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.

Friday, October 30, 2015

News, Views etc...Plastic Warrior 160

So, a couple of weeks later than I intended, but a month or two earlier (better timed!) than usual!

Plastic Warrior's last issue:
Issue 160;

* Alwyn Brice continues the 'saga' of Elastolin's 40mm range.
* 'Minor Makers' returns to VP and Speedwell with interesting boxed sets.
* What the !&*$? finds David Pye seeking information on two interesting civilian figures and a Napoleonic (Italian or Spanish officer?) while Mike 'he finds all the best stuff' Harding has the most peculiar-based Flintstone figures to identify.
* Daniel Morgan's 'Herald Notes and Queries' moves to the Guards Brigade with four pages of scarlet.
* The new Hebrew/Israelite set from Engineer Basevitch is studied by Tom Stark.
* Les White gives a 'show-and-tell' of the first series Hobbit blind bag figures from Vivid Imaginations.
* A timely - and thorough - return to the Kellogg's Spacemen (made by Crescent) is penned by Gerald Edwards.
* A fascinating set of Ideal figures (I've never seen before) is studied by Colin Penn, being Justice League figures from the American 'Super hero' comics.
* Editorial content this month is 'More on Minor Makes', with input/feedback from Tomasz Karpowicz on more Khaki Infantry copies of Britains, Timpo and Speedwell poses.
* 'What's New' looks at new figures from...
- Classic Toy Soldiers (CTS) - Korean War
- Replicants - Smugglers ans Alan A'Dale
- Engineer Basevich - Cuban Revolution, WWII Soviets and Crimean Russians

*  Readers letters this month include
- PW's show feedback from Eric Keggans, Brenton and Debbie Hoffman and Debbie Stevens. Brian Shorthouse plugs a book.
- Eric Critchley waxes lyrical on the new (colour) update of the PW Johillco Special (available for all the usual sources, see links below).
- Juan Carlos Martin waxes lyrical on PW 159 and feedback's on that issue's What the !&*$?, Eric Keggans also praises the issue.
- More feedback from Patrick Broquet and an interesting Cherilea 'Khaki Infantry' set from Gerald Edwards are added to Paul 'Stads' Stadinger's musings on Deluxe Reading; Stads also shows new figures (Ancients) from Lodi Enterprises. [Lodi or Lod...?]
- Finally: Stephan Dance feeds-back on the Reddish Maid/Blue Box Wild West sets from the previous issue and adds Co-Operative Stores (Co-Op) to the mix!

[It's a fact that the new quarterly format, allows for this 'last issue' feedback, which in the past often appeared over the next two or three issues in no particular order, now the feedback tends to gather in the following issue, making it much easier to refer back to the previous volume]

* Plus all the usual small-ads.
* Front cover sees one of the Minor Makes (Speedwell) sets courtesy of Barney Brown.
* Back cover illustrates the new Replicants Smugglers in Daniel Morgan's mini diorama/vignette.
* 'News and Views and other stuff' covers Constant Scale, a Hornby kick-starter, requests for input on childhood memories and news on Publius's status, with a PW blog reminder (see link below).

Out for a while now, but plenty of time to get a subscription if you haven't yet...

Plastic warrior is now on-line here;
eMail; pw.editor@ntlworld.com

And they are on Paypal.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

V is for Vasily Ivanovich Chapayev

Also Chapaev or 'Chapi', and his soldiers: Chapayevtsi - Followers of Chapi, were a popular subject for infant toys in the Soviet Union (and it's post WWII satellites), among which were the ubiquitous flats. They are the subject of tonight's post.

Chapayev the Man

Four sets following or copied from the same original mould-tool. Three are probably Russian in origin, the forth (second row down) being Bulgarian. The fifth set (bottom row) are a separate set, with all new poses (one being similar or derivative?) and a thicker semi-flat look, but they seem to be another set of Chapayevtsi.

These seem to be the originating set, their detail is the best, the sculpting/moulding the smoothest, and while they are not really semi-flat, they are the fullest figures of the four sets of flats. Given the branding of the next set down this post: I think it's a fair bet to assume these are from the Progress factory, some other figures from which we looked at a while ago.

I think this is near the full set (of eight sculpts), but it may be that the machine gun coach (tachanka - Russian: Tача́нка), was to be purchased separately. I've seen several of these toys, each a little different (i.e., enough for each of the sets presented here), yet they never seem to accompany the sets - this blue one, while matching the sculpting style, base design and plastic type of the red cavalry (Hahah! Reds!) was a separate purchase, years after the mounted figures.

Tachanka's were designed to keep-up with cavalry, and while shown here with one horse, usually employed the famous Russian Troika or three-abreast arrangement for the draft animals, with some having four horses abreast like a Roman chariot!

Chapayevtsi - it reads! The reason for the 'Progress' assumption above is that these are 'also' from Progress, but spelt Проƨрес rather than the original Пpоrресc, the difference being down to the fact that while Bulgarian and Russian both using the Cyrillic alphabet, they are as different as English versus Danish to the users!

These are from a plant in Sophia which we can further assume was a subsidiary or branch of the parent country's company, in the puppet country? These are not exact copies, there is a loss of overall quality, with re-sculpting evident, particularly on the grass rising from the bases to help the horses with their dynamic posing. So licensed or simply a 'second set' of moulds?

Probably back to Russia (but could be another satellite country?) for these obvious copies, loss of quality of the sculpting has been matched by a loss in quality of material which is a tinier plastic.

