14 October 2012

Blast from the past

I have been rearranging my book collection lately, having recently been donated some wargaming and military history gems.

I was introduced to wargaming in the late 1970s, by my friend Barry van Wyk. His father, the late Phillip van Wyk, was a keen wargamer, and at the time refighting the WW2 Desert War in North Africa, fielding an Allied Army (British 8th Army)

We were allowed access (as teenagers) to his prized books and 1/72 models, including the rules used at the time from Featherstone's Wargames  and Advanced Wargames, including those for airborne operations, published in 1977

Sometimes I wonder about all those Allied models that appeared in Barry and Hugo's Armies, and if Phillip knew that they were at times residing on the games table at our house to counter my growing passion for the Wehrmacht.

I trust Barry and Hugo (his brother) have preserved Phillip's collection of militaria and literature including the rule books.Of particular interest in one of these books by Lionel Tar and Donald Featherstone was a picture of Phillip umpiring a re-fight of the battle of Waterloo at the South African museum, captioned "South African wargamers refighting the Battle of Waterloo" or something to that effect. Napoleon won on that occasion.

These are the covers of the books that we used at the time:
(I don't have actual copies, unfortunately, other than the Complete Wargaming )

"War Games" is the book I cut my wargaming teeth on

Followed by this one once we'd mastered the basics of Featherston and Tarr's rules.

Both books had been liberated from Phillip van Wyk's collection, and lived at our house for weeks and months on end, where the two of us had built a landscaped gaming table. 

Philllip's sand box was probably a more suitable set of terrain than our first attempt.
Barry and I thought it a good idea to build a great big paper mache mountain in one corner.
This took weeks to dry, and left us with well on an  eighth of our gaming table only useful for mountain troops. I found it particularly a hazard to my Falschirmjaeger.

I did build a V1 installation up there on the Mountain once, (A modified 1/100 Kawasaki Hien) but Barry only allowed me to use it for one game. Funny that. I felt the same about his M40 SP  Howitzer.
So I got a Jagdtiger with my next pocket money. The arms race was on.

We got this volume from the local public library. 
I think I may hold the record for the most successive renewals of any book in their collection ever !

The ideas in this book got me going, given what an important role the rail system played during WWII. 
We could never afford to play any rail based games as teenagers. The Lima and Hornby  train sets that were for sale then were way out of the reach of our thin wallets; and no-one was parting with theirs second-hand.I particularly lusted after Lima's "Leopold" Rail Gun. 

I'm living out that childhood desire now, having recently acquired a train set off Trade Me (NZ equivalent of Ebay) that is just great for the purpose. 

No Leopold as yet though, as nice as it is, it is only good for a  scenario in a table-top WW2 game.

We have had one rail-head skirmish battle at the Kapiti Wargames Club so far, set in the desert. 
Wonderful thing, disposable income at last...

 This book is still on my shelf:

I believe Donald Featherstone is in his 90s (if he is still alive.) Thanks Donald, wherever you are; and all of those gamers that came before (and after) you, that have made wargaming such an absorbing and enjoyable hobby!


  1. A fascinating potted history of wargaming, and no doubt a wonderful selection of literature. Inspiration at its best.

  2. I've also got Vol 1 and 2 of Perry's book on 54mm wargaming, courtesy of the Penman Family. Will photograph these and blog them too.

  3. Thanks for posting this! I'm fascinated by these old books. I'm always working to expand my collection.

    I've got some material on classic wargames books at http://canisterandgrape.blogspot.com.au/p/millsys-classic-wargames-books.html if you're interested.