HOW IT ALL BEGAN – FOR ME
My name is Colin Gerrish. I grew up in a small one-thousand-year-old village called Ormiston, situated near the coast of the Firth of Forth, about twelve miles from Scotland's capital, Edinburgh. In short, I had a happy childhood with lots of the normal kids stuff. As a child, I went through the usual phases of liking one thing one minute and another thing the next. One thing that has stayed with me to this day since I was first introduced to it though is the love of Toy Soldiers and the excitement generated by finding something new. I got into model making at a fairly early age too, and this had a similar hold over me, but the toy soldiers have been with me the longest by far. I now live in Tranent, about three miles from Ormiston, with my wife Audrey who has graciously earned the prefix "long suffering" and has put up with my collecting admirably. Thanks Audrey!
In the mid 1970s, when I was a very young boy, I had one of the most memorable Christmases from my childhood. Our routine on Christmas Day was for my younger sister and I to get up at about three in the morning (well, maybe a little later!), wake up mum and dad, sit on the stairs and wait for dad to set the coal fire and get the living room warmed up, for mum to get the tea and toast made and, most importantly of course for Santa to finish off his glass of sherry before we gained access to the living room and started our full frontal assault on the Christmas presents. Once we’d finished (about three minutes later!) we'd calm down a bit, get tidied up and get ready to go to our grandparents for Christmas lunch.
It was this year in question that my addiction to Airfix figures started. There would usually be another collection of presents awaiting battle at Granny’s house. This year was slightly different. There seemed to be more for my sister than for me! I was being taken for a ride, surely! But something was afoot here – I discovered what when I was told to go up to my auntie’s bedroom to fetch something or other. Imagine a little boy’s delight and exhilaration on opening the bedroom door and seeing in front of him the reason his “big present” wasn’t downstairs.
I was greeted by the sight of my aunties bedroom furniture pushed to the walls to make room for an absolutely wonderful three foot square wooden fort which my grandfather, an ex-WWII Cavalry Officer, had spent the past few months secretly and meticulously measuring, cutting, preparing, putting together and painting in his garage.
But there wasn’t just a fort – with it was a veritable army of soldiers. There were at least six sets of Airfix 1/32 figures, including Cowboys and Indians, British Paratroops and 8th Army, Australians, Commandos etc which he had painted, along with some Timpo Swoppit Knights and accompanying tents, catapults and various other weapons – great!!
My obsession was starting! (And I still have that fort!!)
Over the next few birthdays and Christmases I got more additions to my collection – the Napoleonic French and Highlanders followed closely by the British Waterloo set (which I “caught” Granddad painting for me one day before my birthday). I remember being given a box of Timpo Action Packs French Infantry by my Granny and Aunt after they'd been on a shopping trip to Edinburgh one Saturday and wondering why the plastic had no colour! (They were white plastic figures originally) I also remember getting a set of Airfix US 7th Cavalry from an auntie and uncle one Christmas too.
After that I started buying the odd box here and there with pocket money, mostly throwing the boxes away (doh!), swapping with friends etc, etc. One friend in particular had a particularly masochistic streak in him - he liked to recreate realistic battlefield scenes by cutting soldiers into small pieces and mounting the small pieces on home made battleground! A small corner-shop close to my family home sold the Airfix figures for a couple of years around 1979/80 and at that time I built up my collection with more Waterloo sets, US Paratroops and Modern Germans, as well as some loose figures they sold as a sort of "lucky dip" out of a big plastic ball. These sets were around 95 pence at the time! A family holiday couple of years later saw me picking up a set of Waterloo French Grenadiers and a set of the new British Infantry in a toy shop in Berwick-Upon-Tweed (for £1.40). I was also lucky enough to pick up with my own pocket money some sets which are now considered rarities, such as Afrika Korps and German Mountain Troops in the 1978 packaging.
At some point I was given a European Theatre Combat Pack - I don't actually remember receiving it but I remember the Strongpoint, Cromwell and Hanomag (which, incidentally, I still have). I also had the Matchbox Counter Attack, which I do remember and I even have a photo of me putting it through it's paces some time around 1980 at Granny and Granddad's house- yes, that is me with the brown checked trousers on!
Painting was always a problem for me (try painting a small window frame with a four inch brush and you’ll get my meaning) until my aircraft modelling blossomed. I had always loved model making as well as playing with my toy soldiers so the experience I gained with painting models helped my soldier painting. The figure obsession took a back seat for most of my teenage years but in the early nineties I re-kindled my love of Airfix 1/32 scale figures and I managed to build my collection to the point where I was able to catalogue the vast majority of box types and make this site as complete as it can be.
This turned out to be a bit more difficult and prolonged than I had at first imagined!
For a few years I tried to pick up details in my endeavours to collect and document the full Airfix 1/32 range of figures. It appeared that the only figures of any real interest to collectors and enthusiasts were the HO/OO ones – nobody seemed to have any kind of definitive details or lists of the 1/32 range. All I could turn up were patchy web pages and vague information here and there. It was a very difficult task and every time I thought I'd managed to make out an accurate list of these figures something turned up to change all that.
My intention with this website is to help other 1/32 collectors out there who may have experienced the same frustration as myself in their attempts to put together a collection of these fantastic figures.
By no means is this website intended to be THE definitive list of figures and box types, although I am confident that it is very close. I am quite sure that some of you out there will be amazed at the range of different packaging used for the 32 sets of figures and also I am sure some of you will feel the need to correct me on some of my assumptions and conclusions – that is exactly what I want. I would like you to think of this as the website to refer to but I do need any feedback to be able to correct any of my inaccuracies. If anyone feels the need to fill in any gaps then please send me some good quality pictures with a brief description and I'll update as soon as I can!
Please browse through and enjoy this site and hopefully it will have an effect in however small a way on your view of Airfix's excellent 1/32 scale range of figures.
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