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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Starlux - Toy Soldiers

Starlux was a French manufacturer of Toy Soldiers. Not sure when they were founded, but according to O'Brien's Collecting Foreign Toy Soldiers, they were in production until the 1980's. They initially manufactured composition figures, like Elastolin, and then, after WWII switched to Plastic. They made figures in 20, 40 and 60mm, and included a good range of time periods, like romans, vikings, knights, civil war, and WWII.  The figures were factory-painted in two styles, basic (Choc) and detailed (Luxe) and their prices vary accordingly. Unfortunately, they are a bit rare on this side of the Atlantic. One day I would love to go to France and stock up on some of their sets. For now, I have to be content with the only set I have found so far:

Starlux 60 mm German Infantry - Part I
I was pleasantly surprised by this set. My first set of Starlux figures. The poses are 60 mm in scale, but are really close enough in size to 54mm that they blend quite well with the rest of the 1/32 guys. The sculpting is nice and detailed, and the poses well balanced and proportioned. Quite surprising for the time when they were made. My only complaint is the paint job. I am not sure if this is how they were painted at the factory or if the previous owner gave them a touch up. Particularly the faces/eyes are a bit odd.

Starlux 60 mm German Infantry - Part II
Here are two more figures that I recently found. Unfortunately one of them had the rifle tip broken, but they are still quite nice and match the other guys perfectly. I like the stance of the man on the right. He really looks ready for some action.

Starlux 60 mm German Infantry - Part III
Here are a few more guys. By now I am starting to realize a manufacturing pattern used by Starlux. If you pay attention, the manufactured the bodies and arms separately and then they glued different arms to different bodies to create a large combination of figures. Conte used the same approach with his first set of Germans.

Starlux 60 mm German Infantry - Part IV
A not very common pose is the one carrying the anti tank rifle.
And we also have an officer wearing a field cap.

Starlux 60 mm German Infantry - Part V
Another kneeling man. Not sure what he was holding on his left arm, as it has come off. 

Starlux German Marching Band - Part I
These are just three poses. I just thought I'd let you see how they look from the other angle. I don't know how many there were in the original set, but I'd bet there must be more. These will probably go well marching with the Marx guys, as they are also stepping forward with the left foot and are the same scale. I might also combine them with the Atlantic SA set which come with flag and standards, although those are lifting the right foot.

Starlux German Marching Band - Part II 
Three additional poses and a second version of the officer, this time with the unbroken scabbard. Of these, poses, I have to say that hands down, the best pose is the flag bearer. A very good find which will add a lot visually to the parade scene. 

Starlux French Alpine Troops - Part I
I find this set quite nice, primarily due to its uniqueness. The figures are very well proportioned and with a decent level of detail. The only thing that I would have preferred is to have a few more action poses and fewer guys just standing around. But still it is a very nice set.

Starlux French Alpine Troops - Part II
Again, these are perhaps not the most exciting poses, however they do have a certain elegance to them which makes them feel special. The paint job could have been a bit better, although it could also be that it has deteriorated over the years.

Starlux French Alpine Troops - Part III
A couple of musicians. One of them is playing the distinctive bulge horn which is the emblem of the unit and is work on the right side of the beret.

Starlux French Alpine Troops - Part IV
These three are my favorite poses. I just wish I had more of them to build a real patrol unit.

Starlux French Alpine Troops - Part V
The same three guys from another angle.

Starlux US Medical Team
This is another nice medical team. Again, I am missing the stretcher, but hopefully I can come up with a replacement to load up the casualty. The medic in this case seems to be walking along unconcerned about the patient. Might have been better to make him pay a bit more attention to him. The nice thing about the Starlux figures is that they come factory-painted which makes them look nicer. What is a bit odd, though is that they are all wearing ties, which is not something that I think would happen in the field.

Starlux US Infantry
This guy looks like he could be an artillery officer waiting for the right time to begin the barrage. I wish I had a few more figures to go with him, even if it were just a mortar team.

Starlux US or French Infantry Part I
These guys look like GIs to me, but knowing that French troops also wore US equipment, I don't know if they might have been made to represent French Infantry. Since they were made by Starlux a French firm selling to the French market, I would not be surprised if they are actually representing French soldiers. BTW, I am not sure why the second guy from the right was made of a multi-color plastic. I like the pose though. 

Starlux US or French Infantry Part II
A few more GI looking guys. The unform color is a bit different and some of them are wearing ties, but the helmet does look American issued. As you can see I only have a subset of the total poses as the man feeding the machine gun belt is missing the machine gunner to partner with.

Starlux US or French Infantry Part III
Here are a few more poses. The funny thing about Starlux figures is that they meant to make some poses exhibiting action and movement, and yet the execution always seems to have fallen a bit short. The bodies are often straighter than you would expect for a guy running or throwing a grenade. Still it's better than standing or marching poses... An interesting pose in this set is the guy handling the captured panzerschreck. 

