I was looking on the Internet the other day an saw several references to the figures of Peter Laing. Many were complementary of their charm and simplicity but inevitably there were the usual comments from some TrollGamers about them being the worst figures ever.
Personally, I remember the figures with nostalgia. They were the first metal figures I was able to afford, after all those years playing with Airfix polythene figures. They also introduced us all to the world of 15mm scale.......where would we be without that?
The first figures I purchased from Peter Laing were from his extensive WW1 range. I was about 14 at the time and a friend introduced me to the range. I think at the time infantry were about 4p each and cavalry 8p.
There used to be a 1/8th page advert in each month Military Modelling which usually covered an entire historical period from his range. I believe he had around 1000 items available which would put some of today's manufacturers to shame
Later, when I decided to buy a few more figures to increase my WW1 armies, I contacted Peter direct and went out to his house to collect them as he lived in a village just North of Hereford where I lived.
He was a dear old chap, probably in his 60's then, and took the time to show me his manufacturing process.
In those early days, the likes of Milliput and Green Stuff hadn't been dreamt up yet, and Peter's figures, horses Cannon etc. were nearly all carved from solid laminated plasticard. The wagon wheels etc. he made masters from brass - brazed or soldered together.
He showed me how he vulcanised rubber disk moulds as well as his centrifugal casting machine and then let me have a discount on the figures as there was no postage to pay.
I next had call to purchase some figures after Barry Lovell (of Timecast fame) introduced me to WW2 infantry action games at our local club. The rules were by Jim Webster (if I remember correctly) and they had been published in an early Miniature Wargaming magazine. The figures he used were from Peter Laing's WW2 range.
I purchased a 1:1 British company and a reinforced platoon worth of Germans as enemy. This range was ahead of its time and the figures surprisingly well thought through.
For each nationality (British, U.S. Or German) there was a sidearm equipped officer figure, a SMG armed NCO, an infantryman advancing with rifle at high port, an LMG and No.2 and a Light Mortar and No.2. Lovely figures, perfect for the task.
Sadly he didn't ever get around to producing MMGs or AT Weapons or indeed vehicles. I used the stokes mortar and Vickers MG from the WW1 range and scratch built PIATs and Panzerfausts for the Light Mortar guys to carry. I also scratch built MG34s on tripods and used WW1 helmeted crew figures.
This prompted me to try my hand a casting for the first time. I scratch built a jeep and M5 halftrack which I cast in white metal using Alec Tiranti Silicone moulds. I was very proud of these - even sold some to Mr. Lovell! So proud that I thought I'd take some to show Peter.
He loved them and added one of each to his display cabinet. Our conversation moved around new ideas and he shared with me a prototype 6 pounder antitank gun he'd just cast. I still have two in my collection. He also showed me a prototype A7V tank he'd built using sheet steel and brass rod. It was to be cast in two halves, spilt down the long dimension. Sadly these never appeared....
He also spoke of giving up and retiring, he and his wife were moving away. He asked if I'd be interested in buying him out, but sadly as a fairly poverty stricken 20 year old with a young family, this was never going to happen.
I later heard that he'd sold the moulds to John Mitchell who lived close by (Malvern I seem to remember). John had been buying figures from Peter for years and selling them as ready painted starter sets for wargamers with basic rules included.
I remember him with a stand at a militaria fair on the Three Counties Showground in the late 90's early 2000's selling the painted figures as collectors pieces.
Sadly I've no idea what happened to the moulds after that.
I've included some pictures from my WW1 armies for interest. They are a mixture of helmeted and early war figures and the pictures show pretty much all of them. I think I've one more Mark IV somewhere and two more Renault FT17s.
When I get a moment I'll put up some pictures of my WW2 figures, the 6pounder, jeep and half tracks.
Does anyone else still have some PL figures in their armies?