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Toy Soldier Collector King & Country ‘Down Under’
King & Country ‘Down Under’

John O’Brien gives an insight into King & Country’s recent trip to Australia and the new Australian themed figures the company is about to release

There has been a rumor for some time that King and Country was planning to expand its World War One range of miniatures to include some Australian Forces. The debate going around was whether it would be Gallipoli, the abortive invasion of Turkey in 1915, the Western Front or the Middle East Desert Campaign, any of which would be a battlefield worthy of coverage for us collectors.

In late July, Andy Neilson, Co-Founder of K&C along with Helen Mok Sargent, K&C’s Managing Director, unveiled the new range on their promotional tour to the Eastern States of Australia. The good news is that the famous Light Horse Charge at Beersheba in Palestine on October 31, 1917 is the chosen subject matter, and the first batch of figures (due to be available later this year) will be seven Light Horsemen of the 4th Light Horse Brigade.

Resin Masters of the figures were brought on the whirlwind trip of Australia to show to collectors and they depict the troopers charging at full gallop, some with bayonets (because they didn’t carry swords), some with rifles, an officer firing his pistol, a bugler, a standard bearer and a dismounted trooper whose horse has been shot away from under him. One Turkish machine gunner was also on display, with the promise of another six defenders to come in the near future.

Andy and Helen were on a ‘meet the collectors’ and promotional tour when I met up with them in Canberra, after they had already spent a few days in Queensland as the guest of Brett Williams of The Military Workshop. Whilst with Brett, Andy and Helen went along to the History Alive event (a well established re-enactment show), had store meetings and a special collectors’ dinner held on the evening of Saturday July 25, 2009, at the Returned Services League Club in Brisbane.

In Canberra Andy was amazed by the exhibits on show at the Australian War Memorial, one of the world’s great war museums, and was very interested in the uniform details on the Light Horseman. Of course as you would expect from a company best known for its WWII ranges Andy was also kept busy taking careful notes whilst looking around the WWII exhibits. On the tour he was joined by some other collectors who had travelled to Canberra to meet Andy and stay on for an informal dinner at a local Indian restaurant on the evening of Monday July 27, 2009. During the meal Andy explained the company’s enthusiasm for producing this new range, as well as answering collector’s questions.

The following day Andy’s enthusiasm for artifacts and exhibitions was totally surpassed when we visited the Australian War Memorial Annex, the place where they store and restore all the artifacts they cannot put on display in the main Museum. We viewed a Mk4 WWI female Tank followed by an 18 Pounder QF Field Gun and then as we went further into the vast warehouse more and more equipment was seen ranging from a Douglas C47 Dakota aircraft, at least 50 artillery pieces, three WWI transport trucks, a V2 rocket and more. In another warehouse there were about 30 vehicles including a WWII Volkswagen Kübelwagen, two Centurion Tanks, an M113 APC and even more artillery. Andy was like a kid in a sweetshop on seeing all of this original equipment, and I’m sure is now planning more new figures and vehicles for future release.

After a short flight to Sydney Andy and Helen were the guest of Peter Nathan who has the largest toy soldier shop in Australia, and Peter had arranged store meetings and signings as well as another ‘meet the collectors’ dinner, this time in the historical Officer’s Mess at Victoria Barracks, Paddington on the evening of Wednesday July 29, 2009, where again Andy and Helen conversed with more eager collectors and showed the masters of the new Light Horsemen. One of the invited guests was a well-known face in Australia (and around the world), Mark Lee, Mel Gibson’s co-star in the movie Gallipoli, where he played the part of Archy Hamilton, a trooper of 10th Light Horse who was cut down during the charge at The Nek, on Gallipoli. A great night was had by all with a lively question and answer session with Andy fielding many requests for future figures to add to the range.

I am sure that this visit by Andy and Helen to Australia has given them both a greater understanding of the depth of commitment of collectors in Australia as well as a better understanding of the military history of this country, which thanks to K&C is now being brought into world focus with the upcoming release of this new range. If the reaction on seeing the masters on the Australian tour is anything to go by then they will be a great seller.

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