Starlux US or French Infantry Part IV
And one more. This guy is firing a bazooka, although I don't get a sense that he is braced well enough for the explosion. I know the reaction is supposed to be rather neutral, but I've got to think that it must shake you up a bit and he is standing rather casually. Anyhow, it's always good to have more heavy weapons in the squad to fend of the German armor. 

Starlux US or French Infantry Part V
A decent looking pose. Too bad the detector is broken off.

Starlux US or French Infantry 45or 50 mm
These are slightly smaller figures than the 54mm guys. I don'tknow why they would have manufactured figures in two scales so close to each other. These guys show slightly more action than the other two sets. Would have been nice if they had been a bit bigger. 

Starlux French Commandos - Part I
I have seen 10 poses of these, so I know there are at least that many of them. Unfortunately I only managed to get one of them in a batch of mixed figures.

Starlux French Commandos - Part II
Here are two more poses. Again, I found them in a large lot of mixed figures. They are a bit damaged, but it's still clear what the poses were meant to be. With the right parts and a bit of patience and skill I think they could be repaired. 

Starlux French Foreign Legion - Part I
The FFL did see action in WWII, but I don't know for sure if they wore this uniform during that conflict. In any case, FFL troopers are always interesting, regardless of the time period. From what I have seen, the FFL figures were released in both green and khaki uniforms.

Starlux French Foreign Legion - Part II
Here is one more guy who appears to be from the same set, or at lest the same scale, about 50mm. He looks like he might have been throwing or holding something, but unfortunately it broke off. Given the fact that he came with a green base, I later realized, he was probably not meant to be set in the North African desert... well, he might have to adjust a bit.

Starlux French Foreign Legion - Part III
I am actually not sure if these guys are FFL. They are wearing simialr headgear, but I think officers in the regular army might have also worn these. Perhaps one of our readers knows better? 
One thing to note is that the man on the right has the tip of his baton (or flag pole?) broken off. 

Starlux French Foreign Legion - Part IV
These guys are slightly larger than the previous one. Perhaps somewhere between 54 mm and 60 mm. I really like this set in particular. The MG can be disassembled and rotates freely around the vertical axis. I don't know if the man signaling was originally part of the crew, but he comes in handy.  

Starlux French Foreign Legion - Part V
Here are several more poses with quite a bit of variety. Definitely good to have some of those special poses which are less common, such as a flame thrower or a radio man. In addition to them, we also have a decent officer, a grenade man and a funny looking guy running with a sub mg. I say that because we all know that when running we move opposite arms and legs at one time, unlike this guy.

Starlux French Foreign Legion - Part VI
And a few more guys. The guy on the right, obviously was not part of this set given the color of his base, but I grouped him with them based on size. I still don't get it why Starlux made so many different sets. With all the poses across different sets and scales, they could have made very comprehensive contributions in fewer areas. Anyhow, the most interesting guy in this picture is probably the mine sweeper. 

Starlux French Foreign Legion - Part VII
And here we have two mounted officers. One seems to e leading his troops into battle, which I doubt would have actually happened on horse, and the second one is more of a spectator. Both are nice and interesting, as horses by themselves lift figures to a different level. Again, the bases don't fit the desert setting, but I'd like to keep these guys with the rest of the FFL figures that I have, who have tan bases and would fit well in North Africa. 

Starlux French Red Berets - Part I
I believe these red berets represent Paratroopers, so in that sense, they very likely they represent post WWII troops, as to my knowledge, the first French para units were created in the mid 50's The poses are a mix of fighting guys and parade poses. I am certainly biased towards the fighting guys. The only one I find a bit odd is the man with the rifle above his head. More than fighting, it looks like he is cheering or beginning to surrender.

Starlux French Red Berets - Part II
Two more parade poses to go with the two other guys on the right of the prior picture.

Starlux French Red Berets - Part III
These guys are slightly larger than the ones in the previous picture. Somewhere in between 54mm and 60mm. The man on the left is operating a flamethrower, although it's not so easy to tell that from the picture. The man on the right is an officer, but he is missing his left hand and I don't really know what he was originally holding. 

Starlux French Red Berets - Part IV
A grenade thrower in a style very similar to the two previous figures, but with enough differences that it makes me wonder if it was part of a different set.

Starlux French Red Berets - Part V
Thes guys are about 50mm in height. Unfortunately two of them are pretty battered. The one on the left is my favorite one. Not because he is still whole, but I like the pose. It's one that could lead him to engage the enemy at any moment. There's a bit of tension in it. The man aiming is very traditional and the one with his arms raised can't be doing something very useful.

Starlux French Red Berets - Part VI
Here are some other red berets in parade poses. I don't know if the tan uniforms represent a different service branch or just another outfit worn by the French Paras.

