Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Vintage Set of W. Britains Toy Soldiers - The Cameronians - 1940

The Scottish Regiments of the British Army were always a popular subject of W. Britains Ltd., and frequently featured in action poses, as well as marching in review order. As most collectors know, Set No.11 was a classic, depicting the 42nd Royal Highlanders (Black Watch) charging with fixed bayonets.  The set was issued in 1893, virtually at the founding of the company, and remained in their catalog, although going through a series of casting evolutions, until 1966 when all production of metal hollowcast Britains ceased. Not as well known was Set No. 6, The 2nd Dragoon Guards (Royal Scots Greys), the only regular Scottish cavalry regiment of the British Army, also first issued in 1893.

Years of production saw representations of almost all the Scottish Regiments appear as W. Britains sets. However, it was not until the year 1940, with Great Britain again at war, that an un-cataloged set of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) was issued. It was only produced for a very brief period 1940 - 1941, as Set No. 1913, very attractive but not in great quantity, and as such is very rare and greatly valued by Britains collectors.

Retired and on essentially fixed income, my collecting endeavors are rather limited these days. Recently I was successful in bidding on a set of Cameronians, boxed and in near mint condition. It has been stated that because of the wartime conditions and complexity (not actually) of the Douglas Tartan trews, that the set was limited to six marching riflemen and an officer. There was apparently an additional economy move, in that the plume on the officer's shako is the same as the riflemen, not taller as it should be.  There is no normal label on the set, and it merely has the number 1913 printed on a small paper square glued on the lid end where the normal label would be. The set is the second rarest in my collection of vintage W. Britains (James Opie rarity index of 83 out of 100 on a logarithmic scale).

The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), raised in 1689, were one of the early victims of force reductions in the British Army. Rather than face reduction in size or amalgamation the regiment chose disbandment in 1968 (ironic set of numbers). During their 279 years of service to the crown, 12 members of the regiment were recipient’s of the Victoria Cross, a justifiably proud achievement. Having fought in the peninsular campaign (Iberian Peninsula) against Napoleon in 1808, under the command of General Sir John Moore, they very deservedly earned one of their first battle honors “Corunna”, protecting the right flank of the greatly outnumbered British force.

Although traditionally the rifle regiments of the British army carry their rifles at the trail, Britains produced their set with the regiment marching at the slope, with both fixed and un-fixed bayonets.

Another tradition of the rifle regiments of the British Army is that they did not carry colours (flags) in the field, nor carry drums (communicated by bugle), but instead looked to the battle honors which were incorporated in their cap badges. Here is an example of a Cameronian regimental drum. Note the black rope stringing the drums as contrasted to the white rope on most rope strung regimental drums.

In addition to W. Britains, Ltd., several toy soldier/military miniature manufacturers produced examples of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles). Here is an excellent 1/32 scale (54mm) figure by Greenwood & Ball produced in the 1960's depicting an officer of the regiment in review order circa 1914.

Taken from the book, THIER GLORY SHALL NOT BE BLOTTED OUT, The Last Full Dress Uniform of the British Army, MacLeod, LCol O., Lutterworth Press, Cambridge, 1986, ISBN 0-7188-2673-6, with full and grateful acknowledgement, is a plate depicting the Sottish Lowland Regiments of the British Army. The officer of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) stands out in his unique dark rifle green (virtually black) doublet and Douglas Tartan Trews.

For those who may be interested, the following is a series of archival films showing the Disbandment Parade and Ceremony in 1968. To all fellow Scots it was, and still is, a particularly poignant, and at the time, prescient event. Note the quick march cadence of a light infantry/rifle regiment. The regimental quick march being played by the drums and pipes of the 1st Bn Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) is 'Kenmuir's on an' Awa'.

Prior to the disbandment parade of the Regiment, King Gustaf VI of Sweden, the then Colonel-in-Chief of the Cameronians, awarded the regiment's commanding officer, adjutant, and RSM (regimental sergeant major) the Medal of the Order of the Sword of Sweden, for their service.

The various ranks of the Order of the Sword


Anonymous said...

A small point but Rifle regiments did not carry drums in the field, either, since they relied on bugle calls for the relaying of orders. Unlike Line regiments, whose drummers had assumed the duty of buglers in the mid-C19th, by the late C19th the Rifle regiments for ceremonial purposes had all formed corps of Buglers supplemented by the regimental band.

Drums were indeed used by Rifle regiments to display battle honours and consequently they formed the centre piece of certain regimental ceremonies but in the Rifle Brigade and King's Royal Rifle Corps honours were primarily displayed on the Maltese Cross of their respective cap badges.

The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), being formed in 1881 from two regiments with very different histories, chose not do this. The drums therefore assumed a greater importance as a setting for the accumulated honours of the 26th and 90th and for those gained by the amalgamated regiment in the C20th.

Best wishes.

Frank Briton said...

The Cameronians were a cracking Regiment, recuited mainly from Lanarkshire and Glasgoe south of the Clyde - their recruiting posters used to show a £ sign dressed in the uniform with a rifle at the trail and the slogan "Be different and be in the money - join Scotland's only Rifle Regiment"

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