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Toy Soldiers Franco-Prussian War
Oct 14, '21

The Art of the Toy Soldier

Types of the Franco-Prussian War 1870-1871

All figures converted from Britains Deetail range.

Size of the Soldiers

The soldiers used should be all of one size. The best British makers have standardised sizes, and sell m- fantry and cavalry in exactly propor- tioned dimensions ; the infantry being nearly two inches tall. There lighter, cheaper make of perhaps inch and a half high that available. Foreign-made soldiers of variable sizes.

Scale 1/32

Being brought up in 60s and 70s their was for me only one standard Floor Games scale: 1/32 (54mm) and it had to be Britains!

Britains Deetail

Britains Deetail toy soldiers were a popular product in the 1970s and 1980s. Manufactured in England by W. Britain, the 1/32 (54mm) scale plastic figures were finished with hand painted details and came with sturdy Zamak metal bases. In the early 1990s production moved to China before eventually being phased out.


In 1971, Britains began phasing out its plastic Herald Miniatures produced in Hong Kong since 1966, with Herald eventually ceasing production in 1976. New Deetail figures were produced moulded in PVC plastic rather than polythene and using plug-in type arms, which were glued to bodies resulting in poses previously unavailable. Figures were moulded with a tee shaped "footlug" on the feet of each figure that allowed secure attachment to sturdy metal bases. These rectangular metal bases ensured figures stood better than rival manufacturers products and paid homage to Britains hollowcast metal figures as well as being thought by consumers to be of "better value" due to their heavier weight.

The first Deetail figures produces were based upon Second World War (WW2) American and German infantry. Sculptor Rod Cameron rented uniforms from Berman's and Nathan's theatrical costumes with Cameron giving model Les Harden his air rifle to pose with.

In 1978 Britains developed the Super Deetail range using an overmoulding process whereby different coloured plastics came together in one figure. The initial release were modern British paratroopers with red berets.


Figures were generally produced in six different standing poses and represented various historical periods from medieval to the modern era including:

Knights and Turks


American Wild West - Cowboys and Indians, 7th Cavalry, etc.

American Civil War

African Desert

Military - WW2 British, American, German; Modern; Guards, etc.


Mounted figures were also released including a horse on metal base with rider glued in place. Riders and horses were presented in various different poses and came with reins, saddle and saddle blanket, which differed dependent upon the theme. All were commercially available from retail outlets and sold either lose or from retail/trade "counter" boxes containing 48 pcs for standing (usually eight of each pose); 18 pcs for mounted figures (six of each pose); or 12 for combat weapons sets - these retail boxes also came with handy plinths to display the models, which sat across the top of the each box as a promotional item. Many factory sealed boxed/play sets (ranging from 5-18 figures) were issued to retailers, along with smaller "blister" type packs containing several figures bundled together, and a "Patrol" range that included figures and a combat weapon.

In addition, Britains also produced sets which incorporated Deetail style figures that were marketed as Combat Weapons (mortar, recoilless rifle, gatling gun, etc.), Military Vehicles (scout cars, jeeps, etc.) and Motorcycles (dispatch rider, motorcycle combination). Combat Weapons sets used working, spring loaded firing mechanisms within the models, and were supplied with "ammunition" - 9 ball bearings for the Vickers and Gatling gun sets, and 12 plastic shells on a sprue for mortars and recoilless rifle.

The Franco-Prussian War 1870-1871

Some of my collection of 600 soldiers of over 40 years. Batter and bruised, broken and mended form playing Little Wars they taken on a individual character of their own: Resilience to the last these are the Veterans of the Old Guard.


In the 90s I picked up lots of cheap discarded, damaged and play worn Britains Deetail figure at “Boot Fairs”

I took great pride restoring them to health, mainly for my American Civil War war-games, until I had 600 plus soldiers.

Finally I turn my hand to other period of history that I had a subconscious soul connection too e.g. Count von Zeppelin.

Cuirassier and Hussars

And a lone Uhlan!

“The Prussians are coming! The Prussians are coming!”

During the summer of 1870 this alarm had sounded more than once in Froschweiler, Worth and the neighboring Alsacian villages. Who said so? Where are they? How could any one make sense out of such hubbub! The people would run out and fall over each other ; the squadron of light cavalry detailed at Froschweiler from Regiment 11 stationed at Niederbronn would gallop hither and yon ; the regiment itself would come up from Niederbronn and patrol around in all directions—but the Prussians did not come and everything would quiet down again.

...And yet no one could feel quite comfortable ; the railroad trains rumbled so mysteriously from Reichshofen across the "great forest" (Grossen- zvald). The calm was beginning to weigh oppressively on people's spirits, when suddenly early in the morning of July 24, the boy from the castle came running in as pale as death from Elsasshausen, crying at the top of his voice: "The Prussians are coming! The Prussians are here! I saw them myself. They rode through Elsasshausen and I had to show them the way."

Count von Zeppelin in 1/32

Subconscious Modelling

I have often modelled my soul memories in order to express them. The model of what I now know as Count von Zeppelin was completed in 2016. (When I was 62 years of age).

Although I have been interest in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) since childhood in 1968.

