Return to 'Scouting Milestones' links
'Lead' Jamboree

I have been a collector of old toys now for over forty years, and have for most of that time active as a toy 'dealer' attending many of the UK's top toy fairs. My two obsessions collide head-on in this Milestone and its 'sister article' Scout Toys and Games.

Many of the figures that you are about to see are extremely rare and, as a rule, can only be purchased these days from toy fairs, one at a time - that is if I, or any of the other dealers, didn't snap it up before members of the public were allowed in! The 'Lead Jamboree' is the labour of many years searching and I trust my readers will not think it immodest of me to say that I don't think another such has ever been assembled. It is usually housed in one glass-topped case as an entire 'jamboree', but for sake of better photographs, some of the contingents have been given a breath of fresh air!

Soapbox Racers

THESE Charben's sets were made in the two colours you see here and both are very rare. This image with both examples side by side is probably unique. Each set came with three figures, the driver, the pusher and a cheerer-on. The brown-topped Cubs must have an advantage, as they have two cheerers-on!

Scout Soapbox Derbies were are a long-standing feature of both US and British Scouting with regional heats and national finals. In reality carts for the British Competitions have to be self-propelled, normally by using by pedals and chains, where as the American versions are free-wheeling 'down-hillers'. The Charbens' go-cart sets were produced before the Second World War.

Up the tree

UP above the trek cart in the tree is a Britain's Scout in U.S. 'drab' with an axe - you will see his hand has been formed to grasp the branch. He is not the only Britain's Scout without a conventional rectangular flat lead base, a standing 'far-seeing' scout, is behind the gate 'saluting' the latest arrivals to the lead Jamboree.

Also in the tree is a Wolf Cub who is welcoming the new arrivals. Who is he? Well I doubt he was sold as a Cub. He was made Jo Hill and Co, (sometimes called Johillco) and designed to sit on one end of a see-saw, but he looks like a Wolf Cub to me!

The Scout pulling the trek cart has had his hands made to accommodate the shafts of the cart which is just like the one I once pushed to camp!

Britain's Box MENTION has already been made of the Britains' trek cart and tree. These were part of a large set of Scout figures, the largest ever made with some 48 pieces. The doubled-layered box, variously described as the 'Boys Scouts Encampment' or 'Boy Scouts Display' is featured opposite. This very rare set sold prewar - probably pre-First World War until the early 1950's. Some of the pieces such as the trees and the interlocking fences were part of the Britains' famous farm series. The tree with gate particularly is a beautiful and fascinating item as it uses various notches and projections along its boughs to provide a platform for the standing Scout with axe, or the standing 'far-seeing' Scouts. Their feet fitted under boughs and the cupped hand on the swinging arm steadied the figure on the bough above. (The piece also provided the anchor for a swing, but this was obviously not part of the Scout Set)

The trek cart faithfully followed an original real-life Scout design and is a wonderful piece casting. The four side pieces could be demounted from the cart to serve as ladders. The trek cart was pulled by yet another unique Britains' figure a Scout, slightly larger that the rest, with hands pierced so that the shafts of the cart could pass through them. The trek cart with puller is perhaps one of the rarest Scouting 'lead' pieces and would command £350 plus at auction.

The early Scouts in this series featured the Britain's swinging arm and were correctly painted with khaki shirt, navy-blue shorts and knotted neckerchiefs. Patrols or individual pieces could be purchased separately. The patrol was in a 'presentation box' - eight boys and a Scout Master, with the boys all wearing the same colour necker. Later a set of six with one of the boys being the patrol leader with patrol pennant could also be obtained. Generally the older the figure, the more detail is contained in the painting and I have some very early figures with two-colour neckerchiefs.

The boxed set opposite has an upper tray fitting on the wooden ledges you can see in top section of the image. Below the box I have taken out the two rare bell tents They can be erected and collapsed by the simple expedient of pulling forward or backwards the thick central tent pole. Between the two tents is an original catalogue that came with the set. Next to the tree with gate, there is a small certificate which was necessary should any complaint need to be made.

The importance of Britains as a manufacturer of the 'lead figures' cannot be overestimated. William Britain's enormous range included every regiment of the British Army -zoo and farm figures and civilian figures of every description. Indeed, William Britain is believed to have invented the 'hollowcast' method of production and this is worth exploring as it is still the best indicator of the genuineness of a figure. Britain perfected a mold where liquid lead could be introduced and the figure was then spun and had air blown through it. This sent the lead to the extremities of the mold making a hollow figure. The air-hole in Scouting figures is usually the highest point of the 'lemon-squeezer' of 'wide-awake' hat. Modern repros of these figures would far too expensive to make using such a process so they are solid white metal and do not have the air exit hole. So, whilst they can be painted very convincingly, the replica figure (or forgery) can nearly always be discerned. Another indicator is that the model often has the words 'Britains Ltd, Copyright. Made in England' - and sometimes the year of manufacture cast into its lead base. This inscription alone however should not be taken as a guarantee of authenticity as baseplates can be swopped and modern casting techniques will copy the inscription just like any other detail.

