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Donkin's World: A Call To Arms

...Blowing up tanks and mowing down troops, on the other hand, was perfectly acceptable. I had a green rug by my bed which made a perfect battlefield. While my armies were capable of inflicting serious casualties on each other it was nothing to the mayhem my mother could reek with her feet as she made the bed...

Richard Donkin reflects upon the fact that young men still love war.

Please visit Richard's entertaining Web site
http://richarddonkin.com/

To purchase a copy of his world-famous book
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Blood-Sweat-Tears-Evolution-Work/dp/1587990768/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1214554429&sr=1-2

Last month, on the day that we remembered the last of the generation that fought in the First World War, a new video game was released. Call of Duty, Modern Warfare 2 sold 4.7m copies on the first day of its release. I cannot be alone in detecting some irony here. Young men still love war.

I was no different as a youngster but instead of video games my lust for warfare was satiated through Airfix models and small plastic soldiers at two shillings a box (or two weeks' spending money). I must have had almost every box in the series apart from the civilian set. The bloke on the scooter was not bad but the rest was rubbish. I had no use for women sitting talking on a bench.

Of course, had I known much at the time about the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima or the air raids on Dresden and Tokyo I might have been able to use my civilians in a more realistic war game but I was naive enough as a child to believe that wars were about opposing armies. Besides bombing plastic people with plastic aeroplanes would have been a disgraceful thing to do, just as it was in reality.

Blowing up tanks and mowing down troops, on the other hand, was perfectly acceptable. I had a green rug by my bed which made a perfect battlefield. While my armies were capable of inflicting serious casualties on each other it was nothing to the mayhem my mother could reek with her feet as she made the bed. Whole regiments lined up in neat battle order could be scythed down in one careless kick of a carpet slipper.

I had friends who would mix up their Airfix soldiers so that a Confederate infantryman could find himself fighting one of Robin Hood's merry men. The very idea of such indifference I found appalling. No, my foreign legionnaires only fought Arabs. My red Indians (no-one had coined the term "native American" in the mid-1960s) were manufactured in rusty red plastic so that we might not be confused, and they fought either cowboys or the wagon train.

Painting them was a daunting task. Just painting one was inefficient so if you decided to do it you were committed to the whole box, painting legs, faces and arms in flesh tones, then uniforms and finally the equipment. The paint soon started flaking off during play so it was hardly worth the effort.

I still have the soldiers in the loft but the plastic has grown brittle now so their play value is limited. Today video has overtaken the habit of playing with soldiers but I wouldn't have swapped my childhood war games for anything on a screen.

Airfix rocked!

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