Sunday, 10 April 2016

Wargaming Nostalgia – Hinton Hunt

Hinton Hunt shop in Camden Passage

The last section of “Charge, or how to play Wargames” has an appendix of model soldier manufacturers and magazines.   Back in 1969 it was normal to include the price of figures, even in a hard back book.   I remember that there were two options within my very limited budget.  

The first was Spencer Smith, who sold 30mm plastic figures in bags.   I rang the telephone number and was disappointed to discover that he had gone out of business.   I believe that his figures were reissued some years later, but too late for me.

The second was Hinton Hunt.  They were available form a shop in Camden Passage in London.   We lived in Benfleet at the time, which is a short train journey from London.   The next Saturday we set off to see what was on offer.

But first I would have to do some research.  In those innocent days before the internet this was a difficult and lengthy process.  If you had a small budget, as I did, it was often confined to the local library.  

Fortunately my garrison library was well supplied with military, sport and hobby books.   I borrowed a book called “Wargames” by Don Featherstone.   It contained a mass of information and confirmed that the most popular scale for model soldiers was 20mm and one the most popular periods were Ancient, ACW and Napoleonic.   Napoleonic uniforms were the closest to those illustrated in “Charge”, so I opted for them.

It also confirmed that the two main manufacturers of wargame figures was Hinton Hunt and Airfix.   At that time Airfix (of which more later) only had Highlanders and French Cuirassiers.
Sample of Hinton Hunt Figures

I remember the shop as being very small, and packed with 54mm model soldiers and militaria.   It seemed to be aimed at the tourist market, certainly well above my very limited budget.  

I asked about the Napoleonic 20mm figures and he produced half a dozen wooden trays with compartments.   Each compartment packed with shiny metal figures.   To my inexperienced eye they looked great.  In fact they were very poor by todays standards.  The detail was not great and each figure had a lot of flash (excess metal).   Each base has a chunk, which would have to be filed off before the figure would stand.   Between legs and arms was often a solid block of metal.   All of this had to be removed using a file before the figure could be undercoated and painted.

I had no idea what type or quantity of figures I should buy.   But I did know that I needed French infantry and British cavalry, to complement the Airfix British infantry and French cavalry.  So I came away with an odd collection of British infantry, Scots Greys and Royal Horse Artillery.   I also bought a handful of French guard grenadiers and Polish lancers, just because they looked so good.

This was the first of many visits to Camden Passage, and over the next four or five years I would build up a considerable collection of Hinton Hunt figures.

Sample of Hinton Hunt Painting Instructions

I also bought painting instructions for each of my figures.   These were hand typed on thin paper using carbons to produce four or five copies at a time.   This was the only uniform details I could find, even in the garrison library.
The next night I sat down to paint my first wargame figures.  It was an occupation that would keep me busy for the next 30 odd years.


Steve-the-Wargamer said...

Lovely back story.. more please.. I was starting in the hobby at around the same time and used to love coming up to tour the wargaming ships in London!

thistlebarrow said...

Hi Steve

Glad you are enjoying it. I have had good fun researching the web for photos, dates etc. Life seemed much more simple back then, or perhaps we were just younger. You had to go to so much more trouble then to research that it was really rewarding when you actually got your hands on the figures. Plenty more to come, hope you continue to enjoy it