Tuesday 20 February 2024

John Braithwaite, Forgotten Wargamers Three

When I was a young wargamer in the 1970's, ie. eons ago John Braithwaite was a well known figure in the North East of England producing a lovely range of 20mm and 25mm wargames figures under the Garrison banner based out of Thornaby in Cleveland. Although originally a cockney he soon realised the error of his ways and headed North.
My first ancient Persian army was made up of the Garrison Persian range. Anyway, after completing a few more Garrison knights for Lion Rampant I thought it appropriate that I provide the readers with some information about their sculptor.                                                                                                   

John Braithwaite taking a sledging from Peter Gilder during their refight of Waterloo, from the now legendary Battleground television series. Gilder could be a bugger and really gave John a hard time. 
John Braithwaite was a sales representative who lived in Eaglescliffe near Middlesbrough. In 1966 he attended the first ever wargames convention hosted by Donald Featherstone in Southampton. During the convention John produced some of his first wargames sculpts, 20mm ancient greeks which were apparantly admired by all the wargamers present.                                                                                   
 John soon joined Neville Dickenson and Peter Gilder in their early joint venture at Miniature Figurenes. John provided a small range of 20mm ancient figures, his first love. If anyone is lucky enough to possess any of this range, it is obvious where John obtained his 'inspiration' from, as it was pretty clear it was based upon Arfix conversions of the Robin Hood range. The association with Mini Figs was short lived and John began sculpting 20mm wargames figures for a shop titled the Garrison based in Harrow from 1968.                                                                                                                                                            

I own a small number of this range, 4 units of Persian immortals, and although I like them, they suffer from a degree of flatness, caused by the early production methods. I still wouldnt part with them although they are truly 20mm figures. John was an early member of the Society of Ancients founded by the late Tony Bath and he offered his services as the offical artist of the group as they producded the first Slingshot magazines.                                                                                                                                    

My newly completed Garrison Knights in all their splendour.

The 20mm range was redesigned in 1973, and became a proper 25mm range although there would be the odd larger figure amongst the range, ah the vagaries of the 1970's. The figures were now producded under the Greenwood and Ball name and eventually were based in Thornaby. It was at this time that Peter Gilder, a longtime friend of Braithwaite, convinced him of his televisual abilities, and the infamous Waterloo sledging then occured.                                                                                           


As an aside, Greenwood and Ball had originally been a model soldier company formed by John Ambler Greenwood and Kathleen Ball, based in Scarborough producing a quality range of 54mm figures.                                                                

 John Braithwaite died in 1992 of a heart attack and the Garrison ranges passed through various hands before being obtained by Rob Young. Garrison producded some lovely figures and amongst my favourites are the Ancient Greeks and Persians, their English Civl War and their Hyboria range, all classic figures. During the time that John worked he also producded a number of lovely 54mm medieval figures and nights.                         

In the mid 1980's Garrison producded a small range of quality French Napoleonics, with seperate heads, these figures were in my opinion the best they made and were a joy to paint, sadly this range doesnt seem to exist anymore. I must have liked them because I entered a painted unit in a couple of painting competitions where they won, so they must have been pretty good figures.                                                                                                                                


Monday 5 February 2024

Samuel MacGregor Mathers Comte de Glenstrae, Forgotten wargamers 2.

In an effort to lighten the mood after the loss of poor Graham I thought I would do a little piece on this gent, who was certainly different from most wargamers and he never carried a rucksack.                 

