The famous London toy maker Britains introduced their 1/32 (54mm) scale, hollowcast lead figure of the King’s African Rifles in 1925 in an eight-figure box set, number 225.
The set continued in Britains’ catalogue until lead shortages in the Second World War stopped production in 1941. It returned in 1946 until 1959 and had a final flourish in 1966 as a seven-figure set, number 9162.
The longevity of this toy soldier reflects the KAR’s fame right until the end of the colonial era in the 1960s. The Britains figure is still the best-known and most common toy soldier of the KAR.
The basic Britains figure remained the same throughout its forty years of production, although there were many variations in their colour and finish, and in the box art of their packaging.
The figure is a good likeness of a KAR askari from the period between the establishment of the regiment in 1902 and 1920. He wears a khaki tunic, shorts, a tall red fez and dark blue puttees – and carries a Lee Enfield 0.303 SMLE rifle.
The only significant anomaly is the design of the figure’s webbing, which from the front looks British, but the Y-shaped strap at the rear is not accurate for British webbing of this era.
Some collectors speculate that this is because the figure was originally intended to be an askari from the Schutztruppe of German East Africa; however, there is no evidence that this is the case nor did Britains mass-produce these figures as anything other than KAR askari.
A small number of Britains KAR sets have been found with an unarmed African effendi (warrant officer) and askari with rifles but without bayonets. These were probably special paintings made on demand for sale at Hamleys – the famous London toy store.
Special paintings of the KAR figure in blue and white were also sold as Egyptian Infantry and a single set with an officer wearing a peaked cap has been found painted in olive-green and labelled as Portuguese East African Native Infantry, but it is not known whether this is a special painting or Britains’ prototype for a set they did not subsequently produce on a commercial scale.