Fixed Arms

The firm began manufacturing in 1893 and still produces metal figures having just about resisted the trend to plastic figures, even to this day trading on its nostalgic reputation.

BRITAIN'S always sold figures in various qualities and ranges and Scouting was no exception. The first Scout figures were produced in 1910 and may, at that time, have included cheaper version with fixed arms and horizontal short staves. I have original but undated examples in my collection (see opposite) where the staff is made half round with 'inside' surface being flat, which I am sure was an original feature. I also have however a patrol of the same figures with a 1911 date on base, again completely original, but with a slightly longer Scout stave made of circular rod.

The standard height of a Britain's Scout is 60mm, though the fixed-armed variety of Scout was only 55mm tall. Rare examples can be found however (see below) of standard swinging-arm pattern Scout 83mm tall. I have three examples of this rarity, all having a cut away base plate which would appear to be dated 25/4/1911.

Whilst various claims have been made for different colours of shirt etc, the author is yet to be convinced that these were anything other than early repaints by individuals who wanted their models to resemble their own troop, however there is one common variation which is totally authentic. Just as in army uniforms, British Scouts wore khaki and this was replicated by Britains. U.S. Soldiers wore a more olive 'drab' and Scouts in this hue are to be found so commonly that I believe that whilst it may have originally been reserved for 'export only' models, after the Second World War, Scouts in 'drab' were sold in the UK. Britains always had a large U.S. following and, as we shall see later, Britains made a special Scout/Guide issue for it.)


BRITAINS invented a new method of moveable arm to allow their Semaphore Signallers to function realistically. Whilst some other Scout figures signal with just one flag (this may have been U.S. practice) Britain's models boasted fully functional two-flag signallers with the arms being located in sockets to the front of the body. The sockets penetrate though the body and are accommodated without any distortion of the human torso by slightly enlarging the backpack already carried on all versions of Britains Scouts. The signaller (or Scout operating him) can correctly adopt the given position for every semaphore letter. The photograph opposite shows the front and back of the model. Note that the distant Scout is dressed in U.S. 'drab'. The signallers could be purchased in a boxed set of five where each figure, strung into the box, spells out the letters of the word S-C-O-U-T and are illustrated as such on the box lid.

Girl Guides

THE girls were not going to be left out of the Scout Movement and made their presence known at early Scout rallies, such that B-P was forced to form a separate section for them in 1910 which as we know was the year Britains introduced its Scouting Models. The larger female figures with leather gloves (opposite) are Girl Guides Leaders, the smaller ones are their Guides. The very high ratio of leaders to Guides is occasioned by their extreme rarity of both these figures. Of the two, I feel that Guides are definitely the rarer and unfortunately, because of their value, there are many reproductions being passed off as the real thing. As previously stated the originals are hollowcast figures and so should have an exit air-hole in the crown of the Guide hat, extraneous detail such as the green badge on the first guide in the patrol in the photo, is also a give away as is her lack of a brown belt. There is no problem at all of course if you are offered such a figure as a repro - it is hand-painted and possibly £10 to 15 pounds of effort has gone into its production but I have seen these repros at very silly money indeed. As far as I am aware - after many of looking - there are no other colour variations of the Guides at all and even those illustrated in books on the subject of lead figures have turned out to be repaints. Guides and leaders were sold separately but were also sold as a patrol of eight Guides with a Guide Mistress in the place of a patrol leader.

I cannot be certain about the exact dates of manufacture but I believe these figures were made between 1930 and 1939. In those days of course Guides were never allowed to camp on the same camping sites as Scouts. These young ladies are on their way to the Jamboree for a highly-chaperoned day visit.

Girl Scout Leaders

THE lead jamboree has recently been visited by a delegation of U.S. Girl Scout Leaders. U.S. citizen Juliette Low met Baden-Powell whilst on holiday in Britain. When she returned to the U.S. she determined to start a girls' section of the movement in her hometown of Savannah. By March 1912 the first troop of 'Girl Guides' was in operation. Interestingly the following year, Miss Lowe reverted to the name 'Girl Scouts', the name British girls had first used prior to the introduction of the Guide Movement.

For many years now I have (in common with many American Boy Scouts!) been looking for U.S. Girl Scouts. So many leaders should surely have some girls to oversee? The only ones I ever found any reference to are pictured on p.84 of the lead-figure collectors' bible by Norman Joplin Hollow Cast Figures. I have known Norman for many years, so when I saw him in January 2003, back from the US at a UK Toy Fair, I asked him about the elusive Girl Scouts. He is now of the opinion that the example in his book was a repainted British Girl Guide! Norman has done further research and has now seen all the Britain's patents. He is certain that Britain's never made a U.S. Girl Scout ever existed so after a ten year hunt, I have stoped looking! Thanks Norman. [Norman's new book, Britain's Civilian Toy Figures has a photograph on p.27 of three Scout signallers wearing sky blue shirts and shorts. Norman asks if these were meant to be French Sea Scouts. I ask if they are also repaints?]


