Airfix Magazine and Airfix 1/76th-scale figures

By Rob Morgan

To continue where, well, more or less where, I finished in my previous note, there was a substantial number of series dealing with the conversion, upgrading and the general potential of the Airfix small-scale wargames figures during the 1960s and 1970s. Scale, of course, could be an odd thing. Some of the sets, British Paratroops, and US Cavalry, for instance, were around the modern 25mm scale and other sets ranged down to the original World War II British and German Infantry sets of 1961 which were frankly around 15mm by today’s standards!

Sometimes, either through zeal, or because there was so little else, the article writers mixed larger and smaller figures together. No matter, at least not at this distance in time! Having suggested a few places to look for ideas for using Ancient ranges, it might be sensible to just give a hint of what else appeared in the splendid and frankly invaluable pages of the magazine for those of us wargaming in the old days.

I mentioned the ‘Roman Friends & Foes’ series by Bob O’Brien, and this drew to an end, sadly with article number 9 in June 1969, when he provided a ‘Miscellany’ of figures which had me reaching for the craft knife. Bob, however, was to be found in Military Modelling a couple of years later. I have a single copy from January 1972, which contains ‘Fiddling with Romans,’ on re-positioning the legionaries in the Airfix set. Sound stuff, but the Gaulish swordsman he knocked up from a Commando figure with parts of one from the Robin Hood and one from the Tarzan set proved too tricky for me! The next month Bob tried his hand at the Thracians …I know no more.

The other series which appeared ranged over two millennia.  In April, May and June 1967, C. Jones (who may be a member of the SWA) tried his hand magnificently at the Crimean War in three articles: British, Russians and setting the scene. He used Airfix Cowboys, ACW Artillery, Arabs, Wagon Train and a few other sets. Very well put together indeed, and a chance to show modelling skills.  He, and I’m assuming he was male, followed on in July to September with a short series I still find valuable, on “The Zulu War.” The first article dealt with the British and colonials, using the new-ish World War I German set and Wagon Train and Cowboys; then the native forces, both Zulu and Natal Native Contingent, from the Red Indian, set as it was then known. The third article covered matters like wagons, ordnance and heliographs, skilled writing and modelling all round.

Immediately after that, Michael Blake dealt with the American Civil War in a series which ran, if I recall, for four months. October dealt with infantry, this part I loved, the colourful opening-stages gear on both sides; next cavalry; then ordnance and engineers, and he finished off in January 1968 with what he called ‘Other Departments,’ medical staff, bands and musicians, quartermasters, and a delightful note on mountain artillery. He even covered sailors and marines. All were made using only Airfix figures, from all of the Western packs, as well as Zoo and Tarzan and WWI Germans. I’d buy a publication with that series in if it was published today.

Then in 1970, “The Seven Week War” turned up, written by Robert Gibson. Look it up, it took place between 30 Prussian and Austrian-led states in the summer of 1866, less than two months of fighting. Again, conversions and modelling were extensive in terms of the sets used, and well worth a thought if you’re a 19th Century modeller with an eye to something different. Robert didn’t let you down. Most of the army contingents, infantry, jagers, cavalry of all sorts from hussars to uhlans, as well as auxiliary and service troops. The series ended in November 1970 with Part 6, which dealt with an overview of the campaign.

In 1971 Robert Gibson turned up again, dealing with 1815, or Waterloo, as we tend to call it in these parts. I have only one or two of the articles and don’t know the extent of the series, but they tended to be single-page where others had been two-page spreads, and I feel they were intended to support the several packs of Airfix figures produced in the time before they appeared.

One word of warning. In 1972, a long series on Renaissance warfare written by George Gush began. Interesting, quite readable and in its own way a fine series. George dealt with everything imaginable, from the Swiss, to Landsknechts, artillery, Spanish Infantry of the Tercio, Irish (a good piece) and Scots, to Henry VIII’s army, the Swedes, French and even the Muscovites. Plenty of art work and line drawings, plenty of emblems and heraldry, but not something which dealt with conversions and figure making in any sense. George stopped short of that. A pity, I thought.

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7 Responses to Airfix Magazine and Airfix 1/76th-scale figures

  1. jimr says:

    Bob Cordery, on his blog, recently tossed out an interesting term: paint-conversions. Some figures can be converted with no cutting. Example, changing a British soldier into a Turkish soldier simply by changing the color of his pith helmet. Bob, I am sorry if I got this wrong.

  2. Peter R. Barkworth says:

    Hello Rob

    George Gush did do some conversions. Go to the following link and look at parts 24 and 25.

    The Airfix Magazine Annuals are also another source of conversions e.g. The 1973 edition has George Gush making WW2 Japanese into Western desert Italians, a chap called D.V. Oakley wrote an article “Armies by the Dozen” in which he used Airfix Confederate infantry to make Boers, British naval landing parties, Italian Bersaglieri, Spanish-American War Spanish troops and South American insurgent/guerilla types. Some are simple paint jobs (what Jim refers to as paint conversions) and some are a bit more detailed.
    These annuals can be picked on ebay or Abebooks, often for just a few pounds.

    Lastly, readers can see Airfix ACW figures converted to ECW infantry at Andrew’s Wargaming Page at:

    Happy wargaming (and, perhaps, converting).

  3. jimr says:

    Prices on Airfix sets seem to have gone up. HAT sets are being touted as Airfix-compatible and sometimes they are priced lower.

  4. jimr says:

    According to Plastic Soldier Review, Airfix had very limited offerings in the Ancient era. Their Roman set included a chariot which apparently was only used for recreation by the Romans. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think a reasonable substitute for the chariot is the HaT Gothic cavalry set. With the Ancient Britons as opponents, two complete armies can be set up: horse, archers, infantry and skirmishers.

  5. jimr says:

    Also, it is nice to know that the Ancient Britons can also be used in contests against Rome in Gaul and elsewhere north of The Empire. Here is a quote from Plastic Soldier Review.
    “Ancient Britons’ delivers 11 foot figures depicting Celts that would be appropriate for any of the Celtic tribes north of the Roman Empire. The Romans knew these people as Gauls, and recognised them primarily as swordsmen. There are four swordsmen in this set, plus one example each of men using an axe, a bow and a spear. It is thought that slingers played an important part in the warfare of the British tribes, so it is good that a slinger is included here. The foot figures are completed with a splendid chieftain and a standard-bearer. Finally, a chariot with two crew complete the set.”

  6. FrankM01 says:

    Hello Rob,
    I remember those articles in Airfix Magazine. I still have the 1973 Airfix Magazine Annual with the article by D.V. Oakley titled Armies By The Dozen and the George Gush article on Desert War Italians. I tried my hand at a few conversions myself. I made a unit of Roman Cavalry by using legionary top halves and US Cavalry bottom halves and horses. I used drawing pins for shields. They’re long gone but I still have a couple of WW2 German cavalry conversions mostly finished, again using US cavalry figures combined with one German infantry figure and one Afrika Korps for his feldmutze.
    Good fun.

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