Monday, 1 July 2013

In praise of Peter Laing Miniatures: Part 1

When I first started teaching in 1973, my pay was just over £1,300.00 per year. After I had paid my rent and bought food and the other essentials of life, I did not have a lot left to spend on hobbies. What money I did have bought me a few plastic kits and figures and the occasional metal figure.

As time went on and I got promoted, my financial situation gradually improved, but never to the extent that I was able to buy metal wargames figures in the numbers that I wanted. Furthermore the range of what was available was limited to a few manufacturers (Minifigs, Hinchliffe, Hinton Hunt, Jacklex, Les Higgins, Douglas Miniatures, Tradition) who worked in a variety of scales from 20mm to 30mm. It should not be too difficult, therefore, to imagine my surprise – and pleasure – when I saw the earliest version of the following advertisement appear in the few wargames magazines that were published.


Here was an answer to my prayers! Peter Laing produced metal wargames figures that I could buy IN BULK at a cost that I could afford. Not only that, but the range of figures that he eventually produced covered all the main historical periods one could think of ... and many were useable – after a very simple paint conversion – for even the most esoteric wars a wargamer could think of!

The figures had many advantages over their larger brethren. They were anatomically in proportion (no massive heads and hands here!) and had the minimum of detail necessary moulded onto them. This actually made them very easy to paint, and I used to turn out painted figures by the score each week ... something that I would find difficult do now with modern 15mm-scale figures. They were also cheap, and Peter Laing produced them to order and posted them out as soon as they were ready. He would also listen to requests for specific figures that could be added to his existing ranges as well as ideas for new figure ranges.

So why are they now almost as rare as hen's teeth? Well they have been out of production for a very long time. (Peter Laing gave up producing the figures, and sold the business and the moulds to John Mitchell. He continued to produce the figures for some time ... but after he sold the moulds they seemed to disappear off the face of the earth. There are numerous rumours as to where they are now ... but who knows?) In addition they are probably not to the taste of many modern wargamers, who seem to prefer 15mm-scale figures that are almost caricatures. There are, however, a small band of faithful fans of Peter Laing's figures (including myself, Ian Dury, John Patriquin, Barry Carter, Richard Brooks, and Ian Drury [the latter Ian is not to be confused with the former one]) who all still own and use Peter Laing Miniatures when they can.

This series of blog entries will hopefully encourage more people to become fans of Peter Laing Miniatures ... and you never know, it might just help to get the original moulds 're-discovered' and the figure ranges put back into production!

PS. The image of Peter Laing's advertisement was kindly provided by Ian Dury.

36 comments:

  1. I remember these well. While I never bought any (even the spectacularly low prices were too much for me back in the day) I have seen and used them in other people's armies. I was especially fond of the elephants - which my old friend John G Robertson used to refer to as 'angry mice'. If you've seen one you'll understand!

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  2. I had a whole roman legion for 6th ed wrg ,cavalry etc while at uni.Great figures,happy memories...

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  3. I've a couple of WW1 armies, that I would dearly love to expand... very Toy Soldier-like, all in gloss...

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  4. Got Crimean war armies by Peter Laing of several hundred figures! brilliant man and figures !

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  5. I bought quite a lot of the Marlburians. Never painted them and don't know what happened to them. I suspect I threw them away!

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  6. I look after one or two :)

    http://jim-duncan.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/crimean-collection.html

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  7. I still have Normans, Saxons, Colonial British, Pathan and some ACW figures

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  8. I downloaded on my blog, wargame hermit, some photos of a couple of different Peter Laing elephants.

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  9. I've never seen or played with Peter Laing figures, but look at the ad (enlarged) I can well understand your enthusiasm. Functional and inexpensive, and easy to paint as well, they would have been a god-send to a cash-strapped student...

    I recall seeing a very good article or two in 'Battle' magazine, I think by Stuart Asquith, about wargaming WW1 with Peter Laing figures. It was a very tempting idea - especially the notion that entered my head of fielding Army Corps of Germans and French... I never did follow it up though...

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  10. Tim Gow,

    I am surprised to hear that you did not own any Peter Laing figures as I would have thought that they were the sort of thing that you would have bought.

    John G Robertson was not alone in making that comment about the elephant figures. They were rather 'odd' looking ... but nonetheless they sold!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  11. Tradgardmastare,

    When you write 'had' rather than 'have', are we to understand that you no longer have them? If not, that is a great pity ... but if you do still have them, some photos would be nice.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  12. BigRedBat,

    I think that there may be quite a few other wargamers in the same boat as you, and I understand that Ian Dury and others are thinking about setting up a group that can swop and/or sell and/or buy figures amongst themselves to meet such a need.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  13. Mosstrooper,

    If you have them, do you ever use them ... and if you do, is there a possibility of you taking some photographs? I am sure that there would be quite a few people who would love to see them.

    All the best,

    BOb

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  14. Legatus Hedlius,

    What a great pity!

    If you do find any of them, I am sure that there are some enthusiasts out there who would love to take them off your hands.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  15. Mike,

    If you still have them, is there any chance that you could share some photographs of them with the rest of us?