The Prussians

The Bavarians

The Jägersäger_(infantry)

The Franco-Prussian War

The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War,[a] often referred to in France as the War of 1870, was a conflict between the Second French Empire (later the Third French Republic) and the North German Confederation led by the Kingdom of Prussia. Lasting from 19 July 1870 to 28 January 1871, the conflict was caused primarily by France's determination to restore its dominant position in continental Europe, which it had lost following Prussia's crushing victory over Austria in 1866. According to some historians, Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck deliberately provoked the French into declaring war on Prussia in order to draw four independent southern German states—Baden, Württemberg, Bavaria and Hesse-Darmstadt—into an alliance with the Prussian-dominated North German Confederation; other historians contend that Bismarck exploited the circumstances as they unfolded. None, however, dispute that Bismarck likely recognized the potential for new German alliances, given the situation as a whole.

Franco-Prussian War 1870-71

The Battle of Debs Farm

At the front, Metz, August 1870.

Game One

The following article is an eyewitness account from our war correspondent in the field of a minor skirmish between the advancing forces of the Prussians under General von Foden (Blue) and the defending forces of the Imperial French Army, General Baillieu commanding (Red).

The opening dispositions.

The Prussians advanced on Tichemont with the aim of deploying and sweeping the French from the field. In response the gallant defenders decided to take up position to defend Debs farm with the aim of securing the walled stock enclosure before them

The Prussians had with them one Infantry unit, one cavalry unit and a modern breech loading field gun for support.

The French immediately entrenched their mixed main force of regular Line infantry and the Metz Garde Mobile at Debs farm, together with one field piece. The 2nd Imperial Cuirassier unit deployed to the right of the infantry covering the open ground.

Game Move One

General Baillieu won the dice roll and elected to move first. Taking the initiative he sent forward his elite cavalry unit at the canter towards Tichemont. Meanwhile his artillery took up a covered position to the left of Debs Farm read to open fire next move in order to cover the action as a section of line infantry made ready to advance into open ground towards the stock enclosure.

General von Foden responded by detaching the Magdeburg Cuirassiers in two squadrons towards the main Tichemont Farm building, sending a squadron to either side in order to cover the expected assault. The modern Krup steel breech loader was positioned and made ready to fire.

Game Move Two

The first squadron of the Magdeburg Cuirassiers intercepted their counterparts in the open gap between Tichemont and the enclosure.

Whilst the second squadron moved to support the hard pressed infantry that had been charged in the flank by the 2nd Imperial Cuirassiers.

The opening salvo from the breech loader failed to hit the French Infantry striking instead the door or Debs Farm twice! This cause some consternation to the farmer who complained about the noise!

Meanwhile the French gun raked the Prussian ranks opening up ragged gaps and causing great loss.

Two melee ensued as sabres hacked and rifles fired in defence. The first squadron of Magdeburg Cuirassiers were completely decimated by poor dice rolls and the same scenarios occurred for the second squadron.

The victorious 2nd Imperial Cuirassiers can be seen above. Whilst below the single surviving Magdeberger is vanquished in the back ground.

Game Move Three

Not with standing the rout of the cavalry good Prussian discipline sent forward a force to storm the enclosure at point of bayonet. They collided with the French who had barely reached the sanctuary of the ruined walls before being thrust into a desperate hand to hand struggle with their determined foes.

The covering Prussian cannon fire failed yet again to inflict casualties on the main French infantry force as they continued advancing. The shells deflecting off of the enclosure wall which provided effective cover for the spirited Gallic warriors.

The victorious 1st Squadron of the 2nd Imperial Cuirassiers bravely charged the Prussian gun in order to cover the supporting advance of extra infantry towards the enclosure.

Game Move Four

Renewed desperate hand to hand fighting continued around Tichemont.

The lone survivor of the Magdeburg Cuirassiers having rallied rode to support his infantry compatriots in the melee but gallantly fell in the fight.

Game Move Five

Events were beginning to look bleak for General von Foden as the Prussians suffered heavy losses all across the field.

Game Move Six

The Metz Garde Mobile manning the cannon continued to pound the enemy with shot and shell, enabling them to conserve their rifle ammunition.

Game Move Seven

Whilst the Prussian infantry in the enclosure were all but wiped out in vicious hand to hand fighting. General Baillieu could sense inevitable victory with in his grasp so flung his forces forward in a general advance.

Game Move Eight

With a final Herculean effort the remaining Prussian infantry from Tichemont surged forward and stormed into the enclosure. At point of bayonet they vanquished the ensconced French who had victory snatched from their hands at the eleventh hour!

In shock and disbelief at the sudden turn of events General Baillieu had no alternative but to rally the battered remnants of his force at Debs Farm.

And so as darkness fell the enclosure was held by the victorious Prussians as the dejected gallant defenders could only look on from their refuge.

Thus ended the opening shots in our Little Wars campaign. General von Foden the strategic victor although upon calculating the points a technical draw was announced at 30 points each. A Pyrrhic victory for the Prussians but a victory non the less for they held the ground.

Final Points


1 gun 10 points

1 officer 2 points

8 infantry 8 points

Enclosure held 10 points.

Total = 30 points


1 gun 10 points

1 Infantry officer 2 points

14 infantry 14 points

2 cavalry 4 points

Total = 30 points



Oct 14, '21
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