The Portable Wargame: Other people’s battles

When one designs and publishes a set of wargame rules, one is never quite sure how they will be received by people one does not know. Will they be a success … or was the whole thing just an ego trip on the part of the author? Well in the case of THE PORTABLE WARGAME, it would appear to have been a reasonably successful venture … and it hasn’t done my ego any harm either!

Over recent weeks I have featured two of the battles fought by Archduke Piccolo in which he used my ANCIENT rules, but have not yet mentioned the third, ENCIRCLEMENT OR BREAKOUT.

I really enjoyed reading these three battle reports as the rules seem to have resulted in what I would judge to have been reasonably accurate results.

A few days ago Jeff Butler wrote a blog entry about a naval battle he had recently fought using a developed and modified version of my Pre-Dreadnought Portable Naval Wargame rules (as yet only available as an online PDF download).

Reading Jeff’s blog entry reminded me that I need to give some serious thought to properly publishing the various versions of my naval rules sometime soon … and this has now moved up my list of ‘things to do’.

If my ego wasn’t inflated enough already, I recently received an email from a wargamer in which he stated that his ten-year-old son had said that ‘the rules are so simple you just concentrate on the tactics‘ and that he had ‘been trying to engage him (his son) in my beloved hobby. Your rules may have succeeded!’

That email gave me an immense amount of pleasure. Having spent most of my working life trying to inspire young people, that simple email was both humbling and made me feel that publishing my rules was a very worthwhile thing to do … and worth all the time and effort I put into writing and publishing them.


Please note that the photographs featured above are © Archduke Piccolo and Jeff Butler.

A trip down memory lane

Although I have been very busy for the past few days, I have managed to spend some time reading old copies of MINIATURE WARFARE. They were given to me by David Crook, who recently bought them at a boot fair. The magazine’s came ready-bound in green binders with the name of the magazine in gold lettering on the spine, and include all the issues in volumes one to three.

The magazine was published and edited by John Tunstill, who lived less than two miles from my present address, and who later owned a toy soldier shop near the a Imperial War Museum. It is interesting to note that in the first editorial he wrote in February 1968 that expected to initially reach a world-wide audience of about five thousand.

The names of the writers of the first articles published also make for interesting reading, as do the subjects they wrote about. They include:

  • Ed Smith: Fact or Fiction in Early History
  • Malcolm Woolgar: Cavalry Training: Horsed
  • John Tunstill: ACW Campaign Part 1
  • Anthony Anderson: On Naval Matters
  • John Davis: Napoleonic Fighting Formations
  • Jack Scruby: Letter from America
  • Phil Barker: Modern Rule Proposals
  • Bish Iwaszko: Modern Warfare

The advertisers in the first issue included:

  • Historex (from Historex Agents of Dover, Kent)
  • Hinton Hunt Figures (both direct from the manufacturer in Taplow, Buckinghamshire, and from the Model Soldier Boutique, Camden Passage, London)
  • Minitanks (from Model Hobby Products, Halifax, Yorkshire)
  • Jack Scruby Miniatures (direct from the manufacturer in Visalia, California)
  • Edward Suren/’Willie’ Figures (of Ovington Street, London)
  • Bellona (based in Bracknell, Berkshire)
  • Morgan-Grampion Books (of The Strand, London) advertising CHARGE! OR HOW TO PLAY WARGAMES by Brigadier P Young and Lt Colonel J P Lawford [The book was also reviewed in this issue of the magazine]
  • Airfix
  • René North Uniform Cards (based in Blackheath, London)
  • A A Johnston Military Books (of Langport, Somerset)
  • The Garrison (W&P [Militaria] Ltd., based in South Harrow, Middlesex)

The first three issues were printed on ordinary paper, and the quality of production seemed to improve with each issue. By May 1968 the inside pages of the magazine were being printed on glossier paper which allowed for photographs to be used (previously the magazine had only included line drawings), and by July 1968 the thin card plain cover was replaced by one with a coloured title banner at the top and a black and white photograph below.

Amongst the more iconic issues was that of May 1970, which featured a picture of Edward Woodward in the role of CALLAN on the cover.

It also featured two pages of photographs taken during the production of the episode where Callan goes to a Wargame Convention and takes part in a number of tabletop battles with Heathcote Land (played by actor Anthony Nicholls) in a magnificent wargames room. I don’t think that I was alone in drooling over the latter … and hoping that one day I would have somewhere similar in which to fight my wargames. It is now nearly fifty years later, and I do have a toy/wargames room of my own, even if it is not quite as luxurious as that featured in the TV programme!


Two days of Masonic activity

I will be very busy for the next two days. On Wednesday I will be attending the Hertfordshire Provincial Grand Lodge meeting at Freemasons Hall, Great Queen Street, London. It takes place towards the end of September every year, and is when anyone who is receiving their first Masonic appointment or a promotion is personally greeted and given their symbols of rank and office by the Provincial Grand Master. This takes place in front of Masons from every Lodge in the Province as well as leading representatives of neighbouring provinces.

The meeting is followed by a formal dinner in the Connaught Rooms, which is next door to Freemasons Hall. The quality of the food and service can vary from reasonable to downright awful, and in the past several of us have ‘opted out’ and eaten in a nearby restaurant. As a number of us are getting appointments or promotions to ‘active’ offices this year, we are sort of expected to eat at the Connaught Rooms.