    All the best,

    Bob

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  16. Jhnptrqn,

    Thanks for that. It will give people the chance to see what they were like.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  17. Jim Duncan,

    Why does that fact NOT surprise me! Is there any chance of a few more photographs of them appearing on your blog?

    I always think of Peter Laing's figures as being the smaller brothers of the Spencer Smith range as they share similar characteristics (e.g. anatomically in proportion, simple castings, relatively inexpensive).

    All the best,

    Bob

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  18. Archduke Piccolo,

    You have understood EXACTLY why Peter Laing's figures were so popular. They had all the qualities you outline PLUS they were available at a time when no other manufacturers were producing large ranges of 15mm-scale figures.

    I remember the article you refer to ... and I remember buying some WW1 figures as a direct result of reading it.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  19. All it needs is a little nudge and we all start appearing from the woodwork!
    Most of my PL figures vanished during a move, but I still use my Laing Samurai, which in spite of "lack of detail", are full of life. I think that is because they are proper sculptures and not just pieced together.

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  20. Barry Carter,

    I suspect that there are a lot of painted and unpainted Peter Laing figures out there ... and not a few 'fans'. If only the figures were still available to buy!

    You are absolutely right about the figures having something special and unique about them.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  21. Barry Carter and Bob, I would love to see some photos of the Samurai figures. I saw a lot once on Ebay but lost out on it. While I never had interest in Samurai, I saw a Japanese made movie (the name escapes me right now) and after that I would love to do a Samurai game.
    John

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  22. jhnptrqn,
    I'd need to get a camera first!
    Sorry.

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  23. Jhnptrqn,

    Barry Carter replied before I could ... but I must admit that I would also like to see what the Samurai figures look like. I had no interest in the Samurai period of Japanese history until I saw Tom Cruise's film THE LAST SAMURAI.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  24. Barry Carter,

    What a pity ... but if or when you do, please let us know.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  25. Wow - I know there are a few of us out there (and I have already exchanged mails with some of you) that are PL fans - just didn't realise there were so many!
    Legatus Hedlius - not only do I mirror Bob's comment - I know someone who would love those Marlburian figures if you find them.
    As regards the group for exchanging figures (and avoiding bidding wars on e-Bay!) - anyone who is interested, just drop me a line:
    ian.dury@hotmail.co.uk
    Bob - I have that Battle magazine acticle - think I have scanned it already, but I will send you a copy
    Ian

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  26. Ian Dury,

    I had a feeling that once the topic of Peter Laing's figures was raised, it would raise a lot of interest.

    If you have a scanned version of the Stuart Asquith article, I would love copy. I thought that I had one somewhere in my cuttings library, but I cannot find t.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  27. Bob,
    I believe the Japanese Samurai movie I'm thinking of was called "Heaven & Earth". I believe it is based on fact, and have some great (but relatively bloodless) battle scenes. I did enjoy "The Last Samurai", too.

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  28. Jhnptrqn,

    I must admit that I have not heard of that particular film ... but I will now look out for it.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  29. Bob - just sent you the Dropbox link to that WW1 article - and I am about to add some more pictures to the Laing folder there - more Elephants to follow John's theme, plus French in Egypt (Barry - I think you may recognise these....)
    Ian

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  30. Ian Dury,

    Thanks for everything you have sent me.

    It will form the basis of several more blog entries that will appear over the next week or so.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  31. I sent for a sample around 1974 and couldn't make out what it was meant to be...unfortunately it put me off. At the same time though I got a sample 1/300 tank off Leicester Micro Models....same result.....wish I'd picked more PL up though, especially the parade stuff.

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  32. David Wood,

    The figures were not very impressive to look at as plain castings, but once you began to paint them they seemed to develop detail that was not otherwise visible.

    I wish I had bought more when I had the chance.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  33. Bob – I always thought of Peter Laing's figures as half-size Spencer Smiths! Similar sculpting style, similar proportions.

    When I was at school, we ran a Wars of the Roses campaign and all the figures were Laing's. Crude, but delightful little things – I think I still have a handful somewhere. I also had some early 18th century figures which I sold off a few years ago to another enthusiast (I forget who). I took a few photos of them before sending them to their new home, so I've created a Flickr album for you here.

    I had started to paint these during the very early days of my Wars of the Faltenian Succession campaign – I think this was a tryout for the troops of Schmeissberg-Donau. Shame I didn't persist, but my chum Guy and I had our heads swayed by Essex Miniatures back in the day – I must have been mad.

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  34. Henry Hyde,

    I totally agree about Peter Laing figures looking like half-size Spencer Smith figures ,.. and it is a great pity that they are no longer available.

    Thanks for the link to your photographs, which I will look at later this evening.

    Essex Miniatures are one of the 15mm-scale manufacturers whose figures I buy. I like their size and style, and I can see why you chose to use them for you project.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  35. Henry - many thanks for sharing the pictures, I love the way that you have painted the figures and I am highly envious of whover bought them from you.
    If you ever find that "handful of figures you mentioned let us know -as there are several other PL fans out there who I am sure would be happy to take them off your hands!!
    Regards
    Ian

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  36. Ian Dury and Henry Hyde,

    It sounds as if my blog has performed one useful function this year, and that is to bring you two into contact about Peter Laing's figures!

    All the best,

    Bob

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