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Airfix

Set 01702

Guards Colour Party

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All figures are supplied unpainted    (Numbers of each pose in brackets)
Stats
Date Released 1960
Contents 40 figures, 2 sentry boxes
Poses 4 poses
Material Plastic (Medium Consistency)
Colours Red, Cream, White
Average Height 23 mm (= 1.66 m)

Review

The image of British Guards in their tall bearskins and red coats parading in London is familiar to everyone, and has been a popular subject for toy soldiers for many decades. Some manufacturers such as Timpo even made such men in more combat poses – firing their rifle – which might have appealed to a child looking for more action, but seems incongruous to most. When Airfix began making figures, of which this set was one of the first, they were meant to complement their ‘OO/HO’ scale railway range, so although this is a military subject, it is very much in a peacetime mode. However the market quickly developed into one modelling war scenarios, so that even today, well over half a century after this set was produced, it remains one of the relatively few sets that show people away from any form of military campaign.

This would certainly have been a cheap set to sculpt as there are only four poses plus the sentry box, but since it depicts a British Foot Guards colour party on parade in full dress, the four poses pretty much deliver all you would want. We find a sentry presenting arms, an officer with sword drawn, a colour-bearer and, filling most of the box, a marching figure with sloped arms. Other useful poses such as a man on guard duty would have been a nice addition, particularly as a sentry box was included, but we had to make do with the four we have here.

As with all the early Airfix sets, the sculpting quality is poor by today's standards, and this was one of those sets that were never retooled. So even though the uniforms are quite simple, detail is not good, with the faces being largely featureless surfaces with a nose in the middle and the hands being no more than blobs. On such figures the only feature distinguishing different regiments would be the arrangement of buttons on the tunic, but here buttons are missing entirely, even on the officer, who directly faces the mould. Having most of the figures side-on to the mould makes matters worse, but the officer or RSM shows that good detail was never a prospect, although we liked his simple strip of medals on his chest. The rifle carried by the soldiers, which should be the L1A1, is here no more than a length of plastic devoid of any features, which you have to imagine as a firearm. Flash is not too bad, but some areas have a good deal of excess plastic, especially the colour-bearer, which is basically a pose that cannot be well-made except with more than one part. Finally, all figures have mould marks at various points. This is a feature of older figures that you never see today, but it means more careful carving to clean up the model.

The full dress uniform is simple enough, and dates back to the 1850s, with only very minor changes since then. So the uniform is accurate for the date of manufacture, 1960, and indeed it is still largely accurate today, given the simplistic nature of these figures. The size of the bearskin looks good, so there are no real accuracy problems here. What has changed since the 1960s of course is the rifle, but with such a crude rendition it really makes no difference what type was intended or desired.

The design of the sentry box must have been equally easy to research as these were standing in the streets of London at the time, and indeed boxes of this design are still to be seen there today, so this too is an accurate model. However, like the men, it lacks a lot of detail, being featureless round the side and back, with only the front having the necessary detail. The front part is a separate piece that fits onto the ‘box’ of the other three sides, making for a more realistic model, although still one that only looks decent from the front.

Having long been out of production, it might seem that few people are going to be queuing up to buy this set even if it was in the shops today, yet in 2024 Airfix announced its rerelease, so it will be interesting to see its performance. At this scale it has no real rivals, yet it is not the kind of subject that usually attracts a lot of sales from enthusiasts today, and since the rerelease is not a new tooling, the poor standard of sculpting will make it a hard sell. It is not a set that compares well with modern standards, but still, many older hobbyists will fondly remember their childhood when these figures provided hours of harmless amusement as they attempted to form them in neat rows and blocks on living room carpets.


Ratings

Historical Accuracy 10
Pose Quality 10
Pose Number 10
Sculpting 5
Mould 6

Further Reading
Books
"The Coldstream Guards" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.49) - Charles Grant - 9780850450576
"The Grenadier Guards" - Osprey (Men-at-Arms Series No.73) - David Fraser - 9780850452846
"The Guards" - Windrow & Greene (Europa Militaria Series No.20) - Simon Dunstan - 9781859150627
"Uniforms of the Foot Guards: From 1661 to the Present Day" - Pompadour Gallery - W Carman - 9780951934210
Magazines
"Regiment (The Grenadier Guards)" - No.4

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