These are the poorest of the sets, being both poor quality, and made of a dodgy plastic, which may be recycled from off-cuts of something bigger, but poses are still mirrored, and one has to assume that all 6/8 will turn-up eventually.

This set is very different, as hinted at above. The figures are semi-flat or demi-rond, and the poses are all new, although one of the figures can be matched as I have in the first image (middle of the row there, top right in this shot), it's more a coincidental similarity that any continuation of the 'series' that contains the other four sets.

Comparison photo's showing the different types of base, a comparison between flat and semi-flat and four figures in the same pose; the fact that the third set down the page has replaced the rifle with a sabre, suggests it might be the last set made, so take the order 'down the page' with a pinch of salt.

Finally: a marbled effect, probably caused by dirty plastic or an 'in production' mould-purge of a previous colour, rather than a deliberate attempt at such a finish. It could even be burning; if you let the injector-head get too hot you will get dark streaks in the plastic.

This set is also likely to be representing Chapayevtsi, but is in a different style altogether, there are lots of these silver figures with the heavier bases (in a more Polish or East German toy-soldier style) which slotted into little trays you could buy separately - to move them in blocks/units and we will look at the Napoleonics another day, but I thought I'd slip these in here for completion's sake! All new poses and a slogan on the flag I;ve not had translated yet.

The weirdest thing here is that they are flat, yet plastic...it goes back to the point I made the other day while looking at the die-cast 'slush-cast'...people using the new technology to produce toys that resemble the old technology. And it's not something we can regard with self-satisfied superiority as being a sign of a backward failing totalitarian state's industry, as we (in the Coca-Cola 'Free West') were doing the same thing with margarine figurines, Cracker-Jacks, World Dolls and 100-soldier sets! Just a daftness, but I like plastic flats and we'll come back to them!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

T is for Two - Silver Polymer!

As XH558, the last of the British V-Bomber fleet and the last of the truly independent nuclear deterrent carriers flies it's last and slides into retirement because our government of dead pig-fuckers would rather kau-tau to the totalitarian communist killers of the Glosters than support it's continued flight, I thought we could look at a model of the beast care of Tri-Ang, another British concern killed by the activities of the Far east and their inability to play by the rules - there are several copies of this with Hong Kong stamped on the base!

In Vulcan scale it's about 1:144, but with an oversize flight-deck/canopy and no engine exhausts! The fuselage is also a bit fat, it lacks the fine lines of a real Vulcan, one of the most stunning of delta-wing aircraft, but as toys go, it's a winner with its push-and-go flywheel engine.

To make the post: Another early British plastic toy, in unpainted, hard, silver, polystyrene plastic with the bronze bits that makes me think it's probably Tudor Rose, we looked at a green one here; T is for Tudor Rose, part 2 - loose-ends. This one has a shy driver! It also backs-up my musings re. the silver AA-wagon in the same link?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

S is for Slush-cast...Not!

Two in one night...he must be clearing crap out of Picasa again! I shot this at a show a while ago, not really a 'bit of me', show me a Khaki one with an allied star, or show me one with a figure and I'll be interested, but pure civi stuff in 1:24th (or thereabouts), is not something I get excited about.

But, I was interested enough by the apparent attempt of a metal toy to try to look like a plastic toy, as to photograph it. I'm referring specifically to the yellow wheels, which are exactly what you'd find on dime-store plastics of the 1950's/early '60's. The wheels are also fixed to the body in a similar way, simple mouldings of axle and both wheels as one piece, they sit in a grove which is hammered-closed over them - as you might collapse two plastic spigots either side of a plastic axle with a hot blade.

Also, this is not slush-cast, but looks like it. When you pick it up it's too light for soft white-metals (lead; as was), this is actually a very crudely cast mazac/zamak alloy which has not been fettled, leaving rough edges to the windows as if slush-cast in soft metal.

Slush-casting of toy vehicles was a bit like hollow-casting of toy soldiers, but with a slightly more complicated mould; you sloshed the molten metal around and poured-out the excess, leaving an uneven interior, but hopefully the exterior had taken the detail of the mould's surface. This model has an equally smooth interior, which has been painted to the same high-gloss, helping the faux-plastic look.

Just as generals and politicians always start fighting the next war as if it was the last (until they realise the enemy has new tech. and new tactics), or economists always treat the new crisis like the last one (until they realise the variables are all different), so toy manufacturers always try to use the new technology to crate the toys of the old technology, and this is trying to be a slush-cast car (because it's metal), using dime-store plastic techniques (because it's injection moulding) and end's up the bastard child of both, because no one has yet though..."do you know what, with this tech., we could include fine-finish shelves for windows, we could drill and screw a base-plate?"

It's a fascinating example of a nascent technology, I don't know the maker, it was unmarked, but it must be among the earliest die-cast vehicles, and was really clean.

H is for High & Drive

Apropos the High & Drive 'Super Power' Hummer we looked at in my cheapie-shop round up a month or so ago, I acquired a couple more...99p Stores...99p!

That's them...wheels are a bit dodgy, or at least they're a bit dodgy for an AA VAB, the 'Police' vehicle is pretty fictional I think and can keep its pro-star mag-alloy spinners! Paint the VAB's wheels and it'll look OK in Chad, or the other in errr...the Rim Worlds! That's it, keepin' it tight tonight.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

X is for X-30 Space Explorer

Bought this a while ago, because it was cheap! It was missing something (still is) and the vendor stated that fact as being the reason it was so reasonable, but it was a metallic blue spaceship, I wasn't going to let it go, although there's another reason I had to have it.