On Thursday I have to attend another event at Freemasons Hall, but this will be a much smaller affair as it is a meeting of my Holy Royal Arch Chapter. On this occasion we do not have a specific ritual to perform, and as a result I will be delivering a lecture about Sir Charles Warren. This meeting will also be followed by a meal … but as it will be in the Trattoria Verdi, Bloomsbury, I know that it will be excellent.

So I’m going to be quite busy for the next two days … but hopefully I’ll be well fed as well.


Nugget 302

The editor of THE NUGGET sent the latest issue of the journal to me on Saturday, and I hope take it to the printer tomorrow or on Wednesday. This should mean that it will be printed and posted out to members of Wargame Developments by the weekend or early next week.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the second issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2017-2018 subscription year, and that members who have not already re-subscribed can do so by visiting the relevant page on the Wargame Developments website.


Leipzig on the lawn: The battle

All the participants had arrived at the venue in central London by 10.00am, and preparations for the start of the re-fight were well underway.

In the centre of the battlefield was the city of Leipzig, with two smaller towns forming the basis of the outer ring of defences.

After a quick break for coffee, the re-fight began, with the Russians pushing forward on the Allied right, …

… the Swedes and Prussians in the centre, …

… and more Prussians and the Austrians on the left.

As these forces gradually pushed forward …

… the French mounted a fighting withdrawal, …

… centred on Leipzig.

By the time lunch was over, the increasing pressure on the French was gradually beginning to have an effect.

On the Allied right a Russian cavalry charge …

… caused considerable casualties on a French cavalry brigade.

The French Cavalry Brigade eventually dissolved and the Russian Cavalry exploited the gap …

… and charged forward yet again, causing further French losses.

The depleted Russian cavalry then withdrew to recover.

Elsewhere the Swedes continued to advance, and the cautious Austrians gradually pushed the French right flank back. The Prussians continued to move forward, and having pushed the French defenders aside, some of their cavalry entered the city.

The battle ended …

… with the French in retreat, beaten but unbowed.


Readers are strongly advised to double click on the individual photographs shown above in order to see them in detail.

Leipzig on the lawn

This morning I am off to central London to take part in a re-fight of the Battle of Leipzig … the first figure-based wargame I will have been involved in since early July.

The battle has been organised by Tim Gow and others, and will feature over two thousand 54mm toy soldiers, a large lawn, and some rules inspired by H G Wells’ LITTLE WARS. Amongst those rumoured to be taking part are Conrad Kinch, Tradgardmastare, and David Crook … but I won’t definitely know until I get there.

I hope to publish a selection of photographs of the battle in due course.


Captain Sir Thomas Edgar Halsey, Bt, DSO, DL, JP

Admiral Sir Lionel Halsey’s nephew, who became the third Baronet, also joined the Royal Navy. His life was almost as interesting as that of his uncle, but for rather different reasons.

Thomas Edgar Halsey was educated at Eton and Jesus College, Cambridge, and besides being a naval officer he was a first-class cricketer. He was a batsman and fast right-hand bowler, and played cricket for his school in 1915 and 1916. He made his first-class debut for the Royal Navy team when they played Cambridge University in 1920. He also played for his university team during the same season, but after that most of his cricket was played for the Navy against the Army or for Hertfordshire. In 1936 he captained the Egyptian national team(!) in a match against the visiting Hubert Melville Martineau XI, scoring a century during the first innings.

Until the Second World War his naval career followed a slow but steady path. He became a Midshipman in 1917, a Sub-lieutenant in 1918, a Lieutenant in 1920, a Lieutenant Commander in 1928, and a Commander in 1933. In August 1934 he was given his first command, the destroyer HMS Boadicea, which was serving with the Mediterranean Fleet), and he stayed with her until February 1936. He then attended the Senior Officers’ War Course before becoming an Assistant to the Naval Assistant to Second Sea Lord.

He was promoted to the rank of Captain just fourth months before the outbreak of war, when he took over command of the destroyer HMS Malcolm and became Captain D, 16th Destroyer Flotilla. He remained with her from July 1939 until October 1940 (except for a short break from late June to early August 1940 when she was commanded by Captain Augustus Willington Shelton Agar, VC, DSO, the so-called ‘secret VC’). After a brief spell ashore he moved to command of another destroyer, HMS Worcester. He only served as her captain from January to May 1941, when he moved yet again, this time to command of the destroyer HMS Mackay.

He left HMS Mackay in September 1941, and again served ashore before becoming Flag Captain of the battleship HMS King George V in February 1943. He remained with her until April 1945 except for a short break when he seems to have taken command of the battleship HMS Revenge for a couple of months from April 1944 onwards.

During his time commanding HMS Malcolm Captain Halsey was awarded a DSO for ‘good services in the withdrawal of the Allied Armies from the beaches at Dunkirk‘. The ship made eight runs across the Channel to pick up soldiers from Dunkirk and is estimated to have brought back well over two thousand men.

He married Jean Margaret Palmer Brooke, the daughter of Bertram Willes Dayrell Brooke, the Tuan Muda (literally ‘Little Lord’) or ‘White Rajah’ of Sarawak, and they had one son (the current Baronet) and two daughters.