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The History of Soldiers' Soldiers
- part the first

In early June 1976 John Tunstill , proprietor of the London model soldier shop "Soldiers", decided to fashion a new range of figures which could be priced at that of metal toy soldiers but which would have the detail and quality of model soldiers. This range was called Soldiers' Soldiers. Up until this time "toys" were essentially for children, and models, much more expensive, were for grown-ups.

Three original figures were fashioned by John Tunstill and moulds made in room temperature vulcanising ( RTV) rubber. One was a headless, armless figure in jacket and trousers standing at attention, the second similar but at ease, the third marching.

tradition poster cartoon war

Castings were made in the shop using available metal which was melted in an enamelled saucepan on a gas stove. These castings were cleaned and then one of each was fashioned with gaiters, or anklets. These six basic figures were then put into a commercial centrifugal mould and about twenty castings; which became the basic "other ranks" figures in full dress and guard order; were made of each figure. These castings which were still headless and armless were known as interim masters.

With the full time occupation of running a successful business it soon became apparent that John Tunstill would require help. An advert in the shop brought forth a rash of would-be master figuremakers, sculptors and animators. Each applicant was given a few figures and told to go off and make them into one of the sets of figures required to start off the range for the British Army for the period 1880 - 1914.

The figures which came back varied from applicants for the Royal Regiment of Invalids, to possible extras in a poor quality horror film. Only one person was able to capture the amalgam of style and flavour that owes its origins to Payne, Simpkin and Britain and this was Andrew Rose , a life-long collector of Britains toy figures who already had a considerable knowledge of, and interest in, the British Army of the required period.

second world war lead figure

During the last few weeks of 1976 Andrew Rose devoted more and more time to converting the existing figures and fashioning new ones, all of them headless and armless so that when interim castings had been made, they could have assorted heads attached to them for recasting as the various regiments and corps. Arms were made as separate items so that a full range of arm positions was available for each body.

By the spring of 1977 the first finished master figures were available for moulding. Incorrect pressure was used in the mould making machine and all the heads and bases broke off. These figures were repaired, strengthened and again offered to the machine. The successful mould was spun on the centrifuge and in the middle of April 1977 the first castings appeared in Soldiers' shop in Lamberth, L0ndon. The first painted figures were shown at the British Model Soldier Society meeting in Caxton Hall, in London, 15th April 1977. John Tunstill's soldiers were born!

In this early period the Soldier shop was often filled with smoke and fumes from the melting lead and hot rubber. Many customers not only suffered mild suffocation but also burnt fingers through the incautious handling of newly cast, and therefore very hot, figures.

seconda guerra plomo soldatini

Castings are one thing, but painted stock is what was required. Arms were glued on as fast as possible and a group of painters was recruited. Due to bad management and poor explanations of the requirements, coupled with the fact that none of the painters had even the slightest knowledge of any military matter, the first few hundred figures were consigned to a reject box and sold off at half price. The reject box stayed in existence but less and less figures were sentenced to it.

Once the painting problems were overcome, then boxes were required. Only after the boxes were delivered was any thought given to labels and liners.

These were designed by John Tunstill and Andrew Rose with the able assistance of Clive Barton who came to work part time in the shop.

There were five labels, of the Rifle Regiments, Fusiliers, Line Infantry in home service helmet, Line Infantry in field service cap and Guardsmen, the labels were designed in the Edwardian style with illustrations of the units concerned executed in the manner of Harry Payne and Richard Simpkin. The first five labels were printed in sepia on white gummed paper,1000 of each.

tadeschi german lead figure

A liner label was also produced showing a crowd of Britains civilian figures waving as the troops marched past.

Problems of production arose in finding a balance between castings and arms. On many occasions foot soldiers were without arms, officers and NCOs arms were without bodies, and left arms could not be matched with right ones.

These problems continued to occur, but with the increase in stock of all types of figures and castings, they become less serious.

1st June 1976 first interim masters made.
12th April 1977 first castings available for sale.
15th April 1977 first figures on sale at BMSS meeting at Caxton Hall.

As the collectors of old toy soldiers are forever arguing and worrying about the minutia of their models, and production of same, we have compiled listings of a variety of points that may be of interest...

Some other Arcania
Teecus (Tunstill's Cock-Ups)