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.

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