Thursday, May 15, 2014

Cannon to Right, Cannon to the Left, Cannon being copied all around Them

The first “set” of W. Britains I acquired as a child I still have, but it was not a set of toy soldiers, but a field gun. Set No. 1201 Royal Artillery Gun, was one of many magnificent fully operational model guns Britains produced to accompany their sets of toy soldiers. It appears to be an accurate copy of the Ordnance, Quick-firing, 18 pdr, used extensively by the British Army as it’s standard in World War I. The toy gun was produced from 1932 to 1967. It came in at least two colors I'm aware of, an olive drab (Official designation: Khaki Green 3 or SCC 2), and the later British Army ordnance dark green (Official designation: Olive Green SCC 15). The gun also came in a shade of dark blue for a period of approximately a year. 

View of an original W. Britains Royal Artillery Gun in
the late Olive Green SCC 15

The same gun from a different angle 

Again a side view of the gun

Exact same gun in the earlier olive drab color
also showing one of the earlier boxes

W. Britains Set No. 39, King's Troop Royal
Horse Artillery. Last configuration.

Principal different being that the hydraulic recoil buffer tube on the model is under the barrel (like the QF 15 Pdr Mk I) and the splinter screen is of a slightly different configuration from the real gun, actually permitting higher elevation in the toy.

Further enhancing the toy was Britains adaptation of the Mk IV carriage, a box trail. This eliminated the original central pole trail, which had restricted elevation on the real gun, allowing increased elevation to 37.5 degrees and hence increased maximum range from 6525 to 9300 yards with the 2 charge shell.

Due to the fact that Britains incorporated this gun in an update of Set No. 39 King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery with Gun, Limber, Team, and Escort galloping, some confusion arose. The Royal Horse Artillery employed the Ordnance, Quick-firing 13 pdr, a smaller, lighter version of the 18 pdr, but very similar in overall configuration. See a direct comparison of the two guns in the following photographs and in the video below. Perhaps Britains was using the 13 pdr as its prototype.

Ordnance, Quick-firing 18 pdr, the "real thing"

Ordnance, Quick-firing 18 pdr the "business end"

A side view of the Ordnance, Quick-firing, 18 pdr, showing
one of the early models of the gun with the central pole
trail which saved weight, but unfortunately restricted the
 elevation, and consequently the range of the gun.

A detail of the actual gun. Note in the background the
 standard British Army Anti-aircraft Searchlight which
 Britains also produced as a working model in Sets No.
1640 and 1718

Britains Set No. 1718. Note fine wires which could be
connected to dry cell batteries

A close-up of the Ordnance, Quick-firing 13 pdr.
Note shorter caliber (barrel length) of gun compared
 with the 18 pdr.

King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery deploying a 13 pdr
for ceremonial "Royal Salute"

All of this background is merely intended to show the care and accuracy, with which Britains researched all of their product line.

The main purpose of this blog page however is to show a classic example of plagiarism which occurred (polite term for outright design theft), even though Britains included the word “copyright” embossed in the underside of the gun carriage. The example shown is a Japanese copy, and at least is embossed “Japan”, and probably produced in the post-WWII years, judging from its condition. As can clearly be seen in the photographs, an excellent piece of reverse engineering. The only readily discernible differences being the lack of the slight "lip" at the muzzle, and the lack of a bend in the tip of the breech mechanism of the copy. It is not known how many of these flagrant counterfeits were actually produced, or remain in existence.

Britains had to continuously fight this issue throughout its company history. To quote from Joe Wallis’ excellent book, Armies of the World Britains Ltd. Lead Soldiers 1925-1941;

            “One measure of its success was that Britains soon found it necessary to sue “pirates” of their figure designs. Warnings featuring the details of their successful lawsuits are found in their early catalogs, aimed at deterring such misappropriations. Paper labels with copyright notices were also affixed after 1900 to the underside of the base of each infantry figure. Beginning in 1900 for mounted figures, and in 1904 for foot figures, the copyright notice and date of issue were engraved in the mold itself so that a more permanent marking was made on each item. The Sculpture Copyright Act was altered in 1911 so that a date marked on each piece was no longer required for protection – and the company’s name and “Made in England” were inscribed on the base thereafter. In 1926 the Britains Ltd. trademark was officially recorded with the registration number of 459993 (which helps in determining how early a particular box label might be. If it lacks the number 459993 near the trademark on the box label, then the box predates 1926). Other British firms such as Johillco, Reka, and Taylor and Barrett, adopted the hollowcasting process, but developed their own designs that avoided copyright infringement, even though the same hollowcasting technique was being used by them. Britains had so overcome the German dominance of the English toy market that there was room for these and other smaller British enterprises.”

For those who may be interested this video is a short presentation of the Ordnance, Quick-firing 13pdr and 18pdr employed as the main field artillery pieces of the British Army in WWI.