Thursday 30 July 2015

I Have Seen the Future.

Although I havent mentioned it, on my blog too often, my biggest interest is the Napoleonic Wars, and over the years I have built up very large 6mm armies of all the nations that fought in the wars, baring the USA and Turkey.
 My rules of choice were Frank Chadwick's original Volley and Bayonet wargames rules which while on the face of it seemed simplistic, were and are very subtle and well thought out rules.
 Now its fair to say since I took on my two big wargames projects of the SYW and the Italian Wars I have neglected the Napoleonic period, which is a real shame.
 That was until John invited me to fight a Napoleonic 10mm game using the new Blucher rules written by Sam Mustafa.
 In the words of Rene Zelwhigger, the rules had me from the start. Again on the face of it the system seems very simplistic, the reality is the opposite. I have now used the rules twice, and can honestly say, I have seen the future of Napoleonic wargaming, the rules are that good.
 I have taken the step of actually buying the rules, which proves to me that I am very impressed with them. What is so good about them, well the command and control for one, the firing systems for a second, and I particularly like the way certain commanders can influence a unit or corps.
 Now I have the rules I intend to see if I can use my 6mm armies without too much rebasing etc.
I dont think it should be too much of an issue, but I would like to pretty up the basing  and make the divisions of my figures really look like a division of troops.
 Sam Mustafa has an excellent site regarding the rules and is worth a visit just to see what I am burbling on about
 Certainly for me an exciting wargaming development.

 A photograph, of my original Volley and Bayonet based 6mm Napoleonic troops.

Sunday 19 July 2015

''Interview with a Wargamer'' [ Part Two]

                                    ''Interview with a Wargamer'' [ Part Two]
RR, Charlie, the early 1970's were an exciting time for wargamers, and some great books were written to help us novices. How did you decide to write your first book, Practical Wargaming.
CW, I was in hospital would you believe. I was having a hernia operation and had to remain in there for a week, before being sent to a convalescent home to recover.
As a result I asked my wife to bring in a load of military history reference books, and I decided I would write a wargaming book.
RR, Just like that.
CW, Yes. I wrote several of the chapters whilst in recovery, and one day when I returned to my bedroom, there was a young nurse reading my book, the cheeky beggar.
 She told me she found it fascinating, so after that critical review I thought I'd better finish it.
 I sent it to a publisher who accepted it, and the rest is history as one says.
I was amazed when I discovered that it had been released in the United States where it sold 1500 copies. Imagine that, with me receiving 8 old pence royalties for each copy.
 I remember receiving a letter from a gentleman in America who said he wanted to meet me and walk some battlefields over here. I invited him over and stayed for a few days.
Another chap wrote saying that I was a hero of the Benedict Arnold Society, I wasn't quite certain how to take that, as I thought Arnold was classed as a traitor of the republic.
I knew that I had written a best seller when I discovered that the copy of Practical Wargaming that was in Newcastle Central library was actually stolen. What a complement!
RR, So how did your second book, With Pike and Musket come about.
CW, Well Practical Wargaming had been well received. Donald Featherstone wrote a very nice review of my book in the Newsletter, and my peers all seemed to like my ideas so I decided to write a second book about the pike and musket period.
However when I took it to the publishers, they didn't really want it. I think they thought wargaming was a passing fad. Luckily other wargaming books, especially Donald's were selling well, so they changed their minds and accepted it and it was published. The rest is history as they say.
RR, The book contained some quite obscure battles of that period, how did you manage to research those particular battles when research material was so hard to find.
CW, Donald Featherstone always said, until you visit a battlefield you will never understand the battle. I have been lucky enough to have walked the Napoleonic  battlefields of Spain and Portugal. I also visited the battlefields of ancient Rome and Greece and followed in the footsteps of Alexander in Asia Minor. Whilst I was still fit I also travelled to the wonderfully preserved battlefields in the United States to study the American Civil War.
I have always been a keen amateur historian and visited the various battlefields that I described in my book. However I totally got the Battle of Yellow ford wrong, but it was only later after I had done more research that I realised that. Luckily wargamers  didn't seem to notice, so I may have got away with that. Again the book was well received and did well.
Years later I was at an historical gathering in York, where I met this Irish chap who began blathering on about Benburg. I finally realised what he was talking about. He wanted to fly me to Ireland to walk the battlefields of Yellow ford and Benburg. I ended up making models of both battles for the local museums near the battlefields. Some people are very generous.
RR, With Pike and Musket is a particular favourite of mine, with a lot of ideas that still stand the test of time.
CW, I wrote a historical book you know, on the Battle of Otterburn, which was a particular favourite battle of mine.
RR, Tell me about that then.
CW, I was invited to Otterburn in 1988 to conduct a presentation of the battle. Anyway it was quite an affair, we all marched into Otterburn, which isn't actually where the battle took place, but that didn't seem to matter. I was asked to do a commentary of the whole battle. 
There was a regiment of soldiers to act as the Scots and English, but for some reason they were positioned well away from where people were supposed to be viewing the events. It ended up as a bit of a brawl, but fortunately no one was badly hurt.
The funny thing was the men playing Hotspur and Douglas didn't actually get to the battlefield in time as they got stuck in the traffic which was en route to the event.
RR, Did you ever consider writing a further wargaming book.
CW, I actually wrote it, but it was never published, which was  a shame.
The book was titled, Seven Steps to Freedom. The idea was to describe and fight a series of battles in North America that shaped the republic. I started with a description and refight of Braddock's Massacre leading through to the start of the War of Independence. I thought there were seven key military events that shaped the republic prior to the war of independence. Sadly it was never accepted by the publishers.
 RR, Charlie you must try again, it sounds a terrific idea.
CW, I must find my manuscript, its somewhere in my home, filed away.

