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The World of Model Soldiers


Part 5 (cont'd.) : The 25 mm To 35 mm Range of Figures

The London-based firm, Soldiers, is currently exploring the possibilities of producing moulds for war gamers for use at home and their intention is to produce a mould made of vulcanized rubber which will turn out three figures at a time that can be broken apart later. They will be cast in white metal, lead alloy, will be round in style, and 25 mm high. The figures will all be of simple straightforward line infantry soldiers – these are the figures that have always been most popular as for each figure of, say, Napoleon that one buys, one will probably want the better part of 1,000 foot soldiers.

The figures produced by Soldiers will be of British line infantry in the Waterloo shako (a peaked cap with a high leather plate in front, having a regimental badge, and a plume on the left) standing on guard, advancing, and advancing at the high port. All three figures will be suitable for offensive or defensive positions and will not look out of place when made to march in column along a road. There is very little sympathy amongst the war-game fraternity for men in fierce action positions, standing, kneeling, or lying firing, charging, running, dying, or any of the other dramatic positions so often depicted by the makers of the larger (54 mm) figures.

Rose Miniatures have made a range of 25 mm war-game figures in metal, as has Charles Stadden whose figures were marketed through the firm of Tradition which at one time had a shop in London’s Piccadilly. Tradition have recently brought out another size of small soldiers suitable both for war gaming and dioramas. They are made by Clive Knight and represent combatants of World War I. Standing 35 mm high they are of a size that (at the time of writing) is made only by this firm.

Until the recent huge increase in the cost of producing small soldiers, the 30 mm figure was used both for war gaming and in dioramas. A diorama is a static scene composed of small figures complete with background and other scenic effects to make a three-dimensional picture. It is invariably encased in a clear container and normally viewed form one side only. The makers of the 30 mm figures used to advertise them as being suitable for war games, but of late most of them have either ceased production or gone out of business as the figures are too large for war games and too small for the majority of dioramas. Ted Surén, however, the creator of the 30 mm range of ‘Willie’ figures, is still producing his wonderful range in unpainted and painted form.

The German company Elastolin Hausser manufacture a good range of 30 mm plastic figures, very finely detailed, and in fierce action positions, of a variety of ancient and medieval peoples. Their figures are always engaged in combat and to enable them to carry on their warlike pursuits, the company also makes an excellent range of fortresses, wagons, carts, artillery pieces, and siege engines. These figures, in Britain at least, are quite expensive because of the current rates of exchange.

To complement the range of tiny figures one or two companies are now producing model houses, and terrain and scenic effects.. Bellona are probably foremost in this field and are constantly producing different sizes and styles of buildings, roads, and walls.

These are plastic, vacuum-formed items which can be used together with the war-gaming figures to lend a scenic effect to the battlefield, or they can be built into a diorama. Warfare Card Constructions, a company based in Hull, in the north of England, also make a range of 25 mm buildings – from houses of the period of the American Civil War to a variety of European Houses suitable for periods from the medieval to the present times.

One of the greatest difficulties for wargamers these days is to complete the regiments they begin to collect. The firms of Hinchliffe and Miniature Figurines, for example, primarily in order to compete with each other, are constantly changing their master figures – they say ‘improving’ them – which from the collector’s point of view is extremely frustrating.

Both Hinchliffe and Minifigs have ‘improved’ their designs over the years by increasing or decreasing the size of the figure, vertically or laterally, by taking the saddle, which was cast attached to the man and putting it on the horse, and by changing complete ranges of figures so that the collector wishing to complete a set should do so as quickly as possible or he will find himself in the embarrassing position of having only half a regiment. The styles of the horses are also changed so that at one moment the regiment is being equipped with Shetland ponies, while the next they appear to be mounted on Suffolk Punches.

However, having said this, I should like to repeat that if collectors took a more realistic attitude and combined all the various soldiers into one regiment, not only would they have more attractive regiments, but they would be less concerned when a particular manufacturer discontinues a line upon which they have been relying.