Thursday, May 31, 2007

Tin soldiers never do anything

“My Tin soldiers never do anything”. Have you ever thought that? They just stand there. They never move. They NEVER EVER DO anything. Well Sir I think you should take a better look or listen just a little more closely. You are missing so much!

My collection is small compared to “That Guy” but The Soldiers, Sailors, Knights and Legionnaires on my shelves have told me many tales. They have walked “steadfast” beside me through many dangerous war zones some have even shared their most personal thoughts with me.

“How is that possible?” you ask. Turn on your computer’s browser pick up a soldier, look him in the eye and type the first thing that comes into your mind.

Just last week my British sailors in gaiters marched me off to the Battle of Denmark Strait it was the sixty-sixth anniversary of the battle I never saw. But my heart skipped a beat as HMS Hood split in two and sank into the ice cold waters leaving only three sailors a-float. Admiral Lancelot Holland stood with me and my tin soldiers as we watched his “Mighty Hood” go under. We heard the defiant salvo from a forward turret shot into the empty sky seconds before the Flagship of the British Navy was no more and the Admiral returned to his post on the bridge.

My Tin soldiers and my computer took me aboard HMS Ark Royal III and HMS Victorious two Aircraft carriers who would launch aircraft in search of and to attack the Bismarck. The first time in history that carrier based aircraft were used in battle.

My marching British sailors who “Never do anything” led me to a list of nearly one hundred ships that joined in the search and sinking of the Bismarck. each a story by itself

I huddled beside Captain Lindemann as he hid the world’s biggest Battleship in fog banks while deciding if he should head for the French coast or make a ten hour dash to Germany.

My tin soldiers and computer took me to the debris that floated over the last surface position of the Bismarck.

I stood with mouth agape as I saw film of British Sailor Warriors turning into search and rescue personnel and bringing one hundred and sixteen “Sailors” to safety. My tin soldiers beamed with pride as they showed me that once the battle was over a true warrior can forget all and become humane, doing what is right regardless of the uniform. I don’t think I could ever match that level of courage.

Admiral John Tovey showed this spirit when after the sinking of The Bismarck he said, “The Bismarck put up a most gallant fight against impossible odds, she went down with her colors flying.”

The next time you think your soldiers never do anything get one and head to the nearest computer search engine.

I would go with you but I’m off with a camel patrol in the Sudan.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The one that got away

Every tin soldier collector has a story or two to tell. A collector, with pride will tell you of their most cherished piece. Sometimes the collector will stand between you and the shelf where the favorite piece is located. With this subtle body language posturing he is letting you know he wants you to listen and admire his pride and joy. HOWEVER, don’t even think about reaching out to touch it.

He might hold it up for you to admire from his zone of comfort. If one leans too close, or reaches out for it a collector can make his cherished piece disappear in the wink of an eye, faster then any slight–of–hand carnival magician. Only to have it reappear moments later on a higher shelf safely out of reach.

.........and then of course, every collector with a long face and moist eyes can tell the story of "the one that got away".

It is the second type of story I wish to address today.

It happened in October of last year. I was walking through an open air market enjoying the fresh air and the used items for sale. My grandson pointed out a metal figurine sitting all alone on a rickety old card table.

“It wasn’t a soldier.” I thought to myself. “It’s only that logo for “Beefeater’s Gin.” The figurine was the perfect size for my collection; the colors were bright and unscratched. But it wasn’t a soldier. At the best it was only a tour guide at the Tower of London. For a lark I asked the price. It was almost a “steal” if only it was a soldier. My collection was growing and I didn’t have more room for....... just figurines. I wanted only real warriors, I replaced him in the center of the old table and grasping my grandson’s cold hand we returned to our warm house.

The first thing I did was run a search engine hunt for Beefeaters. I found out their real name is Yeomen of the Royal Guard. Henry VII appointed them in 1485. As I read their story my head slowly bent forward hanging only inches above my keyboard when I read a paragraph something like this;

Today there are only thirty-five Yeomen of the Royal Guards, Warders of the Tower of London and one Chief Warder. One of their every day duties does consist of tour guide duty at the Tower. Now comes the sad part. Before they are even considered for the post a Yeomen Warder of the Royal Guard must have served honorably and retired from the Armed Forces as a senior non Commissioned officer. Not only are the “Beef Eaters" soldiers, they are thirty-six of England’s BEST.

The open air market is a weekly event and every week since that brisk October day I have walked through it with my head hung and dragging my feet as I vainly search for the one that got away
Ron Miller

Britains, Hanks, Renvoise, Timpo and would you believe, Soldiers' Soldiers, No 328, all produced Beefeaters, and the gin factory was at Lambeth, only a hop, skip and a jump from the Soldier Shop. What a tonic!

John Tunstill

Monday, May 21, 2007

My Favorite Warrior

Everyone who collects tin or lead soldiers has their favorite warrior. They may be huge burly Vikings with bloody swords or knights in full amour spurring their steeds into a full gallop, lances at the ready. Even sophisticated modern warriors in camouflage uniforms carrying weapons of destruction that can eliminate twenty or more adversaries with one sweep and a loud RAT-tat-tat! Every collector has their favorite warrior as do I.

My favorite lead soldier has a prominent position on one of my top shelves. Standing just a touch smaller then the other 54mm warriors on either side, my favorite warrior carries a sword that was never drawn and wears armor that was never dented in combat located in my favorite warrior’s right hand is a staff with a large white standard.

My favorite warrior ran up and down the French countryside during the French expulsion of the English forces in the late 1420’s until 1431. “La Pucelle” as my favorite lead soldier was nick-named dressed in full battle armor and carrying only a “trademark” white standard led French forces into battle and victory after victory.

My favorite warrior’s first major battle and the first French victory was the lifting of the Siege of Orleans. In only nine days after the arrival of my favorite warrior English forces led by the Duke of Salisbury were forced to give up their siege and go into a defensive posture. Some scholars regard the battle of Orleans as the turning point of the Hundred Year War between the French and British which ultimately led to the ending of hostilities. In May of 1429 my warrior was arrow shot wounded and removed from the field of battle. Only temporary though as the white standard soon returned to the battle and rallied the soldiers once again to follow it onward to victory.

As with all “favorite” warriors, yours and mine, they must fight their last battle. At the battle of Comfine on May 23rd 1430 “la Pucelle”, “The Little Maid” struck her standard for the last time as she was captured and held prisoner for a year. My favorite Warrior was a woman! Not only a Woman but a GIRL!! After many successful battles Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake on May 30, 1431 at the young age of twenty-nine.

The month of May seems to have had a recurring influence on my favorite Warrior’s life but nothing like May of 1920 long after her death. My favorite warrior was canonized a Saint by Pope Benedict XV

Everyone has a Favorite Warrior.

Who is your Favorite Warrior?