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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Action Report: Heart of the South Toy Soldier Show - The haul

Last weekend I got to attend the Heart of the South Toy Soldier Show. It is a relatively small event, but with a loyal set customers and vendors in attendance. I went there primarily looking for the new set of CTS GIs and the new Forces of Valor 6x6 1.5 Cargo Truck. I found both items and a few more things. The highlight of the shopping experience was digging into a large bin, the size of a whole table with thousands of soldiers. Everything was 50 cents and if you knew what you were looking for you could find some nice gems in there. Lately the demands of real life have kept me a bit busy, so rather than waiting for the opportunity to setup separate scenes with the new figures I've decided to take a few quick snapshots and share them with you now. Hopefully at some not so distant point I will be able to present them in a better setting.

Marx German Infantry
I already have a good number of these marching guys, but it does not hurt to have another couple squads to enhance the parade scene. They are not so easy to find, so it was a nice surprise to see that there were quite a few to be found in that bin!


Classic Toy Soldiers GIs Set 2
I got two bags of these. Each bag comes with 2 sets of figures in 8 poses. The main attraction for me were the artillery crew guys - see the three guys on the left. I have several Long Tom artillery pieces from 21st Century Toys which came without crews, so these guys will fill that role. But don't get me wrong, the other 5 guys are also nice decent poses which will look just fine either as GIs or marines.

Marx US GIs - Battleground Set - Part 1
Today you can buy Marx recast figures, but unfortunately they do not include some of these poses, so I was glad to run into them and pick up a few more of these guys.

Marx US GIs - Battleground Set - Part 2
I found six of these stretcher bearers and two of the wounded guys. Unfortunately I did not fnd any stretcher, but that's OK. Stretchers won't be hard to make. I did not have any of these guys in my collection, so they were a nice find.

Marx US GIs - Battleground Set - Part 3
The guy lying down is the one that goes on the stretcher. The man carrying his budy was also a great find. Actually, I found the guy who is being carried at a different vendor. He cost twice as much as the one who is carrying him, but I bought him without hesitation as I was quite happy to be able to find both of them on the same outing.

Airfix Italian Infantry
These two guys were also a good find. On eBay Italian Infantry usually sells for 3-4 dollars a piece. The officers sometimes for more, so these guys subsidized the rest of the purchase.

Timpo US Infantry
This guy is also a vintage figure. First I mistook him for a Britains Herald figure but Brian Carrick identified him as a Timpo guy. The rest of the Timpo figures look so good that now I am going to have to go hunt for the rest of the squad.  

Unknown Soviet Infantry
I don't know who the manufacturer is but if I ever come across a figure that I have not seen before I pick it up and find out later! In the worst case I have a new pose. In the best case I found an odd collector's item. I suspect this might be a case of the former, but who knows...

Auburn US GIs
I was not familiar with these figures before the show, but a fellow collector who was also digging through the bin identified them for me. They are about 70 mm tall, so a bit beyond my scale however I liked the sculpting work, particularly that of the two guys on the left who look very confident. I was told they were Korean War figures, but I think they can pass for WWII guys.

I also found this little raft. I have no idea what figures it came with or who made it, but as with the Soviet guy, I hope to find out sooner or later.

MPC DUKW
This one did not come from the bin. I had been keeping an eye for one of these for a while to include it in the Marines scene that I am putting together in my head and when I saw it at the show -the only one there-I grabbed it! I plan on painting it so it will look even better.

Forces of Valor 6x6 1.5 Dodge Cargo Truck
This was the other item on my shopping list and I barely got it. It was the second to last. As you can see it comes with a little assortment of accessories. These are of not much use by themselves, but combined with the other things that come with the other vehicles they add a good dose of realism to your scenes. I have to say though that I am finding it harder and harder to justify buying the FOV vehicles. They have become quite pricey and the truck itself is not that special or different from the 2.5 ton truck they had previously released.

Conte German Waffen SS
This guy is actually a metal figure. I don't collect metal figures as they really push you to a whole different price range, but I certainly appreciate their look and feel -their extra weight makes them feel much sturdier and they usually come with a nice paint job out of the box. So how did I come home with this figure? I won it in a raffle! All the entrance tickets participate and vendors throw in the prices. They draw about a dozen numbers throughout the day and if you win, you get to pick one of the prizes.  So this rounded up nicely a good and fun morning at the show!

Click here to see some more Marx German guys marching

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

D-Day plus 1 - British Paratroops in Action

A small group of paratroopers from the British 6th Airborne Division has been holding out in a Norman village since the early hours of June 6th. The unit, a mixed bunch of stragglers from several companies, began its defense of this town in company strength, but has been gradually reduced to a couple squads during the previous day's fighting. The town, which controls a bridge leading to the beaches, has been the focus of repeated German counter attacks. These attacks, which were initially not well coordinated, have gradually grown in strength and determination. Unfortunately for the Germans, their lack of tanks in this sector means that the fighting is primarily a small arms affair, supported by a few artillery pieces. Nonetheless, the defenders find themselves against the ropes, low on manpower and ammo, desperately waiting for the ground troops moving out from the beaches to link up with them. How much longer can they hold? Let's see how the next counter attack unfolds....

