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