A model business for John

John Allen and some of his models
John Allen and some of his models

A Banchory grandfather has formed his own model figure business after semi-retiring from his job as a health and safety expert.

John Allen has been a wargamer hobbyist for 40 years and in that time has collected and painted many armies of precision model figures covering historical periods from the Middle Ages to modern times.

However, it was the absence of one particular period which inspired John to create his own business last year.

He said: “In 2006 a friend and I decided to put on a display game at an exhibition, recreating the British and French invasion of Suez which was coming up to its fiftieth anniversary. We were amazed to find there were very few figures available for this period.

“In fact research showed that in the whole period from 1950 to 1982 - from the Korean War until the Falklands - that no one was manufacturing British troops or the various adversaries they faced during Britain’s retreat from Empire.

“During that period Britain fought almost continuous wars in Malaya, Cyprus, Aden, Oman, Borneo, Kenya and other places worldwide. Not only is all of this within living memory, the fathers of many people of my generation, often National Servicemen, were in the frontline for these conflicts. It seems a shame to me that their efforts are not more widely known and appreciated.

“So last year I formed a new company to manufacture figures for that period - Commando Miniatures.”

The miniatures measure 28mm from foot to eye, in model terms approximately equivalent to 1/56 scale. John starts with historical research and designs the figure, ensuring that he gets uniform, weapons and equipment correct.

He then passes a detailed specification to a skilled miniature sculptor who produces what is known as a “green” - a master from which the metal figures are cast.

The whole process can take several months as it can be tricky to find out what works in 28mm scale and is often a matter of hit and miss.

John has set his sights on recreating figures for a number of key battles throughout the 1960s.

“In the short term the aim is to produce a range of miniatures for the Confrontation with Indonesia and the Emergency in Aden, two conflicts which more or less ran concurrently from 1962-67,” he said.

“However I’m also interested in France’s de-colonisation experience, so a range of figures for Indo-China and Algeria is also planned, which will allow me to produce some figures for my favourite military formation, the Foreign Legion.

“One amazing gap was the lack of a Land Rover. No other company produces a Series One Land Rover in this scale, yet it was one of the most widely used military vehicles in the world from 1950 until 1970. It is now available, and I plan to produce more vehicles of this era.”

The range of figures and vehicles was launched at the Salute wargaming exhibition in London last month and were very well received.

John said: “I lost count of the number of people who said they couldn’t understand why this period hadn’t been covered sooner.”

The miniatures will also be displayed for sale at shows in Falkirk, Durham and Edinburgh later this year as well as online.

John says that he could not have started the business without a lot of help and support.

“A friend of mine, Sholto Humphries, has run a miniatures company for many years and he has been my guiding light, putting me in touch with trade specialists.

“I also have to mention Liz, my wife, not only for putting up with a houseful of “wee men” over the years but at the same time encouraging me in my endeavour. Like the wives of most men with obsessional hobbies, the phrase long-suffering, could have been invented for her!”

Visit www.commandominiatures.com for further information.