thing (which gets thinner with every drubbing they give us), it is actually Austria we need to watch - every time!

Marx - Various Cadets, Rough Riders and WWI - original and re-issues

Britain's going poppy-mad! Would say The Sun, if they hadn't already come up with something more childish, or better rhyming...

Four cultural phrases are being massacred like cotton-mill boys in a Flanders trench at the moment; 'Great War' and 'War to End All Wars' I've dealt with above, then we get Samuel Johnson's "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel" which was supposed to refer to people like Hitler and his henchmen, Jorg Haider and his ilk who did so well in the recent Euro-elections, yeah, even unto Farage with his pint and fag, or the 'Russians' in Ukraine - yet the 'i' newspaper (and by association The Independent?) today seemed to be linking it to the feeling/s in Europe a hundred years ago.

I don't buy it, the patriotism that accompanied the mobilisations then was the genuine love of the people for the men they were sending to a war they all knew was going to be destructive (they had the Boer, Franco-Prussian and American Civil wars in the popular memory, they had some idea what technology was doing to the industrial-death business), even as they all tried to convince themselves it would 'all be over by Christmas'.

The other was today's 'Lights Out' quote from the then British Foreign Secretary - Sir Edward Gray; "The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time", well they weren't, they didn't and indeed would get brighter through the rest of the century, although I think they've dimmed a bit under the post '79 capitalist form of plutocracy/Corporatocracy we now suffer under.

Where the division in wealth is greater than it has been for a hundred years, the politicians are as dumb as those who held a war none of them wanted [except Austro-Hungary] and where the poor, disabled, unemployed and elderly are seeing real hardship in the 6th richest country on Earth while big business pays no or minimal tax, replaces jobs with technology or shifts jobs to the other side of the world faster than the politicians can hide the unemployed/under-employed figures in semantics, moved goal-posts or slave work-schemes and where the labour movement is fighting with itself to re-claim rights and conditions we've fought-for once already.

I'm not offering solutions, I'm not offering an alternative history, I'm just saying; as you listen to all the speeches to be made in the next 4 years (both the WWI 100-year stuff AND the WWII 70-year stuff), realise that it is all going to be a mixture of lost/false/falsified history, false memory, political expediency, mawkish sentimentality (usually mindless/thoughtless), the tabloid's need to sell you tomorrow's cat-litter and the inability of anyone in power to admit that any of it was wrong, or learn from it, while constantly looking for a PR photo-op!

Later - 5/8/14 - As exemplified by today's 'Wreathgate' in which - for future readers - yesterdays wreath-laying in some god-forsaken Belgian backwater has been marred by the accusation that the leader of the opposition somehow failed in his duty to show due respect for the fallen by not writing a personal message on his wreath while David 'Dave' 'Fuckwit' Cameron did write a heartfelt message on his...only for later investigation to reveal that the wreaths from the rest of the bigwigs - Scottish, Welsh and Irish National Assemblies + others - were written in the same handwriting as each other...probably by a junior gopher from the signage crew of the PR team for the organisers, who then handed the wreaths out just before the ceremony.

Proving several things;

*None of them usually buy a wreath, or write a personal message, the wreaths are lain-on at the tax payers expense.
*Cameron - in the best traditions of propagandists everywhere - quickly replaced the 'standard' card on his and made sure the Tory press made something of the juxtaposition
* The current leaders of Scotland, Wales, NI and other worthies are too stupid to A) have their own substitution cards ready, or B) Anticipate Cameron's action
* Cameron and his spin doctors (physicians - heal thyselves) are too stupid to realise the wreaths would hand around after the service for other press/activists/seekers of the truth to check back on
* The whole story is a construct or LIE which won't receive the coverage (of the undoing) in tomorrow's papers that it received (as a lie) in today's
* Ergo, the bulk of the readers of today's papers will remember Ed Milliband for being 'a bit wet' and never associate Cameron with being linked to lying, spinning propagandist fuckery!

Here's a parting thought...the Jews fought bravely in the trenches for their country; Germany, we know what happened to them, and now they deliver death and destruction on Gaza as if it was the Warsaw ghetto...they learned nothing, except how to be the paranoid bully.

Later - 5/8/14 - It was actually the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw uprising last week, the reason it seems to have passed with minimum coverage is simply that none of the protagonists at the time want to talk about it right now. The Russians don't want to talk about their disgusting pause, while the Wehrmacht mopped-up (particularly with the ongoing matters referred-to above still in the news). The Germans like to not be reminded of the whole sorry mess for obvious reasons. The Jews certainly don't want the myriad parallels with Gaza (and The West Bank, Jerusalem illegal settlements and 1947) pointed out (occupied, ghettoised, embargoed, resisted - with tunnels, home-made weapons and armed 'terrorists' - and finally; crushed). While the Hosts - the Poles, don't want reminding of their role in staffing Einsatzgruppen, registering, listing and transporting of their Jews and so on (something the French don't like to talk about either!).

Don't commemorate, celebrate or remember...learn.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

G is for Gold Gargants and Great-'kin-shields

Possibly the worst version of Deetail knights came Blasting out of Britains' Hong Kong factory in 1986 (while I was off being a grown-up!...I totally missed these at the time), the Shield Knights, also known as the 'Gold' knights or 'Golden Shield' knights even though there was no gold involved with the shield or the shield-designs!

