Saturday, 18 April 2009

Harry Pearson on the first wargames figures

Groves And Benoy

Groves and Benoy’s range of one-inch Peninsular War figures can legitimately claim to be the first wargames figures ever made. Designed around 1947 by model maker L Groves of Olton near Birmingham and Brigadier James Francis Benoy (who had served as Quartermaster-General of the BEF in France in 1940 and later served in the same capacity in the Far East) the models were designed to be slotted into specially made copper bases to form multiple figure stands specifically for miniature battles.

In total it seems that at least several thousand figures were made. All arms were manufactured as well as wagons, pack mules, personality figures (including Wellington) and even a Spanish priest.

The infantry (standing about 27mm high) and horses are mounted on thin copper bases with clipped edges (similar in shape to those of Stadden); rifles and horse reins are soldered on. They are simple in style but with a charming “toy soldier” look that more than compensates for any deficiency in the modelmaking - a photo can be found on page 34 of John Garratt’s “Model Soldiers for the Connoisseur”. It is unclear whether the figures were ever commercially available in the accepted sense or were made purely for Brigadier Benoy. The only figures I have in my collection came via eBay from a lady whose late-husband had bought them from a stallholder in Portobello Market in the 1960s. The set consists of six British riflemen, eight horses (but no riders) and four rather splendid cannons each with its weight category painted on the side in white.

Brigadier Benoy died in 1972, but shortly prior to that an Irish figure collector and dealer, Shamus O.D Wade, had bought his entire collection of 2,000+ figures. Wade was originally based in Dublin, but he later moved to England and ran a toy soldier shop in Brighton. Wade kept a part of the collection but apparently sold the rest on to a collector in North America, Allan Robinson-Sager of Toronto in the early 1970s.


Brianne, You may call me Mistressyness said...

amazing, thank you for the fascinating history lesson and the terrific blog! I love learning about the Hobby!

Brianne, You may call me Mistressyness said...

These are lovely, Thank you for the fascinating history. I really love your blog!

Pat G said...

Lovely figures with a great back story.

BigRedBat said...

Fascinating! Never heard of those.