[Since this interview John Curry, contacted Charlie, and published his book, which is widely available.]

RR, I recently discovered that you had some input into the iconic Battleground series produced by the now defunct Tyne Tees Television. How did that come about?
CW, I had been asked by North Tyneside Council to do a series of six historical wargames for them.
On the first night two ladies from the local television company turned up and asked me about wargaming in general. I heard nothing for a while, but then I received a telephone call out of the blue from Tyne Tees Television asking if I could write a series of six scripts of battles fought by famous military personalities. Originally I wanted to portray the Battle of Cannae, and Hannibal, but the producer said very few people would know who he was! So they asked me to do Julius Caesar instead. I call them scripts but actually they had to be written on one page of foolscap, it was an interesting problem.
RR, I remember watching the series, and wanting to re fight the battles, it was amazing to a young wargamer.
CW, What actually happened was that I got John Braithwaite to help me prepare the battles. It was decided by the producer that we should record a pilot battle to see how things looked. I remember the producer, she was a vicar's daughter who swore like a trooper, I was appalled!
A younger wargamer called Peter Gilder was supposed to do the first battle, but nerves got the better of him. Peter had an anxiety attack and ended up fainting and being taken to hospital.
 So John and I did the pilot. I remember that the producer wanted us to throw a six to hit a gun, well of course neither John or I could manage to throw one, so we had to cheat a bit. They then insisted on smoke being blown all over the battlefield to add some drama, as if having beautiful wargames figures on a table wasn't enough.
 Anyway the series was accepted, filmed and released for television. 
RR, I have been lucky enough to have a dvd of four of the battles, I still think they are great, especially Gettysberg and Waterloo.
CW, That wasn't the end of my television career you know.
RR, I didnt know that Charlie.
CW, I did a series for television called Bob's Battles. It was presented by Bob Johnson the weatherman at 5.55pm on Tyne Tees Television. We did a total of ten battles. Bob and I would do a walk around one of the local battlefields and talk about the actual battle. Included in the series was Newburn, Pinkie, Flodden, Otterburn  and the like. Poor Bob always got his lines wrong, but he was a very nice man. When we finished the series he gave me  a lovely card titled, ' a true professional'.
RR, So did you know Peter Gilder, who is a particular hero of mine.
CW, I didnt really know Peter Gilder very well, I only met him once or twice.  I had this ridiculous idea to make an actual wargaming film. My idea, if you can call it that, was to stage a famous battle and constantly film the troops as I moved through what actually happened on the day. The idea was to place the troops, move them slightly film it, and then run each shot together, a bit like a cartoon I suppose. Anyway Frank Hinchliffe and Peter saw the film. They thought it was hilarious. Unfortunately it looked like a silent film, all jerky and moving at the wrong speed, heavens knows how I thought it could work. I gave the film to John Braithwaite.
RR, I know you were a very close friend of Terry Wise and Stuart Asquith,and you used to meet once a year for an annual wargame and battlefield walk. How did that come about.

