Sunday 28 January 2024

John Niblett, original designer of Airfix soldiers.

As promised a post regarding unsung heroes of Wargaming and collecting toy soldiers in general.

John Niblett is the man who started the whole wargaming thing for me. In 1956 he joined Airfix. He was the original designer of the HO/OO range of plastic soldiers that began with the release of the British Guardsmen in 1958. Figures from is initial box had originally been released by Hummel before being re released as the first of the Airfix soldiers range. 

Niblett worked for Airfix until 1974 and produced many of the company's ranges including their beautiful Napoleonic and historical character range in 54mm, my favourite being the wonderful French Imperial Guard Grenadier. He also producded their 1/32nd range of figures.

Niblett also was commisioned to produce models for the wonderfully named government department, The Ministry of Public Buildings, but it was while working for Mettoy that he met and became friends with Les Higgins. An another amazing talent.

Niblett originally started sculpting model soldiers shortly after the war, making 54mm and 65mm figures. However after 1956 he concentrated on sculpting beautiful 20mm figures which were painted and sold by Hummels House of Miniatures, a figure shop based at the Burlington Arcade in London. Niblett covered a number of military subjects including the English Civil War, Romans,Normans, and for me his best, his beautiful range of knights. These were originally by Hummels for the princley sum of 9/6d for foot figures and 17/6d for the mounted figures.Quite pricey in the early 1960's.

Niblett continued producing large 150mm and 175mm military figures in white metal. 

In 1975 John Niblett set up producing figures in an independant studio producing figures for Britains, Lesney and the tourist shop at the Tower of London. In 1977 he re-released his lovely 12th and 14th century knights and his final range, the English Civil War in 20mm.

I remember carefully studying images of Niblett's knights but was put off by their small size, 20mm. It appears only Greenwood of Greenwood and Ball fame and John Niblett persisted in producing 20mm figures in the UK. while the accepted scale was fast becoming 25mm as producded by Les Higgins, Hinton Hunt and Jack Alexander. The only comprable 20mm figures were being producded by Jack Scruby in the USA and there was no way I could have ever afforded those.

John Garrett, the acknowledged expert on model soldiers believed that John Niblett's 20mm ranges were the finest of the small figures ranges produced and who am I to argue with that.


                         The last range Niblett produced, the English Civil War in 20mm.  


A review of the new English Civil War range was printed in the March 1979 Military Modelling magazine

"John Niblett of 50 The Broadway, Herne Bay, Kent has added some attractive
English Civil War subjects to his 20mm scale wargames figure series this
month. The new figure comprise an assortment of six foot figures and three
cavalry types, and on all of them the degree of detail is remarkable and the
casting superb.
The mounted figures include an Ironside trooper and his Royalist counterpart
and there's a beautiful little mounted cuirassier in three-quarter armour on
a rearing horse discharging his pistol. The horses are moulded in two halves
for epoxy assembly and on all the figures the diminutive weapons (and in
some cases, an arm) 
are moulded separately for the purchaser to stick together, thus making possible a fair degree of personal animation. Among the foot types are pike and musket men from both sides,one of the latter firing his musket on its rest, and there's a choice of positions for the pikemen as well; an attractive little drummer rounds off the collection. Niblett tells us that, depending on popularity, they'll be expanding the range, so if wargamers want more of these nice little 20mm's then its up to them to give these new ones the reception they deserve.

Sadly John Niblett died in 1980 a relatively young man and his ranges were purchased by a small company called Rosedale Figurines who also bought the Les Higgins range of 20mm figures and sold them under the Tribute Figures range. After a couple of years the owner moved from England to the West of Scotland and somehow the majority of the masters were lost in the move!

Sadly the beautiful ranges of 20mm figures produced by a master sculptor ceased to exist and are lost forever. 

With thanks to Vintage Wargaming Blob and various snippetts from the internet.

Wednesday 24 January 2024

Blogging? Its an imperative.

This is a first and its something Im not proud of its the first time I didnt 'do' a Christmas Annual to welcome in the New Year. Basically I felt it wasnt something I needed to do. Who wants to know what a wargamer plans to do and then realise twelve months later that they havent achieved anything they said they would do.  
But then I felt guilty about the lack of effort and the fact that all bloggers need to put more effort into their journals. Im not going to berate anyone who religiously collates what they are doing as wargamers and Im always envious of the bloggers who post very regularly. 

  I know some think that hosting a blog is a dying art and that everyone has moved on to podcasts etc. But I think there is definately a place for blogs and sometimes they serve a purpose, such as my tribute to Peter Gilder. Unless I continue to put information on there the next generation of wargamers wont have a scoobies who the great man was and what he contributed to the hobby.  

In early January I attended ARDHAMMER, a one day event staged in Gateshead where people turn up to sell wargaming and Games Workshop stuff. As the years have progressed it has grown expotentially and this year was the busiest. Of the 80+ tables about 40% were selling wargame related stuff which is down on last year, but one can always find something to buy cheaply. This year it was paint. I came away with 20 bottles of Vallejo paint for £20, oh and a couple of books.One thing I noticed as I people watched was the age of the attendees. The majority were aged between 12 and 50 years old. Obviously a lot were there to buy Games Workshop but it was encouraging to know, well at least I thought it was, although the general fitness of the majority left a lot to be desired. 

