Could be anywhere, but the former Casemates military barracks was the perfect venue for the Gibraltar Model Soldier Society to exhibit their hard work… and once again, what a show and demonstration of talent it was!
About ten exhibitions have been set up so far, going back to the first ones at the John Mackintosh Hall, but the first floor vaults at Casemates – now named the Gustavo Bacarisas Gallery – suited the theme perfectly. Hundreds and hundreds of tiny, hand painted models placed on tables complemented the `rooms,’ as these were the quarters of regiments and battalions that had been stationed on the Rock over many decades up to more or less the mid 20th century. Last year I wrote about the exhibition highlighting the Royal Navy, which must’ve brought back many recollections of the large, Home and Mediterranean fleets assembling in Gibraltar in the 50s and 60s in a replica of the Gibraltar harbour, as demonstrated by Manuel Infante’s diorama taking up much of one of the vaults at Casemates. This year the army took pride of place and regiments set out on parade and on the battlefield were perfectly re-enacted. Apart from the British regiments on show there were others: American and German armies at war in the snow; there were also military bands from places you may not have even heard of, and so much more. There were also scenes of World Wars, African fighters, the Wild West, the Roman Empire, Napoleon was present too and there was one scene of North American bison and other cattle also on show and on a much calmer scene, there was even a setting inviting `Tea for two!’
This year other model enthusiasts were allowed to exhibit their wares. The Warhammer players were in evidence this year with their futuristic, powerful warriors and war machines and the destruction they cause very much in evidence. Stephen Vinales is a Corgi cars collector and is very proud of his James Bond and Queen’s carriages collection… they were there as well. Also on show, Henry Pinna’s handmade, and painstakingly painted figures made out of some sort of Plasticine and paint. How does he find the time outside his Action for Housing commitments, I wonder? The whole display was wonderful to experience. It’s simply amazing how much time must be required to collect, paint, then clean, polish up for an exhibition and then set the whole thing up for display. One collector explained how he measured the parade ground (Horse Guards Parade Ground on this occasion) and the lining up in perfect order with pieces of string strictly spacing out all the figures exactly apart from each other displaying a smart parade just like the real thing… or even better! One collector I’ve interviewed in the past set out some of his regiments perfectly also – a fraction of what he has at home for sure. There, corridor display cabinets and elsewhere all beautifully set out and his vast collection just keeps on growing. Appropriately this year – as he was leaving us – there was a model of Governor Lt Gen Ed Davis in his Royal Marine uniform on parade, outside one the Rock’s ceremonial saluting landmarks. It’s perfectly clear to me that the collectors who take on the hobby quite seriously, undertake a lot of research to gather all the details in terms of colours of uniforms and all the tiny details involved, whilst on the way, learning so much about the history of the regiments and their battles, countries, cultures, so on and so forth, there being no point if, for example, all of those colours on uniforms, head gear, badges and medals including very minor details, did not appear in the correct colours and shades for each item, large or small. If they were not to be exact and true to the real thing it would take away from the fun to be had because these collectors are serious hobbyists and I’m certain would not have it any other way!
During my travels around the Gustavo Bacarisas Gallery I was escorted by Sergio Sacramento, another keen admirer of this fabulously interesting `need-for-serious-research’ hobby which, we mustn’t forget, can get expensive. Apart from purchasing the models or figures – you don’t just buy half a dozen, you go for a full company or even the whole regiment – you then have to buy paints, brushes, information booklets and probably lots of other bits and pieces and costs go higher and higher. Then, the time spent researching, painting and getting the whole thing together must have an inestimable figure put to it… but it’s all worth it, judging by the passion with which these works are assembled and put on show for the public to enjoy.
The bottom line has to be that there’s a myriad of hobbies and pastimes for everyone to enjoy: you just take your pick. On the Rock, as small as we are, I can’t think of anything there isn’t a following for – from crochet to Petanque onto stamp and coin collecting, the visual arts, chess, most sports and of course, if you’re a serious, patient, hard working enthusiast and have a real passion, there’s The Gibraltar Model Soldier Society who keep on exhibiting. Well done, that was a very good show!