CW, I received an invite to the first meeting of Conference of Wargamers [C.O.W.]
 What happened was that invites were given to people who had done something in wargaming. There were about 50 given out. The meeting was at Missendon Abbey and organised by Paddy Griffiths. Anyway I turned up and these two men came over to meet me, they said that I was the man they had been wanting to meet. It was Terry Wise and Stuart Asquith. A year later at the same convention I met them again. We all decided that we didn't want to attend C.O.W. again and instead arranged to meet for an annual weekend of wargaming and general company. 
 I'm afraid I didn't take to the ideas that Paddy Griffiths was proposing. I remember we were all given hats at the convention, mine said I was a Colonel of a cavalry regiment. I was supposed to go around talking to the other delegates about the coming battle. It wasn't for me, it wasn't my thing.
 But meeting Terry and Stuart, was worth wearing that silly hat.
 Terry Wise was a very knowledgeable person and a true friend. Both were great wargaming companions. Terry wrote some very good reference books and was a very generous person. Stuart edited a first rate wargames magazine in Practical Wargamer. They were good wargaming companions. I still get a Christmas card of Stuart every year.
RR, In Practical Wargaming you stated that there would never be a universal set of wargames rules, has this view changed at all?
CW, Wells said that wargaming was like chess with a thousand pieces. It's not, and never will be. Wargamers are individuals, each has a view about how to wargame and each has a view about what they want from a game. That's one of the wonderful thing about wargames. That and the military history. It's amazing what you learn as you research a period.
RR, You also wrote, in Practical Wargaming, ''a game played with easily understood rules that gives a result played within a  broad outline of a particular period, is to be preferred to a game that is so accurate in detail that more often than not, the only result is a genuine hostility towards your opponent''.
CW, In the 1970's there was a move towards excessive detail and charts. The game aspect took a secondary role, and things became too serious. I can't stand rules where you have to end up having to throw a dice to agree a point. By all means research the history, but don't spoil the point of wargaming.
RR, Are there any rules currently published which you feel achieved the purpose you wrote of?
CW, I can't afford to buy them! [ laughing] I am a pensioner you know.
 I do like Fire and Fury, and Regimental Fire and Fury. Those rules are well thought out. I mainly use rules written by my good friend Mike Fisher, but we also use rules based on hexagons as you have seen in my wargames room. Wargaming  shouldn't be about the rules, it should be about historical tactics, knowing your period, the rules should be secondary.

RR, Charlie, before we finish the interview, just as a bit of fun,can I ask you some quick fire questions?
CW, Right you are.
RR, Favourite wargaming period?
CW, Malburian.
RR, Least favourite period?
CW, World War one and World War Two, especially Two. All the different weapons and excessive detail. I'm also afraid I never understood fantasy wargaming. I wargame up to the Zulu Wars and join in at my wargames club with members games, because one should always join in.   
RR, Favourite Book?
 CW, Well I read a great deal but at the moment I am particularly enjoying The Waterloo Companion. It is a very interesting book and well presented.
RR, Favourite personality from history?
 CW, Malborough. John Churchill overcame so many obstacles and managed to never lose a battle. David Chandler also said, that Churchill serviced his wife twice whilst still wearing his campaign boots! He was a fascinating man.
RR, Best wargame you ever fought in?
 CW, That would have to be Gettysberg. I really enjoy multi player games, it always makes for an interesting game. I have fought this battle many times. It holds problems for each side.
 I have toured the actual battlefield, and walked several of the other less well known ones as well. The Americans do a wonderful job of preserving their battlefields. They also present the history really well. 
RR, Finally Charlie, you have probably met most of the personalities who helped wargaming to grow in this country. Who was the most influential person in your opinion?
CW, Donald, definitely Donald Featherstone. His little magazine was so exciting every time I received my copy, it was a wonderful inspiration. I never realised that it went to America, originally I thought there were only wargamers in England. Donald and his wife were lovely people, he was a very generous person and a great friend. You know wargaming is a wonderful hobby and I believe that it has kept me young.

RR, Charlie I would like to thank you again for taking the time to tell me a little bit about your wargaming life and thanks for writing two excellent books for wargamers.   

The unabridged Interview with a Wargamer.

   A while ago Paul Stevenson published an article in the Miniature Wargames, which contained a version of an interview that I conducted with the great Chales Wesencraft. I know a lot of wargamers dont actually buy the wargaming press, so I thought this deserved to be on the internet.
The full version was never used, so leading on from my talk with Tony Runkee, I thought it would be nice to have Charlies interview recorded in full on my blog. So here's the original Interview with a Wargamer.

