By Rob Morgan
We seem to have started a serious discussion on the subject of using Airfix 1/76th scale figures and their potential for conversion, so perhaps it’s time to offer a few memories of the articles that cropped up in those august pages more than 50 years ago. Not merely because the figures are still available and the content of the articles is still very much of use to the modern wargamer. On we go.
My collection of the magazine begins with Volume 1, No. 1, which was 60 years ago. That’s right, 60. I bought the bound volume of the first year long afterwards, but it doesn’t contain a single wargames piece. My serious purchase of it began in early 1964, and I suppose I have about 40 percent of the issues from then to 1970, and short runs after that up to the mid-Seventies. Well, fond as I always have been of model making and wargaming, one or two other matters dropped in as the years slipped by: beer, girls, work and then marriage — they did get in the way a bit! Some material in copies surviving in my attic would be of great value to the Airfix-oriented armchair general, so, let’s see what I can come up with.
Jim Rohrer’s excellent set of questions drew me to the series entitled “Roman Friends and Foes,” produced by Bob O’Brien between (roughly) October 1968 and late 1969. These articles were regarded highly at the time, and are worth re-consideration now. There were notes on War Elephants, on Roman Artillery (that was very good!), on Nubians, and on a range of obscure tribes and groups — dealing with making camel lancers from the newly issued Arabs set, with Asiatic Archers and with ubiquitous slingers and pikemen from the Airfix Robin Hood set — two very easy designs to convert — you can get 15 slingers from a single Robin Hood set, and/or 10 pikemen. There were Roman auxiliaries and allies too.
A couple of articles stand out, and for those with the inclination to track them down can I strongly suggest the issue from December 1968, with the O’Brien series article entitled “Part 3 – German Tribesmen.” This was a two-page illustrated article in which the Airfix Robin Hood set (and do take a look at them on the Plastic Soldier Review site as Jonathan Aird suggests) is used to create an entire German force of basic vigorous tribesmen. All that was missing was the war dogs, nowadays not a problem. Later, the series dealt with a small force of German horsemen, but they were a little more complex. This article gets 10 out of 10 from me! The German force (opposed by Airfix Romans) was photographed in a substantial wargame campaign that was to be found in John Tunstill’s legendary Miniature Warfare magazine soon afterwards. Now if you can find that!
The second article in Bob’s series I will mention, being of immense value is from May 1969, “Part 8- The Picts,” very sound research work, and even better modelling! It actually uses the Tarzan figures set as well as the Robin Hood set, to make a useful small Pictish raiding force, with boats! More unusually, the Picts were provided with a few cavalry, from the Red Indians set. The detail in this text was splendid for the time, and even now requires little addition to improve the raiders modelled.
From time to time, articles on converting the Airfix Roman Mile Fort into a more substantial defence site, and on dealing with making a part of Hadrian’s Wall, appeared. But, as Jonathan says, one or two of the conversions didn’t work, even in an era when the shelves of the model shop contained little for the wargamer to work with.
One article I have stands alone. In November 1972, Ron Wood produced a piece on an early Egyptian Warship named Rameses, which seems to be the first in a planned series called “Ancient Warships.” I can find no others, so if any reader decides to hunt down a few of these interesting magazines and comes across any other ancient warship, do share it!