This is the little beast...on the launchpad! A Google image-search reveals it's basically a generic (although I believe JR21 carried it at one point), coming either Hong Kong boxed (no.230) or carded, in two versions: as mine (mostly carded) or with gold/dirty-silver painted nose and side-nacelles (boxed) and it's numbered 303 on the base, just to confuse!.

There is a second model with a similar name made by Lucky Products ('LP', No. 103) but with smaller turbines over the wheels, these tend to be pale blue or red, also boxed or carded (with four of their spacemen).

The other reason I had to have one...it's got a dog! An HO-OO'ish, space dog...there's a dog in the cab, with its own seat...how cool is that? Too cool for school, that's how, so go to space...did I say it had a dog...Look! There's a dog in that Space Ship, somebody give it a seat-belt! Pre-dates Wookies...

If you follow some of the links from the image-search, you'll see that the missing piece is a revolving antenna thing (nuclear engine?), anyway, it's a bit naff, very breakable, and the LP one uses a simplified one that looks like a jack from the cheap rack-toy Jacks sets.

Do you know - I managed to get through my entire childhood without ever knowing how to play Jacks. This despite the fact everyone I knew (including my Brother and I) had some kicking around somewhere? I've even watched people playing it without paying attention...you chuck them in the air and there are dice? A dice? Too late now!

So That's what I'll do with this (an idea from Woodsie or Wotan over at Moonbase Central (destination of several of those links)), but I know I've seen little bags of plastic jacks from Christmas crackers with an anodised-chromium type finish in metallic pink, purple or blue, one of which I think will do the trick nicely, so I'm holding out for one to turn-up, if not I may have some in a 'spares tub' in storage!

Friday, October 9, 2015

S is for Soldier Magazine October 1951 - Adoption of the EM2 Bull Pup Assault Rifle?

One of the great mysteries of British-made toy soldiers has been why so many of the 'Khaki Infantry' produced in the 1950's have the EM2 experimental bull pup configured assault rifle instead of the bolt-action No.4 SMLE or its successor the conventional layout, semi-automatic, FN-licensed L1A1 SLR?

Now its never been a mystery to me, and I have explained more than once how it came about; here on this blog, on the HaT forum (when I was active there) and elsewhere on the Internet as well as in real-life, in conversation with fellow collectors and passers-by at shows. Yet there is still misinformation out there, I guess there always will be, but hopefully these following three articles will help?

The reason I've always stuck to my version of events - that it was due to press publicity, probably following a fire-power demonstration, probably at Lulworth Cove or on 'The Plain', probably given by the Demonstration Battalion at the School of Infantry in Warminster - was because I could remember reading the articles in my Father's old bound volumes of Soldier Magazine from the 1950's. I am glad to be able to report that thanks to that magazine (which is still going and is still a good read), and the C2 Business Manager Andy Clarkson, I have located those articles, and reproduce them here to help put this 'question' to bed.

The first article was published on 1st October 1951, the lead-up being almost certainly under wraps and protected by the Official Secrets Act, so this was probably the first time the soldiery had heard about it in their official magazine (the daily press breaking it a few days earlier) and it's the earliest article Andy could find. The article I remembered was the one we'll look at two posts down, these three posts going-up together in chronological order down the page.

I've copied the text as it is in the scans as some of it would have been unreadable, or hard to read as JPG's. All capitalisation and punctuation, hyphens and the like is reproduced faithfully and with several authors and only one byline; the hyphen rule particularly varies between articles. I have annotated in normal (pale grey) text with square brackets, and both coloured the original text and italicised it.

October 1951, Soldier, The British Army Magazine


Perhaps it is sensationalism to say that the fate of the world may depend on •02 of an inch. That is the difference in calibre between Britains new and widely publicised •288 rifle (or 7mm as it is now known) and the American Garand •300 which is the weapon of the other Atlantic Pact countries.

Either the calibre of the British weapon becomes the calibre of the Atlantic Pack countries, or it does not.

This decision may have been taken by the time these lines appear.
[in other words, it's all still up in the air] A recommendation was due to be made this month to the Defence Ministers of the Atlantic Powers, meeting in Rome, by the specialists of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

It is not so much the weapons that are the problem, but the ammunition. Member countries do not mind what rifles the other nations use, provided the same bullet fits all barrels. Firearms can be adapted to take a smaller bullet, but not a larger one. Hence the Garand could be made to fire a 7mm bullet; but the new 7mm rifle could not be adapted to fire •300.

At present, Britain is the nation out of step. Most countries in the Pact had already made plans to produce weapons of the American calibre, which like the British •303 has not been changed for 50 years.

No small arms weapon has had the grooming for stardom that the Enfield experts have put into their newest production. There has been no question of taking an existing rifle and 'sophisticating' it. The new weapon was devised from scratch.

What the designers did was to list the faults of earlier weapons: excessive weight; deficiency in fire power (this was responsible for the introduction of light machine-guns); inferiority in close quarters (hence the machine carbine)
[a problem retained with the long-barrelled SLR]; difficulty of mastering sights; smallness of magazine; inadequate standard of accuracy (hence the need for sniper rifles).

In the new rifle the barrel length has been reduced and the wooden butt abolished, thus lessening weight. The weapon is designed all in one line - from the muzzle to the shoulder rest. This has eliminated muzzle jump found in previous types. The kick has also disappeared.
[both problems retained with the introduction of the SLR]

Although there is a cocking handle the new rifle is self-loading; the gasses in the barrel have been taped to drive back the mechanism. The result is a greater rate of fire. A press button makes the weapon automatic. Thus the rifle has three roles: rifle, light machine-gun and carbine. [no talk of 'assault rifles' back in the 1950's?]