 Sometimes in life one is lucky enough to meet and associate with a person who you find to be fascinating, funny, intelligent, modest and basically an all round good guy.
Wargaming has been very lucky in that several of the people who can be attributed with bringing the hobby to the masses were just such people. The late great Donald Featherstone, Tony Bath, Charles Grant and the irrepressible  Brigadier Peter Young were just such persons. Each one in their individual way laid the foundation for the present wargaming scene. Through their individual writing a new wargamer could feel the enthusiasm each was trying to convey. More importantly in my view, the way these authors wrote, made the hobby seem not only the right thing to do, but also a good place to want to be.   
One name is missing from the list, of what really should be a British wargaming hall of fame, and that is Charles Wesencraft. Charles was the author of two wargaming books that certainly in my case made a big difference to how I set out on the wargaming path.
 Practical Wargaming published 1974 and With Pike and Musket published 1975 are in my opinion wargaming classics. Both books are again available through the good works of John Curry, and both still have a relevance in this day and age.
Most importantly and certainly from Charles view is the fact that he is still very much alive, and still wargaming.
 Anyway without further ado, I would like to take our reader to an 'Interview with a Wargamer '.

 RR, Charlie, you were born in 1928 in South Shields which was then in County Durham. You went to Hexham Grammar School and from there to Newcastle University.
CW, I never actually finished my university education though. I was taking a degree in architecture, but I realised that I just wasn't good enough. I did however learn to make scale models which obviously has helped me later in life.
RR, So what did you do after university.
CW,  Well in 1947 I was conscripted into the army to do my national service.
I was originally with the Fighting Fifth Infantry regiment in Newcastle. Eventually ending up at the Mons Barracks and then onto Deepcut barracks where I received my commission.
 I was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the artillery and trained on the reliable 25 pounder.
Typically after fourteen months I was sent to the 99 Heavy Anti Aircraft regiment to defend Wales.
 For whatever reason I became the administrator for the regiment, organising social events, sports events and such.
RR, What was it like.
CW, I loved the army, and if I hadn't met my wife to be I would probably have stayed in the forces.
 It would have been very unfair if I had stayed, as the life would have entailed travelling around the world, and my wife had trained as a teacher. So at the end of my service I left.
RR, So what was National Service like for a young officer?
CW, I can remember clearly, meeting my Commanding Officer in Wales in my new role as administrator for the regiment..
The incident went something like this.
 Wesencraft, I understand you used to be a boy scout?
Yes sir.
So you will know all about tents then.
Yes sir.
Well we have 20,000 soldiers arriving very soon, so I expect you to have a plan drawn up to house these arrivals.
So by the next morning I had created a beautiful plan of the tented village needed for these troops. The plan was accepted and I was ordered to erect the tented village. However I was only able to obtain three soldiers to help erect the tents. Unfortunately the tents were all bell tents, which I knew absolutely nothing about. We erected two in a day, but these blew away during the night. Luckily my C.O. kindly lent me the entire regiment after that, to build the village, it was an impressive sight.
RR, You clearly enjoyed yourself.
CW, It was a great life, so after I left the army I joined the TA for three years.
I am currently chairman of the 101 Artillery regiment here in Newcastle.
I can truly say Valhalla exists, should you ever attend one of our functions. The number of bald or grey haired chaps is a wonder to behold.
RR, What started you on your journey into wargaming?
CW, I think it all started when I was three.
RR, Three?
CW, We were on holiday in Derbyshire, and my father was clearly sick of pushing me around in the push chair. So he said, Charlie if you walk up this hill, you may find a castle at the top.
 Even then I was fascinated by castles. Sure enough my father was right. At the top of the hill was a wonderful castle.
So when Christmas came, my parents gave me a model castle and soldiers.
My father devised a game with them, with me defending the castle and my father attacking the walls. We used pencils for ammunition. My love of toy soldiers and history grew from that.
 I had a eclectic mix of Britain's though. I remember I had a Zulu set, and a fire-fighter set, really quite a bohemian collection. The mistake I made was giving them to my nephew. Unfortunately he melted down all the collection in order to make catapult ammunition.
RR, What can you tell me about your early years of wargaming.
CW, I was lucky enough to meet a neighbour in the pub one night, where we somehow began talking about soldiers, and Airfix. The neighbour, Duncan Brack inexplicably invited me around to his home the next night, where I played my first wargame.
Duncan and I fought an American Civil War battle using the rules written by Jack Scruby. We tried to understand the rules and finished playing at 03.00 in the morning. We had managed a total of six moves. Duncan and I were desperate to understand how to play a wargame, so we kept taking notes during the moves. I never slept that night, it was a wonderful experience.
 We started with Airfix figures, but I wasn't very good at converting them.
Strangely enough I met Duncan completely by accident a few months ago at a function in Newcastle, it was wonderful to see him again.