As the most recent artillery barrage comes to and end, the British Airborne commander spots a German column approaching the town and readies his few remaining troopers for the next chapter in the ongoing battle.


The paratroopers steel themselves for the upcoming struggle and take careful aim to make sure every one of their few remaining shots count.

The reason for capturing the town is to control one of the few remaining bridges in the region capable of supporting heavy tanks. The routes to the beaches must be kept open for the armor if there is any hope of throwing the invaders back into the ocean.

With machine guns blazing, an armored scout vehicle and a halftrack lead the attack.

Under covering fire of the vehicles, the panzer grenadiers advance forward and fire on the go.

But the British paras are ready and are making it very hard for them to get off the bridge...

... bloody hard.
Also, with their last PIAT round, they have managed to knock out the leading vehicle which is now blocking the bridge.

In the meantime, their requests for support continue. The response for the last 24hrs has been 'help is on the way'.

For now, the fighting settles into a sustained exchange of small arms fire between the men on the bridge...

....and the men in the town's rubble.

It appears that the German attack is losing its momentum.

But in reality, they are adapting to the circumstances. They have setup a MG team across the river and...

under their covering fire, have dispatched a squad to try to outflank the men at the town's entrance.

The action is getting really close and personal.


Just then, the long awaited relief column arrives from the opposite end of the town.

And they brought their friend, Mr. Firefly, with them.

Swiftly moving up the main street,

they move into the town's buildings.

Occupying and firing from every doorway,

and even from the craters left behind by the earlier bombardments.

The town's main square is now firmly in British hands.

British infantrymen, fighting side by side with the few remaining Red Devils.

The King's rifles, converging simultaneously on the bridge and its surrounding area, pour their fire on the enemy.

Overwhelmed by the increased firing power, the German attackers begin to fall back.

Shortly after, the call for a general retreat is heard among the surviving Germans.
The British paras have held.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Introducing the Chinese Infantry

When Japan invaded China in july of '37 the Chinese military was not ready for it. The Chinese army of the Second World War was primarily an infantry force without motorized and armored units. In the years leading up to the war China benefited from military advice from Germany.  This program had produced 8 divisions fully trained and equiped with German and European weapons, and another 12 divisions trained, but armed with inferior Chinese weapons. This was in addition to the regular Chinese divisions. These other divisions were a combination of the Nationalist Army and the Communist army which had agreed to a truce in 1937 to face the common enemy. The German-trained units, a precious resource, were quickly used up during the first year of the war, particularly during the defense of Shanghai in which 250,000 troops were killed. Another large battle during this early phase of the war was the one for Wuhan, which involved 1.1 million Chinese soldiers and cost them another 225,000 killed. Throughout the war there were 22 major battles involving more than 100,000 men on each side. And then there were also a large number of civilian deaths, as was the case during the aftermath of the fall of Nanking in which 300,000 civilians were killed. After '38 Germany withdrew its support in order to form its alliance with Japan. Shortly before that, the Soviet Union began to support China, and did so up to '41 when they signed a non-aggression pact with Japan. From mid '41 onwards the US and then the other allied nations began supporting China. When the Burma road was closed by the Japanese in '42 and with the naval ports occupied by Japan, the supplies getting into China were not adequate to mount major offensives. The Chinese also foud it convenient to adopt a defensive posture and wait for the allied nations to defeat Japan in the Pacific campaign. And they were also busy fighting each other again, after the truce between the Nationalists and the Communists collapsed in early '41. However the Japanese had also been bleeding profusely -about 450,000- over the course of the war, which prevented them from launching major offensives to bring an end to the war in China. The conflict in China cost the Chinese military about 1.5 million deaths in battle, the same from disease and another 750,000 missing soldiers. A great majority of them came from the Nationalist side, which left them in a weak position when the struggle against the Communists resumed in earnest. Lastly an additional 900,000 men served in a collaborationist army under the Japanese, but they were rarely used in battle as their performance was poor, and mainly served to control the local population. As far as Chinese plastic troops, we do not really have many available options, but luckily there are a couple... I think.

Charben Chinese Infantry
I couple of months ago I purchased these guys advertised as Chinese Infantry. Shortly after I bought them I saw them on the book 'Collecting Foreign Made Toy Soldiers' by O'Brien labeled as Japanese Infantry. I have not been able to establish what they really are, but since I already have many more Japanese figures I've chosen to accept them for now as Chinese Infantry. The figures are not the greatest but for a set made in the 60's/70s they are acceptable. The most interesting figure is probably the flamethrower guy, however painting a good looking flame is always tricky, so I am a bit concerned about how he might look when I get to paint him.  

Cherilea Chinese Infantry
These Cherilea figures are 60mm tall, most likely recent recasts of the originals. I've seen them advertised as WWII as well as Korean War soldiers. Even if they were the latter, they are close enough in time that it does not make much of a difference. I like the fact that they'll provide a mortar, a bazooka, a couple of MGs, and a flamethrower to the otherwise lightly armed Charben guys. The flamethrower guy is interesting because his fuel tank is round, like a slice of a cylinder. The detail is not the best, but considering that there are not many sets to pick from what are we going to do about it?

