Alongside a couple of solid tiny tanks which will appear on future Tankette Tuesday posts, the present cupboard back in December 2021 brought me these small metal British infantry figures. I bought these and put them away sometime in 2020.
Some very fine despatch riders accompanied the troops and tankettes
The 1930s – 1940s Skybird figures
The Skybirds figures I recognised, as I have a motley mixture of these British and German Infantry and aviation figures, picked up in ones and twos over the years – some of the the older ones shown here on MDF penny bases for gaming.
You can still buy them as reproduction figures and beautiful vehicles from Skybirds UK:
along with the excellent despatch riders
The mystery metal tiny Tommies identified
I was unable to identify a small group of tiny metal British Army figures in action poses, which have the same simple paintwork.
A bit of internet image research suggested they were Crescent tiny British infantry figures.
My new arrivals …
According to Hugh Walter at the encyclopaedic Small Scale World and the team at Plastic Soldier Review, these 1950s? metal figures re-emerged as plastic figures, sold by Trojan as “Tiny Trojans”, some of the first, crudest 1/72nd plastic figures with an unusual matchbook style of POS (point of sale) packaging.
Coincidentally, this also identified some tiny metal and plastic railway civilians and sailors as have as well. Thanks again Hugh!
Plastic Soldier Review writes of Tiny Trojans: “Both the military sets consisted of just four poses, representing ‘khaki infantry’, which might be assumed to be generic British Infantry of World War II era or the years that followed. However not much is known about these figures.”
Plastic Soldier Review suggested that the plastic Tiny Trojan Khaki Infantry may have been made “in answer to the Britain’s Lilliput figures” (recently rereleased by A Call To Arms) when these figures first appeared 1958/59.
It also suggests: “Alternatively they could have simply been aimed at Sky-birds or model railway enthusiasts. They were factory painted and mostly copies of figures produced by Crescent. They predate the similar Airfix [Combat Infantry Group] Infantry Set , and are therefore some of the oldest figures on our site, but it shows in the quality.”
If they were originally of Crescent metal manufacture, I thought it worth checking Norman Joplin’s Great Book Of HollowCast Figures – and here they are on the Crescent pages:
I have some of the tiny 25mm sailors as well (somewhere).
With such new Lilliput infantry or Tiny Trojan Khaki Infantry (or even old Skybirds figures) around, it’s a surprise that these didn’t turn up in Donald Featherstone’s War Games book of 1962 in the WW2 section.
I read somewhere an article that Donald Featherstone wrote about how smaller wargames figures were hard to obtain in the 1950s and it almost made him leave the hobby.
Then again, Airfix would have been the cheap and modern choice for the modern gamer in 1962. Donald Featherstone built up a good rapport with Airfix, often featuring figures and conversions in his books that I recognised and tried to emulate. I believe he eventually became an Airfix shareholder of some kind.
Thanks to Hugh Walter, Plastic Soldier Review and Barney Brown at the Herald Toys website archive for sharing their archive and research online, making it possible to research these interesting and simple little figures!
One of my favourite Skybirds figures in my collection is this naval officer, who could be The King or the Sailor Prince.
Reviewing the Skybirds troops old and new with his new ADC …
Present cupboard postscript
To aid my retro War Games 1962 era early wargaming I tracked down some new boxes of the A Call to Arms ACTA reissue of the Lilliput mini Herald Khaki Infantry. Enough to paint some grey as “enemy infantry”!
Herald Toys website archive
I have also tracked some of these Tiny Trojan figures down via Barney Brown at his excellent Herald Toys website and online archive including this 1959 advert (below). I have ordered them for the present cupboard. Being able to handle (carefully) some of the earliest OO and HO 1:72 Plastic figures will be really interesting.
These are possible ancestors of my much loved tiny OO scale childhood Airfix figures …
Herald Toys website archive Reproduction
Toy Soldiers, of all sizes and ages, what’s not to like!