                                         Charlie at my re fight of the Battle of Blenheim.
RR, I know you were also a close friend of John Braithwaite, of Garrison fame, how did that friendship come about.
CW, I was attending the first convention that Donald Featherstone had organised for wargamers.
 So I drove down from Newcastle to Southampton in company with Duncan Brack. We had to pick a bloke up whose name I can't remember, who was living in Reading, a place I'd never been to.
 I  remember telling the chap that I would meet him outside of the Woolworths in Reading town centre at 11.00am . I thought that everywhere had to have a Woolworths, so it shouldn't be too hard to find him. Sure enough the chap was there. Amazing really.
 Anyway, we attended the convention. There was a dinner organised for the night, and Donald Featherstone got up and made a speech. No one responded.
  Duncan said to me, "Charlie someone has to get up and thank him for the speech and the convention". So I got up, and duly thanked Donald. After the dinner Donald came over and invited me back to his house that night, it must have been about 11.00pm. It was there I saw his wargames room with his wonderful table. I remember he had built what could best be described as a trough around the edge, in which he put his troops, and causalities. It was really ingenious. But I am digressing.
At the convention, was a chap from the North East, John Braithwaite. John had made some metal figures, and painted them. When I say some, it was quite a few actually. Well as I said I was using Airfix figures, and these made by John were wonderful. John kindly sold me the figures. I remember paying three old pence each for them, and they were painted. He was a generous person.
I also remember meeting Neville Dickenson at the convention, it really was quite a do.
RR, Tell me about Donald Featherstone?
CW, I met Donald many times. I thought his magazine, Wargamers Newsletter was a tremendous magazine. Whenever I received my copy I would be up all night reading it.
Donald was a real personality, and invited me down to help him with a wargame  presentation at Hastings to commemorate  the battle. That was in 1966.
 The idea was that Don would provide the commentary using a microphone somewhere up in the gods, whilst I and five other people would move the troops about for him.
Anyway it came to the penultimate moment, and Don said,'' and arrows fell around Harold, striking him''.
 So I naturally picked up Harold, showing the audience, before dramatically dropping the figure on the floor.
 A voice then boomed, '' Harold then got up again''.
 Don was having a bit fun, so I was left scrabbling around the floor looking for the damned figure.
Donald Featherstone was a great friend and an excellent author.
RR, They were exciting times to be a wargamer.
CW, It was through Don that I met David Chandler. I remember one year, that David Chandler had organised a wargame of the Battle of Borodino. Don was commander of the French, with me as one of his marshals. David had organised the battle at a scale of 1:500.
 For some reason I remember writing an account for the Newsletter and putting in the phrase, '' 500 Russian generals fell with one shot'' which Don found hilarious. He always would remind of that faux pas.
My abiding memory of that battle of Borodino, was David getting an onion and sticking it on top of a model of a church to make it look more Russian. As far as we were concerned it was definitely a Russian church.
RR, You speak fondly of David Chandler, what was he like.
CW, David Chandler, was a very nice, gentle person, incredibly knowledgeable.
David was running a series of lectures at a place called Higham Hall in the Lake District.
The idea was to deliver a series of five, one and a half hour historical lectures. Followed on the Saturday afternoon by a wargame in which everyone naturally had to join in.
 The rules were simple  and easily understood, bearing in mind that none of the students had wargamed before. I remember one particular female student, she was German, who was a very good general, lucky with the dice as well.
Poor David, after one series of lectures,I had set up Borodino for the students. Prior to the wargame, David had told the students of the French mistake of placing their artillery too far away from the Russian positions. Of course when it came to wargame the battle, David did exactly the same thing. We did rib him about that.
It was David that arranged for me to create a model of the Battle of Blenheim for Blenheim Palace.
RR, Tell me about that.
CW, David rang me up and said he was going to see the Duke of Malborough and wanted me to help him run a series of wargames at Blenheim palace to commemorate the battle.
That was in 2004.
I told David, the Duke won't want that, he will want a model of the battle instead.
Anyway David rang back a few days later and said, you were right, the Duke would like a model, but he doesn't have very much money to get it built.
So David very kindly offered the Duke my services, he knew I had done models before and he must have thought I was cheap.
Anyway I set too building the battlefield using my skills from my university days. The model was to be 10 feet by 4 feet. I made it in 2 foot sections of plywood, and filled it with 6mm Baccus figures.
The Duke sent a van up to collect the model, and I trekked down to set it up and fill in all the gaps between each section. David was very upset and apologetic that the Duke didn't open the exhibition of the Battle. It was left to David to do the honours, it was still a great day.
Pete Berry came down for the opening, good chap Pete, very enthusiastic. 
RR, Anyway back to the modelling. I know you have made other items.
CW, I created a model of the battle of Stirling Bridge which I think featured in a Practical Wargamer.
I believe that they are reopening the visitor centre so perhaps they still have the model.  I was asked to create a model of Cullodon field, but I'm not certain if it is still on show. Anyone would think I was Scottish. I also was asked to build a model of Arbeia Roman fort, Prudhoe Castle, Fulwell Windmill and Aydon castle in Corbridge. I also did a number of smaller commissions.
RR, I know that you are also a local historian,and active in several groups.
CW, I am President of my local history society. It sounds very grand, I still do the odd lecture. Anyway how it all happened was that I was invited to present a history of the Battle of Flodden to some pupils at Barnard Castle Public School.
 I took Duncan Brack and John Braithwaite with me to present the battle using my figures.
 The whole school turned out, all the masters in full regalia and all their pupils. It was a very impressive affair. I used a sword as a pointer whilst Duncan and John moved the figures.
After that baptism I realised that I could make a decent fist of it. So I used to travel around the region presenting various battles, Nevilles Cross, Otterburn Flodden Newburn.
It was a bit like a musical Hall act really, I think I got a reputation, hopefully good, for presenting the battles. 
In part two of the interview, Charlie explains how his wargaming books came about, and also how he became involved in television and the famous Battleground series.

