The World of Model Soldiers, Part 1
Toy Soldier Collector International|February - March 2021
Colin Luxford takes a tour of the world in miniature, starting with Europe and Asia.
Colin Luxford

On the table in our conservatory, we have a tablecloth depicting the atlas of the world. I wondered how many countries could be represented by my models. Here is what I found together with some notes about the model and reasons for choosing them. I have as far as possible avoided using figures that I have featured previously in my articles and tried to represent a range of manufacturers. In some cases, I’m being self-indulgent, and in others using a bit of poetic license! It is also interesting to see the differences in size between models loosely described as 54mm. I have used the country names shown on my atlas although some of these have already changed. I am starting with the British Isles and moving more or less eastwards, continent by continent.

1 IRELAND: George Best 1966 Keymen Miniatures To coincide with the 1966 Football World Cup Finals (for some international readers, that’s soccer and it was held in England who also won it for the only time!) Keymen produced a set of players in their club and country’s kit. I have seven players (14 figures) of whom six are English but the seventh is George Best. It shows his superstar status at the time because Ireland didn’t even qualify for the finals.

WALES: Warrior 1270s - Andrea The 1270s was a time of tension. The English had a new ambitious king in the person of Edward I and there were changing loyalties among the Welsh leaders. Llewellyn was a particular thorn in the side of the English monarch and in 1277 the English invaded, defeated, and annexed the remainder of Wales that had until then been independent. I am assuming that the figure depicts a Welshman trying to resist the English but apologies to anyone who knows better.

ENGLAND: Henry VIII (14911547) - W. Britain To pick one figure to represent England was a difficult choice. There are two main reasons for choosing Henry, one being that he was responsible for probably the biggest change in England’s way of life: the break with Rome and the establishment of the Church of England. He has intrigued people ever since and histories and dramas continue to be written about him. The other reason is that when I was fairly young my Dad gave me Britain’s Henry made exclusively for Madam Tussaud’s Waxworks in London. Much to my annoyance he later took it back to swop it for some other figures that he wanted. When Britain’s made a new version in 2002, complete with his six wives, I felt I had to buy them.

SCOTLAND: Argyll and Sutherland Highlander 1914 - Blenheim Military Models I felt that I should at least choose a highlander wearing a kilt, although this only reduced the difficulty a bit. This regiment’s bravery in repelling a Russian cavalry charge during the Battle of Balaclava in October 1854 led to William Russell, a correspondent for The Times newspaper, to describe it as a ‘thin red streak topped with steel’. Hence the expression ‘the thin red line’ has been used ever since to represent a small force holding out against overwhelming odds. I wanted to use a Blenheim model in the article because they represented quality traditional toy soldiers with great charm at a time of expansion in the hobby.

2 PORTUGAL: Sailor 1525 Del Prado Among the European countries, Portugal was first off the mark to explore the rest of the world. Although Brazil is its most well-known acquisition, it literally traded with and colonized countries across the globe. It only ‘released’ Macau in 1999. Reaching all these places was made possible by the bravery and skills of its sailors, so this accounts for my choice here.

SPAIN: Conquistador 1521 Andrea. Hot on the heels of Portugal, Spain also set off to see the world. It concentrated its efforts on central and southern America. It plundered the wealth of the land and, through ruthlessness but mainly because of disease, effectively wiped out established civilizations, such as the Aztecs and Incas. The Conquistadors themselves were not the people who then settled the lands. Those who survived were not trusted by the Spanish government to carry out this administration, rather a more representative cross-section of society moved across to change the continent to a Spanish way of life.

FRANCE: Gendarme á la bicyclette - Alexander Toy Soldiers The obvious figure to represent France would have been to use one of my Napoleons but what’s interesting about that! Bicycles are also strongly associated with France and I particularly like this figure. Hardly the Tour de France but he just needs a string of garlic and a baguette under his arm to complete the British impression of a stereotypical Frenchman! I think the ATS figure captures the movement and spirit of a purposeful policeman very well.

MONACO: The Prince’s Carabinier - M.J. Mode Formed in 1817, it’s interesting to see how some recruitment requirements have changed over the years. My World Uniforms in Colour (1966) differs from current requirements as follows: minimum height of 6ft (now 5 feet 9 inches) and be aged between 21 and 25 years (now 20 and 30 years). It is the only public force in Monaco other than the fire brigade, so, in addition to guarding the Royal Palace and changing the guard for tourists, it carries out other ad hoc civic duties. M.J. Mode models are distinctive and often covered more unusual subjects.

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