The reduction in the size of the round and the fact that its case is rimless enables a larger and straighter magazine to be used. Previously, because of the rims, magazines in both rifles and the Bren have had to be curved. The magazine has now been placed behind the trigger, thus fitting into the triangle mad by the trigger, elbow and shoulder. Should the firer want to aim downwards over a bank there is no risk of the magazine fouling the ground.[a problem retained with the SLR]

The trigger mechanism is so designed that the firer can change from single-shot to automatic without removing his hand. For men wearing arctic gloves which do not have separate fingers there is a special large trigger guard which can take the whole hand.

The rifle has a carrying handle on top of which rest the sights in a protective steel tube. That old rule of aiming which demands that the tip of the foresight shall be in the center of the backsight aperture no longer applies. Looking through the sight is like looking through a telescope which contains a guiding vertical mark and cross wires.

To the muzzle can be attached a healthy looking dagger bayonet and an attachment for firing grenades.
[the bayonet looks like it was retained/adapted to fit the SLR, the grenade would have been the Mecar Energa, an AT-grenade issued in '52 for the Lee-Enfield and carried over to the SLR, it's firing attachment was the reason for the unused pouch'lette stitched to the side of the right-hand ammo-pouch where we kept our KFS or 'cabby' racing spoon]

Last year the new rifle and ammunition - the bullets are lighter but have greater penetrating power - went to the United States where for seven months at a variety of military stations they were demonstrated by one of the best shots and ablest instructors from the Small Arms School Corps at Hythe - Quartermaster-Sergeant-Instructor Henry Thwaites. There is no doubt that the weapon impressed the audience, just as it did at the more recent demonstration at the School of Infantry, Warminster, before Members of Parliament, foreign military attaches and the Press. [this is the 'fire-power demo' I have alluded to in the past]

Again the demonstrator was Quartermaster-Sergeant-Instructor Thwaites, aided by Experimental Quartermaster-Sergeant F.A.Herbert of the Experimental Establishment, Pendine. There was something of the atmosphere of a first night at the theatre, and a little of the last day of the King's Prize contest at Bisley.

From the weapon pit a demonstration was given of the American •303 Garand. In a minute 43 well aimed shots, all hitting the target, were fired. Next came the British No. 4 Lee-Enfield, the present service rifle, Quartermaster-Sergeant-Instructor Thwaites drew applause for his prefect bolt-action and but for a round jamming he would have fired 30 rounds in the minute instead of 28. The Army expects the fully trained soldier to get off 15 well aimed shots in that time.

Then came the new rifle. The movie cameras buzzed, microphones were switched on. The crowd counted - one, two, three,…27, 28, 29 …54, 55, 56… Altogether 84 rounds left the rifle before the minute was up.

The demonstrations that followed were equally impressive. Single shots and bursts were tried out by the new rifle. Steel helmets at 600 yards range were holed. (It is claimed the rifle can penetrate them at 1000 yards). Two new rifles and magazines were placed in a chest into which was fanned sand to give a sandstorm test. After five minutes the two weapons were taken out, the demonstrators blew the sand off the sights and then fired, first with the magazines already fitted to them and then with the magazines which had been placed separately in the chest. Even the thickly coated rounds were fired as if they had come straight out of the armourers shop. The Garand was not put to this test. It is known that it would not fire with sand in the works.

A test in which rounds from the three weapons were fired, from 100 yards, into a coffin-shaped chest containing a series of one-inch planks put the Garand ahead of the two British rifles, but it was pointed out that over longer distances the 7mm bullet sustains its velocity better than the other two. Tracer was also fired from the new rifle and the old.

A demonstration was also given of a new 7mm sustained fire machine-gun still in the development stage, which may eventually replace the Vickers [School of Infantry, Brecon would still have a Vickers on manifest in 1969]. Although the Bren gun can be converted to 7mm, there was not one available for demonstration. [this seems to be on the Vickers tripod, the GPMG (from the same FN stable as the SLR) would get a lighter version which folds-up to a smaller man-portable load, also; the one above looks like a reduced-size Polsten cannon!]

To show the use of the new rifle in action, two sections of Infantry (supplied by the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment) [who in 1951 were stationed in Warminster, home of the Demonstration Battalion as I've previously suggested], one with the 7mm and the other with No. 4 rifles, gave each other covering fire as they attacked "enemy" positions. It was simple to tell the 7mm men by their rate of fire.

The proudest man present was Mr. E. N. Kent-Lemon, who was in charge of the team which produced the new rifle at Enfield, The most enthusiastic was Quartermaster-Sergeant-Instructor Thwaites. He said: "This is the simplest weapon to teach, I was given a squad of 11 Infantrymen, not one with more than six weeks service. We had only one rifle between us, which meant that when I taught them they had to pass the weapon round. Yet in two days they not only mastered it, but were able to fire a course on range. The average result was 15 points out of 20".

Whatever the Pact countries decide about the standardisation of calibre, Britain reserves her right to go ahead with production of the new rifle.

Peter Lawrence [byline]

The article mentions 'the new rifle' umpteen times yet the opening lines make it quite clear this is more of an all-or-nothing roll of the dice than any policy decision.

The apparent shortage of usable weapons suggests this was still far from a 'service weapon' in late 1951 (as stated on the Wikipedia page!). The truth is 'PR' is being used to push this weapon and it's chosen calibre over the rival entries in the pan-NATO commission looking into both replacement weapons technology and a replacement ammunition round.

