The hardest thing of all for a soldier is to retreat.
Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington
The late 60’s were a fantastic time for model soldiers as we had the mighty Airfix! I’m not sure which sets I had first but it may have been these as they were both released in 1960 and would have been the logical follow on from the Britain’s Guards band in my first blog post.
I certainly remember playing with them for hours and hours and even after not seeing them for 45 years their poses are ingrained on my mind even now.
Perhaps because my Britains soldiers had been ruined my dad started bringing boxes of Airfix soldiers home and I recall having every set ever produced including the Farm animals, zoo sets and the Tarzan figures. Woolworths were the big supplier of Airfix kits and soldiers at the time and the boxes were very cheap. I built up quite a collection of the Waterloo sets when they came out and remember playing with the WWI sets with the British guys carrying barbed wire and the Frenchman on the bike. But what I most enjoyed were the Waterloo sets that started appearing in 1969 with the Scottish Highlanders and French Curassiers arriving first. The Highlanders are all in poses suited to being in square whilst the Cuirassiers try to break in and slaughter them. Many days were spent playing with these two sets.
Obviously the Scots squares held fast as the next set out in ’71 was the much maligned French Artillery. So as the Cuirassiers reform after yet another abortive charge the guns come up to pound the squares.
The Scots were now at a distinct disadvantage so Airfix then produced some Hussars…
… and British Infantry to help them out. They were joined by one of Airfix’s best sets, the British Mounted Artillery which are still an excellent set and a welcome part of any 1/72 ho/00 scale army. Ok, the guy with his sword trapped in the bucket is a it silly but you get EIGHT poses for ONE gun! And a limber with SIX horses. What more could you want and having done this they are joys to paint too.
So now the balance had firmly shifted in favour of the British so Airfix released the even more maligned French Infantry set. Now awful as they were there was nothing else on the market at all in the way of plastic French Napoleonic infantry so you had to get them anyway. After a while I had a lot of guns, cavalry and infantry to do battle with across the bedroom floor and some of them could even stand up to face a matchstick hurtling at them from a spring loaded cannon. Great stuff but what came next was astounding and the most eagerly awaited toy of 1972.
The Waterloo Farmhouse
All my mates were VERY exited about this one as finally we would have something for all our Airfix men to fight over and as we had all seen the great Waterloo movie two years earlier we were almost frothing at the mouth over the release of this one. I’m not sure now if I ever got my own but I certainly played with one at my spoilt mates house (an only child of course). None of us were bold enough to bother painting figures at this point beyond the odd black bearskin on a highlander or a Black shako so if I still had all these they would be relatively unspoilt.
1976 had several highlights with it being the year of the Montreal Olympics. Nadia Comaneci and Nellie Kim attracted my 13 year old attention for some reason more than Lasse Viren, Alberto Jantorena and Hasley Crawford. It was in that year that Aifix released their French Imperial Guard. Surely now the miniature Napoleons amongst us could win the battle we had relentlessly fought for the last 7 years? And so we re-fought and re-fought and the French were still sent packing. Just like in real life 3 years later the final set of Prussians arrived to save the day for the Allies. The Imperial Guard and the Prussians rank as two of the best sets Airfix ever made. I’ve recently finished painting the Imperial Guard and have started the Prussians and they are both good sets to paint as we shall see….