About Me

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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 58-year-old Aspergic gardening 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.

Monday, February 10, 2014

F is for Free French Fighters, Firemen and other Fellows

Although now solved by several sets in the 'right' size, for years there was only one source of plastic resistance fighters for the 'old school' war-gamer who didn't want to pay the rates to obtain metal figures. That set was not commonly had and therefore became quite mythical, I well remember arguments at school between those who'd obviously seen them in their local corner shop (for that was where you got them in the late 1960's-early 1970's) and those who hadn't and wouldn't believe they actually existed.

It should be pointed out that similar arguments broke out over Lancers (probably the Marx Miniature Masterpieces getting confused with the Airfix catalogue mock-up or the Montaplex envelope) and Ancient Greeks, the latter being settled when I swapped some Anglo bubble-gums with Palmer for a handful of the Giant piracies in bright red he'd picked-up in Webb's newsagent in Hartley Wintney...they were added to my Airfix Romans as officers!

Those resistance fighters were - in fact - the 30mm figures from Blue Box (above) and they were like gold dust, being issued in very few of the BB sets, usually 3 or 4 figures to a vehicle in the single vehicle window boxes or the all-transparent boxes with a card base-tray stapled in, again usually with one vehicle...or a Jeep and trailer.

One of the annoying things about life is that it never works-out as you'd like; life and convenience are strangers to one another, and because of that, while I have all the loose figures here, all the boxed and carded BB stuff is in a shipping container 20  miles away which I haven't even visited in over a year and which has been moved on someone else's lorry since I last saw it! God knows what the contents look like but the BB stuff is at least in ridged boxes.

This absence wasn't a particular problem when I was Blogging the larger scales by Blue Box last year as I don't have any mint packaged stuff in the bigger sizes, but it is a bit of a bugger in this case, as it would be nice to blog some of the sets...well; they'll make a nice post another day, and I might have a few shots kicking about somewhere for a follow-up!

As can be seen in the pictures, there were six crudeishly sculpted figures, one; a female. All given a basic stab-and-hope paint-job and issued in various shades of grey and pale-grey-blue. The bluer shade being the commoner. A couple of the poses also seem to bear a resemblance to Marx cowboy poses?

Ri-toys are responsible for the copies which are a lot more common and due to the nature of the copying, slightly smaller which made them easier to hide among 25/28mm war games figures. The green ones ran for years in various bagged and carded sets, sometimes over-printed with an importers/jobbers brand or trade mark; Woolbro, Success &etc...

I prefer the later multi-coloured ones as they sum up Hong Kong for me! I also preferred them at the time, as in an 'unpainted armies' carpet-war, they were clearly civilians attacking all those Airfix dark-grey 'Bosche' in a fetching 'spring collection' of psychedelic tracksuits!

Forty years of collecting gives a straw-poll of degree of rarity...the hard polystyrene factory painted originals being close to hens teeth in commonality, the green ones being pretty common (and not worth some of the sums they've realised on FeeBay recently!) and the rainbow-warriors needing a little more searching for.

The enemy (then - we're all friends now!); the Germans, who also came in six poses, and I've explained the connection with Marx elsewhere so won't dwell on it now, but I will rewrite the old One Inch Warrior article one day as the theory posited there/then - while solid - needs a bit of fine tuning and passing to a wider audience.

Again Ri-toys copied them slightly smaller, where they got included in sets with copies of the Blue Box US troops and - sometimes - the Marx German Infantry poses that were so similar to these in style and paint, but not plastic colour.

Also German in nationality - or at least in their original guise as HO-gauge accessories by Walter Merten, the Navy figures by Blue Box were issued in their sets occasionally and are about as common as the French Resistance figures, that is; not very!

They were actually issued in threes, joined at the base, but the join is so slight they broke apart very easily and so you only ever see the 'triples' in mint sets, although as such - I think they may have already appeared on the blog? Woolbro article?

Merten originally produced both poses in the diminutive size, but used paint to produce a wider 'range', with summer, winter, working dress and parade dress paint jobs - if memory serves!

[04th December 2015 - It wasn't the Woolbro post, it was one of the early Blue Box posts with a few of the boxed sets! B is for Blue Box]

These are not 100% Blue Box, but I'm pretty sure that's who's responsible! The chalky paper on the thick brown spirit-glued bases for one, the ancestry of the US medic for another and the paint style, not least the plastic type all point to these being from the civilian sets by the same company.

And even if I had the mint sets to hand it wouldn't help as - with a couple of Bedford RL / MK exceptions - I only ever collected the military sets of BB production.

If you go to the big annual Train Show (it's more than a swap-meet or dealers event) down at Alresford in Hampshire (well worth a visit) there is a chap there who has dedicated himself to collecting Blue Box civilian sets and he has all sorts of lovely airport, city, town and railway boxed sets and often puts on a display in one of the smaller buildings there. I last went quite a while ago and can't remember what all the civilians looked like but I'm pretty sure figures like these featured among the copies of Dinky road-workers (which might also be Corgi - see Blog passim!) and Britains farmers!

Indeed - and this has only just struck me - the US stretcher-bearer might be the end-product of a linage going back to the Dinky road-worker with wheel-barrow? Note how the civi' above is slightly larger and has more 'closed' hands, the road-worker having a flat-cap and fully-closed hands?

A quick scaler...the Airfix Combat Group figure is almost exactly 23mm, so you can see the Ri-toys copies are about 27/28mil and the BB originals around 30, with the firemen a little taller at around 31/32mm.


Ross Mac rmacfa@gmail.com said...

Thanks for this one, I've never seen any other sets or any of the derivatives. One knows that not having seen others doesn't mean that mine were a one of a kind freak of nature that just happened to fall out of Santa's sack as he passed by but sometimes one wonders.

Also good to see the 6th figure. I remembered that there were 6 originally and was pretty sure he had a grenade and there he is.

Hugh Walter said...

Hi Ross, glad you liked it...I'm sure I can spare a grenade thrower - email me.

US troops tonight and the British soon....