IMPORTANT visitors have to be properly received. The V.I.P. is a post-war Britain's Scout Master (Some people think he is meant to be B-P, particularly when he has a moustache). He is being met by a reception committee with a pre-war Britain's Scout Master to the left, a Hanks' Scout Master in he middle and a post-war drab painted Britain's Scout Master to our right. The Scout with staff saluting is a very good model but so far is unidentified, as are the three Scouts behind the reception committee.

Cheers for the Chief

THREE cheers for the Chief! The little group on the left was made by Heide in Germany - look at the size of patrol flashes on the arms!These were however the length of patrol ribbons in 1908/9 and it maybe that in Germany, from where they originated, these seemingly long ribbons were kept in service till the time the models were made in the 1950/60s. As most other Heide figures, they are all doing something rather than just standing still. What a clever way of selling three Scouts instead of one!

The latest troop to arrive at the Jamboree (Spring 2008), also made by Heide are a tad late, as the other participants were photographed in the harvest of 2007, these Scout are seen against the following spring's verdant colours. There are representatives from four patrols whose colours are green, maroon, light blue and dark blue and the Troop Leader carries a St George's pennnent. (Heide use the colour from the patrol ribbons to colour the hat band, which is 'over egging the cake', it may look colourful but it never happened in real life.)

The camp fire too is Heide. The standing Scout and the one enjoying his breakfast fried eggs are permanently attached to the base, as is the tripod and campfire. The Scouts with red neckers are Britains and have axes for chopping wood - something Scouts have always done too close to fires. They are part of the Britains' set and of course have moveable chopping arms, the hand not holding the axe is cupped to accept a small twig which I now regret not introducing in the photograph before pressing the shutter. The other two kneeling Scouts are made by Wend-al from cast aluminium which does not accept anywhere near as much detail as Britains achieved with their hollowcast lead figures.

Heide Troop
Heide Cooking


WEND-AL figures were manufactured in Dorset from 1948 by the Wendan Manufacturing Company. They also manufactured aluminium figures for the French firm Quiralu whom I believe also made a Scout. To me, though British made, these figures owe far more to French design than British. The company manufactured under their own name only between 1948-56, a relatively short period, though the Scout figures may have had an even shorter run and this might well explain the fact that though they were advertised as 'unbreakable' they are very hard to find.

Rika Scouts with tent

THIS chubby looking patrol surely can't all sleep on that one bell tent? They were made by an obscure English firm called Reka which was the last four letters of the owner's name (CW Baker) reversed. The firm was in production between 1908 and 1932 when it was absorbed in the major figure producing firm Crescent. I have always thought, though with no real evidence, that these figures looked like Dutch Scouts - certainly not British, and then I discovered from Norman Joplin's book (see Acknowledgements) that in the early days of the firm, Baker employed German companies to supply the molds, and this may account for the slightly Bavarian looking Scout hats? They probably date from 1918-1926.

The realistic looking bell tent would be a welcome addition to any Jamboree - I only have two as in the confined space of Jamboree showcase that is all there is room for (together with all of the figures). I purchased them around 1990 and they are signed by their maker whose name would appear to be J Attar. My examples are numbered 55 and 56. I believe they were made to go with Boer War figures but they are of course perfect for early Scout Jamboree scenes.


The Hanks brothers were former employees of Britains who left the firm to set up on their own in London in 1897. Their Scouts, shown here, all have the Britains's style moveable arm, but date from 1916. The were sold in boxes (see below) with eight Scouts, one Patrol Leader with patrol pennant and a Scoutmaster. They were all the same height at 56mm tall, which in my mind shows lack of attention to detail as the Scout Master should of course be taller. Another example of the Scout Master with baton can also be seen in the image with the Britain's Scout Masters above.

As you can see from the box lid there is no indication whatsoever as to who made this set and the figures have no maker's name stamped on the base. This is just one of the many hazards to be overcome when collecting Scout figures (unless of course, as you do, you read Scouting Milestones!

                                        Hanks Box


THESE figures were made by the London firm Renvoize from 1910 and were almost certainly inspired by Britains as they had previously been prosecuted for piracy by them! To be fair though the completed figures are very different. Britain's figures stand on a rectangular lead baseplate whereas Renvoize have to be given credit for freeing their Scouts from this incumbrance. Their Scouts stand on their own feet using the bottom of the Scout staff for stability. Another interesting feature is that one Scout was made to carry a Union Flag, most probably feature 'borrowed' from their range of lead soldiers. The 'far seeing' kneeling scout is likely a combination of Britain's kneeling Scout with axe and their standing 'far-seeing' Scout, but again without a base plate it is an interesting addition to any collection.