Cherilea Chinese Infantry - Vintage
Here are some original Chinese Infantry figures. It gives you an idea regarding the original paint color shcheme and the plastic that they were cast on. They definitely look nicer than the more recent recasts without any color on them. A good incentive to paint those recasts at some point. Plus I can then paint them in their actual uniform colors. 

21st Century Toys Chinese Infantry
Now, these are some nice figures. Among the best that 21C Toys produced. They are nationalist soldiers wearing British helmets with a light blue uniform. I guess this means the other Chinese troops will be painted to match these guys. Again, great job by 21C Toys. The sculpting, level of detail, paint work is all there. No wonder that they have become quite a bit pricy since they went out of business.

OWN Chinese Infantry - Part I
These figures are actually fairly nice. They represent the early divisions which were equipped with German equipment and were overall better trained and more effective. The sculpting is fairly good both in terms of the poses and the level of detail. There are only two things that I did not like that much. First was the price. At $2.25 a piece they are above the average for new production plastic figures. The second was that they come in multiple sections and you have to spend a good amount of time putting them together and finding the right glue for the job. 

OWN Chinese Infantry - Part II
The advantage however of how they were manufactured is that you can avoid the solid blocks of plastic that other figures would otherwise have in between their arms when holding a weapon across the chest. So I suppose that also justifies a bit the higher price. They actually come in two sets. The firs set contains the 8 poses above, and you get 16 figures. 

OWN Chinese Infantry - Part III
This are the poses in the second set. You also get 16 figures, which means that you end up with 4 poses of each, whether you need that many or not. So setting aside the packaging, I still think that the OWN figures do add a badly needed variety to the Chinese Infantry units. And BTW, looking at their uniforms, made me realize that I can use some AIP WWI Germans to reinforce them as the heltmet shape and the use of puttees give them a strong resemblance. In terms of having a uniform Chinese Army, the only problem is that these troops with the German helmet wore a kahki uniform, so they would not match the 21C guys. 

OWN Chinese Infantry - Part IV
Another thing which was a bit of a pain was how much flashing and extra bits of plastic came attached to the figures. Even before you got to the part about gluing them together you had to spend a good chunk of time just trimming off all these extra bits of plastic left over from the injection process.

OWN Chinese Infantry - Part V
Here are a couple more shots of how they come preassembly. 

OWN Chinese Infantry - Part VI 

 OWN Chinese Infantry - Part VII
Here is add-on set. It contains three nice artillery crewmen plus four of the infantry poses already released in the previous set - actually it contains 6/8 of each for a total of 14 figures in the set. In reality, I would have preferred to be able to buy just the artillery guys. Again, the figures require assembly, but with the right glue, that's not much problem and the result is well worth the effort. Here I have displayed them with a German PAK 36, which the early Chinese army might have had, given the close relationship that they had with Germany at the onset of WW2.

DGN Chinese Infantry
This was a huge disappointment. I really felt cheated when I received these figures. All they are is a neon green version of the DGN Soviet figures. What made them believe that they would pass as Chinese? Not worth of reviewing at any closer level of detail. 

Classic Toy Soldiers Korean War Chinese - Part I
I got these guys thinking that I will use them as WWII Soviet Winter troops. The level of detail is so good that their faces actually betray them as Chinese. I might still be able to use them as Soviets, if we assume that they came from the Central Asian Soviet Republics. The uniforms and weapons all would pass as Soviet gear. In terms of the sculpting and poses, I am quite happy with this set. All poses are combat poses, which is the way I like them. 

Classic Toy Soldiers Korean War Chinese - Part II
The man on the right is actually my favorite pose. You don't often see figures reloading their weapons, and he is doing it on the run. Another interesting detail of these figures is that the base is covered in snow and you actually see the footprints of the men on it. A nice touch of realism, which actually highlights the fact that I should have taken these pictures with a different background :-)
 The only thing that some might criticize is that the sets come with 16 figures, but you don't get two of each pose. Three of them come in 3s and 3 of them as singles. Having 2 of each is useful if you plan on painting one set of poses and leaving the other 8 unpainted. On the other hand, if you want to use all 16 together, then, having one officer makes more sense than having two. All in all a nice and unique set from CTS, so I might not even mind buying a second one, perhaps to use as true Chinese.

Atlantic Mao Chinese Revolution - Part I
This is another of those hard to find sets. And as you can see, I did not manage to get the complete set. Luckily, I did get the main figure, Mao, who stands in the middle of the picture. The rest of the set are a mix of fighters and common folk. The man on the right is missing his boat. 

Atlantic Mao Chinese Revolution - Part II
These are two of the fighting poses. There's also a man with a sub mg, another one aiming/firing his rifle, and another standing guard with the rifle at his shoulder.

Atlantic Mao Chinese Revolution - Part III
This is supposed to have a man pulling the rickshaw. And I suppose the woman riding is meant to represent the upper class oppressing the working class. There are a total of 11 poses. The other guy who is missing is some type of civilian or political officer.