Book Review: Britains Toy Soldiers History and Handbook 1893 – 2013


Britains Toy Soldiers: The History and Handbook 1893 – 2013 by James Opie

On Amazon: Britains Toy Soldiers: The History and Handbook 1893 – 2013

Publisher’s Website: Pen and Sword

Britains Toy Soldiers is a lavishly illustrated history of the classic toy soldier line. The book is organized chronologically, with each section offering a description of significant product releases from that year. For example: In 1938, Britains released the first figures of British Troops from World War I.  There is a color photo of the figures, along with text descriptions, and product numbers such as 1611 Prone 1938 2V-1941 U.  Opie notes that Britains never did produce German figures from the period, and that the same figures were also released as American troops. The section also notes that the figures were likely released in response to Elastolin and Lineol figures that were marketed at the time.

Although I am not a Britains collector, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. It is a great history of the toy soldier beginnings of my miniature wargaming hobby. If you ARE a Britains collector, I think that this is a must-own.


From the publisher’s description:

This is the first full-color history of the world-famous toy soldiers to chart the whole story of their development from Victorian table toy to 21st Century collectable. Prior to 1893 the family toy business of the Britain family was struggling as the toy industry was dominated by German manufacturers and importers. Then came the fateful decision first to import, then to design and manufacture, toy soldiers, an area the German firms were particularly strong in. Britains Toy Soldiers were born and soon their boxes stamped with the slogan ‘Best Quality English Make’ were being eagerly opened by little boys across Britain and then around the world. The rest, as they say is history and it is all captured here by James Opie, the world’s leading expert on the subject, as he lovingly traces the varying fortunes of arguably the most famous British toy company.

Illustrated with lavish color photographs, many of them featuring items from the author’s own collection, the book includes feature sections such as collectors’ favorites and prices, high-value and famous sets, artistic highlights, quirks and mysteries. It is without doubt the most authoritative book on the subject and will be welcomed by the thousands of devoted collectors world wide as well as many more with fond memories of childhood battles with these beautiful toys.


Book Review: Operation Barbarossa 1941

Operation Barbarossa 1941: Hitler Against Stalin
Operation Barbarossa 1941: Hitler Against Stalin

Operation Barbarossa: Hitler Against Stalin on Amazon
Casemate Publishers

Casemate Publishers recently sent a copy of a new book titled Operation Barbarossa 1941: Hitler Against Stalin.  In more than 300 pages, author Christer Bergstrom offers a fairly detailed overview of the Nazi invasion of Soviet Russia from June to December 1941. Bergstrom offers a nice narrative of the operation, along with a wealth of data, quotations from participants and official documentation. The book is also well illustrated.

I call Operation Barbarossa 1941 an overview only because I recognize that the Nazi invasion has over the years attracted an astonishing amount of research and publication. Amazon alone offers nearly two hundred titles on Operation Barbarossa, many of which are dedicated to individual facets of the story, such as the Siege of Brest, or “Operational Logic And Identifying Soviet Operational Centers Of Gravity During Operation Barbarossa, 1941.”

barbarossa-interiorI had only a general knowledge of Operation Barbarossa (mostly from my general reading years ago when I was in my Squad Leader days) prior to going through this book, and thus felt that it was quite worthwhile. Operation Barbarossa 1941‘s utility and interest will very depending upon how much a reader already knows about the invasion. And, because I am not an expert on the Second World War, I am in no position to judge the accuracy of either the narrative or conclusions. However, the book is very well documented, and the author has a stellar reputation. Old Grognards will nonetheless invariably find something to criticize.
From the publishers’ description:

Operation Barbarossa was the largest military campaign in history. Springing from Hitler’s fanatical desire to conquer the Soviet territories, defeat Bolshevism and create ‘Lebensraum’ for the German people, it pitted two diametrically opposed armed forces against one another.
The invasion began with 4.5 million troops attacking 2.3 million defenders. On one side was the Wehrmacht, without any doubt the world’s most advanced military force. On the other were the Soviet armed forces, downtrodden, humiliated, decapitated and terrorized by an autocratic and crude dictator with no military education whatsoever.

Based on decades of research work in both German and Russian archives, as well as interviews with a large number of key figures and veterans, Operation Barbarossa brings our knowledge on the war on the Eastern Front several big steps forward. It reveals and dispels many myths and misconceptions including: the myth of mass surrenders by Soviet soldiers; the myth about the vast differences in troop casualties between the two sides; the myth of the Soviet partisans and the myth that it was the Arctic cold that halted the German offensive. It also does not shy away from difficult truths such as the true nature of Finland’s participation in Operation Barbarossa, and the massive scale of rapes committed by German troops.

Illustrated with over 250 photos, many never previously published, and several clear and detailed maps, this is an objective, balanced account, published in time for the 75th anniversary of the start of Operation Barbarossa on 22nd June 2016. Christer Bergström has once again produced what will be the definitive account of this monumental campaign.


Ten Days That Shook The World – Free EBook

Available for free from Amazon, Ten Days That Shook The World is John Reed’s first hand account of the October 1917 Russian Revolution. It was the basis of the movie, Reds. Reed was a socialist American journalist who is buried at the Kremlin.

It is, as you might expect, politically explosive and the target of praise or criticism, depending upon which side of the spectrum you sit.

Free Science Fiction From Microsoft

Future Visions is an anthology of science fiction short stories commissioned by Microsoft and available for free.

Future Visions features contributions from: Elizabeth Bear, Greg Bear, David Brin, Nancy Kress, Ann Leckie, Jack McDevitt, Seanan McGuire, Robert J. Sawyer and a short graphic novel by Blue Delliquanti and Michele Rosenthal, plus original illustrations by Joey Camacho.

You can get it here:

Future Visions: Original Science Fiction Inspired by Microsoft

The notion of a wealthy company paying artists to produce works for “free” puts me in mind of classical artists who produced works on commission for nobility or the church, or who worked for a patron. Going forward, commissions might be a way digitally vulnerable artists could continue to make a living. Products produced by photographers, film makers, writers and musicians and other similar creatives are too easily stolen and distributed, producing no income for the artists. A commission model, on the other hand, would pay them up front. The company or individual would not care if the product was distributed free, because their intent is to reach as wide an audience as possible for publicity and good will.

We see this already with concerts partially sponsored by various producers, and athletics, particularly in golf and racing. I also think there’s a hint of it in miniature wargaming, where figure manufacturers are commissioning rules sets and in many cases giving away the digital versions.