To be honest the quality of these examples isn't that great. I don't think that there were ever in the top league of Scout figures but they do have a couple of interesting features. Some people have suggested to that because of their all navy-blue uniform they are meant to be Sea Scouts. I doubt this is the case, early Scouts wore a variety of shirt colours and if Charbens had wanted to point up that they were Sea Scouts, then they could have easily have put a Sailor's Cap on their heads. The patrol is led here by a drummer but I have once, in the course of my hundreds of visits to toyfairs and auctions, seen a matching bugler. (Think just how many lifetimes would be required to form a Charben's Scout bugle and drum band!


MIGNOT are a long established form of figure makers in France. Their figures are exquisite and their earlier examples very expensive. The Scouts you see here come from a large boxed set and though I am not certain of date of manufacture would guess from the graphics, that it was probably in the late 1960's- though the Scouts that are subject of the castings may well have been from an earlier period. There are a total of three different castings, Scout with Tricolour, Scout with Bugle and Scout with staff. They are from a different tradition than English Scout figures are made of solid white metal giving very sharp detail.

Norwegian Scouts

THE 'Lead Jamboree' has seen, over the years, many arrivals from distant lands, and they are all welcome, however such has been the journey the last arriving contingent that it has been very hard to discover their country of origin. These Scouts came via an eBay style auction held only in Norway - and so could well be Norwegian, though I have a feeling that grey shirts are more likely to have come from Germany. They belong to a style of figure manufacture called 'semi-flat'. A mould is created, the molten lead poured in and the mold is then released leaving a 'thin flat' solid figure. These particular figures are unusual in that they are all different. Obviously every time a new mould is created more expense is involved so, as we have seen, most manufactures content themselves with two or three variations. There was however on the continent and at home here a form of card figure that could be cut or pressed out form a sheet of cardboard. These are properly called 'scraps' and because no cost in involved in printing different designs within one sheet there were many portrayals of Scouting activities perhaps the chief proponent being a French firm called Epinal. These designs are very reminiscent of their work. I hope at a later time to provide a Milestone devoted solely to these and other Scout 'scraps'.

Swiss Flats

Counters Counters

MILESTONES readers who have visited 'Toys and Games Pages will know that there were many board games on a Scouting theme and that semi-flats were sometimes used as 'counters'. I do not think these Swiss-looking Scouts below were used for this purpose, though they are small enough at 35mm tall. Almost certainly the smaller models to the left in more familiar Scout uniform would have been, they are just 30mm tall. They do though have bigger brothers (center) at 46mm who look very similar but have brightly coloured shorts.

THE Lead Jamboree is the centerpiece of my collection of figures and is contained in its own showcase with two tents, one at each end, and the campfire in the middle. Patrols are lined up in front of visiting dignitaries - Is that B-P with the VIP's?. Latecomers still arrive pulling and pushing their trek carts. Signallers Semaphore the arrival of the important guest to distant parts of the camp.

The number of participants? I have no idea- I am beyond counting my 'toys' but would go a long way to find an example I don't have. This Page should not then be thought of as an exhaustive catalogue of Scout models. It does not touch those made in 'grey metal' in the American tradition - generally they are too large to stand easily with the other participants. I also now have many individual examples that as yet I have not been able to identify, sometimes they are in poor condition but are carefully preserved in the hope that one day I might be able to indentify them properly.

Having spent much of my life looking for Scout figures I am not about to pass this opportunity up to appeal to you should you have any pre-1968 examples that you don't see on these pages. I would be pleased to have just scans/photos but I always keep a stock of rare items down to modern good quality reproductions for swapping purposes but would be keen to buy if that is your preference.


AS I previously mentioned I have drawn heavily on the work of my friend Norman Joplin who has written many books now on the subject of collecting lead figures. Whilst it is easy to point out that the odd example may not be correctly attributed that does not take away from the many many years of patient research in an area where very little indeed was known. The lack of other acknowledgements also points up dearth of information in print especially about Scout figures. I have however been collecting with a passion these wonderful items now for over thirty years and so trust that the Scout reader will find much of interest that, in the Milestones tradition, was previously unrecorded. All the photographs are of items in the CW collection photographed on a lovely autumn day on my garden wall!
Black Scout

Return to the "Milestones" introduction.
Colin Walker ('Johnny') hopes that you will sign the Visitors' Book, look at the Forum Page and welcomes your comments about this Site,
which is v 3.6 and was last updated in May 2008.

This article, the text, the images (unless separately acknowledged) and the underlying coding are Copyright C R Walker©, 2000 - 2008