Saturday, May 28, 2016

Toy Soldiers Go To The Sudan

Seaforth Highlanders from Under Two Flags in square.

I liked the window display so much, that I bought the whole thing!

I was inspired by my reminiscence about toy soldiers the other day to dig my collection out of storage and see what I had. All of the figures shown are either "Under Two Flags" brand sold by the old store (long since closed) or from "Trophy of Wales". Both ranges were designed by the same sculptor; I think his name was Len Barker.

The first task was to clear off some shelf space to hold all of the figures and the only place in the house that was suitable for the display happened to be the book shelves in our Living Room (also known as "The Room Only Used At Christmas or When Company Comes to Visit"). I thought that this would be a simple task, only an hour or so, right? The whole project ended up taking four or five hours of my time on friday evening. Yikes!

Book cases showing part of the toy soldier collection.
The first task was to remove books from the shelves and pile them up on the floor. I decided that each book case would continue to hold books on the very top shelf for several reasons: first of all, nobody would be able to see any of the miniatures on the top shelf; and second, it looks nice to have some books on the shelves, and with the top shelf used for books in each book case, it sort of ties the whole thing together visually. 

Various artillery pieces and crew (click to enlarge to read the card on the right(
 You might want to click on the picture above and examine some of the books on the bottom shelf, but of greater interest is the Christmas card that my wife gave to me, circa 1996, which I still find hilarious. I am a big fan of The Saint series of books by Leslie Charteris, as you might glean from the picture above.

A closer view of one of the bookshelves.
I think that the collection goes back to around 1982, when I was visiting London and happened to walk past a store called "Under Two Flags". The window display had a square of Seaforth Highlanders fending off the Dervish in the Sudan. I hadn't looked at toy soldiers since about the end of 8th Grade, when my old Britains were packed away or lost or something. At any rate, the window display at Under Two Flags really caught my attention and brought back a lot of good memories about toy soldiers.

So what did I do? I walked into the store and declared my desire to purchase the entire window display of Seaforth Highlanders and Dervish. On a second trip to London, I bought some 21st Lancers and after that, the Under Two Flags range of figures were no longer produced. However, the same sculptor started his own enterprise called Trophy of Wales. They were a little larger than the UTF figures, but stylistically they matched up for obvious reasons (same sculptor).

I was in my twenties, single and had nothing better to spend my disposable income on, so I bought more and more Trophy figures. The company had a US distributor, James Hillestead, who lived in Upstate New York and had a company called The Toy Soldier. James and I became good acquaintances and we would talk on the phone at least once a month as he would give me the low down on the upcoming Trophy figure releases.

Most of my figures represent British troops that fought in the Sudan campaigns against the Dervish, although I did purchase a couple of units that fought on the Northwest Frontier of India. Take a look at some of the figures below and be sure to click on each picture to enlarge the view.

British Camel Corps (left) and a regiment wearing the iconic red coat.
Troops from the army in India, Northwest Frontier. Some of the British regiments  wore a grey tunic in India.

A camp scene - bakery, bread ovens, watering cart, campfire and staff meeting.
Trophy of Wales started working on little vignettes, a number of which can be seen in the above picture. These were always fun little sets to acquire: camp life scenes for the most part or logistical support teams.

Another British regiment wearing the field service khaki uniform.
So last night, after about five hours of moving books and shelves, I finally had most of the collection out on the shelves. As I unwrapped them from their storage boxes, I could see from the newspapers used for storage tissue that the figures had been packed away in 2004. In other words, these lads hadn't seen the light of day in over 12 years!

I knew that I was missing some figures, as I couldn't find any of the cavalry figures that I know I had. However, I was finally able to find the third of four boxes this afternoon and there indeed was the British cavalry and some camel mountain gun crews and more Dervish. Also a lot of Boxer Rebellion Austrian, Russian,  and some British sailors were in Box Number 3. I will probably repack the Boxer Rebellion and some of the Dervish as I am running out of shelf space. Imagine that! Then I realized that there has to be a fourth box somewhere in the basement because I recall having a large contingent of Victorian Age civilians and none of them were in any of the previous opened boxes. I am sure that they will eventually turn up though.

I also have a handful of 54mm Agincourt knights from a company called Plantagenet Miniatures. These were some of the best looking figures that I have EVER seen in any size or scale. I will post some pictures of the knights in a future thread.


  1. Wow! What a fantastic collection! It's great that you can bring them out into the open again! I would've been tempted to buy the lot if I'd come across them in similar circumstances. (not really sure what's going on there in Dimchester! ha ha)

    I have been reading the Saint books (modern reprints. not older volumes like the ones you have there). Cracking stuff, as they say! (I vaguely recall watching some of the old Roger Moore series many years ago - probably in reruns, as I would've been a tad young to watch them when they originally aired)

  2. I've been a big Saint fan going back to the Roger Moore TV series. Then I started to read one of the books and really was hooked. It's hard to find any Saint books in stores so when I'm in a used book store, I always keep on the lookout for the books


  3. What a truly spectacular collection, wonderful to see them on display.

  4. Wonderful post Jim and great to see some old favourites with such a lovely history on display once again.

  5. A wonderful collection! The next time you go to Pennsylvania you should plan an extra day and arrange to visit James' Toy Soldier museum in the Poconos. I was there in 2001 and is is an amazing place.

    1. I'm glad to hear that Jim is still around. A wonderful fellow to talk with and do business with. I bought most of my Trophy figures from him.

  6. Handsome collection and enjoyable hobby retrospective.

  7. A lovely collection and nicely displayed

  8. Another terrific post for a variety of reasons. I recall seeing the name of the Under Two Flags shop in, probably, Miniature Wargames or Military Modelling back in the early 80s. The old Christmas card cracks me up.

    Best REgards,


    1. The store had a Harry Potter Diagon Alley look and feel to it. I didn't buy a wand though. 😉

  9. I found all of the missing cavalry, Boxer Rebellion and Victorian Civilians last evening and I will post new pictures later today.

  10. What a stunning collection! To say that am envious is an understatement.

    All the best,


  11. They look absolutely brilliant ;-)