Sunday, 26 June 2011

Suren AWI Conversions

More of John's Suren conversions - a couple of toffs, and the Kings American Dragoons. Horses are mostly Ebob with a few Foremost. Again painting is mainly oil washes on an acrylic base, and i particularly like the scarlet - it's so vibrant it almost glows.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

My Hero! *

(Or at least a miniature representation thereof)

John recently added some long overdue commanders and personalities to his small but perfectly formed British AWI force, and this is his Banastre Tarleton (complete with 17th LD aide). Suren figures on Foremost horses. All the large areas are oil washes on an acrylic base, detailing is mostly straight acrylics. Tarleton himself isn't the predictable Suren BL officer (N13) but instead a conversion of a Napoleonic figure (J26 Commandant of the Cameronians, Egypt c 1801 - which despite not being listed on the Tradition site is definitely available as Magnus remoulded it last year)...i mean, why go off the shelf when you can go bespoke...

* Not entirely true - young Tarleton was far too rash and tactically one dimensional for my liking, though i'd defend his reputation against rebel propagandists both then and now (yes, i'm looking at you Mel).

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

It Pays to Advertise...Again

From issue 1 of Military Modelling (January 1971). No mention of 25mm, or indeed any scale of figures yet. Interestingly Suren is also advertising Hinchliffe products (as do Garrison in their ad. in the same issue).

This scan comes to us courtesy of the ever helpful Mr Siggins.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Bill Gaskin 3

More ex Gaskin pieces now in the collection of Mr Siggins. This time we think the conversion and painting is the work of Bill himself. As far as i can see the basic figures are all Gilder sculpts apart from a lone Willie (the lt dragoon officer). Great stuff!

Monday, 30 May 2011

Even More Robinson Napoleonics

More beautiful figures by Phil Robinson. Originally owned by Bill Gaskin and now in the collection of Mike Siggins (who supplied the photos).

Monday, 23 May 2011

The Frank Hinchliffe Story

FH in 1976: 'Twelve more Napoleonic codes by midnight Gilder or the pooch gets it!'

The title of this post somewhat over-eggs the content i'm afraid. Some time ago it struck me that whilst articles and anecdotes from and about the likes of Gilder, Stadden, and Hezzlewood are not hard to find there is almost nothing out there regarding the man who employed them. So, purely to satisfy my own over active curiosity, i set out to do a little research on Frank Hinchliffe. What follows is just a rough overview, it's very much a work in progress (i have yet to follow up a number of leads), and is no doubt riddled with schoolboy errors, but it might be of some interest.....

As with most of us Frank Hinchliffe's interest in model making began during childhood - building model aircraft with his father during the pre-war years. After National Service in the Royal Engineers FH became interested in ship modelling, and rapidly became an acknowledged expert in the field - building models for himself, private clients and museums. His reputation grew such that he was entrusted with the restoration of precious Napoleonic PoW scrimshaw models.

Hinchliffe's expansion into military modelling came about via a visit to a client in the mid 1960s - an old interest in model soldiers was re ignited and FH realised the demand for high quality equipment models to accompany them. In 1967 Hinchliffe Models launched offering a catalogue of 54mm equipment pieces in addition to bespoke modelling services. Initially Frank's brother Bob handled the commercial aspects of the business from his Cheshire home whilst Frank handled design and production in Meltham (FH had put his engineering background to good use by designing and building his own molding and casting equipment). In 1969 Norman Newton Ltd became sole agents for Hinchliffe Models and Bob Hinchliffe appears to have moved on soon thereafter. The range expanded rapidly to cover artillery and wagons in 54mm, 30mm and 20mm, and these were sold via stockists such as Rose Miniatures and Tradition. Sales were such that FH quit his job with ICI and committed himself completely to the model soldier business.

The introduction to the 1967 catalogue.

FH teamed up with Peter Gilder (recently departed from Alberken/Minifigs) to produce 25mm wargame figures (some say the original intention was for 20mm but PG got a bit carried away and went 'one louder'), and the rapidly expanding Hinchliffe Models moved into the familiar HQ (a converted Victorian era pub) on Station Street in Meltham, Huddersfield in 1971.