Assuming the two squads had no MG's so that they didn't upset the audio-effect sought, and allowing for two more in the sand boxes and another two for the QMSI and EQMS, with maybe one more on a display table, with spares there probably weren't 20 weapons present, and they probably represented the bulk of the production?

I would add, that as a user of the SLR I would rather have had this to play with - as you can probably tell from the notes I've added in the text! They [the points] were all also true of the later SA80 which I was issued in 1987 as one of the first units to get it, and we got it before the drill had been taught us, so for a while the arms cote had a pile of unloved SLR's in one corner just for drill/ceremonials!

The shorter length meant egress from vehicles and FIBUA were both easier, the position of the magazine meant you could replace an 'empty' without waving the thing all over the place, recoil was zero compared to the kick of the old gatt, the mag. didn't foul on the ground, or catch on things...

Many thanks to Andy Clarkson at Soldier Magazine
Wikipedia - EM2 page
Memories of 1st Btn. Harts & Bucks Reg.
Wikipedia - Other Bull Pups
Wikipedia - The Bayonet

Part two (post below, if scrolling/'older post' if browsing) looks at a late entry in the field...

S is for Soldier Magazine November 1951 - Belgian Spanner in the Works?

A month after the previous article (post above, if scrolling/'newer post' if browsing), this appears on page 23, almost hidden, getting only half a page and the constant 'the new rifle' phraseology of the last article becomes 'the British rifle' throughout this piece...notation is kept to a minimum, as it's all pertinent to part three...

October 1951, Soldier, The British Army Magazine

After the British (•280 inch) rifle, described in last month's SOLDIER, come a new Belgian weapon of the same calibre.
It is more conservative than the new British weapon, it has a wooden butt, is longer and slightly heavier (eight pounds nine and a half ounces compared with eight pounds) and can be used for standard ceremonial drill. There is a folding handle on the barrel, so the weapon can be carried at the trail.

The new Belgian rifle is like the British in having a 20-round magazine which can also fit a Bren gun and in firing both bursts and single shot.

Instead of the British 7mm's optical sights, the Belgian rifle retains a conventional type, but there is a telescopic attachment for snipers. The Belgian rifle also has a bipod which can be fixed to the barrel when the weapon is used as a light automatic.

Unlike the British 7mm the Belgian 7mm has its cocking handle on the left which and the manufacturers claim this leaves the right hand on the pistol grip ready for firing. The change-lever, for selecting single shots, automatic and "safe" is also on the left.

At a demonstration near Antwerp, the Belgian rifle was fired at the rate of 76 rounds a minute, compared with the 84 rounds fired at a demonstration of the British rifle. At 1000 meters (just under 1100 yards) its bullets penetrated British-pattern steel helmets and a plank of 1.7-inch wood (which was about the same resistance as a human body at that range). It also fired perfectly after undergoing a "sandstorm" in a box.

Naturally, there are competing claims. The Belgians say their 7mm is as efficient as the British but simple in design, making it cheaper and less likely to go wrong. British experts say the British 7mm is a revolutionary weapon and more than a rifle; with its short barrel it can be used as a machine-carbine, taking the place of the Sten gun.

Thanks again to Andy Clarkson at Soldier Magazine

In part three (post below, if scrolling/'older post' if browsing), we move forward 16 months... 

S is for Soldier Magazine March 1954 - A Foreigner? In the Fusiliers!!!

Finally, over two years later (see two previous posts above, if scrolling/'newer posts' if browsing), we have a final decision and the EM2 has lost out to that last minute upstart, the Belgian FN self-loader, which would become the 'Ess-ell-arh', or Self-loading Rifle, L1A1 (SLR), also know colloquially as the 'Gatt'. The standard personal weapon of an infantryman for longer than the next three decades.

It should be noted that Churchill won an election in October 1951, and held the post of Minister for Defence (as well as PM) from October until march 1952 (when he handed over to Field Marshall Alexander), he is believed to have cancelled the EM2 during this period, some sources (link below) believe this to be in January '51.

March 1954, Soldier, The British Army Magazine

It may not lend itself to a snappy "Present Arms," but the new Belgian F.N. .300 rifle looks a beautiful weapon for the modern battlefield


In the last 50 years almost every weapon of war has been pensioned off and replaced by a better one - except the rifle.

The men who launched the Short-Magazine Lee-Enfield 
[in 1904] could never have foreseen that it would have such a record-breaking run.

Now, after many years of controversy,
[which Soldier itself has managed to avoid, doubtless there will be plenty in the archives of the 'Dailys' - and Hansard: the diary of the House of Commons] the Army's new rifle has been chosen: the Belgian F.N. (from Federation Nationale d'Armes de Guerre [sic] ) of .300-inch calibre. It is the British soldier's first self-loading rifle.

Five thousand of these weapons have already been ordered for troop trials this year. After the necessary modifications the F.N. will begin to replace the bolt-action Short-Magazine Lee-Enfield.

Why was a Belgian rifle chosen? In a series of exhaustive tests in Britain and the United States the F.N. was tried out alongside the British E.M.2 automatic rifle and a similar rifle of American design 
[presumably the T44 which would become the M14?]. Impartial observers found no difference in their performance, but the Belgian rifle was easier and quicker to make, maintain and teach. It seemed also the most likely to be accepted by other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries. By adopting it Britain will probably help speed the re-equipment of the North Atlantic Treaty forces [soldiers of my Father's generation have told me they were told it (the EM2) was too complicated for the servicemen of the day, National Service not ending until 1960].

