Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Mystery Figures

I've had these for a year or so. I bought them as part of a mixed lot of Royal Horse Artillery figures, but they are obviously Waterloo-period British Horse Guards, and the style of figure is like nothing I've ever seen before.

They were shown on the Old Metal Detector blog a while ago, and they generated some interest and a few photos of further examples, but no positive ID.

I'm now selling them on eBay, just because they aren't going to serve any particular purpose in my armies. They are attractive 20mm figures, proper little, shiny toy soldiers - factory painted, hand-animated, soldered on to sheet-metal bases and fitted with soldered wire harness. Entirely because they fit the description in the narrative in VINTAGE20MIL, I have a suspicion they might be very early Greenwood & Ball figures, from the days when Mr Greenwood hand-cast them and Miss Ball painted them, but I admit this is a wild guess.

Of course, they might be out of a Christmas cracker, and they're going now, anyway, but I thought I'd have one last go to see if someone can identify the maker. Any ideas?


  1. I doubt that they are Greenwood and Ball for several reasons: horse is too crude. Ones I have are soldered to a tinplate base but the corners are clipped, mounted figures are designed to be dismountable and have things that look like mini skis on the feet to allow them to stand independently.

    Having said that, it is possible that the general design format changed over the years.


  2. Thanks Rob - I'm sure you're right. My reason for picking on early G&B is the following well known passage from VINTAGE20MIL:

    Greenwood’s early 20mm figures were sand-cast in pliable metal that allowed them to be individually animated. Weapons and accoutrement were then soldered into position and the figures painted by Katherine Ball (hence the later company name of Greenwood and Ball) and her team of four female painters.

    Greenwood and Ball models were collector’s items and as George Gush notes in "A Guide To Wargaming", too expensive for the wargamer. A Wall Models catalogue from the late-1960s offers foot figures at 30 shillings (£1.50) a staggeringly high sum by the standards of the day.

    In 1959 — possibly inspired by his enthusiasm for wargaming - Greenwood launched a cheaper range of unpainted 20mm figures that fitted in alongside Airfix’s new output, which had first appeared the year before. According to Jack Alexander, who [k]new Greenwood, these figures were small, measuring 20mm from the soles of the feet to the top of the headgear. Greenwood did not cast on straps or webbing reasoning that these would stand out from the figure too far to be in scale. "He said" Jack explains, "that if you painted them on the paint would be the right thickness". The cavalry figures featured a novel addition. They had strips of wire soldered to the bottoms of their boots so that they would stand up when dismounted

    Pretty flimsy evidence for me to use, I admit, but this does sound like they are describing different generations of figures, as you suggest. All right, I admit they are almost certainly not G&B - I don't care, I just want to know what they are! Little Lead Soldiers has been suggested, which potentially gets us back to G&B again.



  3. Now that is a seriously old-school figure...!