Starlux French Navy
A couple of  French sailors. Also from that batch of mixed figures. Not that exciting in terms of poses, but a bit unique as there are no other French Navy sailors that I am aware of.

Starlux French Navy - Part II
OK, so here are a few more poses, but also from Starlux. Most of them are on parade. In this batch you have a couple of high ranking officers. You also have the guy carrying the submg, which he does in a rather elegant manner.

Starlux French Navy - Part III
Then you have a few members of the marching band. Interesting to see that they also played the bag pipe.

Starlux French Navy - Part IV
And a couple more percusion instruments and a horn.

Starlux French Navy - Part V
Now, for these folks you might need to get yourself a warship, as I can definitely picture them on its deck taking care of business. 

Starlux French Navy - Part VI
The two guys in the middle could the the ones watching the parade go by. The man on the left could be an officer on the ship's bridge. And then finally, we have an action pose, although I don't really picture many scenarios in which a navy guy would be using his hand gun.

Starlux 60mm Swiss Officer - painted as Japanese
This is a figure I ran into by chance, but picked up without hesitation. It was advertised as a Japanese officer, but one of our fellow collectors confirmed that it is a Swiss officer. I suspected that might be the case based on the shape of the helmet. It will be placed at the front of the column of Japanese troops which I am in the process of painting. The uniform is a bit darker than I'd like so I might need to give him a bit of a touch up. It looks like the prior owner already did touched up the paint a bit, so I am not too bothered by the thought of modifying the original. Anyhow, as you can see, it is a nicely made figure. The rider can be removed from the horse. The pose could have used a bit more action, but even like this, I find it a nice addition to the collection. The reality most likely is that officers did not ride their horses into battle, but rather used them for transportation, as shown in the picture.

Starlux Soviet Infantry
I suspect these might be recasts as they don't have any color on them as opposed to the typical Starlux figures. Also, I don't really know how many there were in the set. I only got a hold of five of them, with two repeated figures. I am not overly excited about the poses. I don't like figures which just seem to be standing around not doing much, and that's how these guys look. But they are hard to find, so at least I am happy I have a few guys as a sample.

Starlux Soviet Infantry ?
I can't say for sure if these guys are Soviets. They look like they could be, but then again, the look very different from the three Soviets in the prior picture. I do like that they are action poses, so I hope they turn out to be Soviet. Even if they are not, maybe I will just use them a such.

Click here to see a post about the French Navy
Click here to see a post about French Infantry
Click here to see a post about German Infantry
Click here to see a post about French alpine troops

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Rocket Museum at Peenemünde

Peenemünde is located a the northern tip of Usedom, an Island on the Baltic Sea, north of Germany. It is famous because during WWII, it hosted a research facility that focused on rocket propelled weapons. It is here that Wernher von Braun and his team of scientists developed and tested the V1 and V2 flying bombs which caused quite a bit of concern when they started raining down on Britain. The facility was subject to bombing from mid 1943 onwards, and by the time it was captured in May 1945, most of it had already been relocated to other sites in Austria, Thuringia, and Poland, or had been destroyed as was the case with the  liquid oxigen fuel plant and the launch sites. Today the only portion that still stands is the power plant, which has been transformed into a museum explaining the origins of rocket science. Let's take a look at some of its contents.

This was the watch bunker at the entrance to the power station. I suspect the brick was added later, but they left a section bare to show the concrete underneath. 

The power plant from a distance. The lawns around it are used to exhibit several types of planes and rocket-based weapons.

A crane used to unload trains coming into the station. I suppose the conveyor belt was likely used to move coal to the power plant.

View of one of the furnaces from behind. The machinery and equipment is all rusty and basically abandoned. A few rooms have been remodeled to host the exhibits.

One of the exhibit rooms inside the power plant. I find the top poster particularly ironic. It is for an exhibition in 1937 in which Hitler wanted to show his countrymen what he would do in the next four years... Little did they know.

A VI flying bomb. 
It could be launched from the ground or from a flying aircraft. Close to 2500 of these were launched, and even though they were not very accurate or reliable, they were still a more efficient way of attacking from a safe distance. The British often relied on their fighter planes to fly next to them and tip them over with their wings. Their range was 160 miles, with a top speed of 400 mph, which allowed them to get to theri target in about 24 minutes.

V2 Rocket.
The world's first long range ballistic missle, capable of reentering the atmosphere. It could travel up to 3580 mph, and had a range of 200 miles, wich means that it could cover that distance in about 3 minutes... a hard weapon to defend against! About 3000 of these were launched. At 50,000 to 100,000 Reichmarks per unit, it was 10-20 times more expensive than its V1 predecesor.

A cold war missile.

Surface to air missiles.

Looks like a MiG 15, one of the first jets made by the Soviets after the war.

A more recent MiG 23 from the German Democratic Republic

The former control room for the power plant, craftily converted into a gift shop that you go by towards the end of the tour.