Historical information

The toy soldier is a relic from the shipwreck of the LOCH ARD in 1878. It has a companion piece in the Flagstaff Hill collection. The toy soldier is unpainted, but the style of uniform, and the weapons carried (a musket and a basket-handled cutlass), indicate it is a representation of the Napoleonic Wars period from the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Mass-produced toy soldiers made of cast metal (lead or tin) became popular during the 1800s. Heyde of Germany manufactured silhouette-shaped ‘flats’ early in the century; then Mignot of France released three-dimensional ‘solids’; and later (1893) Britain of England made ‘hollow cast’ figures. These innovations were designed to make sets of toy soldiers more affordable for middle and lower-class children, extending the market beyond the intricately made and hand-crafted replicas that were the preserve of the rich in the eighteenth century.

Wooden military figures, specially carved and unpainted ones, were therefore not particularly common at the time when the LOCH ARD went down on Victoria’s southwest coast. Mignot was the first to sell unpainted soldiers, leaving their customers to fill in the colours according to their own patriotic preferences. If a similar attitude is assumed for the two virtually identical figures in the Flagstaff Hill collection, it is possible they were part of a new set intended for sale, rather than part of a passenger’s existing collection.

A similarly light composite material of sawdust, glue and linseed oil (press-moulded onto a metal frame) was used by the German firm O & M Hausler to create toy soldiers, but this type of modelling was not commercialised until after 1912. The first heat-moulded plastic toy soldiers did not become available until after 1945.


The toy soldier represents a 19th century child's interest in military history. The item is one of two toy soldiers recovered from the Loch Ard that are in Flagstaff Hill's collection.
The shipwreck of the Loch Ard is of significance for Victoria and is registered on the Victorian Heritage Register ( S 417). Flagstaff Hill has a varied collection of artefacts from Loch Ard and its collection is significant for being one of the largest accumulation of artefacts from this notable Victorian shipwreck of which the subject items are a small part. The collections objects give us a snapshot of how we can interpret the story of this tragic event. The collection is also archaeologically significant as it represents aspects of Victoria's shipping history that allows us to interpret Victoria's social and historical themes of the time. Through is associated with the worst and best-known shipwreck in Victoria's history.

Physical description

An unpainted replica or toy soldier, presented in a Napoleonic Wars era uniform. The moulded figure is in a standing posture and is bearing a musket at the slope-arms position, with a sabre or cutlass slung behind. It wears a plumed helmet, short-fronted coat with longer buttoned tails at the back, button-fastened bib-front trousers, a pair of crossed bandoliers, and tasselled shoulder epaulettes. The figure is a creamy colour with red-brown stains on the head and shoulder. There is a hole in the end of the musket. The model is detailed and sharp. It was recovered from the wreck of the Loch Ard.

Inscriptions & markings

Cataloguing numbers:
“6599” on the rear of the left trouser leg
“PWO 2308” on the sole of the left boot, (partially obscuring “R122” written in biro)
“2218” on the sole of the right boot.