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Toy Soldier Art

Berlin Grays and Spies


While a few toy companies sculpted and cast figures of opposing troops, many looked to easier methods. One of the better examples of cheap enemies was by Herald.  They cast their “Khaki Infantry” in grey and painted them with black field gear and helmets.  All it took was a simple change of color to make acceptable opponents.  Paint was all it took to convert British troops to Communists.

            I have been having fun extending this idea.  My examples are created from figures I cast.  The mold contains copies of three Lone Star British Paratroopers, circa 1950.  The uniform and field gear is identical to that used by World War II British soldiers.  The weapons are of later vintage. 

            My first attempt was to paint regulation British Paratroopers in Dennison smocks.  Next came standard army men, some in light green fatigues, some dark green ,and some khaki tan,  Then came camouflaged uniforms, such as the type used by World War II Marines in the Pacific, and a darker green camouflage of later origin.  There were Italian paratoopers in desert trousers and their unusual camouflage, and finally German fallschirmjager.  The only extra step I took with the Germans was to file the helmets to look more like the flat-topped fallschirmjager helmet.

            The next sets were a bit more fictitious.  There was the “IM Enemies,” based on enemy troops in the old “Mission Impossible” TV show.   There was an all-grey set done to resemble Italian paratroops in World War II, and a brown set to look like Communist troops in the 1950s.  A set in Mustard Yellow with khaki tan field gear evoked ideas of desert troops.  Finally, two sets of  “spy movie” cadre in blue uniforms.

            If you have an eye for detail, you are likely thinking that these “paint-job conversions” are toys rather than military miniatures.  You may be saying, “Paint alone does not make a credible conversion. Whatever the paint, they are still toy British paratroopers.”   And you would be right in thinking so.  I am not making accurate military miniatures.  I am not even doing credible conversions.  The goal is a play on similarity, not accurate replication.

            There is a lesson here, as well.  Many times, the cut of a uniform is less variable than the color.  The military attire of a given time tends to be similar for all armies, with minor variations.  Color and details are the most variable.  The general cut tends to be the same.   You can see this in the American Revolutionary War, Civil War and World War I.  Headgear and some field gear vary is shape, but the uniform cut is alarmingly similar for all sides in a given war. 

            As an aside, there is a connection between military and civilian clothing styles.  They influence each other.  For instance, the shako of the 19th Century was a military equivalent of the top hat.  The fatigue uniform of the mid to late 20th Century was similar to work clothing.  Often, the main difference between civilian and military was a matter of color and small details.



Painted to resemble German fallschirmjager in green camo smock.


Berlin grays - these are painted to resemble the enemy types from the Mission Impossible TV series.  Note shoulder boards and collar tabs.


Initially meant to resemble World War II Italian paratroopers.  The gray we used for clothing was not gray enough.  It had a greenish tint.


These Berlin Grays are brown.  Painted to resemble Communist troops.


Mustard tan and khaki, reminiscent of desert type uniforms.


Spy cadre.  The outside two have white belts and silver helmets.  The inside man hads black belts and a white helmet with markings similar to Air Police..





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