                                      Samuel Macregor Mathers Comte de Glenstrae

 In Achtung Schweinhund Harry Pearson mentions Samuel Macregor Mathers who apparantly had twenty five thousand figures which he used to fight battles, using rules of his own devising. He had two passions throughout his life, magic [ not Dynamo type of magic] and the theory of war.   While one couldnt really describe him as a unsung hero of Wargaming, it is clear he created his own wargames, using flats, lots of them and his own rules.
 Wargaming has actually had a few members who could be described as possessing either dubious morals or simply were a little untrustworthy. Mathers I think can be best described as a very, very bright man with some strange ideas attached.
  Mathers was born in January 1854 in Hackney London but although his father died a year later his family had sufficient money to allow him to attend  Bedford School. He later came back to London after the death of his mother in 1885. He published his first book, a translation of a French military manual after he returned.
 Always interested in alchemy he was introduced into Freemasonary in 1877 by a fellow alchemist and joined the appropriately named Hengist Lodge in 1877. He worked hard and subsequently became a Master Mason in 1878, but he took more interest in the fringe Masonic degrees and in 1882 he was admitted to the Societas Rosicruciana, lecturing on the Kaabbalah to the Theosophical Society, an early forerunner of the Society of Ancients. 
  Mathers spoke an impressive number of languages,English, French, Latin. Greek, Hebrew, Gaelic,Coptic and amazingly Research Group English, a most difficult language to master.
  Due to his abilities he was able to translate The Book of Abramelin, The Kabbalah Unveiled, the Grimoire of Armadel and Research Groups 7th edition ancient rules.
   Mathers was an exponant of Dr John Dee's Enochian magic system. Dee was Elizabeth the First's alchemist, a must for all rulers apparantly. 
In 1891 he became the leader of the Hermetic order of the Golden Dawn and moved to France with is wife in 1892. He was expelled from the Golden Dawn in 1900 [apparantly for using loaded dice] and formed his own group called Alpha et Omega. He took the title Archon Basilieus and based his new club, sorry group at a place called the Ahathoor Temple.
He was forced from the orders in 1903 after failing to repay funds he had 'borrowed' from the Societas. [apparantly there had been a sale in Nuremberg of flats ]   

                                      Mathers as his alter ego, Archon Basilieus.

The Comte married the sister of the philosopher Henri Bergson and in an attempt to sound more Scottish Mina became Moina [ as opposed to major to minor] For his sins he was also a prectising vegetarian and anti vivisectionist. These foibles made him very unpopular with the other members of his group, and Aleister Crowley, the Great Beast always referred to him as Johnny Fart Pants, behind his back. Some say this was the cause of their great falling out, when Crowley and Mathers would regularly send conjured demons to each other to inhabit their dreams. 
   Crowley described how Mathers would often play chess matches against various pagan gods. He would set up his chess board, sit behind the white pieces facing an empty chair and after making a move, would carefully shade his eyes and peer towards the empty chair waiting for the pagan god to signal their move.He would then move the black piece accordingly.
 It is not certain whether he did the same with his wargame armies although Mathers apparantly had to expell one pagan God after they were caught nudging their units forward using their celestial elbow when Mathers wasnt looking.

  Mathers showing off his wand, which he won in the first national solo wargames competition beating the God Baal with a pseudo Babylonian army. 
 The Comte died in 1918 in Paris. The manner of his death was a mystery and his death certificate lists no cause of death. 
The question I kept asking is what happened to his 25,000 figures and his wargame rule set? Did Dave Ryan buy them? Can we expect the set to be published in the near future?

Saturday 3 February 2024

Graham Cummings.

 It was quite a shock when I received the news that Graham Cummings had died suddenly. I have known Graham for many years. I first came across him when we met at Hartlepool Police office where he was a detective sergeant. But it was only after I bumped into him at a wargames show that it became very apparent we shred the same interests.
 After tha we invariably crossed paths whether through the job or through our hobby. At that time Graham would and shows with his best friend Lee, who was a very talented wargamer. Sadly Lee passed away many years ago now.
GRaham was a 'good lad' and clearly far brighter than yours truly as he climbed the police promotion ladder. It seemed that every time I travelled to Cleveland he was wearing a new uniform until eventually he joined the ranks of the shiny arses and became a Police Superintendent. We both found that sudden rise very funny [police joke]

When the concept [is there one?] of Old School Wargames took off Graham and I embraced it, except in typical style Graham decided to start commisioning SYW figures which blossomed into Crann Tara Miniatures, based initially around the Jacobite risings. He was very proud of his little company but as he began to struggle with ill health I think it became too much for him and he sold up to concentrate on gaming and his family. 
 The last time I sat down with him was at the Gentlemen Wargamers weekend last year where various Lace War enthusiasts wargame and generally have a good time.
 Graham seemed okay although he was clearly not himself and struggling with walking, but he didnt complain and just concentrated on the weekend. When I saw his blog a couple of weeks ago he was typically down playing his health issues which were not as good as he claimed.That was typical of the man.
  All I can say is Graham was a good man and weargaming is less of a hobby due to this tragic loss.

