Toys Salute Real Heroes
I wanted to create something to honour the centenary of the Armistice that brought an end to fighting on the Western Front on November 11, 1918. My mind's eye saw a vintage toy soldier saluting the Act of Remembrance ceremony at the Cenotaph in London.
There were two obstacles: First, I did not possess a saluting toy soldier and, second, I feared trying to photograph the real ceremony could be thwarted by security measures and, much worse, might cause offence to others present.
However, I had a guardsman figure playing a bugle and I felt he could represent the playing of the Last Post at the Cenotaph or another prominent war memorial if all else failed.
A search at Spitalfields Market in London turned up a saluting guardsman and a suitably weathered bugler in the stereotype "Tommy" uniform. I also paid a visit to the The Guards Toy Soldier Centre in Birdcage Walk, London, and asked if they had a saluting figure of suitably First World War period appearance. On seeing some examples of test shots, they scoured the catalogue and triumphantly produced a very handsome moustachioed saluting figure.
Next came the challenge of finding the ideal vantage points to shoot from. I decided to make the most of the summer heatwave and utilise the strong sunlight which provided the additional challenge of identifying the right time to get the memorials in full sunlight. For example, I discovered the Artillery Memorial and the Guards Memorial were both ideally lit before 11am. The Cenotaph was similarly well lit around this time as well but it took several visits before I caught the engraved dedication to "The glorious dead" suitably lit so that it could be read in the background.
I also visited Lewisham war memorial because I noticed it had numerous wreaths placed around it, including some in the RAF colours. Ideally, a saluting airman figure would have been best for this but since I have yet to find one, the saluting guard will have to do.
Notable omissions are the Navy - the search is still on for a saluting sailor - and the Commonwealth. Sadly, all the Commonwealth figures I've seen look like caricatures. Similarly, the huge contribution made by women is woefully unrepresented - I'm still hoping to find a suitable female figure other than a nurse. Sadly, vintage toy soldiers tended to be generally white and male.