Friday, 11 May 2012

Peter Laing ... 15mm-scale pioneer

I bought my first Peter Laing figures in the early 1980s, and during the recent sort-out of my toy/wargames room I managed to gather together two of the three 'collections' of his figures that I own.

The Austro-Prussian War 'collection' were an eBay purchase that was made a few years ago, and they have served me well several times since I bought them.



They pale in comparison with my Chaco War 'collection' which represent the Paraguayan ...


... and Bolivian Armies.


These figures were painted by me many, many years ago (hence the rather crude paint job they were given) and each Infantry regiment consists of twenty figures (eighteen riflemen and two machine guns). Each Artillery Battery has two bases, each with two gunners, and the dismounted Cavalry Regiments have eighteen dismounted figures armed with rifles. There are upwards of twenty five to thirty Regiments in each army ... and this gives some idea how big the 'collection' is.

The 'collection' was used to refight the Battle of Ayala* at SALUTE some twenty plus years ago, and were also used to represent Russian and Japanese troops during a refight of the Siege of Port Arthur. The latter was staged by the wargames club at the school I was teaching in at the time. Since then the 'collections' have languished in storage, firstly in the loft, then the garden shed, and now in some wooden draw units in my toy/wargames room.

The 'missing' third 'collection' is a couple of small armies that I put together for a campaign based on the War of the Pacific. I suspect that they may still be in my shed ... but the latter requires some serious pruning of the laurel hedge at the bottom of the garden, as the hedge has 'absorbed' the shed since last year!

* I scratch-built two Vickers 6-ton tanks for the Bolivian Army using the body and tracks of some Airfix Bren Gun Carriers. I know that they still exist somewhere (along with the four Paraguayan gunboats that I also built) but as yet they have not turned up.

10 comments:

  1. Good luck with your search for the missing armies. If you were of a different generation I could tell you where you keep your armies...up your sleevies!

    Sorry I had a visit from my grandniece this afternoon and again this evening. What passes for my brain has slipped into juvenile humour mode.

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  2. The best Peter Laings still have a charm not often seen these days and these ones look very attractive and still very serviceable to me. (I'm afraid I am becoming a died hard toy soldier guy).

    Oddly in my armies, it tends to be ones painted 20+ years ago that have the best paint jobs!

    -Ross

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  3. I have an idea that Stuart Asquith did some WW1 articles in Battle Magazine (or maybe it was Mil Mod after the merger) with Peter Laing figures. These weren't hugely detailed by today's standards, but their lack of individual identity tended to give their regiments and batteries a 'unit' character you don't often get with the more elaborate figure.

    You gotta resurrect those armies, dude. Even if Paraguay and bolivia have patched up their differences, we can suppose Gran Batavia and Amazuela have been rattling their sabres of late (1912)...

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  4. Jim Duncan,

    Telling jokes like that could lose you a lot of friends ... I know, because forty years working with young people had the same effect on my brain!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  5. Ross Mac,

    If Peter Laing figures were still readily available today, I would buy them ... and I suspect that I am not alone in feeling like that.

    They were simple, cheap, and very easy to 'paint convert' because they lacked too much detail. Even someone like me could turn out figures that were painted and get them on the tabletop. Nowadays, the only figures that I have seen that come close to the same style as Peter Laing are 15mm-scale Miniature Figurines (Minifigs).

    Oh for the days when things (like model soldiers) were much simpler!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  6. Archduke Piccolo,

    I remember the articles that you refer to, and I think that they were in some of the later issues of BATTLE magazine.

    Peter Laing figures were designed to be seen en masse, and you are absolutely right about units made up of them having a different sort of 'unit character' that tends to be missing these days.

    I suspect that the former armies of Bolivia and Paraguay may well be fighting each other very soon. I would like to tidy up the bases a bit (possibly with some flock), but once that is done who knows what they will get up to!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  7. I remember nearly ordering Peter Laing figures but never quite got round to it. As well as the sheer range, the biggest selling point seemed to be that they were (in comparison to other ranges) spectacularly cheap. All of this made some lack of detail more palatable. My old friend JR referred to PL elephants as 'angry mice'....

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  8. Tim Gow,

    Their cheapness gave them a quality all of their own ... even if some of the figures (like the elephants!) were not always as detailed (or accurate) as one has now come to expect.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  9. Bob,

    I feel that way about the figures put out by Scruby (now Historifigs). They are very simple figures--crude by today's standards--and they do not match at all what we now think of as 25mm, 30mm, etc. But they have a very classic toy soldier look, and are very easy to convert. Plus, they definietly have the "Old School" pedigree in spades. I have small 9mm ACW and AWI armies, which I just don't want to get rid of, even though I have many other (and better) figures in other scales for both periods. I'm retiring in 3 weeks, so I should finally have the time to do something with them--not to mention the rest of the mountains of lead and plastic!

    Best regards,

    Chris

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  10. Chris,

    Firstly, congratulations on your forthcoming retirement. If my experience is anything to go by, you will be busier than you ever were when you were working.

    On the subject of figure designs, have you noticed that a lot of modern figure designers seem to produce figures that are anatomically incorrect with big hand and heads, broad bodies, and short legs? I understand that this has been done to make it easier to paint the detail ... but if you are looking at figures from two or more feet away the detail gets 'lost' (although a lot of modern figure painters seem to use such over-the-top painting techniques that sometimes the 'detail' seems to 'shout' at you even at that distance).

    Scruby, SAE, Spencer Smith, and Peter Laing all produced simple, anatomically correct figures that were relatively cheap and easy to paint.

    Ah, the good old days!

    All the best,

    Bob

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