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Airfix

Set 01721

Sheriff of Nottingham

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All figures are supplied unpainted    (Numbers of each pose in brackets)
Stats
Date Released 1964
Contents 18 foot figures, 6 mounted figures and 6 horses
Poses 14 poses, 2 horse poses
Material Plastic (Medium Consistency)
Colours Grey, Silver
Average Height 22 mm (= 1.58 m)

Review

Airfix made a lot of sets based on fictional characters such as Robin Hood. Clearly they thought these were going to sell well as they tapped into an existing market, though in general most of these sets were amongst the first to be discontinued. The market for genuine historical figures proved to be much more resilient, so now there are so many sets of medieval fighters available we have to ask the question of what exactly are these figures good for?

The date of the first stories of Robin Hood is unknown, but he is mentioned in ballads dating from the fourteenth century. The legends may originally have been loosely based on one or more actual people - the name is common enough at the time - but some of the stories, and this set, tie themselves down to a much more specific time, for they mention King Richard I (1157-1199) and King John (1166-1216). So with the assumption that this set is depicting men from the late 12th century we can at least consider whether Airfix did a good job in depicting their subject, or at least the time frame that they are supposed to have lived in.

Right from the start things do not look good. Many of these figures wear plate armour, and one has a great helm, all of which are products of the 14th century, or at the earliest the late 13th. Knights and soldiers of Richard's day wore full mail with perhaps some padded jacket, and it is for this reason they they carried shields. Although some mail is certainly being worn here it is hard to know how much since there has been no attempt as texturing this to make it apparent - surfaces are smooth, giving them the appearance of plate. The original Airfix description of the set mentions the chapel-de-fer and bascinet helmets, but provides no other clues, though this claim along again points to a much later date than the 12th century. The mounted men seem to have more plate armour, and two of them, the first and second figures in the bottom row, are identified as the Sheriff of Nottingham and King Richard I himself. As we have said, however, this cannot possibly be Richard, or anyone of his era, so this looks like a case of Airfix using as their reference the fourteenth century, which is a style often found in feature films which inaccurately ascribe the 'classic' medieval look to a much wider period.

These figures are lacking a good deal of detail, and though they are anatomically reasonable there are some strange aspects to their design. Several of the footmen are carrying shields which seem to either cling to the upper arm or hang round the neck - certainly there is no attempt on the part of the man to grip them. Most of the swords are very thin, which means they are prone to bending, and in some cases are too short. The man holding an axe to his forehead is quite a poor pose, though several of them are not great designs anyway. Our example has a fair amount of flash, but this tends to vary a good deal between sets so is hard to generalize, but was probably never entirely clean.

Then there are the horses. Pretty simple affairs with high saddles and no housings, which is fine, but they fix to separate bases in the standard Airfix way, which is not. Very thin pegs on the hooves are supposed to slot into large and shallow holes in the thin bases. The holes are generally too big for the pegs, but even if they were properly engineered, such an arrangement could not hope to support the horse properly. The riders have a lot more plate armour, and so are even more obviously not from the late 12th century. Quite what the 'flag' affair being held by one man is we cannot know - it looks like an exaggerated lance pennon. Richard has been rendered in full white armour with a crown around his helmet - he never looked anything like this.

These were made as toys, and that is all they are. The vagueness about the subject, the poor build quality and lack of detail mean this is not a set that has much purpose in the modern market, and certainly not for the legend of Robin Hood. The Sheriff figure is of interest because it is so unusual, but other than that this is merely a curiosity from the early history of this hobby and serves little real purpose today apart from provoking happy nostalgic memories for those of a certain age.


Ratings

Historical Accuracy 5
Pose Quality 5
Pose Number 8
Sculpting 4
Mould 6

Further Reading
Books
"Armies and Enemies of the Crusades 1096-1291" - Wargames Research Group - Ian Heath - 9780904417081
"Armies of Feudal Europe 1066-1300" - Wargames Research Group - Ian Heath - 9780904417432
"Fighting Techniques Of The Medieval World" - Amber - Matthew Bennett - 9781906626624
"Medieval Military Costume" - Crowood (Europa Militaria Special Series No.8) - Gerry Embleton - 9781861263711
"The History of Armour 1100-1700" - Crowood - Paul Walker - 9781847974525
"Weapons and Fighting Techniques of the Medieval Warrior" - Amber - Martin Dougherty - 9781906626068
Magazines
"Military Illustrated" - No.32

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