Saturday 18 July 2015

Tony Runkee, master figure painter and gentleman.

Last year following a throwaway comment by Andy Copestake of Old Glory fame about being offered some ex Peter Gilder figures I was lucky enough to be introduced by Andy to Tony Runkee.
 Tony had been a member of the old Hull Wargames group and had been a painter for the late great Peter Gilder.
 I think its fair to say that Peter Gilder was probably the one wargamer I always wanted to emulate, and the one whose figure painting style I wanted to copy. Sadly I never met him, and only attended the Wargames Centre after he had sold it.
 Anyway, Tony very kindly sold me some ex Wargames Holiday Centre gendarmes and then completed a small commission for me. From there I was able to afford another commission, and using the excuse of collecting the completed unit [ Spahis of the Porte ] I drove down to Hull on Tuesday to collect the figures and pick the brains of one of Gilder's painters.
 Basically I thought it would make for an interesting post by talking to Tony who knew Peter Gilder well, and picking his brains about his painting techniques.
                                                                The man himself;

Q,   So Tony can you tell me how you started painting wargames figures.
 R,   I started like most wargamers from the late 1960's by building Airfix kits and painting them. Being an electrician by trade I was always handy with things, and found I was pretty good at putting the kits together and painting them.
 Over the next few years, after making everything that Airfix had producded, I progressed onto the larger but more expensive models of soldiers.
  There used to be a local hobby shop in Hull, and I was able to get a lot of kits from there, but because money was tight I couldnt afford the wonderful large models being sold by Hinchliffe so had to settle for the cheaper plastic kits. Anyway to cut a long story short, I finally bought and painted a Ray Lamb 75mm figure which when I had completed it, I was really pleased about,

Q,  So what happened.
R,  I took this figure that I thought was the bees knees down to the local wargames club in Hull, I wasnt a big wargamer but I knew some of the people there and wanted to show it off.
Anyway one of the members said that the person I should speak to about the figure and other similar figures was sat in the corner of the club, and that's how I met Peter.
  Peter and I talked about the figure and he gave me some advice about various ways to paint metal figures.From that chance meeting Peter and I became good friends.

Q, What was Peter Gilder like.
R, After that first meeting Peter and I would meet at the club, and after a couple of meetings Peter invited me around to his house, to show me some of the figures he'd been working on.
 This was before Milliput, so Peter made his figures from a wire armature, and solder. I remember watching him making one Napoleonic soldier in a greatcoat, and he built the coat, which was loose and open using a piece of wire and solder, for its time it looked great.
 Some people thought Peter was standoffish, but actually he was a very shy person, and a very good friend. As I got to know him better we used to go out socially frequently.

Q, So how did he come to work for Frank Hinchliffe.
R, Frank Hinchliffe was an engineer by trade, and was making some wonderful artillery pieces. Because of his training Frank only needed a set of scale drawings and from them he could create some first class models. Anyway Frank couldnt make figures, whereas Peter was just a very talented person who had an eye for such things. Anyway Peter got in touch with Frank and showed him some of his work, he was obviously impressed because Peter began making wargames figures for Frank Hinchliffe, and Hinchliffe wargames figures came about. I think Peter was making about five figures a week for Frank Hinchliffe, and soon they built up a large range of figures which I got to paint.

Q, So how did things progress from there.
 R, I used to go to the modelling shows with Peter and Frank and would work on the stall for them. As I had a young family and money was tight I would get figures in exchange for working with them.
I just picked up tips from Peter and developed my style of painting which Peter clearly liked.
 I often used to attend Northern Militare with the stall, and began entering the various categories of the painting competitions Frank ran.

