Book Review – Britains Toy Soldiers

Britains Toy Soldiers

The History And Handbook 1983-2013

Pen And Sword Press

By James Opie
This large and extensively illustrated book is a must for collectors of toy soldiers. Casual readers new to this kind of collecting will almost be overwhelmed with all the photos and descriptions of Britains’ various lines, but sticking with it will be rewarding. This is a comprehensive history of their offerings from 1893 to 2013 and is very complete. This author has written other books about Britains’ soldiers, so he knows his stuff.

The chapters are arranged chronologically from the  company’s first offerings all the way through the modern lines. They produced not only the traditional British toy soldier over the years, but also figures of British royalty, notable people, farm equipment and animals, U.S. Civil War figures, cowboys and Indians, soldiers of other nations and World War 1 and 2 soldiers and weapons, along with others. The book details how the figures were made in different years, mentioning how Britains conceived and marketed them. Surprisingly, some sets did not sell well, so they were shelved. 

The photographs included are well done and masterful, and even though it is not like  inspecting a figure up-close, they are very enjoyable even for the casual reader. For the collector who wants to know where their collection stands, there is information about how many sets were produced, any variations and their likely value on the market today. The back of the book includes factors that affect the figure’s value, such as repainting, repairs, wear and tear and other issues.

The business world of toy soldiers is included also, which I find adds to the interest in the subject. The book mentions counterfeit products, rival companies, defecting employees and their struggle to remain relevant in the market. Businesses exist to make money and how Britains tackled their competitors could be a book in itself.

Overall, I think this is a necessary addition to collector’s libraries and a deep reference work. It may not make you an expert in toy soldiers, but the information is most useful.

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Book Review – Gulf WarDesert Shield and Desert Storm, 1990–1991


Gulf War

Desert Shield and Desert Storm, 1990–1991

Pen And Sword Press

By Anthony A. Evans

This slim paperback is not chock full of color photos like some books are, but the photos in the book do show an interesting view of the uniforms and gear used by the U. S. Army during the Gulf War. There are many photos in the book but they are mostly in black and white.

This is just one book in a series that presents the uniforms and equipment of the United States Army from the 1800s to today.  The book begins with a short summary of the Gulf War, and then its into the photos, which are accompanied by informative captions. I’m not sure if these photos have been published elsewhere, but they do show a lot of military weapons in use and being setup by soldiers.

The book has lots of photos of tanks, helicopters, mortars, missile systems, artillery and amphibious vehicles and even one motorcycle up close and personal. Views of how weapons are set up and the ammunition they use is useful for modelers wanting to get the details just right. Explanations of what’s going on in the photos is succinct but useful. 

 Likewise, the book describes the uniforms used at the time and explains them well. For example, not all troops wore the “chocolate chip” camo uniforms. A photo showing some U.S. soldiers wearing standard  woodland BDUs in northern Iraq explains that the climate is more temperate there than in the south of the country,  thus the use of different uniforms.
Besides those two types of photos, there are many just showing the soldiers doing the usual stuff, such as training, relaxing, maintaining weapons, eating, interacting with civilians and so forth. These are important because they give a face to all the machines and equipment shown. They show the men and women who maintained all the equipment and 

Definitely useful for the modeler interested in the Gulf War, this book can suggest ideas for dioramas, how to pose figures and an overall views of the action on the ground and all the work needed to make the operation possible.





Book Review – Battlefields in Miniature

Battlefields in Miniature: Making Realistic and Effective Terrain for Wargames

Pen And Sword Press
by Paul Davies

This is a great book I would recommend to both wargamer and scale modeler. Though it is more oriented to historical war gaming, it has ideas and techniques suited to futuristic war gaming as well. 

Each chapter is organized from what you need and common materials to specific projects, such as roads, bridges, water features and buildings. Scale modelers can use these ideas in their dioramas by keeping in mind what they are modeling and the time period. 

For example, there is a great method here for making hedgerows, those thick mounds of earth and vegetation in France which slowed the U.S. advance in WW2. As described and built in the book, they may be too small or too large for a 1/35 tank or figures, but careful adjustment during construction can make them the right size. 

Many of the elements described are made to sit on a war gaming table and so have their own bases, but these can be modified to blend into a diorama base easily.

Just about every feature you might need and the techniques used to realize them are addressed here. If you are an advanced modeler, the material here may not be new to you, but for less experienced modelers or those who need a good idea quickly, this is a great resource. 

The full color photos of before during and after stages as well as examples others have built serve as a real inspiration. The writing accompanies them well and makes them very practical.  At 256 pages, this is a hefty book that will serve as a reference for all your projects.