Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Growing Toy Soldier Collection

The start of my Britains old toy soldier collection.

Since my last post about my British Colonial toy soldier collection, things have been very busy and active at Schloss Seewald. I kind of have two toy soldier projects that are on going at this point: the Sudan Collection and the Britains Collection.

Part I - The Beginning of the Britains Collection
The Britains Collection is simply an attempt to recapture some childhood memories by acquiring some of the figures that I could only dream of having, but could never afford. This has led me to eBay, for better or for worse, where I have been picking up Britains Grenadier and Coldstream Guards, Gordon and Cameron Highlanders, and French Foreign Legion and Desert Arabs.

You can see the first of the Coldstream Guards in the picture below, flanked by some charging Black Watch Highlanders on the right side. The back row of Guards standing with rifles grounded are particularly worn and beat up - paint chipping and duller colors - but I kind of like them like that. Their old patina has a comforting quality to the figures that I really like- sometimes the more beat up they are the better (as long as their are no missing limbs or broken weapons I will buy them).

Britains Coldstream Guards in the center standing in the center with more deployed into a kneeling line formation out front. I like those Black Watch charging Highlanders too. I always wanted a set of those when I was age 9 or 10.
Below is the start of my Highland Brigade (Camerons, Gordons and Black Watch regiments).  I would like to build the marching regiment of Gordons up to about 50 or 60 figures and maybe half that for the Camerons, in shooting poses.

Camerons in firing order and Gordons in marching order.

And then finally, I decided that I need to have some cavalry in my Britains collection and I think that about 24 to 36 of the Scots Greys in bearskins fill the bill quite nicely. I find 2 here, 4 there, etc on eBay and slowly build up the regiment to an eye pleasing mass.

Britains Scots Greys Dragoon Guards, recently acquired on eBay, form the core start of my Britains cavalry contingent.

Perhaps the most important thing about collecting toy soldiers, or anything else for that matter, is narrowing ones focus and stickling to just a few troop types or themes. For example, I saw a nice box of Skinner's Horse from India that looked lovely in their yellow tunics and carrying lances. However, if I bought them then eventually I'd have a hodge podge of many different troop types, but no overall connecting theme. So I resisted the temptation to purchase the figures and give someone else a crack at them. Funny thing about the Skinners Horse: they were priced at $125 and elicited not a single bid. So the seller relisted them, but guess what, he raised the price to $150 for the set. I will leave it to you to determine how delusional that seller must be.  

Part II: the Sudan Collection and the pending Toy Soldier Battle

Bill Protz read my previous thread about the Sudan collection and he posed the idea of actually having a wargame with the 54mm toy soldiers. Hmm, not a bad idea, thinks I. So let's do it. We plan to hold the first battle in the cellar of Schloss Seewald (doesn't the word "cellar" sound so much better than the "basement"?) in July. I reckon that we will have around 160 Dervish infantry and cavalry facing off against approximately 100 British foot and horse. I have a lot more British, but if I put them all on the game table it would look pretty, but it would not be a good game for the Dervish what with all of the British firepower.

After doing an initial inventory of available troops and finding that the British outnumbered the Dervish by about 180 British to 100 Dervish, I decided to start building up the forces of the Mahdi.

I have been able to find a few more Trophy of Wales figures to add to the Dervish, but alas, not enough of them are available on the market and the company is out of business so they won't be making any more figures. So, what to do?

My eye was attracted to the John Jenkins Designs and the Wm. Britain's War on the Nile ranges of figures. These are not painted in the traditional toy soldier style of glossy paint, but rather, they have a matte finish and the figures themselves look very realistic. I really like both figure ranges and so I started acquiring a few here and there from various toy soldier dealers on line.

At this time I think that I have enough Dervish to organize them into five infantry hoards of 24 figures each, give or take a few, and approximately 40 or so mounted figures (12 camels, 12 Britains Arabs of the Desert, and 16 horsemen. The final number will likely be higher since I found some sales on line and recently purchase, I think, another 4-6 camel troops for the Dervish.

The British Colonial army will look something like this:

Seaforth Highlanders (30 figures)

Camel Corps (17) + Sussex Regt. (13) = 30 figures
The Madras Regiment (25 figures)

2 x Maxim Machine Guns

12 converged camelry (Camel Corps - 6 and Bikkaner Camel Corps - 6)
22 x 21st Lancers

I think that this would be a fair proportion of Dervish vs. Imperials for use in a game of The Sword and the Flame using 54mm toy soldiers. I am very excited by the prospect of this pending battle.

Nile river boat from Britains for my Sudan collection.
And finally, I made a really cool purchase this evening, finding a Britains Nile River Boat as shown in the picture above.


  1. Well done Jim!
    It will be fun to see 'em and play with 'em. It's all rather exciting. Herb's trees will work. What else? Perhaps you could label one of the 21st Lancers holding a revolver (if there is one) with the name Winston Churchill when he rode with the regiment at Omdurman.
    I've commanded my 9th Bengal lancers in two The Sword and The Flame games and they are potent fellahs.

    The gunboat - oh my - what a find!
    Tally Ho!
    Bill P.

    1. The gunboat was one of those things that I had to buy on the spot, noting that it is a limited edition made by Britain's and it might not have been there at a later time. One dealer was selling one made by Trophy of Wales and he wanted $2,500!

  2. A very H.G. Wellsian looking bookshelf! Will you two use modified (not actually shooting projectiles at the figures) Little Wars rules for your game? I was once given 24 or 30-figure Britains Grenadier Guards (?) band by my uncle, who lived for most o the 1970s outside London in the U.K. Sadly, they were mostly plastic by that point but I loved them just the same. They were lost at some point during one of my family's moves with a bunch of other boxes of our things. Sigh. But your burgeoning collection looks terrific, Jim. I hope you and Bill might take/share some photographs of the upcoming game.

    Best Regards,


  3. It always feels a bit like Christmas when shiny new toy soldiers arrive.

    Kudos for playing with them, that's what they were made for.

  4. That gunboat is superb. Fabulous collection!

  5. Excellent looking river vessel! Perfect for plying the waters of the Nile. Sudan project ion 54mm sounds quite fascinating. Will be following this one (ha, like all of your projects) with great interest.

    1. I will definitely find a way to get the gun boat into the toy soldier game in July. Maybe the boat is trying to go downstream towards Egypt, but has to stop at one of the cataracts so as to drag it over the rapids by horsepower or manpower. The Dervish are approaching, but a relief column of British are marching towards the cataract for support. I probably need a better backstory than that, but the point is to get the boat model into the game.

  6. That gunboat is simply awesome!

  7. Very nice Jim - I particularly like the Nile Steam boat!

    1. Me too! It is the prize of the year as far as I'm concerned. The seller is on vacation and won't ship until tomorrow so I am a little bit anxious about the model arriving.

  8. Nice additions to your collection. The gunboat is superb

  9. Love the old figures, the gunboat is something special


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