          Graham hosting his Jacobite game at the Military Gentleman weekend several years ago.

Sunday 28 January 2024

John Niblett, original designer of Airfix soldiers.

As promised a post regarding unsung heroes of Wargaming and collecting toy soldiers in general.

John Niblett is the man who started the whole wargaming thing for me. In 1956 he joined Airfix. He was the original designer of the HO/OO range of plastic soldiers that began with the release of the British Guardsmen in 1958. Figures from is initial box had originally been released by Hummel before being re released as the first of the Airfix soldiers range. 

Niblett worked for Airfix until 1974 and produced many of the company's ranges including their beautiful Napoleonic and historical character range in 54mm, my favourite being the wonderful French Imperial Guard Grenadier. He also producded their 1/32nd range of figures.

Niblett also was commisioned to produce models for the wonderfully named government department, The Ministry of Public Buildings, but it was while working for Mettoy that he met and became friends with Les Higgins. An another amazing talent.

Niblett originally started sculpting model soldiers shortly after the war, making 54mm and 65mm figures. However after 1956 he concentrated on sculpting beautiful 20mm figures which were painted and sold by Hummels House of Miniatures, a figure shop based at the Burlington Arcade in London. Niblett covered a number of military subjects including the English Civil War, Romans,Normans, and for me his best, his beautiful range of knights. These were originally by Hummels for the princley sum of 9/6d for foot figures and 17/6d for the mounted figures.Quite pricey in the early 1960's.

Niblett continued producing large 150mm and 175mm military figures in white metal. 

In 1975 John Niblett set up producing figures in an independant studio producing figures for Britains, Lesney and the tourist shop at the Tower of London. In 1977 he re-released his lovely 12th and 14th century knights and his final range, the English Civil War in 20mm.

I remember carefully studying images of Niblett's knights but was put off by their small size, 20mm. It appears only Greenwood of Greenwood and Ball fame and John Niblett persisted in producing 20mm figures in the UK. while the accepted scale was fast becoming 25mm as producded by Les Higgins, Hinton Hunt and Jack Alexander. The only comprable 20mm figures were being producded by Jack Scruby in the USA and there was no way I could have ever afforded those.

John Garrett, the acknowledged expert on model soldiers believed that John Niblett's 20mm ranges were the finest of the small figures ranges produced and who am I to argue with that.


                         The last range Niblett produced, the English Civil War in 20mm.  


A review of the new English Civil War range was printed in the March 1979 Military Modelling magazine

"John Niblett of 50 The Broadway, Herne Bay, Kent has added some attractive
English Civil War subjects to his 20mm scale wargames figure series this
month. The new figure comprise an assortment of six foot figures and three
cavalry types, and on all of them the degree of detail is remarkable and the
casting superb.
The mounted figures include an Ironside trooper and his Royalist counterpart
and there's a beautiful little mounted cuirassier in three-quarter armour on
a rearing horse discharging his pistol. The horses are moulded in two halves
for epoxy assembly and on all the figures the diminutive weapons (and in
some cases, an arm) 
are moulded separately for the purchaser to stick together, thus making possible a fair degree of personal animation. Among the foot types are pike and musket men from both sides,one of the latter firing his musket on its rest, and there's a choice of positions for the pikemen as well; an attractive little drummer rounds off the collection. Niblett tells us that, depending on popularity, they'll be expanding the range, so if wargamers want more of these nice little 20mm's then its up to them to give these new ones the reception they deserve.

Sadly John Niblett died in 1980 a relatively young man and his ranges were purchased by a small company called Rosedale Figurines who also bought the Les Higgins range of 20mm figures and sold them under the Tribute Figures range. After a couple of years the owner moved from England to the West of Scotland and somehow the majority of the masters were lost in the move!

Sadly the beautiful ranges of 20mm figures produced by a master sculptor ceased to exist and are lost forever. 

With thanks to Vintage Wargaming Blob and various snippetts from the internet.

Wednesday 24 January 2024

Blogging? Its an imperative.

