17 May 2012
Mike Blake Takes a Look at the History of Toy Soldier Company, Tradition ...
This long established British toy soldier company goes back to the 1950s, when Roy Belmont Maitland started it as Norman Newton Ltd. Initially it produced unique 54mm animated figures in a range of custom-made poses to customers’ exact requirements.
Charles C Stadden, the renowned sculptor and artist, created these pieces and later added an extensive range of 30mm and 90mm figures. Over the years the ranges available have been continually expanded with the masters being sculpted by some of the best in the business. Talented sculptors like Jeff Willis, Ron Cameron, Alan Caton, Clive Knight, David Scheinmann and Andrew Stadden have all worked with Tradition.
In 1980 the toy soldier range was introduced, sculpted by David Scheinmann. From quite modest beginnings it has expanded into an extensive coverage of varied popular subjects along with periods of military history.
Tradition’s new website shows the wide range now available. Not only does it feature Tradition’s own sets of painted figures and castings, but a host of other makers too, in a number of scales:
54mm model soldiers, 90mm model soldiers, 110mm model soldiers, 54mm squadron range, miscellaneous figures, Christmas set 54mm, king and country, William Britain, Tradition Scandinavia, 25mm Tradition, 30mm Tradition, 30mm Willie, 30mm Clive Night and 30mm Holger Erikson. There are even books, magazines and model aircraft.
The 30mm Clive Night wargame series covers all the main protagonists. While intended as wargame figures, they lend themselves well to dioramas because of the wide variety of poses and ease of conversion. Included in the range, among many other varied subjects, are British Middle East forces, American expeditionary force, German cavalry and British pilots.
The 54mm toy soldiers cover a huge range of periods and subjects too numerous too list here but it does include medieval mounted knights, Napoleonic Royal Marines and present day British police forces. There are even models of famous fictional characters such as Sherlock Holmes and his erstwhile companion Dr. Watson along with historical figures including King Henry VIII.
New sets continue to be added, and old ones retired. Toy Figure Focus in Collector’s Gazette features the fresh arrivals on a regular basis and it is unusual not to see something new every month.
Around 1964 the company started publishing a ground-breaking, glossy colour military uniforms and history magazine under the title Tradition, and following the success of the magazine the model soldier range and shop were renamed to match. Many leading military authors and artists, past and present contributed to Tradition magazine, which ceased publication in 1974. Despite this there are still some copies for sale that are well worth a look because they contain top class articles and research, plus some stunning illustrations. Many of the covers are worth framing as military prints in their own right!
Tradition is one of the few makers and retailers to still have a high street shop, which is based in London. As such it is a must-see for any collector visiting the capital because it is a veritable Aladdin’s Cave! Packed with toy soldiers and military miniatures of every kind, it overwhelms with its wonder – and it seems like the Tardis too, larger on the inside than the outside suggests.