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Sunday, 28 June 2015

Peter Laing - 15mm Miniatures

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? 
(Unpainted WW1 French )


  1. Nice to see some of those classic figures. I only ever bought a few PLs and they too were WW1. There was an article on WW1 gaming in Battle for Wargamers August 78 I think and that sold me on the idea. Thanks for posting the pics!

  2. Tim, lovely to see those old PL figures looking so good. I acquired a complete set of WW1 armies that I am gradually refurbishing. Like you I have been wondering where the moulds got to. If you interested in PL figures, drop me a line - there are a small but growing group of us who swap PL figures and exchange details of e-Bay spots etc.
    Andy,, I have that article if you want a copy
    Ian dot dury at hotmail dot co dot uk

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  4. Crikey its amazing who and what you find on the web, Hi Tim, it is you, I have a jeep somewhere and recently sold a load of buildings built for me by Mr Lovell :)

  5. I had tea and cakes with Peter but could not bring myself to buy the moulds:)I hope he is happy where ever he is, a gentleman,.

  6. Late 70's and I walk down into the basement of a games shop that had their board Wargames and figures downs stairs. On this occasion a table had been set up in the middle of the small room and there was a Napoleonic game on it with good old fashion true 15mm, which I suspect were PL as the shop sold them.

    The image is as clear to me today as it was then, it was one of the motivating moments. I had been using Airfix 1/72, poorly painted and home made terrain ..... This by contrast was lovely and it moved me on to a higher level with my gaming.

    thanks for posting these images, I enjoyed them.

    1. Thanks Norm. My 15mm ECW armies still have several bases of PL musketeers.....can't bring myself to replace them!

  7. Tim, John Mitchell passed away last week, the funeral is at Hereford on Wednesday. The remaining figures and moulds have passed to his daughter.

    1. Thanks for letting me know. I guess he was a good age?

      I wonder if those mounds will ever reappear?

  8. Hi Anonymous, my thanks as well, though sad news.
    I am slightly puzzled as I understood that John had sold al the moulds several years ago, see this link on 'The Miniatures Page'
    However, if some of them have gone to John's daughter and you have any contact with her, please let her know that there are a group of Peter Laing figure fans who would love to see the old figures available again. Tim has my contact details
    Ian M Dury

    1. Ian, I believe that as the figures went out of production that John bought everything back. Once everything has settled down, I understand that the family will be looking to dispose of his private collection, stock and moulds. I will post any update as I receive new information.
      Mick Stewart

    2. Hi Mick, just wondered if you had heard anything more yet?

    3. Mick - just wondered if you had heard any more news on the moulds and John's collection?

    4. Hi Mick - any more news on John's collection?

  9. Thanks Mick, if that is the case, there are a group of us who would be interested in buying stock, moulds, etc.
    I will wait to hear from you

  10. I'm also interested in completing a pair of WW1 armies that I have, should any spare figures emerge.

  11. Hello folks, if anyone has news or contact with anyone who has Peter's old moulds and casting equipment I am in a position to take them on. I also lived in Hereford in the 1970s and used to cycle over the Peter's place, have tea with him & buy figures. I always wanted to buy his business and continue the line. After years living & working abroad I am now home and am interested in this lovely range of figures if they can be found and putting them back in production.

    1. Hi Major, welcome back! I have seen your posts on the same subject on TMP and like you would love to hear on the moulds. The only recent news I have seen is that posted by 'Mick' in this thread.
      However, I and a friend did recently buy a lot of unpainted Laings on e-Bay that had apparently come from a house clearance. The mix was odd, to say the least - who would buy 50 of the Wellington figure, for instance? We wondered if they were from someone's stock (John's?), but the seller was unaware of any moulds having come from the clearance.
      Separately, I have now set up a Google+ community for PL collectors:

  12. Hi Ian,
    Thanks for that kind welcome, it's good to be back!
    I fear that tracking the range down may remain something of a challenge! However, I like to think the moulds are all sitting somewhere, neatly packed up in boxes waiting to be found. So, I will keep searching with a view to bringing them back into production.
    I have also given some thought to simply starting from scratch & producing my own ranges based on Peter's & in the same style; simple, 15mm wargames figures with muted detail, as Peter used to say, best suited to the wargames table en masse.
    But more of that later.
    In the meantime, thanks for the link to you blog, I'll take a look.
    All the best,