Building some town houses

Starting out in this hobby my first priority was to get enough figures painted in order to actually game with them. I managed to accomplish the task by November 2015 and proceeded to fight my first battle:

This took place before I had really started on creating on terrain so once I had the figures ready I could now concentrate on that aspect instead. After some experimentation with cardboard, filler, coffee stirrers and PVA glue I managed to settle on, what I think, is a very good way to make some Tudor/mediaeval style houses.

These are VERY cheap and easy to make and you really do not need any modelling skills to get good results, I hope you like it and it inspires you to have a go yourselves.

Back in the fold

I can’t remember what spurred me back into action, I suspect it was probably a trip to the National Army museum where I spotted some Airfix 1/32 scale Desert rats so bought them and some Afrika Corps on another visit. Anyway they were my first foray back into painting and I made a decent effort at them.

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Just before the release of ‘The Hobbit’ some blister packs appeared in the shops with a really nice figure in them so I had to collect the lot.

Radagast the Brown
Radagast the Brown

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These were a joy to paint and at the same time I had a dig through an old box of 1/72 figures a friend had donated to me and found some Airfix French line Infantry and some ESCI French line Infantry so started painting those too.

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Now that I was finally back into painting my Dad commissioned me to paint some sailors for his HMS Victory.

sailorsSo now I was back in full swing again at it was round about April 2014 I decided to go to my first ever Salute convention at the Excel centre.

Tank Battles

In 1976 Airfix brought out the Gun Emplacement assault set

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Take this Fritz!

From what I recall apart from the 4 different armoured vehicles shown on the cover art you got a set of Commandos and a set of British Infantry plus one set of German infantry defenders (if not two seeing as they are seriously out numbered plus some rudimentary sand bag redoubts. I have to say I spent MANY MANY hours playing with this set and I am pleased to say it is still in production. So, I may well invest in a set for nostalgias sake as I really loved that armour so next time I go to the National Army Museum  (currently closed at time of writing for a revamp) I’ll see if they have it.

Another thing I spent many hours playing with was the excellent Tank Battle game. There is a great Youtube video about it.

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Oberst Fritz Von Pickelhaube takes on the Tommy Cookers

This was a cracker. You got three objective buildings six tanks a a number of anti-tank guns. There were little flags for the tanks too that served some purpose that escapes me now. I think once you killed enough tanks or something you could then move diagonally? Summat like that anyway. There were hidden minefields on there too so a really well thought out game. I buy quite a lot of figures on Ebay and in one batch of unwanted Airfix figures there was one of the anti-tank guns from this game in there which brought a tear to my eye. *Sniff*. Of course the tanks and guns could easily be used with all my WWII airfix men so massive battles could now take place in the back garden with trenches dug and craters created by borrowing my dads hammer.

 

Bigger men

Airfix 1/32 Scale troops were also very popular among us lads in the 70’s. I had sets of the Afrika Corps, Desert Rats, WWII German infantry…

…Russian Infantry, lots of the Commandos and also fought jungle battles between the plucky Aussies and the inscrutable Japanese in the long grass in my garden. Happy days.

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Cor strewth mate!

Got to love the guy with the Panga/Machete, a brilliant sculpt from when Airfix were at their height.

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Banzaaiiiiiiiiii!!!!!

All of these figures were available (with extra poses) in the 1/72 scale. I’ve started collecting all these sets again now with the intention of having every 1/72 and 1/32 scale set once more. Only the WWII sets seem to be still in production which is a great shame. You’d have thought with Waterloo this year (2015 so last year now) that as well as producing a commemorative 1/72 scale Waterloo set the 1/32 scale figures could have been re-issued?

