Thursday, March 26, 2015

Standard Toy Soldier Poses: Parade and Marching Men

My grandmother kept a shoebox full of toy soldiers in the living room. Boys played with them when they visited. There was various army men in different shades of olive drab, a couple of Indians, some cowboys and a few other odd pieces. My cousin was a very small boy at the time. He loved to open the box of soldiers and line up all the marching men. That would amuse him for hours.

Those of us who spent seemingly endless hours marching the parade fields of Fort Dix and similar places know it all too well, Whether marching unarmed or under arms, it was part of military life. And for those of us who belong to veteran’s organizations now, the old marching skills get put to work on Memorial Day and July 4th and Veterans’ Day. Some groups march unarmed, some with rifles, and almost all have a few flags at the front.

Marching has been used by military forces ever since someone discovered that it was the easiest way to move troops with the assurance they would all arrive together. The sharp turning maneuvers were useful for controlling units of troops in battle when men fought in close formations. A side benefit was that marching taught endurance and discipline.

Part of marching was the manual of arms, a set of precise movements for both armed and unarmed drill. There were different ways to hold the rifle, to change direction, and to stand in formation. The same goes for cavalry. Marching, parade and the manual of arms were adapted to horse riders. Naturally, these appealed to the makers of toy soldiers. Sets of brightly-painted parade figures made their appearance. The old makers of flats designed everything from the ancient Egyptians on parade to the latest armies of the day. Parade poses are common in the metal figure sets. Collectors of the regiments of various armies favor them.

Over time, armies went three ways when it came to uniforms. They had a combat uniform for fighting, a fatigue uniform for work details, and a parade uniform for drill and ceremonies. Of them all, the latter was considered formal and therefore was more ornate than the others. Miniatures of armies in parade dress
has been an aspect of the toy soldier hobby that has a large following.

Of course, this was not limited to metal figures. Herald produced its sets of British Guardsmen. including the red-coated Coldstream Guards in Busbys and the Horse Guards in curaiss and shiny helmet. Britains made many sets of parade units in vinyl, including regular marchers and bands. Things went a different way with army men sold by the bag. A few men in marching poses might be included, but most of the figures were in action poses. A boy might need two or three bags to have enough marchers to fill a squad.


I remember when the Airfix HO / OO soldiers were first introduced to my neighborhood half a century ago. There were German infantry, an Allied Infantry Combat Group and a handful of others. Among them were Coldstream Guards in red and a Guards "Colour Party" in a pinkish color. We called them "parade men." Back then, they were less desirable than a case of Minesweepers and Dead Guys.

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