Q, I remember thinking that the Hull club in the 70's and 80's had some pretty good painters as members and I remember the great photographs that used to be in the Miniature Wargames magazine by the various members.
R, At the time, there was some really talented blokes at the club, and with Peter also being a member it was a great place to go to. Harry Harrison was a member, Dennis Coleman, John Tilson, Keith Rotherham, Peter and of course Phil Robinson. They were a very talented bunch and it was a good place to learn painting techniques. It was at Hull that I was introduced to John Braithwaite who ran Garrison Miniatures. I painted a lot of the large models that Garrison used to stock.

Q, It was also about this time that Battleground the television programme was made.
 R, I remember the programmes. Peter asked if I wanted to take part, but I was busy with work so I couldn't attend. However if you watch the start of the Battleground programmes you will see on a table near Edward Woodward a painted Stug model, that was one of mine. I also painted about 50% of the figures for Peter's re enactment of Gettysberg on the show.

Q, What else did you paint for Peter.
 R, All sorts. I painted him a Sassanid army, a lot of Napoleonics which he later used at his centre, loads of Second World War, tanks etc which I think went to Dave Thomas. Also his Italian war stuff, red Indians, oh and I painted up a Norman army that ended up with Peter.
 I also painted myself a Bavarian Napoleonic army which I ended giving to Peter.
  I used to get figures in exchange for my work.
 Peter had a few talented people to paint figures for him, including Doug Mason, Phil,and me, it was quite a collection that he put together at the centre.

 Q, I remember the Normans, from the Miniature Wargames, they were a colourful bunch.

Q, You mentioned the Wargames Holiday Centre of Peter Gilder's.
 R, Peter bought a place at Thornton le Dale, and I helped him set up his wargames room, doing the electric wiring and the like. I then helped Peter make his terrain boards, we didnt have the Pink insulation board material then, so Peter and I would cut up big sheets of fibre board, and carve them up to make the hills. Thats when I was introduced to the rubberised hair  method of making trees and hedges. A lot of the buildings were made from solid blocks of wood, with roofs and windows added, the centre was a great place. I remember that I brought Peter the rubber gaskets from  the Leyland A68 engines which we used as hedges that were fixed to the boards, cheap but effective. We also used the wooden corner supports from fruit boxes to make the bockage for the World War two games, in fact Im making some more at the moment.

Tony then showed me one of the few figures that he had kept from his long painting career, it was of an Indian chief.
Q, Tony I remember this figure, this was on the front of one of the early Miniature Wargames magazines.
R, I made this figure from scratch,the feathers took a lot of effort to create as they were individual pieces of solder. I also had to spend a lot of time painting them, but it was worth it.
 Somehow I kept this figure, probably because of the amount of effort it took to make and paint.

    I was able to also talk to Tony about his painting tips. He has won many awards over the years at wargame and military modelling events, in fact the only he has never entered and won is Euro Militaire, which he intends to enter. This is the premier military modelling event in Europe and having seen Tony's abilities I can see him achieving this ambition as well.
 Tony uses oils, enamels, acrylics, artist acrylics and cheap acrylic artists paint. Having seen how effective the paint is I am now looking to buy a few tubes of artist acrylics.
 Tony starts from a white undercoat approach to every figure he paints, as it suits his style of painting perfectly. Having seen his painted horses, it is very obvious that he has carefully studied a real horse. He alternates between a wipe off paint effect and a wonderful wet on wet effect. But even that is open to change as he clearly is always experimenting with his painting styles.
 One thing he showed me which is so simple but so effective, is a wet pallet which not only keeps the acrylic paint fresh on the pallet for much longer, it also allows a wet on wet approach on the figure. This is something I have attempted with the medium and failed miserably.
 Tony simply takes a plastic lid, say from a small box of chocolates, places some folded kitchen roll in the bottom, and then carefully pours clean water into the tray, the tray and paper needs to be wet but not totally swamped. He then places a piece of grease proof paper over the kitchen roll, so that it gets fairly damp, but not soaked.The acrylic paint that is to be used is placed on the grease proof paper and used accordingly. I probably haven't described this too well, but having seen this in action, it allows the paint to stay usable and is of a consistency to blend on the figure.
 Tony also showed me how he paints white, which has always caused me problems, he uses an artists acrylic called Davy's Grey which when mixed with water and placed on the figure gives a beautiful effect.
  He also explained about how to highlight black without making the highlights jar. Instead of using greys, he uses khaki colours mixed with black, so effective and better than the harshness of grey. Similarly when painting negroid skin tone, Tony recommended a bottle green or Prussian blue undercoat which was a tip he picked up from the great painter Joe Shaw.
To be fair to Tony I could have sat all day and had a proper painting tutorial such is his knowledge of how to paint figures to a top standard. Tony also gave me a short explanation of how he makes his distinctive bases, which he has improved upon from his days of painting for Peter Gilder, the bases naturally look top notch.
 Hopefully with the other tips he gave me I will be able to improve my style.