In the tests of the F.N., stoppages were so rare that they had to be deliberately produced
[stoppages were getting common by the mid/late 1980's!]. The rifle has a very simple mechanism and the minimum of moving parts, so that the soldier will be able to strip and re-assemble it in a few seconds. It "breaks" like a shot-gun, allowing the body cover, breech-block slide and breech-block to be removed .

Showing the F.N. fitted with its optical sight. Note that the cocking handle 
(above the corporal's left fore-finger) is on the left-hand side of the new weapon.

The weapon has a high-rate of automatic fire - between 650 and 700 rounds a minute. A trained soldier using single shots from 20-round magazines can get off 60 aimed rounds a minute. Reloading from five-round clips, he should be able to fire between 35 and 40 aimed rounds a minute which is more than double the rate of rapid fire expected of the average soldier with the present bolt-action rifle. The soldier will carry spare 20-round magazines for use in emergency.

The rifle is fitted with a change lever to allow automatic fire, but when they are generally issued most weapons will be controlled to fire only single-shots. A few will have automatic fire, probably for use in the light machine-gun role.
[you could convert your gatt to fully-automatic using a piece of foil from the 24-hour ration pack's chewing-gum to wedge the firing-pin forward, but this then fired the whole magazine, very quickly, even if you took your finger off the trigger - it was quite dangerous and highly illegal!*]

The F.N. is gas-operated and an adjustable port in front of the centre of the barrel can be regulated to control the quantity of gas allowed to escape. The piston is built above the barrel and has its own return spring. The main spring is housed in the wooden butt which also has a compartment for cleaning material.

From the safety point of view the gun is almost foolproof. It cannot be fired until the breech-block is locked and the breech-block cannot unlock until after the bullet has left the barrel.

The rifle has two distinctive features not found on ordinary rifles: a pistol grip (like that on the Bren gun) which fits snugly behind the trigger guard, and a cocking handle placed (unlike on the Bren) on the left-hand side. In this position the cocking handle is easy to operate and the rifle can be kept roughly aligned on the target when remedying stoppages. Nor does the cocking handle move backwards and forwards while the rifle is firing, with the risk of distracting the firer. Because it is not permanently fixed to the bolt, it cannot be used to force the mechanism forward against a damaged round or other obstruction and so cause a jam which only an armourer could repair.
[a real plus over the SA80 (and presumably the EM2) where the action of the cocking lever requires the tipping of the weapon to the left as the left hand comes over the top of the weapon to cock the lever, while aim is lost. With the SLR you could - in the event of certain stoppages - keep hand-cocking and firing, all day!)

In its present form the rifle without the magazine attached weighs nine pounds three ounces (a few ounces heavier than the No.4 rifle). Its overall length is 41½ inches, three inches shorter than the No.4; the barrel is 21 inches long as against 25 inches. The weapon is well balanced and easy to handle, which is not surprising since its makers, the Fabrique Nationale d'Armes de Guerre [sic] produce some of the best sporting rifles and shot-guns in the world.

The F.N.'s magazine holds 20 rounds and weighs eight-and-a-quarter ounces when empty and one pound nine-and-a-quarter ounces full. However, it is intended that re-loading shall normally be done from five-round clips which the soldier will carry in bandoliers. For this reason the bold remains open after the last round has been fired. The bolt is closed either by depressing the catch after re-loading or by drawing the cocking handle back. [by the time I was serving the clips had all but disappeared, most people - including NCO's - didn't know how to use them and on the rare occasion they were issued (the bandoliers were a desert war colour) we'd just strip them down into our beret or helmet and load the magazines one round at a time in the normal manner]

Either the British-designed optical sight or the normal aperture sight can be employed. Troop trials will decide which is to be adopted.
[again I don't know the outcome of this, but my time we used the 'iron sights' for day-to-day work, with the SUSAT issued for field exercises and the SUIT sight (a hideous beast filled with special lead batteries) for night work]

By regulating the gas cylinder the rifle can be used to fire the Energa grenade.
[it was also stopped right down for the blank firing attachment (BFA)]

In a demonstration of the F.N. on a miniature range at the tower of London Warrant Officer Douglas Maber of the Small Arms School Corps engaged figure targets representing men 250 yards away, firing single shots and bursts of automatic fire at a rate of about 650 rounds a minute. All shots were on target.

Major-General F. R. G. Mattews, Director of Infantry, said the new rifle when mass-produced would cost £30. Probably arrangements would be made for factories in Britain to make it

 The one that got away: the British E.M.2 - a fine weapon, too.


Introduction of the self-loading rifle is likely to have far-reaching effects on the future make-up and organisation of the Army.

Because of the increased firepower which can be brought to bear by the F.N. and the L2 A1 sub-machine-gun (described in last month's SOLDIER), the battle organisation and tactics of every arm - particularly the Infantry - may have to be changed. The army will probably have fewer rifles and more sub-machine guns.

All arms will receive both weapons but in varying proportions according to their needs in action. The Infantry will have the action. The Infantry will have the largest proportion of rifles.

