Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner … that I became a wargamer

Nature vs. Nurture?

Whilst I was training to be a teacher back in the early 1970s, the debate about whether or not nature or nurture was the main driving force behind a child’s success in the education system was in full spate … and I suspect that the jury is still out with regard to which of the two is the most important.

A recent comment by one of my regular blog readers brought this debate back into my mind … and I’ll leave other blog readers to decide if nature or nurture is what turned me into a wargamer.


  • I come from a family that has had several members who served in the military.
  • My paternal great-uncle served with the Hampshires and was killed during the Gallipoli Campaign.
  • My maternal grandfather and my father were both Gunners during World War II and both reached senior NCO rank during their service.


  • I was born in the General Lying-In Hospital on Addington Street at one end of Waterloo Station.
  • I spent many hours as a young child wandering about the Imperial War Museum, which was located very near to where my maternal grandmother and great grandmother lived.
  • I was exposed at an early age to numerous ‘soldiers tales’ from the adults that surrounded me.
  • The first toy I can remember being given as a Christmas present was a toy fort with a garrison of soldiers.

This is the evidence … so which was more important in making me a wargamer …

Nature or Nurture?


14 Comments on “Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner … that I became a wargamer”

  1. This is a very interesting question.

    My view (I am Bob's brother, by the way, and not at all interested in wargaming) is that we are genetically pre-programmed with a set of aptitudes and characteristics which means that we naturally find some things easier and more interesting to do than others — the nature aspect. Thus, although you and I share the same ancestry, we generally have quite separate interests because we have inherited a different combination of traits from the same parents. What we both benefited from was good nurturing that encouraged us to find the activities that suited us individually. So you took the opportunity to visit the Imperial War Museum because it was accessible but I did not as it did not interest me in the slightest.

    However, it doesn't seem quite so clear cut when it comes to ethical and moral attitudes. We both hold the same basic set of life values that our parents did. Is this because we are genetically similar and so would naturally adopt those same beliefs or were we influenced by our up-bringing? I suspect that it is a case of nurture reinforcing nature.

  2. Steve,

    I couldn't have put it better myself.

    I think that you are right about people being genetically pre-programmed with a set of aptitudes and characteristics … and that the different combination of natural traits we inherited from our parents – coupled with good parenting – allowed us to develop in different ways and in different directions.

    As for one's individual ethical and moral attitudes … well, natural propensities towards certain types of behaviour can be influenced for good or ill by the environment we are brought up in, and I agree that this is certainly a case of nurture reinforcing nature.

    Thanks for contributing to this very interesting discussion.

    All the best,


  3. Nature? Nurture? . . . How about “Good Fortune”?

    — Jeff

  4. Bluebear Jeff,

    Very true. My brother and I had our share of good fortune, especially in regard to having parents who wanted us to be successful in whatever we chose to do, and an education – at home and in school – that gave us the skills and knowledge to do so.

    All the best,


  5. Interesting debating topic, but it may turn out to be that it depends on the individual. Although I had relatives who served in WW2, I don't really know anything about their record or experiences. I know my father was in Canada in 1943 training up on bombers, but he never said much about it. I don't even know whether he served on any operations at all, let alone what type. He did keep his logs and textbook, and his silk scarf I recall from when I was very young.

    Small things indicated his attitude to war was not favourable: 'Mug's game,' he said more than once, and I recall is very occasional sneering at the US involvement in Viet Nam. Not so much the methods, but that the US was involved at all. 'They don't believe in war!' I recall vividly Dad's mimicking an American general, talking about the mounting anti-War movement in the US. Though by no means a Conscientious Objector, he clearly didn't believe in war himself.

    Yet I developed very early on an interest in warfare, and history in general. At the same time I am not violent by nature – never did learn how to fight. I have handled firearms (though not for the last nearly 50 years), but shooting only at targets. Only once have I shot at a living thing (missed: small, fast moving target). So I am a wargamer of the H.G. Wells mould: enjoys the excitement and drama of war (though not unaware of its horrors), campaign and battle; but at heart a pacifist. At that I find that pacific-minded war gamers no rarity at all.

  6. Pete. says:

    I think your brother Steve is right on the money Bob.

    I may even be tempted to say nuture is more important.