Returning to blogging in general, because Ive been suffering from the Winter lurgy and a very painful back I sought reassurance by re-reading Harry Pearson's brilliant Achtung Schweinhund. This book is a perfect description of my wargaming life except Im not a smoggy. Thank God. But as an account of  a typical wargamer it is perfect, and the mix of humour, pathos and basically patheticness it describes me to a tee. I was lucky enough to have sat with Harry Pearson in an effort to get some information about Gilder and I found we had a lot in common. We both supported shite football teams who dreamt of a glory that would never happen but still hoped but knew we would always end up disappointed. 
  But I digress. In the book Harry described various early pioneers and toy soldier collectors who are very, very rarely spoken about and having given some thought to this I think it would be nice if someone ie me did produce a series of pieces about these people. 
Okay one could probably go onto Wikipedia aand potentially find out about some of them, but I think they deserve to be collated in one place. It will give me something to do between feeling sorry for myself. Its not a New Years resolution, more a small project I will  do something about.

I picked up a number of figures at Middlesbrough late last year from Tiger Miniatures, from their Tudor Irish wars range which I had to have for my Billhooks Irish army. I didnt need them, I have far too many anyway, but they were too nice not to buy. So I painted up some light cavalry, some gallowglass and some fighting dogs. 

I bought a small number of figures off E Bay months ago, when I reaalised they were Irish kern. I havent a clue who made them, they are big buggers but were very enjoyable to paint.

So a nice addition to my burgeoning Irish army.

And now to my second project.
Inspired by Rick Priestly and his love of old ancient Mini Figs Im steadily replacing my ancient Persian army made up of Foundry,Victrix and other more modern manufacturers with good old pre 1980 ancient Persians, and in particular using Hinchliffe and Garrison figures. 

Garrison Immortals, pretty big figures and certainly bigger than I remember but great sculpts.

And then, the well known Hinchliffe Immortal figure. Still one of my favourites. I think I maay have overdone their numbers, but I did enjoy painting them up. 
Next week its York and hopefully I will be making my trip down to the racecourse. I do enjoy the day although it can get a bit frenetic. Its only a shame that there wont be a couple of dealers off loading realistically priced old figures. Oh and a Happy New Year to all and sundry.


Thursday 4 January 2024

Intrusive Thoughts Syndrome.


Since I can remember I have always had these urges [steady] to say or do something inappropriate, usually in times of stress or when someone does or says something I think is really stupid. During the times when I worked for the Queen I was known as someone who now and again just might do something or say something that shouldnt be done or said. If you ever bump into me at a show please feel free to ask me to relay the 'Tommy' story which did get me in hot water and comic notoriety.
 It obviously caused my bosses a bit of worry and stress and could explain why I was given my own little office where they could hide me until something was happening and needed my attention.
 My yearly psycometric testing apparantly was the stuff of legends especially when the poor woman would ask about my views on bereavement, politics and the Senior management.
 I would imagine I would be unemployed within twenty four hours given the fragility of the modern police service and everyones craving for litigation. There seems too many oppourtunities for calling out moronic behaviour and views, I wouldnt stand a chance.

  I never knew that there was an actual name for this reckless behaviour, I just thought it was part of me and a bit like someone with turettes, expect I knew I was going to do it even though I knew I shouldnt. Now as with everthing in the modern age it has a name, Intrusive Thoughts. Except of course in my case its more intrusive actions. Strangely or perhaps it was the nature of the job I did, it gained me a reputation and eventually recognition that seemed to give me kudos and strangely awards???. 
Or perhaps it was just, 'oh,oh here's that nutter' type of recognition. It probably explains why I could always get a seat in the canteen, well before they closed them.

And what has this to do with wargaming one asks. Well since retiring these thoughts and actions have been my constant companion especially when wargaming, which is good right?
 Wild advances, tick. Ignoring the position and carrying on when it would be better to retire, tick. Having ones leader charging with his outnumbered troops, tick. So perhaps this is the explanation Ive been looking for as my defeats mount up like the poor Mags. [NUFC] and my generals fall heroically.
 It also could explain why I will buy figures when Ive already got a lot to paint or repaint.
  So in future should anyone question your lead mountain, just cite Intrusive Thoughts Syndrome or ITS to the experts like me, and demand an apology for feeling picked upon before breaking down in tears or cackling recklessly.
 I will be providing a Christmas? New Years Annual, but this came into my fevered mind first.


My 6mm Napoleonic set up.

My 6mm Napoleonic set up.
Austria 1809.

Austrian Hussars

Austrian Hussars
Hinchliffe figures

Austrian Grenzer

Austrian Grenzer
Austrian Grenzer

Smoggycon 2013

Smoggycon 2013
Smoggycon 2013

Smoggycon 2012

Smoggycon 2012
Smoggycon 2012

Smoogycon 2009

Smoogycon 2009
My French getting another beating