These new automatic weapons will not, however, oust the Bren gun. This weapon will be modified to fire the new .300 inch ammunition and will have a new magazine which will be interchangeable with that of the F.N. The future of the Vickers medium machine-gun is still undecided. It may be replaced by a new and lighter air-cooled machine-gun firing the new .300-inch round. [As I mentioned in part one; there was still at least one Vickers on the inventory of the Battle School, Brecon around 1969, but in fact the GPMG - also with FN parentage (MAG) and the same ammunition, was adopted and the converted Bren guns went first to the TA-TAVR-TA then the Cadets]

Because of the shape and mechanical construction of the new rifle drastic changes will have to be made in the present form of arms drill. As the main spring is housed in the butt the rifle must not be banged on the ground as the present bolt-action rifle often is in the interests of smartness and precision. This does not mean that the F.N. is not a sturdy weapon. A War Office expert says, "It will stand up top rough treatment very well, but continual banging on the ground could damage the mechanism." [you only had to sneeze on it and it lost it's zeroing!]

Guards and Light Infantry regiments and the School of Infantry at Warminster have been instructed to experiment with new drill movements. Until the method of handling is officially approved units will be forbidden to hold arms-drill parades with the new rifle.

The old rifle will probably be retained for ceremonial purposes in London. [which probably happened - for a few years at least?]

The rules governing rifle meetings will also have to be revised but the Army Rifle association are not returned. The necessary alterations can be introduced almost overnight, they say.

Footnote: can anyone suggest popular names for the F.N. and the L2 A1?

Dealing with the footnote first; The L2 was named: the 'Sterling', but was always referred to as the 'Ess-em-gee' [SMG] and wasn't named by the readers of Soldier Magazine after David Stirling, Stirling in Scotland (both with an 'i'), pound sterling or sterling sliver, but rather it referred back to the manufacturer - the Sterling Armaments Co. of Dagenham, East London, meanwhile the F.N. never got a name, as militaries everywhere used more and more abbreviations for all their new technology and the many sub-units that came with brush-fire wars and UN missions, it became merely the SLR.

So - the EM2 was never a 'service' weapon, although given an official service designation between August 1951 and January (?) '52, being only ever available in very small numbers, while the actual 'competition' or joint-nation commission/s and debates to find new weapons and a new calibre of ammunition dragged on for years.

The politics are dealt with ably here The EM-2, as is the technical and ballistic stuff, although he fails to mention the Soviet TKB-408 (which must have some part in this story), nor the fact that the reason the Belgians were so close to the Brits on this one (and why we were happy to junk the EM2 and adopt the SLR to please the intransigent Americans) is because the FN team were billeted on the Enfield boys for the duration of the Second World War, and both the FN-FAL and EM2 would have been common bedfellows to members of both teams. The two weapons were developed from the same coffee-break discussions!

All the talk of clips and bandoliers shows how the procurement system's bods were (as they still are today) always thinking of things in terms of the last war, not the next one! "Spare magazines for emergencies"? We all had an issue of five, we would 'purloin' a couple more during our service, so we had seven or eight - one on the gatt, four in the left pouch and two stuffed in with the cleaning kit, gloves, ear-defenders (we rarely wore because you couldn't hear orders and instructions - but the MOD were covered from hearing-related war-pension claims!) and other crap, in the right-pouch. You carried them all loaded and re-loaded at the 're-org' between objectives, faffing around with clips of five rounds never really entered into it.

I do remember one live-firing advance to contact when bandoliers were employed, as I said above they were a sandy-brown/true khaki with paler sand ticking and strap. Steve Beckala our platoon signaller was festooned with them like the Michelin Man, and ran round the position after each attack, throwing them at us (as in distributing, not attacking!). As we'd never been shown how to feed them through the working parts (as the illustration above), we just broke them down.

If you can attain "60 aimed rounds a minute" with pre-loaded magazines why would you even contemplate dropping that rate to "between 35 and 40 aimed rounds a minute" with faffing about...that's how their minds work in MOD! Also: The fact that there was a stock of bandoliers (and clips) suggests they had once had a more central role, presumably back in the 1950's, as not only did I rarely encounter them in service; I never saw them being used while hanging around Brecon and Aldershot or Germany as an army-brat either.

I don't think the light-support version ever really took-off, although there is discussion of it on the relevant Wikipedia pages and it may - like the clips/bandoliers - have been a feature of the early days (1950's). The conversion of the Bren in the short term and the coming of the GPMG 'Gimpy' in the longer term meant there was never a burning need for it, but the rod bi-pod in the second article (above; missing in the images accompanying this later article?) would have been bloody useful on the GS version (I guess it was a weight thing?), the French would get universal bi-pods with their Famas, it keeps the weapon out of the dirt for a start.

The Bren's 30-round magazine was another thing one tried to acquire after a year or two in battalion - friendly REME armourers always seem to have one or two kicking around if you bought them the odd pint! Although when used with the SLR it was better with 28 rounds, the Bren being - in part - a gravity-feed weapon, the spring was weaker, and used to run out of 'puff' on the last couple of rounds which could lead to a miss-feed stoppage!

Interestingly - digging around for these articles the bayonet note I put in the article I edited yesterday turns out to be not the EM2's (carried over to the SLR), but the bayonet from the earlier jungle version of the Lee-Enfield (the No.5 rifle), carried through to both the replacement contenders, with adjustments, I've now put a link on that page.

* The firing-pin trick was illegal twice, once because it just wasn't allowed and again because playing with the firing-pin was part of a REME 'armourer's strip' not an infantryman's 'field cleaning strip', it was the same with the sear & pin on the GPMG, but we all did it anyway!

Finally can anyone ID the shoulder flash of the corporal in the third image down?

Thanks to Soldier Magazine and Andy Clarkson for digging these out for us
Wikipedia - L1A1 SLR
Wikipedia - FN FAL
Wikipedia - Fabrique Nationale d'Herstal
Wikipedia - L2A1 SMG

Monday, October 5, 2015

News, Views Etc...