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, Tankette Tuesday, 21 / 22 February 2022
10 thoughts on “Skybirds and Crescent type tiny metal British Khaki Infantry”
Lots of lovely toys Mark! I especially like the tankette at the top.
Toys? Surely they are “Historical Miniatures”, heritage pieces of social history and light engineering or plastics production.
Nope, I agree they are Toys and will be carefully, respectfully handled as such.
Great post Mark, these are a fascinating set of figures. Having seen them close up, I think the Skybirds figures really stand apart from the spindly Crescent jobs. Skybirds are much bigger, better sculpted and full of interwar characters. For example, they did a set of airfield passengers, complete with table, wicker seats and seated gentlefolk swaddled in warm clothes, looking for all the world like a set of suspects straight out of an Agatha Christie novel! The Britains infantry are also much better figures than the Crescents – I’d make them the heroic ‘home’ side in your wargames, and use the Crescents as the ill-defined and dastardly enemy horde! Just my opinion!
I agree. The Skybirds aviation and military figures have got real character, as you say especially the 30s passengers. Agatha Christie indeed! Early airliners, a jaunt around the field, the ill fated airships. The catalogues on The Brighton Toy Museum website show some fabulous airfield building display boxes / playsets.
In contrast – The Crescent Khaki ones like the advancing and grenade throwers are spindly and crude their plastic Trojan copies even more so but I really like the standing and kneeling firing metal figures.
The Lilliput Herald Britain’s OO Khaki infantry released by A Call To Arms are only about £5 to £6 a box, pretty good value for 32 figures. I found several unopened boxes, so enough as well for the lazy / generic non specific “grey enemy” that Herald did in the 1960s. IV never seen any of these in real plastic life, they were that short lived.
The Crescent handful I think will be my Home Guard platoon.
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Oddly I often look at the Airfix Railway civilians with their 1930s-50s clothes and think they belong in an Agatha Christie / Hercule Poirot …
as will no doubt or never be revealed in my (never to be) forthcoming detective novel Murder on the Model Railway Express in which the portly man detective / Miss Marple like lady from the Airfix civilians set informs the all assembled surfing figures that not only does he / she know who the murderer is, but that they are all in fact tiny toy figures in a model village or model railway.
The film rights are available.
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Maybe that should be “surviving figures or characters”, not the spellchecker substitution of “surfing figures” (of which I only have those in 54mm).
I used to nag my father , as a boy , to get out his Dinky vehicles and Skybird figures for me to play with. The Germans were all gloss grey, the enemy I guess. It is great to see these figures on your blog Mark as it reminds me of his toys. Sadly they all got lost, no idea how, in house moves. Happy memories…
Sadly all my father’s toys had not survived into our childhood. Yours maybe sadly lost but you have your Magical Happy memories instead.
Curiously It was your beautifully packaged shiny medium or “Little tank” /ette reissue from Skybirds UK that led me to their new web site. I have resisted so far.
I have a broken rifled joblot handful of chunky Skybird Germans somewhere to repair. I just can’t find them at the moment, so instead some generic grey enemy OO sized cheap crude German Infantry piracies of Matchbox figures are on the painting table (dwarfed by Space Warriors). As crude and flashy as the Tiny Trojan Crescent Khaki 1950s reissues in plastic.
I loved the matchbook sales gimmick for Tiny Trojans – stylish!
Lovely post, full of interesting stuff. I will need to return to this post to fully absorb the content. For now, never knew Crescent made 25mm! I have three infantry which I have attached to my Lone Star Bren Carrier, they are 45mm lead. Still to find out who made them. Love that toy tank too!
Thanks Michael. A bit of our toy soldier or wargaming heritage that I leaned more about!
I have now repaired the broken rifles on two of the advancing Crescent 25mm figures with some careful drilling and wire.
I am enjoying your colourful and imaginative 54mm restorations.
I usually rely on the Norman Joplin Great Book Of Hollowcast Figures book for ID of many figures.