Hinchliffe continued to pursue his interest in larger scale models by commissioning pieces from Charles Stadden, Cliff Sanderson, Dave Jarvis, Ray Lamb (creator of the iconic Taisho model), Julian Bennassi, D(?) Roberts and Dave Sparrow to create a healthy inventory of 30, 54, 75, 90 and 150mm figures.

Other well known names that passed through Hincliffe during the 1970s include Trevor Dixon and Norman Swales.

The company grew apace through the 1970s, and was genuinely innovative:

  • In 1976 HM published The Hinchliffe Handbook - an illustrated catalogue of all their ranges, backed up by painting and modelling guides and historical articles (shades of later GW and WF publications perhaps?).

  • In 1976 HM introduced System 12 - a short-lived range of integrated 12mm figures, terrain and other playing aids (an idea ahead of its time perhaps and possibly HM's only real commercial failure during the boom years).

  • In 1978 HM began the importation of Heritage 15mm figures from the US (probably the most detailed/modern styled 15mm figures then available in the UK). A reciprocal arrangement allowed Heritage to cast and re brand Hinchliffe figures in the US.

  • In 1979 HM launched a range of blister packed models and game aids (such as the notorious plastic casualty caps) under the Calder Craft banner. The wargame figures and equipment were usually one piece versions of the standard range, and the larger scale kits included everything (apart from paints) required to finish the kit (groundwork, mahogany base, etc.). For the first time in the UK metal wargame figures could be found professionally displayed in racks in non-specialist (e.g. toy)shops. Again this idea was probably ahead of its time - i suspect the marketing elves at GW took note though.

The company also had commercial arrangements with both Humbrol and Osprey, organised and sponsored Northern Militaire, and was involved with the Callan movie and Battleground TV series during this period.

By 1976 the administration side of the business had got the better of Frank Hinchliffe as it consumed much of the time he had previously devoted to producing equipment masters (did Norman Swales take over equipment mastering?).

Exciting developments didn't end with the new decade as Steve Hezzlewood came on board albeit briefly before going it alone with Pax Britannica (incidentally - Hezzlewood's X Range AWI: the best wargame figures ever sculpted? Discuss...) but FH apparently yearned to return to commercial ship modelling. The departure of Peter Gilder (to run his Wargames Holiday Centre full time, and ultimately launch Connoisseur) and the relative failure and associated costs of the Caldercraft brand may also have been factors in the decision to sell Hinchliffe Models to Skytrex in 1984.

FH retained the old premises and the Caldercraft brand, and (with a small team that now included his son Peter) began to design and market high end ship model kits - as you might expect these were well received and commercially successful.

FH working on a new master for Calder Craft in 1987.

Not so well publicised was FH's continued involvement in the model soldier game - after selling HM Frank teamed up with ex Hinchliffe Models designer Robert Fort to launch Bicorne Miniatures in 1985. Fort left (citing a conflict with newly found religious convictions) before the range was ready for market so, after a chance conversation in his local model shop, Doug Mason found himself in the sculpting chair. With the range bulked out with new codes by Mason (such as the British Rifles and Hussars - excellent 'Gilderesque' miniatures), Bicorne officially launched at Northern Militaire in 1987. Initial sales were excellent but Frank Hinchliffe ended the partnership suddenly, and Geoff Taylor was handed the Bicorne sculpting baton.

Ultimately FH sold Bicorne (in 1990), then Caldercraft. He continued in the model boat trade under the Mountfleet banner until passing away in 2006.

Thanks to Johns Ray and Preece, Clive, Harry Pearson and Doug Mason for their input.

Feel free to comment - particularly if you can correct any errors or expand on anything above.

Thursday, 28 April 2011


A detachment of the 3rd Connecticut Regiment brandishing nickel plated cold steel.

I've no idea who came up with the idea (probably an obscure modeller many decades ago) but replacing swords and bayonets with pins is an act of genius.

