Britains Deetail toy soldiers were a popular product for retail stores in England in the 1970s and 1980s. Manufactured in England by W. Britain, they were plastic figures on Zamak metal bases; an idea to keep the soldiers from falling down. In the early 1990s production moved to China.
In 1971 Britains began phasing out its plastic Herald Miniatures that had been produced in Hong Kong since 1966 with Hong Kong Herald ceasing operation in 1976. The new Deetail figures were moulded in PVC plastic rather than polythene that enabled separate arms could be glued on giving poses previously unavailable. The rectangular metal base that enabled the figures to stand better than other plastic figures paid homage to Britains' metal figures as well as being thought by consumers to be of "better value" due to the weight of the figures.
The first figures chosen for Deetail were World War II American and German soldiers. Sculptor Rod Cameron rented uniforms from Berman's and Nathan's theatrical costumes with Cameron giving model Les Harden his air rifle to pose with.
In 1976 Britains developed Super Deetail, an overmoulding process where different coloured plastics came together in one figure. The first of these were a set of modern paratroopers in red berets, though the first set of figures that included walking with a rifle and holding a light machine gun were redesigned into different poses.
Britains toy soldiers are still manufactured, but in different poses, colours, and qualities. Most Britains copies made today have plastic bases, and therefore weigh much less than the older ones.
Britains Deetail figures now range in price from about £3.50-£6.50 for figures (twice this amount if mounted), to about £12.50-£25.00 for vehicles. The ones that are more rare, such as the Afrika Korps Kubelwagen or the Napoleonic ones, usually bring even more than that.
- French - 3 French Line Infantry, 3 Imperial Guards, 6 Cavalry (2 Hussar, 2 Cuirassier & 2 Carabinier)
- British - 3 British Infantry, 3 Highland Infantry, 6 Cavalry (2 Hussar, 2 Scots Grey & 2 Life Guards)
- Knights of the Sword
- Robin Hood
French Foreign Legion (1900)
6 infantry, 6 cavalry and a gatling gun
6 infantry and 6 cavalry
US Cavalry (1880s)
6 infantry which includes a Custer figure and 6 cavalry
6 foot warriors and 6 mounted warriors
7 foot warriors and 6 mounted warriors Note: one figure was discontinued and a brand new pose was created because it was easier to manufacture. The older pose came with a separate spear and the new one has no additional parts but holds an axe and a pistol.
6 foot warriors and 6 mounted warriors
6 or more foot figures and 6 mounted poses
World War II
- US GI's (6 Infantry, Willys Jeep w/ 2 man crew, Assault craft w/ 2 man crew)
Series Manufactured 1971-1980
- US GI's (6 Infantry, Recoilless Rifle w/ 2 man crew, Motorcycle w/ dispatch rider, howitzer)
Series Manufactured 1980-1989
- German Wehrmacht (12 Infantry, Mortar w/ 2 man crew, Motorcycle w/ dispatch rider, Motorcycle w/ sidecar - armed w/MG, Kettenkrad w/ 2 men, Kubelwagen w/ 2 men - armed w/MG, PAK 40)
German Wehrmacht infantry
The German infantry were produced in 2 series all with the Wehrmacht insignia stickers on their helmets.
1st Series Manufactured 1971-1989
Six figures which initially had yellow/brown bases, 1974 onwards saw them fixed to the more familiar green base. The poses are kneeling with MG34, charging with fixed bayonet, standing throwing grenade, standing firing rifle, advancing firing MP40, carrying a Panzerbüchse anti-tank gun and ammo box.
2nd Series Manufactured 1977-1989
Another six new figures were added in 1977 making the total number of poses 12. The poses are officer, radio operator, kneeling firing rifle, marching with rifle at slope (copyright 1977), flamethrower, carrying Panzerbüchse anti-tank gun across body. Both series remained in production until 1989. Some collections contain an additional 2 figures being those from the mortar team on single bases, these are used with the Pak field gun.
|Pak gun crew||Mortar crew||Pak anti tank gun|
- German Afrika Korps (6 Infantry, Motorcycle w/Dispatch Rider), Motorcycle w/sidecar, 2 crew - armed w/MG, Kubelwagen w/2 crew - armed w/MG
- British ETO (6 Infantry, Mortar w/ 2 man crew, Motorcycle w/ dispatch rider, Daimler Scout car w/ 2 man crew, 17 lb AT gun, 25 lb AT gun, Assault boat w/ 2 man crew)
Series Manufactured 1973-1989
- British Desert Rats 8th Army (6 Infantry, Vickers machine gun w/2 crew, Daimler Scout car w/2 crew)
- Japanese Army (6 Infantry, Recoilless Rifle w/ 2 man crew)
American Civil War
Series Manufactured 1972-1980
Series Manufactured 1972-1980 Figures for both Federals and Confederates are exactly the same just molded and painted in different colours. The original advancing pose was discontinued and a new advancing pose was created without the detachable arm and no bayonet.
Cowboys & Indians
Part of the Space range launched in 1981, the figures were a small part of an extensive range of fictional spacecraft. The die-cast base of the figures was detachable, to allow the figures to be plugged onto the space craft in various positions. The interconnection of parts was a major feature of the range in general and pre-dated some modern aspects of Lego. A patent was granted for this feature, along with one for the gyroscopic cabin/wheel of the first spacecraft. The figures also had detachable clear helmets and various laser devices, blasters and scientific instruments. Initially the two opposing sides were moulded in bright yellow and green, along with their vehicles. The young designer (Stephen Dear) was influenced by the works of Chris Foss, who's lavish highly coloured covers graced many science fiction books of the time. Figure painting was limited to the head with silver labels applied to their chests. Both male and female astronauts were present in the ranks of the opposing sides in an attempt to make the range a little less boy-orientated. In a re-branding exercise a couple of years later, the renamed Star System figures were moulded in white and black, largely due to the on-going Star Wars influence at the time. The range ran for about four years and broadly the figures sets were:
- p.121 Cole, Peter Suspended Animation: An Unauthorised History of Herald & Britains Plastic Figures 1997 Plastic Warrior
- p.123 Ibid
- p.124 Ibid
- Pullen, David Britains Toy Model Catalogues 1970 to 1979 Veloce (July 15, 2010)