So what inspired all this fighting with toy men? Well the war was still very much part of our consciousness in the 70’s and there would be at least one war movie on Tv every day it seemed. The Great Escape, Bridge over the River Kwai, The Dambusters, The Longest Day appeared every Xmas if not Easter too and add to that the older stuff like Reach for the Sky, In which we serve and Ice cold in Alex, for example then  we were positively steeped in it. It didn’t stop there. Every lad I knew had a collection of Commando books

We all knew that the Japs could only say Banzai and Aiiiieeeeeee!, the Germans said any combination of Achtung, Gott in Himmell, Vorwarts, Donner und blitzen, Raus, Los and for you ze war ist over. My Commandos would launch daring raids behind enemy lines sneaking up on Fritz and Hans wondering when the war would be over, slip them the dagger, blow up the heavy guns or fuel dump and then disappear back into their canoes. All good Cockleshell heroes stuff.

So we had the movies and the Commando dime novel style books but every lad I knew also collected Warlord and Victor comics religiously.

These mags sold in the millions in the pre-internet 24hr kids TV days but I wonder if they would get past the censor in these politically correct days now? The Victor ran until 1992 but I think I stopped getting it when Look and Learn appealed to me more when I was about 12.

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Every thing a boy ever needed to know and a lot more

Not only did L&L teach you about how stuff worked, facts and general knowledge (which still helps me get by even today) it had a great cartoon series called ‘The Trigan Empire’

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Peric ponders his future

Based on a planet a long time ago in a galaxy far far away (ahem) the story concerned the adventures of Trigo and his family advised by the great architect and scientist Peric. Set in a Graeco-Roman-Byzantine like world it featured great story lines that ran as  a series across several issues of the weekly magazine (to make sure you didn’t miss an issue) and the artwork was fantastic. For Xmas or a birthday I was given this book which (for once in this tale) I still have as a treasured possession.

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I’ve said this before but I wonder what all the comics and Commando books and soldiers would be worth now If they hadn’t been thrown out?

Airfixation

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.

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Airfix Guards band and Colour Party 1960

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.

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The various colours of moulds produced by Airfix.

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…

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My 2014 attempt at the Airfix 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

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The ‘must have’ of its day

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….

 

Welcome to my Blog

Greetings!

My name is Gary Wright and I have been painting miniatures since 1982. So how did this all begin? Well I shall come on to that shortly taking you through the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and right up to the present  via this blog and links to my Youtube channel.

The Beginning

Well… I was born in 1963 and one of my earliest memories was of my dad bringing home some lovely Britains Coldstream Guards Band. There was a fantastic old fashioned toy shop in Hexham, Northumberland (next to the Bus Station) that had thousands of model soldiers displayed on shelves and to me (aged 5 or 6) it was wonderland!

Britain Ltd Coldstream Band 002
Britains Coldstream Guards Marching Band

My dad wasn’t in a well paid job at the time so there was no way he was going to buy me lots of them so he did the next best thing, he bought them in installments. So I think he bought me 2 or 3 first time and then over the next few months and years he would bring home one or two more until I had probably the full set. I remember lining them all up on the carpet in front of the coke fired fire every time he brought some more back and that, I reckon, is where I first got my love for model soldiers.

I have no idea whatever happened to them as now they would be worth a few bob, ( a quick search on eBay shows the set goes for over £200) I suspect my younger brothers chewed them to bits but I LOVED them and one day I’ll have to replace them.

Later on I recall having this set that probably was a birthday or Xmas present. Then again my parents were very good at finding these sort of things in Jumble sales so they may have got them from one of those

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The shop is still there but very much to my chagrin it is no longer used for that purpose, its a take away shop called ‘Amigos’ as you can see below.

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Amigos at Hexham Bus Station

The outside of the shop hasn’t changed at all though and those long windows displayed rank upon rank of soldiers, Dinky and Corgi toys, How wheels… all sorts to tempt in the inquisitive boy or girl and relieve them of their pocket money and dads of their spare wages.

I vaguely recall having a few of the Marines as pictured below, wish I still had THOSE! All I have left of those formative days are the fading memories.

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So now if I see any bargain lead soldiers in an antique shop, jumble sale etc I snap them up. A couple of years ago I spotted this fella and bought him on the spot for a fiver. Bargain!

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Britains 3097 Royal Marines Drum Major. (Some are selling for £30) 

You can NEVER have enough soldiers.