I love a single issue website that really nails the subject and here for fans of rub-down pictures is a brilliant site for the old Lettraset ranges...


Used to love these when we were kids...I have an unused Star Wars one some where, which came in a mixed lot of crud from an auction!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

N is for Not Butter Nut!

Having touched on the Britains Swoppets the other night while looking at the 'other colours' in the collection, we might as well tick this lot off the list at the same time.

The confederacy, sans butter nut, there were actually very few parts in total and both the concept of 'swoppet' and a bit of paint gave the full range its apparent diversity of poses and 'official' 6-pose count, with the odd flag, a change of hat or a sword.

Another ACW rule is established here; unique to Britains though, and easy to ignore...Confederates have butter nut packs and white blankets, the Union - grey and red respectively. Less easy to deal with is the Union have long-tailed jackets, Confederates don't rule!

Britains 'pocket' catalogue illustrations from the end of their run, the Confederates are shown with the 'Stars and Bars' but the 23rd Alabama Regiment flag with my sample was just as common and widely pirated in Hong Kong. These figures have a value today which seems to me to be greater than their availability would suggest, as they are not that rare, but they are lovely figures and clean examples are always in demand.

The Union's forces, you can see how simply moving the arms would change a firer into a 'ready' pose and how the bottom row are all on the same legs. The prone firer is probably the most expensive figure to produce - per retail unit - as both his legs and torso are unique him, with no real swap'ability vis-a-vis the other figures.

Play-wear leads to the red-paint of the blanket-rolls getting very dirty, sometimes a bit sticky (it was almost impossible to successfully paint PVC's in the 60's with paint technology where it was at the time), or rubbing-off the ends 'till it's easier to oven-clean them back to the bare white.

B is for Bubble-gum Battle-wagons

We've looked at these before I think, and we will return to them one day, because I like them and it's my blog!

The one nearest to the camera is the one I remember from my childhood as far as colours and turret shape goes, but there were two turret designs and various colours. The pellet or pastille of gum contained within looked like a slightly over-sized pencil-end eraser, was the same pink shade and tasted absolutely disgusting!

These are Hong Kong products and I always thought they were copies of the Manurba ones which are in more primary colours with polystyrene turrets (these are all-ethylene polymer), but I'm beginning to wonder if the Manurba ones weren't that rare thing; reverse piracy, with a Western company copying an HK product, the detail on these is very sharp, my Manurba one - if memory serves is not so well defined...that's the excuse to look at them again - when the Manurba ones come out of storage!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

B is for Butter Nut....and Brown...

...and red and yellow and orange and green and blu'hoo! No, not blue, blue and grey are another rule of ACW, but today we're looking at the other colours - well; the few in my collection!

Starting with everyone's favourites; the Britains Swoppets and Herald ACW confederates, although the rule is Blue for Federal Union and grey for Confederate, they being the typical colours of a mass body of either side's armies - despite both sides having units in the other colour scheme - it is also accepted that 'butter nut' is a confederate colour, as they tended to have the greater logistical and financial problems when equipping their forces, and the fall back neutral colour was commonplace, particularly among poorer units or later in the war.

As the civil war is a lot older than the First World War, and people are already arguing over badges and patches from that war it's no surprise that there's a lack of consensus over what butter nut was, but suffice to say the three main sources seem to have been (and in no particular order); sun-bleached/sun-burned grey following summer service or other weathering, late Confederate Government issue 'suits' in a nut-dyed grey that rapidly turned a brownish shade and home-spun neutral fabrics.

Above we see the butter nut versions of the Swoppet figures on the left and what I'm assuming is a home-painted Herald figure on the right.

The blue/grey 'rule' (with its butter nut addendum) is allied to the red for Zouaves, Mounties and Garibaldi's red-shirts rule, with minor - obvious - rules like the red shirts for post-ACW cavalry, yellow for Confederate artillery and cavalry, green for the Irish Brigade &etc...being the norm of the gaming table.

However the above are wacky colours because I think they are Kiosk toys and Kiosk toys were always wacky colours. They seem to be copies of Reamsa 7th Cavalry (another rule is that post-ACW cavalry can be used for the earlier conflict!) rather than original Reamsa figures.

The lower figure is a Cherilea 'Custer' from a small range of single moulding solids they did (others were a knight, American Indian, Life Guard etc...), his Confederate colour may be original (sans paint), but I suspect he's one of the unpainted, 1990's re-issues? His horse has lost it's tail!

Top left is a Hong Kong copy ('copy' is paying it too much credit!) of a Timpo solid in a fetching brown with yellow saddle - so gotta-be Confederate! Next to him is another HK pirate, except this pirate is a Deetail ACW figure.

The Italian 'Kit Carson' could be a Kinder figure, but equally could be a little boxed pocket-money toy by Giodi, we looked at his true Confederate pal at the bottom of this post here.

The last group are re-issues from the Marx moulds of the late 1980s (?), and for unpainted war gaming give us four Confederate figures in three shades of butter nut, an Union Irish Brigade figure, a Union Artillery out-rider and err...a ghost!
The more modern/current companies have a four-colour, blue, grey, red and butter nut rule, producing all or some of each range in any of the colours. Above some of the lovely sculpts done by Peter Cole of Replicants for Marksmen which we looked at in small scale last December.

Below them are one (middle) from Accurate, and two from Imex - but they may be commission pieces run in these shades for the likes of CTS or Weston's?