Saturday, June 4, 2011

Lest We Forget - Past Glories in Miniature through Toy Soldiers

One of the reasons, perhaps a rationalization, that toy soldier collectors have collections is to give them a recollection and linkage to history. They may focus on a specific period of time, such as the Ancient Egyptians, Roman Empire, Napoleonic, Colonial Empires, or World War I or II, to name but a few examples.

In the case of W. Britains Ltd., the span of the company's production of toy soldiers (1893 - 1966) coincided with a significant span in both world and military history. If the catalog sequence of their sets is reviewed, you can see they directly reflect contemporary world events, not just the British Empire, but such  now esoteric periods, as the Balkans Wars prior to World War I.

The 'New Toy Soldier' manufacturers (dating from the 1970s), have maintained this historical perspective in the range of themes they have, and are currently offering. A classic example are the sets offered by William 'Bill' Hocker of Berkeley, California, who started his highly successful line in 1983, paralleling what he said, 'were sets which W. Britains had left unsaid'. See Links for his web page. His precise sculpting style, high gloss painting, innovative animation, composition of sets, packaging (bright red boxes) and even advertising form and content, are essentially a modern, but nostalgic, extension of W. Britains' catalog and products. His sets initially reflected the Campaigns and Armies of Queen Victoria's reign, but in recent years have reflected United States history. These have included:

Crimean War   Indian Mutiny    Abyssinian & Ashanti Wars     NorthWest Frontier
Zulu War         Nile Campaigns                 Boer War                      Indian Army
Imperial Durbar   Diamond Jubilee    Victorian Army at Ease

American Revolution  Barbary Coast Wars   War of 1812    Mexican-American Wars
American Civil War      American West       Buffalo Bill's Wild West
Spanish-American War    World War I

In the following photographs you will see a fairly wide variety of toy soldiers reflecting both famous regiments and the battles they fought, integrated with other items of militaria, including original British Campaign Medals. Those familiar with the style of W. Britains toy soldiers will readily recognize them. Britains collectors will probably also recognize the similarity of Bill Hocker's sets. Other toy soldier and military miniature manufacturers that can be seen include, Greenwood & Ball, Imperial, Steadfast, King & Country, Blenheim, All the Queen's Men, Mark Time, Asset, Rose, Imrie-Risley, Monarch Regalia, Frontline, Toy Army Workshop, St Peterburg Collection, Battlezone, British Bulldog, Chota Sahib, Crescent Toys, Corgi, Tommy Atkins, OZ Made, PNF Figurines. Kingcast, Militia, Soldiers of the Queen, Franklin Mint, Dinky Toys and Forces of Valor.  Please click on any of the images to enlarge them.

As has been told to my grandchildren, with the right kind of care and nurturing in the Arizona climate, the toy soldiers can grow. The following are two good examples.

British Parachute Regiment Officer,
Full Battledress circa 1944

Lieut-Colonel 92nd Gordon Highlanders
Review Order circa 1936

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