    Past military service by relatives may indicate a pre disposition to military matter but given that the 20th century had two periods of total war and conscription it would seem to be that many people who make up our ancestors would have little choice in wether or not they wanted to join the armed forces. Sadly circumstance forced them to. Those of our relatives who joined up as volunteers could be a more useful guide to dispositions.

    Speaking personally all of my relatives from the Grandfather/ Great Uncle generation served in WW2 but only my Dad's Dad was a pre 1939 territorial. However an Aunt and and Ucle both volunterred to join the army in the later part of the cold war era…



  7. I think the nature/nurture question is a bit like trying to decide if its the egg or the milk that makes eggnog eggnog.

  8. Never mind the Imperial War Museum, John Tunstill had a place just up the road as well…

    Most of my family went to sea, I missed. Somehow, Airfix soldiers just got a hold on me, plus I liked history. As far as wargaming and history go, not nurture!

    On the other hand, my son's a wargamer, so nurture must have had a say there.

  9. Archduke Piccolo,

    Thanks for your very interesting comments, which reflect a rather different family-based ‘exposure’ to World War II than mine. In my family the general consensus seemed to be ‘it had to be done, and someone had to do it’. My maternal grandfather was a Territorial, and was called up at the outbreak of the war. He was a member of the BEF and despite being wounded, was evacuated from Dunkirk. He then spent the rest of the war on troopships, and was awarded the Atlantic Star, the Italy Star, the Burma Star, and the Pacific Star … although he should not have received the latter as he already had the Burma Star.

    My father was called up in 1944, having already been in the Home Guard (he was kicked out when they found out he was underage) and the Auxiliary Fire Service. He became a gunner, and served in North West Europe with 6th Airborne Division. After the war he was sent to Burma to train the new Burmese Army … and he was in India during the terrible and ghastly turmoil that came about as a result of independence.

    Both of them had active wars and saw fighting at close hand. In my grandfather’s case he returned to his trade as a blacksmith, and helped build the gates for several war cemeteries. My father always said that the war was both the worst and best times of his life, and that whilst he was a soldier he had felt more alive than at any other time in his life. Interestingly, as he developed dementia, it was his wartime experiences that he seemed to remember most vividly.

    Comparing our experiences, I suspect that nature and nurture played important roles in my becoming a wargamer whereas you appear to have come into the hobby by a somewhat different route. That said, I totally agree that – like you – I am at heart a pacifist, and that most of the wargamers I know share that outlook.

    All the best,


  10. Pete,

    You are right about what my brother wrote; he did hit the nail on the head in his comment.

    I suspect that we are born with certain pre-wired predispositions, and that some of us have more ‘martial’ attributes than others. Likewise some of us develop personalities that suit us to certain types of employment. In my case I learned from an early age that you had to stand up for yourself, and – as I grew taller and broader – that it was sometimes better to ‘volunteer’ than to be chosen. (By volunteering I at least felt that I had had a hand in the choice, and that I could not blame someone else afterwards.)

    As military service was ruled out (bad eyesight meant that I could not have a career in the Navy, and flat feet ruled out the Army), I eventually gravitated towards teaching (which in an inner-city area was almost like being in a war zone at times!) … and enjoyed a rather interesting and varied career as a result.

    All the best,


  11. Ross Mac,

    Everyone knows that it’s the egg AND the milk that makes eggnog eggnog! ;^)

    Seriously though, the nature vs. nurture debate has been an interesting one, and I have enjoyed everyone’s contribution. No conclusive result either way … which is what I expected.

    All the best,


  12. Xaltotun of Python,

    I visited John Tunstill’s shop a couple of times during visits to the IWM … and enjoyed going there, although at his prices I did not buy very much!

    I suspect that the arrival of Airfix plastic figures plus and interest in history also spurred me towards becoming a wargamer, as without the former I would not have been able to fight the battles of my teenage years. (By then my toy fort and Britains/Woolworths/Timpo figures had been confined to the garden shed.)

    All the best,


    PS. Is your son a good opponent, or does he avoid facing you across the tabletop?

  13. He's the one who still plays against other people. Yes, he can fight, has beaten me at times, and can also paint – went to Salute one year to enter the Junior painting competition, found he was a month or so too old, entered the Senior instead and got second place.

  14. Xaltotun of Python,

    He sounds like he is a great guy … and I guess that you are proud of him.

    All the best,


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