Monday, 11 October 2010

Another Farewell

I kept sitting down to write this piece and could never think how to start it, or what to say. Earlier in the year we lost Paddy Griffith. In August we lost Terry Wise. If Paddy was the bigger influence on my wargaming life, Terry was someone who was with me through his writings from my earliest days in wargaming right up to now.

My mate, Derek, acquired Terry's "Introduction to Battlegames" when we were both in primary school. It's an odd book, full of bits and pieces. I remember being particularly struck by Terry's plastic figure conversions. What struck me most was his conversions from archers to men-at-arms using the Airfix "Sheriff of Nottingham" set. Not because of the skill in the process, but the simple question as to why you'd do it. At that time I was trying to lay my hands on as many archers as possible as sticking people full of arrows was a battle winning strategy in the games we played.

I knew him most, initially, through his magazine articles. These appeared in "Military Modelling" at first and then he started writing "Observation Post" in "Battle for Wargamers". He also wrote the article on the Edward Woodward wargaming TV programme which I quoted from extensively earlier in the year.

Over the years I acquired a number of his sets of rules. Somewhere on my bookshelf is his Airfix Magazine guide to the American Civil War, plus a number of his Athena Publications from the early 1980s. In truth his rules style didn't really fit what I wanted to do, but even so we used his Thirty Years War set to refight the Battle of Arques when I was at university. It went rather well except I had to leave with a bout of food-poisoning part way through.

In addition to his wargames rules I have a number of his other books. He wrote many Osprey books ("more than a dozen" according to the Osprey site) covering all periods from Ancients, via Medieval to Napoleonics. Of all of his books there's still one I use on a regular basis, - that's his book on military flags published by Blandford Press in 1977. Covering 1618-1900 there's barely any of my armies that don't carry a flag based upon the illustrations or descriptions from that book. If you don't own it, go and buy it now.

(He also wrote a few books about Polar Exploration and Whale Hunting, - the latter from his personal experiences working on a whaler in the late 1950s. And a science fiction novel. He loved writing. In the mid 80s he gave up work and went to University to study English Literature. He gave it up after a year as he found they couldn't teach him anything.)

I met him personally at CoW in 1981 when I suppose he must have been in his late 40's. He was a genuinely nice bloke and I realise now that he did more to bring along some of us youngsters than many of the other members did. I recall late night chats over a mug of tea in one of those odd little kitchenettes Knuston Hall used to have on various landings with lots of affection. On reflection it was a bit like wargaming with your dad but without any of the inhibitions that might come with that (thinking about it Terry was the first Grown Up who ever put the "f-word" in a letter to me, so not much like my Dad really).

After that initial meeting we corresponded regularly and met up at shows like Northern Militaire because we were both based in the North. He was probably the first "Grown Up" wargamer I actually met. He had a family. He had a proper job. He had a history. He wrote articles about building terrain properly, using proper tools. He painted his figure bases with emulsion paint. It never occurred to me until now that I owe him that as well.

As I said I met him at the various shows in the North. He used to put on big display games with his club mates. He really sets the standard for how this should be done. Not because of the quality of the painting or scenery (good tho' it was) but because he used the games as a platform to talk to people about the hobby and to encourage them to get involved. He made wargaming accessible. He didn't just pile tables with masses of lead in some sort of macho "we've got more stuff than you" way that so many show display do these days

As ever when I got married and moved south we lost touch. Pre computers and e-mail there was always something to do other than write letters long hand. The last time I met him was at one of Paddy Griffith's mega-games at Sandhurst ("August 1914") where he played a much put upon British commander who acquitted himself rather well. I was a fiendish Hun in that game so our paths didn't really cross. He'd dropped out of WD a few years beforehand at this point as we weren't doing what he wanted to do. Our loss, rather than his.

So, farewell Terry. 75 years isn't bad, but it isn't really enough. Another regret that I never met up with you again after all these years. There always seemed to be enough time, and now there isn't. And thank you. Thank you very much, - you were nothing other than a wholly good influence on me and you are one of those people in my life I am pleased and proud to have met.

Rest In Peace.

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