This is a first and its something Im not proud of its the first time I didnt 'do' a Christmas Annual to welcome in the New Year. Basically I felt it wasnt something I needed to do. Who wants to know what a wargamer plans to do and then realise twelve months later that they havent achieved anything they said they would do.  
But then I felt guilty about the lack of effort and the fact that all bloggers need to put more effort into their journals. Im not going to berate anyone who religiously collates what they are doing as wargamers and Im always envious of the bloggers who post very regularly. 

  I know some think that hosting a blog is a dying art and that everyone has moved on to podcasts etc. But I think there is definately a place for blogs and sometimes they serve a purpose, such as my tribute to Peter Gilder. Unless I continue to put information on there the next generation of wargamers wont have a scoobies who the great man was and what he contributed to the hobby.  

In early January I attended ARDHAMMER, a one day event staged in Gateshead where people turn up to sell wargaming and Games Workshop stuff. As the years have progressed it has grown expotentially and this year was the busiest. Of the 80+ tables about 40% were selling wargame related stuff which is down on last year, but one can always find something to buy cheaply. This year it was paint. I came away with 20 bottles of Vallejo paint for £20, oh and a couple of books.One thing I noticed as I people watched was the age of the attendees. The majority were aged between 12 and 50 years old. Obviously a lot were there to buy Games Workshop but it was encouraging to know, well at least I thought it was, although the general fitness of the majority left a lot to be desired. 

Returning to blogging in general, because Ive been suffering from the Winter lurgy and a very painful back I sought reassurance by re-reading Harry Pearson's brilliant Achtung Schweinhund. This book is a perfect description of my wargaming life except Im not a smoggy. Thank God. But as an account of  a typical wargamer it is perfect, and the mix of humour, pathos and basically patheticness it describes me to a tee. I was lucky enough to have sat with Harry Pearson in an effort to get some information about Gilder and I found we had a lot in common. We both supported shite football teams who dreamt of a glory that would never happen but still hoped but knew we would always end up disappointed. 
  But I digress. In the book Harry described various early pioneers and toy soldier collectors who are very, very rarely spoken about and having given some thought to this I think it would be nice if someone ie me did produce a series of pieces about these people. 
Okay one could probably go onto Wikipedia aand potentially find out about some of them, but I think they deserve to be collated in one place. It will give me something to do between feeling sorry for myself. Its not a New Years resolution, more a small project I will  do something about.

I picked up a number of figures at Middlesbrough late last year from Tiger Miniatures, from their Tudor Irish wars range which I had to have for my Billhooks Irish army. I didnt need them, I have far too many anyway, but they were too nice not to buy. So I painted up some light cavalry, some gallowglass and some fighting dogs. 

I bought a small number of figures off E Bay months ago, when I reaalised they were Irish kern. I havent a clue who made them, they are big buggers but were very enjoyable to paint.

So a nice addition to my burgeoning Irish army.

And now to my second project.
Inspired by Rick Priestly and his love of old ancient Mini Figs Im steadily replacing my ancient Persian army made up of Foundry,Victrix and other more modern manufacturers with good old pre 1980 ancient Persians, and in particular using Hinchliffe and Garrison figures. 

Garrison Immortals, pretty big figures and certainly bigger than I remember but great sculpts.

And then, the well known Hinchliffe Immortal figure. Still one of my favourites. I think I maay have overdone their numbers, but I did enjoy painting them up. 
Next week its York and hopefully I will be making my trip down to the racecourse. I do enjoy the day although it can get a bit frenetic. Its only a shame that there wont be a couple of dealers off loading realistically priced old figures. Oh and a Happy New Year to all and sundry.


Thursday 4 January 2024

Intrusive Thoughts Syndrome.


Since I can remember I have always had these urges [steady] to say or do something inappropriate, usually in times of stress or when someone does or says something I think is really stupid. During the times when I worked for the Queen I was known as someone who now and again just might do something or say something that shouldnt be done or said. If you ever bump into me at a show please feel free to ask me to relay the 'Tommy' story which did get me in hot water and comic notoriety.
 It obviously caused my bosses a bit of worry and stress and could explain why I was given my own little office where they could hide me until something was happening and needed my attention.
 My yearly psycometric testing apparantly was the stuff of legends especially when the poor woman would ask about my views on bereavement, politics and the Senior management.
 I would imagine I would be unemployed within twenty four hours given the fragility of the modern police service and everyones craving for litigation. There seems too many oppourtunities for calling out moronic behaviour and views, I wouldnt stand a chance.