Tony is one of many wargamers who have quietly worked away in the hobby producing wonderful figures and providing a lot of inspiration to anyone who has seen his work. I would like to thank Tony and his wife Audrey for putting up with me, and also feeding me. I would recommend anyone who bumps into Tony at various shows to introduce yourselves and then listen to what he has to impart, youre never too old to learn.
 Thanks again Tony.

                               A squadron of the Saxe lancers that Tony very kindly painted for me.
    The Gendarmes and crossbowmen that I was able to buy from Tony, from the Wargames Holiday Centre. Still defying the test of time.

                                                   One of Tony's beautiful large figures.


Tuesday 14 July 2015

A few seconds of fame[ well sort of]

Being the sad individual that I am, I was mightily pleased when I saw a photograph of my Irish Dillon Regiment, smack on the front of the latest Wargamers Annual. I was even more chuffed when I saw some more of my stuff inside the annual. I would like to thank Graham Cummings for including my figures in his article. Any royalties can be sent to my covert account in the outer Hebrides please.

Sunday 12 July 2015

Only a Game.

There seems to be a common theme running through various posts and also in the wargaming press, regarding wargamers who see my hobby as only a game, with very little relevance to war and the study of the whole subject of warfare.
 Now I havent seen any of the various quoted posts regarding the fact that wargaming is only a game and therefore there is no requirement or need to research the period that you are attempting to represent, so I can only speak from a subjective point of view, although if anyone can direct me to where these views are being discussed I would be very grateful.
 So is wargaming ''ONLY A GAME'' and therefore there is absolutely no need to know anything about the subject and period one is playing?
 Well my view is the whole beauty of wargaming is the fact that there is a need to understand the period one is wanting to fight, and without the basic understanding of what the war was about then you can never attempt to refight the period with any hope of representing the correct tactics and different types of army of the period of choice.
 Wargaming and the study of military history are synominous, and without the latter then wargamng is pretty pointless.
 As it is, there is always a risk that a wargamer may attempt to use some anachronistic tactic in an attempt to gain some gaming advantage, I think the most common being the use of a heavy skirmish screen in any historical period before the Revolutionary wars, and the other is the use of a Grand Battery prior to the Napoleonic wars.Both common mistakes.
 The problem that is arising is I think because of a trend towards smaller wargames, where the aim is to achieve a result in a few hours in a game that can be quickly packed away after it is finished, almost like a board game of old.
 There have been attempts in the recent past to provide a wargame, with everything that is needed for a wargamer, painted figures, a small board, and fairly simple rules, nothing wrong with these attempts, if this is viewed as a starting point for a new wargamer.
 The problem comes when the game takes over from the war part of the whole event.
 I am not saying that to be a wargamer one needs a massive table and loads of accurately painted figures, but I think its very easy to slide into the trap of believing that to wargame, all one needs is a few badly painted and researched figures, and a set of rules that 'explain' the background to the game or perhaps provides a 'list' which can then be used to select the players figures without having any knowledge of the history behind the period being fought. Basically a dumbing down of the hobby as a whole.
 Now I am certainly not implying that I am an intellectual giant [plus 4 on the combat dice] and that to take up wargaming one needs to have  a degree in history, but without a knowledge of the period what is the point!
  I know in the past I have banged on about the poor knowledge of would be new wargamers and have attributed this to my old fart's view that the English education system is basically not providing a decent education, history wise, and is letting down our young people.
  Lets be right, New Labour made the teaching of British History almost an anathema in schools, pouring scorn on anyone who attempted to give a opposing view to the opinion that our history had no place in their brave new world.
 Wargaming is what it is. An attempt to represent a battle or event from history, based upon an understanding of the said battle or war, but in the certain knowledge that one can never truly represent the battle, due to several things, ie hindsight, more knowledge than the real persons would have had at the time, and most importantly the ability to see what the other side is doing at any one time.
  But because of a wargamers understanding of the history, and their choice of a set of rules that they feel represents that period of history, then at least a flavour of the problems faced can be represented on a gaming table.
 The worrying thing for me would be if I came around to believing that wargaming was just a game with pretty counters, and  there had been absolutely no need to read copious accounts of battles, uniform guides, witness accounts and it had all been for naught, and in fact all I needed was to read the latest set of army lists and rules associated with the lists. God help us, I think I better lie down in a darkened room.

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