Sunday, 22 November 2009
Edward Woodward & Battleground
A little bit of a different topic for this one (although researching and writing it has got in the way of finishing off my ECW dragoons).
Following Edward Woodward's recent death, Bob Cordery at "Wargames Miscellany" posted a moving tribute. In this Bob referred to a programme Woodward fronted called "Battleground" which was made by Tyne Tees Television in 1978. Bob had never seen it, but I did, - probably because it wasn't shown on all ITV franchises. I don't think I saw all of them, - they were shown at odd times and this was before video recorders. (I have a feeling they were shown at lunch time and it depended whether my free periods meant I was at home, - I was in Sixth form at the time).
As it was probably the first programme to put figure wargaming on the TV I thought those of you out there in the wargaming blogosphere might be interested in a bit more background. Most of this information comes from a back issue of the short lived Battle Magazine, written by Terry Wise.
6 programmes were made and first broadcast in the North East. Woodward hosted each programme, giving a bit of background to the battle. He didn't play in any of the games. The games were actually fought out by people who either were, or have now mostly become, well known wargaming personalities, with a few exceptions. The programmes were:
Edgehill (first shown 23/02/1978)
Fought between a pre magazine editing Duncan Macfarlane and John Tilson, both them from the Hull club (selection influenced as the show was made in the North East? Who can say.)
Waterloo (first shown 09/03/1978)
Peter Gilder's first appearance on the show, fighting John Braithwaite "from the Hull area". Probably used Peter's figures from the Callan film.
Battle of the Nile (first shown 23/03/1978)
A Naval game fought out between two Halifax club members, Steve Birnie & John Harrison. (Steve Birnie had recently published a set of 18th Century Naval Rules at the time, although whether that was before or after the show I don't know).
Chalons sur Marne (first shown 30/03/1978)
Featuring Steve Davidson and the legendary Bob O'Brien.
France, 1944 (first shown 20/04/1978)
An imaginary game set in Northern France after D-Day. It was fought out between the author Gavin Lyall, and his son, Bernard. This was about the time that Lyall had published his own set of wargames rules called "Operation Warboard", which were used on the show.
Gettysburg (first shown 27/04/1978)
This was fought between Dr Paddy Griffith ("Senior Lecturer at Sandhurst") and Peter Gilder, using, I think, the figures from the Callan film. This was before Paddy founded WD and started his move away from using toy soldiers.
All the figures and terrain was provided by Peter Gilder, except for the WW2 game which was staged by Gavin Lyall.
It's quite a list of players, - but it is also notable for those who are missing. Phil Barker, Tony Bath and Charles Grant are all missing and were all considerably better known at the time than most of those who took part, as, of course, was Don Featherstone. Maybe they just failed the auditions, which covered "over a hundred wargamers". Amongst the non-appearing advisers on the programme was Charles Wesencraft and David Chandler.
My memories of the programme are that it was a noble attempt to make the hobby look interesting, but at the end of the day the figures don't move, and there's only so much you can do with blowing smoke across the table and playing drumming in the background.
My only recollection of the commentary is that in one game I think Gilder says something like "roll two dice, and you don't want any sixes", to which a po-faced voice over from Woodward remarks "he is joking, - he actually needs sixes".
I may have tracked down the original producer. I've e-mailed her and if she answers any of my questions, I'll post an update, but it could be in quite a while!