Repairing Vintage Toy Soldiers # 1 Waifs and Strays

Another post about Repairing Broken Britain’s hollow-cast lead figures and other makes of toy soldiers.

Draw! Kneeling Britain’s cowboy 4N, common 1950s Crescent cowboys with pistol and lasoo

Previous Man of TIN blog posts on repairing vintage toy soldiers or Repairing Broken Britains (to misquote former UK Prime Minister David Cameron c. 2010/2011) have brought me some curious emails over the years.

With little information on the web, people from the UK, America and sometimes further afield approach me through the blog comments, requesting help with repairs to old and new toy soldiers or ask me their value.

Before you ask, I don’t do repairs for other people. Sorry!

One such email from a lady called Janice in the U.K. that arrived recently was marked ‘Hanks Brothers and Sutton toy soldiers‘ which caught my attention.

“Hi, we have a number of figures with H Hanks and W Sutton underneath in various conditions including soldiers and possibly Zulus etc. Might these be of interest to you? Happy to send pictures if you let us know your email address. Many thanks Janice”

Hanks? I was intrigued. The Hanks Brothers were former Britain’s employees, well known as early rivals and pirates of Britain’s figures before designing some of their own toy soldiers active c. 1916 into the 1920s.

The W. Sutton name was from some kind of business partnership with Hanks Brothers; Mr. W. Sutton was probably  also a manufacturer in his own right. 

I thought that, depending on their condition, they might be collectable or valuable as Hanks / Sutton were fairly short lived manufacturers. This would be a job for someone like James Opie.

However, on receiving photos of these figures, they were obviously not valuable boxed rare figures for auction but a delightful bashed playworn collection of damaged toy soldiers, who were obviously brave veterans of many floor, garden and tabletop battles.

I suggested that if these were of sentimental value to the family, they would be worth keeping and displaying in a good frame or photo box.

When offered them if I wanted to take them on for repair, I agreed a fair price.

Whilst chatting on email, I asked whether the figure collection had a backstory, as it’s always good to know who they belonged to, when putting in the time to repair them. (A touch of The Repair Shop here?)

Janice replied amusingly that there was “No back story [they didn’t come] through the family, my other half used to work at an auctioneers and was always coming home with waifs and strays.”

I think I would be exactly the same with all the unsold Lots of things.

The striking pink cowboy is a 1950s Crescent figure.

Apparently the Britain’s Indian with the moving dagger arm has become a bit of a family favourite out of these waifs and stray figures for Gary, her other half. I have a feeling that, after sprucing up, this Indian will one day return to them.

Here they are, as they arrived for repair as a winter project.

All figures unless otherwise mentioned are 54mm hollowcast.


Right – Red coat armless box pack fusilier with busby, base marked Britain’s Copyright 1905

Left – broken rifled marching line infantry with traditional matchstick repair to head,

Centre – kneeling line or light infantry

All pretty standard figures or poses by many makers, Britain’s  ltd or other makers. These have been repainted in matt or gloss paint at some point.

The line infantryman has an unusual ‘clipped’ base, presumably for some shooting game or drill display?

2. These charging Scots Highlanders (Britain’s Ltd.) are great figures but have broken rifles.  

More redcoats below – kneeling and lying Britain’s Ltd Guardsmen

These have broken rifles but their faces (‘nice faces’ as they are known in my household) and general painting are in good enough condition.

These redcoat Britains Ltd. guardsmen kneeling and lying figures have broken rifles to repair. If they had been marching or standing firing, they would no doubt be more valuable, desirable or collectable to wargamers and collectors.

Three nice home head and paint conversions of Britains line infantry bugle boy (my old redcoat example copy shown here) into RAF Bandsmen. Nicely done!

Both front and back …

These figures need no repair, they are fine figures right down to their shiny green bases.

Khaki infantry

Khaki Infantry with steel helmets, again like cowboys and Indians, seem to be not quite as popular or valued as redcoats. 

