|H. G Wells and friends, circa 1910
Little boys will one day become grown men, but the love of toy soldiers will never leave them. I have enjoyed playing with toy soldiers for as long as I can remember.
I recall the excitement when the annual Sears Christmas Catalog arrived in the mail box. I would be the first to grab it and then I would quickly turn to the toy section of the catalog. There were usually lots and lots of Marx plastic toy soldier play sets such as the Alamo, Gettysburg, Western Stockade Fort with US Cavalry and Apache Warriors, etc. I wanted all of them, but hoped that one of them would find its way under our Christmas tree. More often than not, I was disappointed. They were too expensive for my parents to buy as presents. They would buy some of the smaller packs of Marx figures which were more economical.
One year my Grandmother gave me the most wonderful present that I could imagine, the Elastolin castle with little Saxons and Vikings figures. Prince Valiant was one of the Saxons. I played with this fort forever and a day and used it with all sizes of figures, from 20mm HO plastic figures, to the 25mm Elastolins, and on up to the 60mm Marx and Britain's figures. I wish that I had kept the castle and its figures. Who knows where they ended up? A couple of years ago I was able to buy the exact same castle on eBay and I found some of the Elastolin 25mm figures. I wish that I could find the Elastolin seige tower and catapult.
|Remember going to the toy store and marveling over all of the toy soldiers on display?
And of course once the teenage years and high school rolled around, the toy soldiers were put away on the top shelf of my bedroom closet and never seen again. My Mother, bless her, was probably the one who threw then all away or donated them to the annual church rummage sale. Of course, I wasn't that interested in my toy soldiers anymore, so I did not miss them.
Fast forward to about 1982, give or take a couple of years, and I was visiting London on a business trip. During some free time, I was walking up Oxford Street and found a curious little passageway that was actually a named street. I like a good adventure so I walked through the little passage and came upon Wigmore Street. Walking a block up the street, I happened across a store called Under Two Flags. It was a toy soldier shop that was filled to the brim with, what else, toy soldiers.
The window display had a square of Seaforth Highlanders fending off a Dervish charge. Toy soldiers and Highlanders will grab my attention any day, so I asked the proprietor, a gentleman named Jock Coutts, if the whole display was for sale. Why of course it was, so I bought the whole thing.
One of the advantages of being a grown up toy soldier fan is that you now have the disposible income to go on a lark and buy almost anything that you want (at least until you get married, but that's a story for another day). So now I was able to buy the toy soldiers that I couldn't dream of owning when I was a 8 to 10 year old boy.
|Name that celebrity - why it's Peter Cushing!
One of the things that I still enjoy is to set up my toy soldier collection on a table and arrange a little diorama with the figures. The pictures below depict one that is currently set up on my game table.
|Charge of the 21st Lancers at the Battle of Omdurman.
|My toy soldier diorama - Egyptian troops await the Dervish charge.
|A ferocious Dervish charge faces a counter-charge from the 21st Lancers.
|A very nifty looking Nile River gunboat provides firepower support for the Egyptian army.
As you might imagine, I can be mezmerized for hours by my toy soldier diorama. I might be passing by the table, on the way to doing something else, and before I know what is happening, the little men call out to me to look at them. Now I am doomed, for once I start inspecting my troops, I can end up spending an hour just looking at them from every angle: left, right, aerial view, and best of all, getting down to my knees, at eye level to the table, where I can admire them. I am hopelessly captured in time now.
As the following pictures suggest, I am not the only one that has this problem. LOL!
|Have you ever set up all of your toy soldiers on a table and then spent hours admiring them?
|The Don - Gettysburg with toy soldiers.
|I can't identify this chap, but he is clearly enjoying his toy soldiers.
I am a grown-up now and a parent, but there is that little boy in me, who loves his toy soldiers, that will always be inside of me. He is never going to go away.