1940 Coldstream Guardsman 12 inch Figure

Another amazing model by Tony Barton:

Coldstream Guardsman, Sidi Barrani , Dec. 1940. by Tony Barton

At the end of 1940 , the British were at their lowest ebb : defeated in France in May by the Germans, desperately trying to reconstruct and equip an Army to face German invasion, and fighting the Luftwaffe daily at the height of the Battle of Britain.

The Duce Mussolini, seeing his opportunity , declared war on Britain on the 10th of June, and demanded that his army in Libya invade Egypt .
This vast Army, officially 300,000 strong , commanded by the sensibly reluctant Graziani, finally moved on the 13th September, marching 60,000 men in formation across the Libyan/Egyptian border , advancing about sixty miles .

It then outran its supplies. Graziani had a major problem : his army was only partly mechanised, and that in trucks with very limited cross-country abilities.

Everything needed, including water , had to come along the vulnerable coast road, which was constantly attacked by the RAF and the armoured cars of the 11th Hussars.

Graziani’s army promptly sat down and built a series of fortified camps, which were very sophisticated , but their immobile nature made them more suited to fighting natives than the British Army .

The end result was total disaster for the Italians. The British Army in Egypt was under the overall command of Gen.Wavell , who was GOC of the whole of the Middle East and East Africa. The troops available to resist the Italians were known as the Western Desert Force, small , but completely mechanised, and well acclimatised to operating in desert conditions.

It screened and harassed the Italians whilst a counter-offensive was planned, which was launched on the 7 December.

Led by one of the greatest British generals of the war, Richard O’Connor , the WDF of 32,000 men smashed the Italians in a text-book battle of encirclement.

British , Indian and New Zealand troops were all involved, with the shock element provided by 50 Matilda Mk.II tanks of the RTR , against which the Italians had no answer, and the 6th Australian Infantry Division, of which the same might be said.

By 7th February the WDF had captured almost the whole of Libya , along with 130,000 prisoners, 22 generals, 845 guns and 380 tanks. The Italian debacle was not so much because they didn’t fight (a slander much repeated then and since) but that they were completely outmanoeuvred , with large numbers of men left waterless, and with no transport in the desert. It became a matter of surrender or die of thirst.

What happened next became a British disaster in turn. Rather than allowing the WDF to capitalise on their victory and capture the whole of Libya , thus throwing the Italians out of Africa entirely, Churchill insisted on the troops being sent to Greece to prop up a lost cause. The Italians were thus able to land the DAK to prop up their position… which is another story.


This figure , based on a Mike Chappell plate, represents the 3rd Btn. Coldstream Guards, who were chiefly involved as the Motorised Infantry element of the reconnaissance and harassing force (“Selbyforce”) before the main offensive began, inflicting heavy casualties in hit and run raids well before the Italians moved across the border. They were later part of the garrison of Mersa Matruh.

I didn’t have a figure in my collection in the characteristic “woolypully” (BBI - very good) used for so long in the British Army, so he was a perfect choice. The winter in the desert can be very cold, and he would also have a greatcoat on his truck. The scarf was made from an old sock .
The use of the SD cap was a privilege of the Guards , giving him a faintly Great War appearance.

This is the recent DML MP version , breathed on to give it a more accurate shape and detail. Remove the top stiffener, repaint the whole thing to give it a better texture , and add the fiddly little leather strap. He also carries a helmet.

On the cap he has a pair of celluloid anti-gas goggles to keep out the dust when underway. This style was afterwards popularised by one E.Rommel…..

There was genuine fear of gas being used at this stage of the war . The Italians were known to have stocks which they had used in Ethiopia , so troops all carried respirators , worn slung in this case in the satchel Mk.VI. I’ve made this from the SST (Side Show Toys)Great War model bag , with a new and complicated strap.

The ’37 web equipment is otherwise conventional, and scratchbuilt with scale buckles and tape , using the DML items but replacing all the straps and buckles..

Boots , hosetops and short puttees , these last sewn up from khaki brushed cotton.
The shirt and shorts are DML “ Reggie”. I pressed the shorts… well , he is a Guardsman….


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