The Magnificent Seven (Poses)
The Airfix Military Series
Airfix first began to produce figures in HO/OO scale, a size compatible with their burgeoning ranges of railway and military vehicles. It wasn’t until 1969, a decade later, that they introduced their first set of larger figures in 1:32 scale. 31 different sets were created up to 1983, mainly of military figures from the Napoleonic Wars, Wild West, WW2 and Cold War eras. In other words, classic toy soldier subjects. A selection of vehicles and buildings was also produced.
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Interest in the possibility of Space travel, and speculation about what might be found, had steadily grown during the period after World War Two. In 1966 the TV series Star Trek was televised; in 1969 the first Moon landing was watched by millions; and in 1977 the first Star Wars film was released.
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Almost as soon as Britains started making figures of soldiers, they provided artillery pieces to field with them. Some of them are pretty impressive. In 1902 for example, they produced their first version of the 4.7” Naval Gun (mounted on a land carriage and used by the British during the 2nd Boer War), a model that measures some 20cm in length.
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Evolution or Revolution?
The introduction of plastic in the 1950s as a material for making toy figures, ushered in a period of rapid innovation and development for Britains. Several distinct generations of figures, each with their own distinctive character, followed each other in swift succession during the post-war decades culminating with the very successful Deetail range of the 1970s.
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Figures of Fact or Fantasy?
Knights are a popular subject for the makers of toy soldiers, and Britains made several sets of them over the years. When the first figures in the Deetail range were released in 1971, it was only a couple of years before sets of foot and mounted knights were added to the range. In line with normal Deetail practice, the new figures were provided with some opponents to fight, in the form of sets of foot and mounted ‘Turkish’ warriors.
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It almost goes without saying that toymakers want their products to look good. Britains made great efforts in this respect, claiming in their 1978 catalogue that “The Deetail range are superbly modelled figures…each one individually hand-painted and authentically detailed”. Well, that’s a bold claim, so let’s pause a while and take a closer look at just how good they are.
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A common practice amongst toy manufacturers is to extend the play possibilities of their core ranges by creating accessories that can be used with them. By providing these, the central range is made more attractive and sales are increased. One obvious adjunct to any range of toy soldiers is the artillery that supports them, but in this story we’ll consider the vehicles that they may travel in and fight from. Britains were not slow to produce a range of these for their new Deetail range.
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