  I never knew that there was an actual name for this reckless behaviour, I just thought it was part of me and a bit like someone with turettes, expect I knew I was going to do it even though I knew I shouldnt. Now as with everthing in the modern age it has a name, Intrusive Thoughts. Except of course in my case its more intrusive actions. Strangely or perhaps it was the nature of the job I did, it gained me a reputation and eventually recognition that seemed to give me kudos and strangely awards???. 
Or perhaps it was just, 'oh,oh here's that nutter' type of recognition. It probably explains why I could always get a seat in the canteen, well before they closed them.

And what has this to do with wargaming one asks. Well since retiring these thoughts and actions have been my constant companion especially when wargaming, which is good right?
 Wild advances, tick. Ignoring the position and carrying on when it would be better to retire, tick. Having ones leader charging with his outnumbered troops, tick. So perhaps this is the explanation Ive been looking for as my defeats mount up like the poor Mags. [NUFC] and my generals fall heroically.
 It also could explain why I will buy figures when Ive already got a lot to paint or repaint.
  So in future should anyone question your lead mountain, just cite Intrusive Thoughts Syndrome or ITS to the experts like me, and demand an apology for feeling picked upon before breaking down in tears or cackling recklessly.
 I will be providing a Christmas? New Years Annual, but this came into my fevered mind first.


Thursday 28 December 2023

Santa was good to me.

In the spirit of nostaga I thought an image of my refight of the Battle of Blenheim featuring the great Charles Wesencraft commanding the Austrians. A very young Neil Reidy probably laughing hysterically at some of the banter I would have been throwing at Charlie.

 Well felicitations and a Happy Christmas to one and all. One hopes that Santa was good to you and provided the necessary figures/paint/books etc,etc to carry on with this wonderful hobby.

Without attempting to sound like the rich kid when he is given a new Raleigh Chopper bike, I am very happy with the presents I received from my family. Even the oversized slippers are perfect for my poor feet. But the four wonderful books I have received from the overweight, rosy faced itinerant are perfect. Granted I did drop ridiculous hints via my Santa's list, but it seemed to work.

And the common theme, well in the main its nostalga. I have the original War Game Companion which was published originally in soft back so when it was announced it had been updated, I simply had to have the book.Like many of a certain age The War Game was the start of everything. Until I found this book I was lost and really struggling to understand what I was attempting to get into. But this book set me straight and was also a wonderful read. 

Next we have Charles Stewart Grant's Wargames Retrospective which was a great surprise. I cant wait to read this book and hopefully sink into a miasma of nostalga. Charles is a cracking bloke and writes in a form very similar to his father. Simply a no nonsense and readible form.

Then we have Tony Bath's Ancient Wargaming which contains chapters regarding his Hyboria campaign and who actually won. I have always been envious of this campaign which ran for several years and I dont think was ever bettered. I am lucky enough to own the original Campaign book and also one regarding the wargaming armies of Hyboria. The whole concept has always fascinated me.

Finaly I have a new book, yes I do like new stuff. An updated Hail Caesar supplement regarding the Romans. It should be up to the usual high standard and I cant wait to read it.

I was lucky enough to locate more early Slingshot magazines just before Christmas that have gone a little way to completing my collection, although I still need? the very early years and also the elusive 1970 booklets. Anyway included in one of the magazines was a small article about recommended fictional ancient historical novels. As a consequence I bought these two books from ABE UK. The novels were written by Rex Warner, a professor specialising in Greek and Roman history. I liked both books. They arent Alfred Duggan quality but do offer up another viewpoint regarding Caesar.Definately worth a punt if one likes ancient fiction.


My 6mm Napoleonic set up.

My 6mm Napoleonic set up.
Austria 1809.

Austrian Hussars

Austrian Hussars
Hinchliffe figures

Austrian Grenzer

Austrian Grenzer
Austrian Grenzer

Smoggycon 2013

Smoggycon 2013
Smoggycon 2013

Smoggycon 2012

Smoggycon 2012
Smoggycon 2012

Smoogycon 2009

Smoogycon 2009
My French getting another beating