Monday, 3 May 2021

A stowaway from the past

We decided today to finally have a go at clearing some of the stuff in our loft. Task one for me was to sort through 5 kilos of Lego bricks (yes, I did weigh them) which was interesting and quite nostalgic. At the very bottom of the heap as I rummaged through the bricks, I made an unbelievable find. No, not my collection of Hinton Hunt figures from 1972 but something nearly as good – a single Airfix Union infantryman.

One of my favourite poses and in the right colour - blue!

Now this might not seem very exciting to you, but I realised that this figure must have been hiding in the Lego for more than 50 years. I loved Lego as a kid (almost as much as toy soldiers) and had my first set in 1965. It was immediately put in service to provide ruined houses for my WW2 Airfix figures, the Alamo for the ACW figures to defend and a castle for the Sheriff of Nottingham. I remember being annoyed that the fuddy duddy’s at Lego initially refused to make green and brown bricks in case children used them to build war toys – my brother and I weren’t going to let that stop us!

These Lego trees date from the mid-60s and for a long time were the only model trees I had to use in wargames. They have seen many battles and the occasional tussle with one of my parents dogs. 

This solitary Union man must have been hiding in the bottom of the box when my dad finally moved the Lego into his loft before it was eventually retrieved and passed on to my kids. When they stopped playing with Lego the box got promoted to a place in our own loft and although we’ve moved three times since then the Lego has always been loft fodder.

And here he is directing traffic into this vintage Lego garage. It has an up and over door that opens automatically as the car approaches - who needs electronics?

So, the significance of this one lost soldier is that he was almost certainly bought in the early 60s when my brother and I had several sets of Airfix ACW figures that we played with incessantly. This makes him a real veteran and in honour of his long lonely wait he is now going to live permanently on my painting desk.

34 comments:

Rob said...

This explains why there has been no cannon fire in the distance.
Are you going to mount him on a Lego plinth?

MSFoy said...

This is a great post - I am moved by this post. How come your grandchildren are excused Lego, then? Surely that has to be the next obvious shift? I am worried that your Airfix soldier may miss his friends.

Matt said...

The best range of figures Airfix ever produced!

Aly Morrison said...

Are you going to paint him 😁

All the best. Aly

The Archduke said...

What a great find. I occasionally wonder whether I would have needed to buy my first Airfix soldiers so keenly, had my father not explicitly disproved of military toys.

Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...

A fitting retirement at long last! And I covet those old Lego trees.

Best Regards,

Stokes

Stryker said...

Rob,that's not a bad idea!

Stryker said...

Tony, their dad had a lot of Lego too so most of this is surplus although I will keep some of it. The rest of this soldiers comrades have long since gone to landfill so he is the last man standing.

Stryker said...

Matt, I would say the Romans and Britons are a close second!

Mark, Man of TIN said...

Stout fellow. Will he ever get a paint job or promotion? Curiously I too have spent the Bank Holiday weekend sorting through my vintage childhood Airfix.

Mark Dudley said...

Of course Lego back then you just got boxes of Lego bricks and other bits and pieces. None of these fancy sets that included instructions on how to build the kit. It was all down to imagination.

I fondly remember making Polish Napoleonic Infantry from the Union marching figure by adding a shako and Austrian Infantry in Greatcoats from WW1 French by using plasticine to add the comb to the helmet.

Neil Patterson said...

He's rather like one of those Japanese soldiers who emerged from the jungle unaware the war had ended many years previously!
Neil

Stryker said...

Aly, I think he should stay as he is after all he fought many battles without a protective layer of paint!

Stryker said...

Nigel, my mum and dad were pretty relaxed about war toys however I do remember my gran lecturing my brother and I about the terrible casualties in WW1 after she overheard us discussing an ACW game.

Stryker said...

Stokes, finding the Lego trees was quite a surprise and brought back some happy memories, not sure if their are enough to play a proper game though.

Stryker said...

Man of Tin, thanks for the comment, I’m thinking he will stay in his natural state.

Stryker said...

Mark, that’s impressive conversion work, my only attempt was to make a Boer War soldier from a WW2 British marching one. This involved a lump of plasticine on his head covered in varnish - not a great success!

Stryker said...

Neil, that’s a good point, I’d better tell him the war is over - at least he was on the winning side!

Dry Stonewall said...

I was Ian’s partner in crime back in the sixties, and the sight of that union soldier does indeed bring back a flood of memories. But the lego itself was in fact pressed into wargaming service as we got older. The terrain consisted of blankets spread over book hills on the floor and the lego blocks viewed from above made convincing (if abstract!) infantry regiments. It was a cheap way to simulate large army and corps level actions on a pocket money budget !

The Good Soldier Svjek said...

The Chelsea Pensioner of wargaming .

'Lee. said...

Ah the nostalgia Ian :) Entire 20 man units of that pose in the Airfix Guide to ACW Wargaming. What a survivor.

Ross Mac rmacfa@gmail.com said...

That man deserves. Medal, and...... a PENSION!

I have 2 survivors of a homemade version of the Marx miniature masterpiece 25mm DDay set put together as a Christmas present in the earl 60s. 1 Airfix 8th army, 1 giant US, that surfaced a few years and ago were painted into an impromptu AK47 army and saw combat again.

KEV. Robertson. said...

Hi IAN- This takes me back to my first Toy Soldiers- AIRFIX HO/OO Figures- ACW Union Infantry...I delighted in taking them to school with the entire 48 figures packed into a Matchbox Car Box...those were the days. Cheers. KEV.

Stryker said...

Dry S, yes I remember that, I believe we used different colour bricks to denote the different service arms but can’t think how the rules worked.

Stryker said...

Good Soldier, not sure what that makes me as I’m a few years older than him!

Stryker said...

Lee, back then our troops were not based so were continually falling over on the carpet and always vulnerable to the swish of a dog’s tail!

Stryker said...

Ross, I wish I had kept my plastic stuff but it all got chucked when I moved on to ‘grown up’ metal figures.

Stryker said...

Kev, I don’t think I ever took them to school although I do remember taking my ACW bubblegum cards to swop in the playground!

Jeffers said...

Yay! I had the garage base too. Brilliant design, although I inherited mine from my sister so the door was broken already and never worked properly. I prefer the old Lego: new stuff is mostly tiny little bits that can only be built into whatever the kit is. James May had the same rant on Toys Stories.

Stryker said...

Jeffers, I'm with you (and James May) on that as the whole point of Lego was to use your imagination!

David said...

This post does bring back a flood of memories. I used to make Lego armies by simply stacking a square block on top of three of the rectangles. That was my base canvas and then I would go to work making construction paper swords and armor. I remember a particularly effective rubber band powered Lego balista with tooth pick arrows that wreaked destruction on my soldiers! Glad your lone civil war soldier has been given a place of honor - and I second the idea of a Lego plinth for him!

Wellington Man said...

The only things that could possibly make this tale any more touching would be that he had a missing leg and was engaged to a ballerina.
Great post Ian!
Best regards
WM

Stryker said...

David, I also remember making Lego rubber band guns - oh how the makers would have shuddered if they’d seen that!

Stryker said...

WM, if only Airfix had made a ballerina set!