A few weeks ago I visited a special exhbition in the Belgian Army Museum in Brussels. On display was part of an extensive collection of toy soldiers of collector Jacques Witmeur. Although I had some trouble in actually getting to this special exhibit (apparantly museum personnel seems to think closing off a special exhibition is in the interest of their customers, but a special thanks to the friendly man at the reception desk for summoning his minions to open it for me), it was worth it. Several thousands of toy soldiers, of all periods and manufacturers, were organized along several historic themes. A pleasure for the eye, especially the eye of someone who likes to play with toy soldiers.
In the museum shop I bought the booklet that was published together with exhibition (“Figurines Made in Belgium” by Paul Herman and Jacques Witmeur), and which lists all the Belgian manufacturers that at one time or another made and sold toy soldiers. I was particularly interested in this work, since I was hoping to identify some soldiers that have been in my collection for over 40 years. As long as I remember, I do own some soldiers that once belonged to my dad as a child. These were ‘Belgian’ soldiers, and as a kid, I happily mixed them with my plastic ‘Cowboys and Indians’ playsets. Needless to say they have taken quite some beating over the years.
Anyway, the only identification I ever found on these figures read ‘NB’ on the bottom of their base, which - after consulting the booklet - seems to stand for the Belgian toymaker Nazaire Beeusaert. Just the sound of this name makes it come from a different era! A quick Google-search turned up some more facts. There is a website dedicated to Nazaire Beeusaert, on which I could actually see some photographs of exactly the same figures as in my collection. A 40 year old mystery solved after all.