Chunky lumps of fully-armoured beefcake, or at least the foot figures were...

...and none chunkier than this chap, clearly on illegal anabolic steroids, the worn examples show that the underlying PVC could be a creamy white or flesh-pink. The shields were ridiculously large and they all had a plug-in black plastic sword hanging at the belt along with whichever of the standard weapons they had in their ring-hands.

The right-hand figure in these line-ups are the latter ones who get black helmets and 'panzer' grey mail highlights. They also lost the additional belt-hung sword.

The right-hand line-up is about the best figure of the six as far as anatomy goes and he had a nicely dynamic pose, based on one of the older silver knights.

Two more poses, again the latter issues to the right in each frame, both poses are also chunker-monks! The orange split-crested guy looks like he's wearing a nappy of some kind (early version) or cycling shorts (late version) - unknown member of the Village People?

The final pose and a shot of the various shield designs, the shields were poorly finished polyethylene mouldings. The lower image shows what the shield designs would look like if they missed the colour phase of the printing process, as the six were probably on one sheet, the others are likely to be out there waiting to be found with the blue artwork only?

Mounted figures - the majority were based on the pop-together figures (which will appear above in a day or two!), although some were based on the standard silver knights. The horses caparison got a little slit to take the lance/standard, and the earlier versions of the figures were adapted to take the giant shields and the waist sword.

Horses were limited to black or white and the standards (or pennants...or whatever!) followed the designs of the shields, but you didn't necessarily get two matching with each figure. Also - as the group shot shows - the pallet was limited for caparison colours as well.

Mercifully these had disappeared by the end the 1980's. I know - they're only toys...but these are rather tacky toys! Still it helps you to understand that not all the reasons for a company's demise can be put down to demographics or changing taste...sometimes low sales are a result of not following descent tastes!

B is for Bulgaria

Just a quick one today...these were purchase of the day at the Plastic Warrior show in May, although I didn't have to hunt them out as Peter Evans (PW's roving reporter) brought them to my very hands! Thank you Peter!

He was informed that they were Bulgarian, and there's definitely something 'eastern' about them, although, they are quite unique so may be from Hungary or Romania? The ties between Bulgaria and Russia were much closer than some of the other Comecon countries, and their production tends to mirror Soviet stuff, with twin factories in both nations, mould-share and mould-copy.

28-30mm, swoppet-style, Napoleonic era or (ceremonial?) troops, one with plug-in weapon, the weapon has detail on one side only, almost as if it's stamped-out of a sheet, yet the detail on the sculpted side is clearly injection moulded. I have tried to track down some more to no avail, but will soon have a spy in Sophia looking out for them!

Bases for the foot figures also have yet to be tracked down, but the horse has an integral base and ends up looking very much like (and is the same size as...) Spencer Smith, who - of course - had integral riders! There's still so much out there to be discovered...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

S is for Swivel Like Swoppet!

One of the final innovations in the Deetail range, these are quite good fun, four points of articulation with rigid legs meant you could get them into some awkward poses, like an Action Man (GI Joe) with lose elastics, but they can also be posed with the minimum of thought into very realistic fighting positions.

Called Champion Knights, they appeared in 1993 and ran until about '98, alongside various late production of the older ranges and the short-lived Robin Hood set. Currently still around on feeBay and the like, they were never as numerous as the silver knights or Turks, and it's worth sourcing a good sample and laying it away like fine wine!

A general shot or two to give a feel for the figures, in a massed mêlée they do look rather good, although the simplistic shields were a total let-down!

There were four torsos, each available for the longer time in two (reversed) paint schemes, gold on silver or vis-versa. See last frame below for the coloured versions.

I never did a shot of the helmets (but another shoot was pending once the book took shape), so I'm not sure how many mouldings there are, but it looks like six heads were available?

Four leg mouldings were attached to the torsos, these only had the one style of decoration, gold highlights on silver.
The running with foot on tuft of grass was a rather clumsy throwback to the days of lead horses!

Six designs of plug-in crest (3 feather-plumes, 3 'designs') were randomly glued into a hole in the helmets and given various paintings, with Friday-afternoon and Monday-morning figures added to out-workers differing treatments of the paint, there are a fair few variations to track-down, and these are just a taster.

The highlight of this range has to be the weapons, I really like them, particularly the battle-hammer. It's a pity the people who make replacements from time to time don't copy these instead of the dirt-common ones that ran from the 1970's through to the 2000's

The disappointing shields, only half of them pay any attention to the rules of heraldry, and even then not terribly convincingly...this is what happens when you leave the fine details to your Chinese manufacturer, instead of holding on to the design-reigns!

The mounted figures were not only all-new mouldings, but they got an all-new horses and a new design of base, although the old bases were used as well, whether this was early in the run or at the end I don't know.

Colour variations - although there were only the two horse poses, the variation in decoration meant they still looked good together, or even in numbers.

Right at the end they got a 'simplified' paint scheme of coloured surcoats, with grey detailing on what had been the armour plates, mail neck-protection etc...

Because this was such a short-lived series, the final boxes often had both types in at the same time. The helmet crests also become single colour every time.