Not sure of makers for the lying down figure or the five steel helmeted riflemen with broken rifles. Pretty standard poses by many makers.

You can see the difference in ‘brown’ khaki, compared to the ‘green’ khaki battle dress of the Britain’s Ltd. tommy gunner, a fairly standard Britains figure (WW2 / postwar). 

The lying down Tommy matches well the semi flat solid Machine Gunner as a gun team.

The Cowboys and Injuns

Like the khaki figures, cowboys and injuns seem to be increasingly out of favour with collectors and gamers.

Crescent Mounted Indian … and my matchstick and masking tape leg repair to a similar figure.

More Ninjuns including the Britain’s Indian chief with moving knife arm.

Left – Semi solid-cast smaller 50mm Indian shading eyes – not sure of maker yet.

Bronzed paint shiny Crescent postwar Indian from the 1950s. Gaudy enough for the Rio Carnival!

Semi-Flats and home cast metal figures

Five fierce but battered native warriors, (left) 40mm-ish Native American and (right) 50mm African tribes

More of those semi-flat bandsmen, 70mm left down to 40+mm right, poor details on soft lead casting. Home castings?

Two rather playworn or roughly cast soft lead smaller scale 30-40mm cavalry riders …

These need to have martial pride restored. Note the broken leg sections.

and an equally bashed but useful flat artillery piece.

The two broken Hanks and Sutton Zulus?

I have never seen these figures before for real and I am not sure whether they have any great ‘value’ in such poor condition.

Bases inscribed: Copyright H. Hanks & W. Sutton ?6.1912

These figures are over 100 years old or more, Hanks ceasing production mid 1920s.

Finding a suitable moving arm for these Hanks Zulus will be a interesting challenge.

One thought – The more intact Hanks Zulu with shield would be a good master figure to make a casting mould from or have one made. Not exactly much paintwork left to damage on the original.

The Winter repair project?

So this should keep my fingers, tools, paints and brushes busy over winter along with other projects.

I shall post pictures as I work on them.

Understandable why this odd mixture of battered waifs and strays may not have caught a bidder’s eye at the auctioneers, mostly nothing valuable, but I rather like them.

Suitably repaired and mdf tuppeny based as needed, they shall join similar figures in my collection and live to fight again …

Thanks to Janice and Gary for passing these figures on.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN on his Man of TIN Blog Two, 9th October 2021


9 thoughts on “Repairing Vintage Toy Soldiers # 1 Waifs and Strays”

  1. Great story and terrific figures! You will do them justice l am certain. I look forward to seeing the progress over the coming months..


    1. Good to present them in a group I think before eventually they eventually get posted off to join other units. I shall keep these waifs and starts marked up on the eventual MDF bases as J&G figures.
      The other side of winter, I will do a round up of the finished groups and keep people posted on individuals as they are repainted or repaired as needed.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Prone Tommy is a Taylor and Barrett figure – you would normally find a ‘potato masher’ grenade in his hand. Interesting that the pink crescent cowboy is in a VERY similar pose to their Sir Hubert is space suit pose from their Dane dare figures- leading me to believe that they were produced by the same sculptor. Thanks for posting, Mark – can’t wait to see how they turn out 😀


    1. Thanks Paul for identifying the T&B figure – the other khaki firing ones look like “unidentified” maker ones in Norman Joplin’s Great Book Of Hollowcasts as they have trousers not puttees.
      I agree the 50s pink crescent cowboy is a a similar flat stiff pose to some of the Dan Dare space figures. Space Cowboys anyone? (Arguably the first Star Wars and its Mandalorion off shoot TV series are cowboy western films)


  3. So lovely to read your blog – you have a great camera and we can’t wait to see how Gary’s auction find turn out. Thank you for posting this and keeping us updated on the waifs and strays! Best wishes, Janice and Gary


  4. you have an extraordinary camera and we can hardly wait to perceive how Gary’s bartering track down end up. Much thanks to you for posting this and keeping us refreshed on the starving strays and wanders!
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