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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.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

S is for Skybirds

So, to the final post in this concurrent group - Skybirds; not really connected to Trojan at all, but mentioned enough times in the 7 posts above to merit coverage of the figures, at least. Similar to and running alongside the Crescent figures, you could in the 1930/50’s (long before the ‘modern’ war gaming movement) get up quite an armed force, with a few Fantasyland imports and some semi-flat European figures to fill the gaps.

According to publicity material at the time in the modelling press, these figures were re-issued by Douglas Miniatures in the late 1960’s/1970’s and another source states that Douglas issued some new poses. Well, I’ve seen enough over the years to know that all the existing poses can be found in datable Skybirds collections/Skybirds packaging, and there are so many paint variations, particularly of the Civilians, that I can’t tell you what’s a ‘Douglas’ and what isn’t. I suspect the Douglas were issuing inherited ex-Skybirds stock, as I’ve seen trays and trays of both mint painted and unpainted casting go through auctions, and someone, somewhere produced baths-full of these figures, which is not to say they are all as common as mud, some are, some aren’t, but there will be more to find…

Various pilots who can be used as either civilians or early/WWI allied military pilots, with the civilian passengers/onlookers in the central image. Note the wide array of colour schemes. Bottom right is the female pilot I always think is meant to be Emilia Earhart (is that surname right? No Google!), or - more likely - the Brit; Amy Johnson!

I love the guy with his hands in his pockets, waiting for the dawn mist to clear or his ground-crew to sort his ‘string-bag’ out. The paratrooper can be found with the shroud-lines in place, but inevitably there are only little scraps of what looks like tissue paper trapped in the knots at the ends of the lines where a parachute is supposed to be! This is not to say you can’t get one with the parachute, but that’d be mint in pack which is beyond my normal budget in these things!

The Khaki troops, if you want to see a Douglas Miniatures figure, it may be the left-hand figure in the top right-hand shot! This portion of Skybirds range seems to have more than a passing resemblance to the large-scale hollow-casts by Johillco (John Hill and Co., known as ‘Hilco’ to the plastics fraternity!), with Hill’s products pre-dating Skybirds by a few years, the ‘homage’ would seem to be in their favour!

The searchlight (a civilian one is seen here - and a recent purchase) was the same unit as one soldered to the backs of slush-cast lorries by Benbros (I think? Or CharbensMorstone?), so were probably bought-in from another sub-assembler. The green sandbags are home-painted, not a colour variant.

Various military-looking mechanics and/or ground-crew, I suspect a fair bit of home-painting among the senior NCO with swagger-stick lot, but again, the possibility of some being Douglas miniatures?

The Germans are coming! [National motto of the French, or is that; ‘The British are winning’?]. These come in a variety of greys from the quite dark one on the left in the top photo to a pale grey (officer with pistol), and there were only ever the three combat poses, so if Douglas were going to add figures this would have been where to do so, and they don't seem to have done so.

The lower poses are half-German specific (two on the right) and a paint variant on the running pilot from the first image in this post; there are also grey versions of the ground-crew in the previous image. The blue figure may be civil airline or naval officer, but looks like a Luftwaffe staff officer to me, so he lives in their bag!

Stop Press -Taken this weekend on the floor of the NEC, these are all available from Mercator Trading (link to right or Google), I wish I could afford them; both my bikes are damaged and I don’t have the AA gun, while the tanker-lorry is just beautiful, no? A catalogue of the sets at the heights of Skybirds flourishing was reproduced in an early issue of Military Modelling or Airfix magazine, or - I believe - can be found in Meccano Magazine, which is now online somewhere.

Another from Sunday just gone, again all still available from Mercator (who has three ‘Flybirds’ as well - slightly larger at around 1:60), although one of the German Bi-planes might have sold on the day? Much discussion on their first outing led the assembled ‘fans’ to decide these are probably factory finished with home-applied markings, or possibly home-made from kits! Does it matter?......they’re Skybirds!; a few bits of balsa and some wire, with two wheels and a ‘prop’ in a little bag!

The Airport building was part of a large (and changeable) range of military and civil aerodrome accessories some based on actual buildings from Croydon or Hounslow (early/pre-Heathrow) airports, typical of the products of firms such as Hugar or Horton (see farm post above), early Faller or Hornby ‘O’ gauge tinplate era train-set accessories or the handmade buildings of Timpo or Trix, they might have been bought-in from a larger company that would specialize in finishing such things, leaving Skybirds to concentrate on making their aircraft, sending out aircraft kits and expanding the metal parts and figure ranges, but, they certainly had the equipment and skills to produce all the scenics ‘in-house’, so it’s only my opinion (not even an opinion really, more of an idea?), based on the conjecture that they were quite a small company?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have a couple of Skybird Quads(tractors)....do you know anything about them.

Maverick Collecting said...

Hi Annon,

I don't know anything about them I'm afraid, but the vehicles seem to have been a later and not well catalogued addition to the range?

If you want you can send me a picture or two and I'll put them on the blog and see if anyone else can help?

Cheers
Hugh