You do need basic soldering skills (and i mean basic - if i can do it...), and the correct equipment (an adjustable temperature iron, low melt solder, and good quality steel pins) but the investment is worth it for the improvement in aesthetics and durability of your toys (not to mention the opportunity to grievously injure the resident club oaf as he attempts to abuse your miniature masterpieces). And of course a soldering iron opens up a whole host of other conversion and sculpting possibilities.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

It Pays to Advertise

Mil Mod was a fairly broad church in the 1970s and 80s - so there was usually something of interest each month - but even if there wasn't you could rely on the regular Hinchliffe ad. to fire the imagination (even though i could rarely afford the new products featured, and wouldn't have known what to do with most of them anyway).

This ad. from October '77 features one of Hinchliffe's best equipment sets - EG19 Landsknecht Baggage Wagon - you got everything (including the kitchen sink...and 'company shoe carrier'...?!) with this one. Renaissance wargamers were spoiled rotten by the Hinchliffe equipment range - i wish the AWI or SYW had received similar treatment.

This also reminds me that at its peak Hinchliffe Models was close to the complete toy soldier company - producing a vast range of products in everything from 12 to 150mm. I can't think of anyone (with the possible exception of Tradition - which may or may not be a coincidence given Frank Hinchliffe's early involvement with Tradition) who has come close to that level of coverage before or since.

All of which reminds me that that article on Frank Hinchliffe is woefully overdue.

Saturday, 26 February 2011


Over the last year or so my old mate John's painting style has moved slowly away from the conventional layered acrylics to something more.....subtle and stylish (and dare i say shiny). Clearly some malevolent force is at work.....

Exhibit one: (we've seen these chaps before) Connoisseur conversions. The horse flesh has had an oil wash but everything else is layered acrylics - though without that refuge of the dilettante, cad and bounder: the black undercoat. Win a free night with John's collection of Doug Mason Napoleonics if you can spot what's changed since we last met these chaps.

Exhibit Two: Mounted Bicorne general with two Connoisseur conversions. The horse flesh and uniform coats are oil washes over acrylic base coats, the rest of the figures are layered acrylics as previously.

Exhibit Three: Minden SYW Prussian Jager (paint) converted to AWI Hessians. Almost exclusively oil washed apart from the flesh, scarlet and fiddly details. Splendid!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Got a Time Machine?

From Mil Mod March 1981.

Friday, 18 February 2011

More Saxons

More Connoisseur Saxons painted by Doug Mason for the WHC. Lovely units, but perhaps a tad pedestrian by Mason's very high standards (you couldn't say that about his Saxon Cuirassier and Guard though - see Chris Cornwell's blog for some great pictures of those fine chaps).

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Saxons by Doug Mason

Last year Mike Ingham sent me a number of shots of Napoleonic units from the WHC collection, of which the above Doug Mason painted Elite Miniatures Saxon Guard unit is one of the most striking. Mason is of course capable of very intricate and detailed work, but he's also capable of producing figures that look superb in units. My units tend to look like groups of individuals so it's an ability that i'm certainly envious of. I suspect it comes down to having a clear vision of the end result before you begin - planning where each figure will be placed within the unit, knowing which details to paint and which to leave out, etc.

At it's peak the WHC collection boasted literally thousands of Mason painted (and sculpted - of which more anon) figures - most of which were commissioned in the post-Gilder by Gerry Elliott. The numbers will be reduced now as Mike Ingham sold a fair number last year (some of which will feature here soon...ish), indeed as Mike was willing to part with the Saxons i don't know whether you'll find the above unit at the new WHC.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Mike Ingham

I've just heard via TMP that Mike Ingham passed away last Friday. I only met Mike once last year when i found him to be a real pleasure - still full of enthusiasm for the hobby (particularly the 'proper figures and painting' that the WHC collection epitomised) and patient enough to let me poke around the shelves at the WHC and answer my many tedious questions despite his ill health. In passing Mike mentioned that in over 20 years of hosting games he had only ever asked someone to leave on one occassion - which tells us a lot about the good humour of both the Grand Manner community and Mike.

No doubt others, more qualified than i, will pay appropriate tribute to Mike in the coming days.

Having bought out his business partner Mike disposed of a good chunk of the WHC collection last year, but the majority was kept together and the WHC, now in new hands, should have a bright future ahead. You'll find the new website here.