Friday, 25 June 2010

Loss of a friend

Paddy Griffith has died. The statement is true but it hardly covers what has happened. I can’t really summarise how important he has been to me in my wargaming career and also in life in general. Paddy was a man of deeply held convictions, someone not just prepared to sit on the sidelines. He always had to be involved. In wargaming we know this because of his creation of "Wargames Developments", of the controversial views he espoused through the wargaming press and his willingness to challenge. That’s it. His willingness to challenge. Not anything in particular, but just generally. Challenge the way you think, and what you do. Just because someone says that this is the way to do something you don’t have to follow slavishly.

But not just in wargaming. I’d like to think of myself as a friend. After all every Christmas we got a card with his annual update. Unlike everyone else’s not only did it contain family events and holiday news but also covered the latest political campaign he’d got involved in. You never knew until the end of the letter if he’d been arrested or not in the last 12 months. I’m sure life around him was never dull.

As a military historian I tend to feel he’s under rated. Everything I’ve read by him is ground breaking and original. Whether you agree with him or not, he makes you think. Look at the reviews on Amazon.com for his ACW tactics book. Some people really hate it. I’d guess that inside Paddy was both annoyed and delighted in equal measure. His book on British Army tactics in the Great War is sparklingly unique if not well known. But look in the bibliographies of all the recent books on the war, - by Sheffield, Holmes, Corrigan et al. That book is there and you can see its influence throughout.

I resent that I never got round to going to see Paddy in the last year or so. I last saw him at one of his wargaming weekends in his big Victorian house in Manchester which he hosted together with Genvieve his charming French wife. Genvieve even played in one of my games (she got to be Sarah Jane Smith in a completely ramshackle Dr Who game).

That weekend had some highs and lows. I’m really annoyed now that the last of Paddy’s games I played in left me stuck in port (Cadiz, I recall) as a Napoleonic Spanish admiral as contrary winds battered my fleet whilst the French and British crossed oceans and fought numerous fleet actions. Completely realistic, but really frustrating. But that’s what you sort of expected from him. You never knew what you were going to get except it would be different and original. I have some real treasured memories, not least his Great War battalion command games played in his house in Nuneaton, where the day started with corn beef hash to get us in the mood.

I owe him so much. In the 1980’s trying to hold down a new job, live in a new town and start a family it would have been so easy to have let wargaming drop. WD kept me going once a year (and in some years was the only wargaming I did), and my correspondence with Paddy in the days before e-mail, patiently typed out on a portable typewriter was a lifeline. Because of him I made life long friends and met wargaming heroes. Because of him I’m a better human being.

I want to wake up tomorrow and find out this hasn’t happened and he’ll be at CoW.

Please. Someone make it so.

4 comments:

  1. I agree with every word.

    I first met Paddy at the Society of Ancients Conferences of the later 80's (and through that connection met a lot of the fellow enthusiasts who are now my close friends).
    Paddy's contribution ripped through the comfortable assumptions of SoA's establishment ruffling not a few feathers. But in the upheaval, the organisation was transformed.
    Ironically, I think the Society's renewed health and longevity owes much to a man who challenged everything he thought it stood for (whether he was right or wrong - which is really not relevant) ...
    For me, his 'fistful of wargames' concept completely changed my attitude to wargames - but to have created COW and WD ... well it is hard to quantify a contribution that big ...

    Phil

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  2. I knew Paddy having met him at the South Manchester Tactical Society. I learnt a great deal from an affable and generous host. I enjoyed his games and talks.
    M. J . Ney

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  3. You were very lucky to have access to that Manchester group. I'm glad to hear you made the most of it. He was certainly a great teacher.

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  4. We are continuing the South Manchester Tactical Society in Paddy memory.

    If any of you are in Manchester 2nd Monday of the month please drop in.

    More info at http://www.smats.org.uk

    Ian Sanders

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