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This site is dedicated to metal 20mm figures from the early years of British table-top wargaming. Some of the companies featured such as Rose produced figures over a period of three decades or more, others like Douglas for just a few years. One or two ranges are still being manufactured, but most are out of production and in some cases have been since the early seventies.

At the very start of what we might think of as modern wargaming 30mm was the preferred size. The first range of figures ever produced specifically with the wargamer in mind was a 30mm Peninsular War selection issued by Groves and Benoy in the 1940s. These figures slotted into specially produced copper multiple bases — the first figure stands we have heard of.

Though Holger Eriksson, Jack Scruby and Charles Stadden soon followed Grove and Benoy’s lead, the popularity of the Airfix range and the ready availability of model railway scenery in the scale quickly saw HO/OO supplant the larger figure in gamers’ affections and 20mm became the dominant scale for most of the 1960s.

The change over to 25mm was begun by Peter Gilder and Hinchliffe in 1969 and took off in earnest in 1973/74 when Garrison, Lamming, Minifigs and Warrior all jettisoned earlier, smaller figures in favour of redesigned larger, chunkier models. By 1980 20mm soldiers were the dinosaurs of the wargaming world, with only Jack Alexander of Jacklex working to preserve them from total extinction.

Figure size is a cause of huge debate often calling to mind the words of Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty when he said that, "Words mean what I want them to mean". In the 1960s 20mm meant what the designers wanted it to mean much as 25mm or 28mm does today. All the figures featured on this site with the exception of Charles C Stadden’s one-inch range were originally described as 20mm by the designers even though none of them, with the possible exception of John Niblett and Les Higgins’ output, actually were. We have taken the designers’ word as our guiding principle.

Both of us began gaming in the era of 20mm. The first metal figures we ever owned were respectively Minifigs ‘S’ range and Douglas Miniatures Napoleonic French Imperial Guardsmen. Part of the motivation for producing this site is therefore pure nostalgia — we wanted to conjure up the early days of wargaming: of Plaka paints, Deltorama buildings, saving throws and trees made by painting pinecones green. But that is not all there is to it. We feel that these early figures are as worthy of attention as the efforts of Britains, Johilco and the like (Certainly many were designed long before a lot of the "vintage" models that are now traded for vast sums on internet) and we wanted to broadcast that message.

On the cover of the 1964 Hinton Hunt catalogue there is a short dedication by Marcus Hinton that reads:

Our tribute to the heroic past
Is its armies in miniature today

Vintage20Mil is our tribute to the men who designed those miniature armies

Vintage20Mil concentrates only on metal figures not because of any prejudice on our part against plastics (well, not much anyway) but because that subject is dealt with brilliantly by Plastic Warrior magazine.

We only feature figures that cover the period up until the end of the Second Boer War because 20mm or 1/72nd scale remains the preferred scale for gamers of later eras and because neither of us has any interest in warfare of the mechanized age.

Our focus is primarily on UK designers and makers because these are the figures we grew up with. We have tried to run brief features in our round-up sections on early or obsolete North American and European figure companies.

Vintage20Mil began life as a fairly simple idea. We thought it would be a good way to meet other like-minded individuals and get our hands on those figures that are missing from our collections or are needed to complete unfinished armies. Since then it has grown and grown almost as rapidly as our figure collections.

Yet despite that Vintage20Mil is still very much a work in progress. We know there are gaps in the figure listings. We know, for instance, that the Minifigs 20mm range included Ancients, Medieval and English Civil War ranges, but haven’t been able to find a complete listing of any of them, that the ‘S’ range list is probably not complete; that our Hinton Hunt list is missing various Ancient figures, that Lamming produced a 20mm Seven Years War range the details of which have totally eluded us and that some of the company histories are sketchy at best. We would, therefore, be delighted to hear from anyone who can supply more information, correct inaccuracies, put us in touch with people who worked for the featured manufacturers, or simply wants to add one more crazy rumour to the "I know what really happened to the Hinton Hunt moulds" pile.

As well as scouring old issues of Airfix magazine, Military Modelling, Scale Models, Modelworld, Wargamer’s Newsletter and Miniature Warfare, consulting the back issues of Armchair General and Wargames Digest on Magweb, and studying The Courier’s excellent "Timeline" we have also consulted a number of books. Notable amongst them are: John G. Garratt’s Model Soldiers — A Collector’s Guide (1964 edition), Collecting Model Soldiers and The World Encyclopaedia of Model Soldiers; The Wargame, The Ancient Wargame and Napoleonic Wargaming by Charles Grant; Don Featherstone’s Handbook For Model Soldier Collectors; Scale Model Soldiers by Roy Dilley; WY Carman’s Model Soldiers and George Gush’s A Guide To Wargaming.

Now here’s the Oscars bit. Vintage20Mil would not have been possibly without the help of a number of people who have generously supplied us with information, photocopies, figures and the odd unprintable anecdote about Marcus Hinton. Our thanks then to Jack Alexander, Paul Ashton, Stuart Asquith, Pete Bateman, Derek Bolton, Roy Boss, Martin Brady, John Cunningham, Paul Dennison, Neville Dickinson, Andy Dumelow, Geoff Eyles, John and Penny Fabb, Don Featherstone, George Hanger, Steve Hare, Marie Johnston, Colonel Anders Lindstrom, Brian Marlow, Sam Murray, Clive Norman, Clive Osborne, Tim Richards, Cameron Robinson, James Scudieri, Trevor Halsall, Steve Thompson, John Tuckey, John Tunstill, Tony Wade, Sean Wenlock, Charles Wesencraft and Terry Wise.


  French Napoleonic Voltigeurs by Douglas Miniatures  
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The site has been created by Richard Black and Harry Pearson