Article by Joe Robinson
One of the things we often come across when collecting is a kind of false memory syndrome. Where we hunt down an item based on an important and often vivid childhood recollection and then discover — through a find or revelation — that we are completely in error. One of my fondest memories of childhood Christmas was receiving a rub down sticker book in my stocking. It was a fold out panorama with a second world war desert battle, tanks and all. Growing up to collect action transfers and Patterson Blick books I held the belief that the fond memory was of the Patterson Blick Instant Picture Book No.38 'Desert Battle'.
There are no other desert tank battles in any other transfer product — so logically it must have that book which sparked the memory.
Then out of the blue a SPLAT Forum member points out an interesting item on Ebay. And with the revelation of Simplay's Battle Scenes existence it hits me that my recollection was wrong and that this Battle Scene was the item that sparked that fond memory.
Simplay Battle Scenes were one of a number of "Stick'N'Lift" products produced by Lincolnshire based Norprint Limited back in 1968. Made of thick card with a shiny tough plastic laminate the fold out booklets came with a sheet of vinyl stickers that could be stuck and unstuck as desired. Allowing one to create battle scenes and then do it again and again. The series of three battle scenes (all numbered 'one' in their series) included: Land Battle El Alamein, Air Battle 1914-1918, and Sea Battle — with ships of Nelson's time. In three panels, they folded out to 49cm x 25cm and came with around fifty small stickers.
Along with the Battle Scenes are two other Simplay ranges which we have copies of. Firstly "Spotter's Charts". A two panel card again with reusable stickers. This less-thrilling item asked you to spot the sticker and identify the box to put it in. Again with around fifty stickers there were six in the range: Animals of Britain and the World, National Flags and Costumes, Motor Cars and Commercial Vehicles, Places of Interest at Home and Abroad, Trees and Wild Flowers, and Sports and Games.
The last variation on these "Stick'N'Lift" ranges that we know of so far was a much larger Battle of Britain set. It's a hefty 53cm x 30cm with lovely graphics on front and inside of box. The lower half of the box is actually a framed picture (with card 3D frame) to again place the reusable stickers on. This must have been a christmas present-and-a-half. The graphics on the stickers for this set are the same style as the Battle Scenes stickers but the box artwork has a more muted and older style than the Battle Scenes.
The leaflet inside this Battle of Britain set does list other Simplay products (which I am taking to all be "Stick'N'Lift") including: "Build a Map of the British Isles", "Europe", "The World and America", "Moonrace". The last one of these sounds particularly fun.
Looking at the cover of the Battle Scenes it's not hard to see the cause of my false memory. The cover has the two hands in the corner that the majority of transfer products have. Instead of a pencil these children's hands are positioning a sticker. I also wonder if transfers were the reason we don't see many Simplay products. The laminated card and vinyl stickers inevitably will have made these pricier than transfers and while the reusable stickers offer an innovation, the graphics and artwork are far short of comparable transfer products. Overall, looking at them as potentially competing products, I suspect that transfers were more popular and it's perhaps why we never saw much more of these. The concept of stick and lift has continued although mostly as a bit of a niche item with children's television related items such as Ninja Turtles, Masters of the Universe and other more recent shows.
So with thanks to a fellow SPLAT Forum member I am now reunited not only with a better memory but with a Battle Scene to actually play with. Again and again.
Picture Credit: Joe Robinson
Author Credit: Joe Robinson
© Tom Vinelott 2023