A bit of (wargaming) detective work

In his most recent blog entry, Wargame Hermit pondered on the rules used in the famous wargaming episode of CALLAN: ACT OF KINDNESS.

I have watched that episode many times, and a quick look at the scene of the programme where Heathcote Land and Callan meet at a wargame competition refreshed my memory; …

… the rules were the Napoleonic ones from John Tunstill’s book DISCOVERING WARGAMES.

This really wasn’t much of a surprise as his magazine – MINIATURE WARFARE – was featured in an earlier scene and both players were using order sheets and average dice. A still publicity photo for the episode was even featured on the cover of the magazine at about the time the episode was first shown on TV.

A neat bit of wargaming detective work on my part, even though I say it myself!

Things can only get better … I hope!

I was just about to leave work this evening to visit my father-in-law in hospital in Ashford when I was summoned to a very late notice faculty meeting. The only item on the agenda was the impact of the recent January AS and A2 examination results upon the future of the school. It appears that the Principal is under pressure to make significant changes, and the examination results are going to play a major part in the academic review that the senior management team is currently undertaking. It looks as if some existing courses – and therefore the staff who teach them – are very likely to be ‘chopped’ in the very near future.

Having heard that my job may well be on the line, I went home, picked my wife up, and drove to Ashford to see my father-in-law … who seems to be feeling a bit better today. It was nice to hear some good news, and things got even better when I opened my post and found that a DVD of CALLAN – WET JOB had been delivered. This was a one-off TV programme that was produced in 1981, and it was the last appearance Edward Woodward made as David Callan. Although Callan has retired from ‘The Section’, has a new identity, and is now running a militaria shop, he is recalled by ‘Hunter’ (the head of ‘The Section’) to undertake one last job.

I am looking forward to watching this DVD in the near future … and if the Principal does ‘cull’ the staff, I may have plenty of time to do so.

Callan the Wargamer: Part 3

Yesterday I received my recently ordered copy of CALLAN: THE MONOCHROME YEARS. The first episode on the first DVD in the set is actually the pilot that was made as part of the ARMCHAIR THEATRE series, and that was transmitted on 4th February 1967.

The pilot was entitled A MAGNUM FOR SCHNEIDER and the plot was later used as the basis for the film CALLAN: THE MOVIE.

As in the film, Callan is set the task of liquidating Schneider, with whom he shares an interest in wargaming. This first comes to light when Callan deliberately bumps into Schneider in the corridor outside the offices where they both work, and seeing that Schneider has some military figures, Callan manages to get himself invited into Schneider’s office. On a table in the office Schneider has a display of some of his figures set up.

As a result of this shared interest, Schneider invites Callan to take part in a couple of wargames at his house. The first is a Napoleonic battle, which Callan wins.

The second battle that they fight is the Battle of Gettysburg.

Callan demonstrates his tactical adroitness yet again when Schneider orders Pickett’s division to charge …

… and Callan counters by outflanking the attackers with his cavalry.

At this point Schneider decides that rather than attack, he will withdraw. In the subsequent scenes Callan kills Schneider.

As will be obvious from the quality of the images, the original recording was made in black and white 405-line format, which does not allow current viewers to see a great deal of detail. The wargames were fought on maps rather than on a beautifully sculptured terrain, and the miniatures seem to be 54mm round figures, with the occasional larger scale figure thrown in for good luck.

By modern standards this is not quite how wargamers expect to see wargames portrayed on TV or film, but to a 16-year old (I was 17 three days after the programme was transmitted) this showed a lot of my sceptical friends that wargaming was not ‘playing with toy soldiers’; it was a legitimate, if somewhat little known, hobby.

It did wonders for my self-esteem, and I very pleased that I now own a copy of the programme.

Callan the Wargamer: Part 2

I managed to watch CALLAN: THE MOVIE last night, and I enjoyed the experience no end!

Watching the scenes that featured the wargame between Callan and Schneider reminded me that at the time the film went on general release, the terrain and figures that were used were what every wargamer seemed to aspire to have. Now it would look rather run-of-the-mill at most wargames shows in the UK. I suppose that this demonstrates how far the desire to have aesthetically appealing wargames has developed in the intervening years.

And now on to the film …

David Callan (played by Edward Woodward) surveys the battlefield at Gettysburg and writes his initial orders down.

A Federal commander near Little Round Top.

Federal troops – in this case Zouaves – line the top of Cemetery Ridge.

More Federal troops deployed along the top of Cemetery Ridge.

The Confederates are deployed in the valley below the ridge.

Another view of the Confederate front line.

Confederate Artillery Batteries occupy the high ground behind their Infantry.

Columns of Confederate Infantry advance on Little Round Top.

The Confederate troops move forward inexorably.

The view from behind the Federal troops on Cemetery Ridge.

The Confederate and Federal troops face each other.

The Confederate advance up Little Round Top meets resistance …

… but this is soon overcome and the Confederates appear to be about to turn the Federal flank.

However Federal Cavalry advance to cut off the Confederates on Little Round Top, and it looks likely that this will result in a disaster for the Confederacy.

As happens in so many wargames, the battle ended just as it was getting really exciting. Usually this happens because both sides have run out of time, but in this instance it was the arrival of the Police that brought the whole thing to a premature end.

Callan the Wargamer: Part 1

I managed to spend an hour this afternoon relaxing and watching a DVD recording of ACT OF KINDNESS, which is my favourite episode of CALLAN.

During the episode David Callan fights a series of wargames against Heathcote Land, and the following stills are from these battles.

The first battle is fought at a wargames convention, where Callan commands a small French Napoleonic army and Land commands the British.

Heathcote Land’s British Royal Horse Artillery prepare to open fire on Callan’s French Infantry.

The French Infantry have formed square because of the presence of British Cavalry, but this makes them a prime target for Land’s Royal Horse Artillery and they suffer casualties as a result.

Another view of Land’s British Royal Horse Artillery.

The British Cavalry finish the job, and charge into the already damaged French Infantry squares.

As the British Cavalry hit the French Infantry squares they become aware of the presence of French Artillery and Cavalry. This causes them to turn away and return to the main body of the British army.

This timely retreat is not enough to save the British Cavalry, who are chased from the battlefield by Callan’s French Cavalry.

The second battle is fought as part of a short campaign set in Southern France that Land suggests that he and Callan should fight. The first move of the battle was shown as a series of stills that were linked together to form a sort of animation.

The French Cavalry advance, forcing the British Infantry to form square.

The tension rises as the advancing French Cavalry are getting closer to the as yet unformed British square.

It is now obvious that the French Cavalry are going to reach the British Infantry before their square will be fully formed.

The French Cavalry hit the unformed British Infantry square, which disintegrated as a result. However Land had stationed his Artillery behind the Infantry, and he opened fire on the French Cavalry with devastating results.

I hope to have enough time to watch CALLAN: THE MOVIE tomorrow, and if it is possible I will try to get some stills from the American Civil War Battle of Gettysburg that Callan fights with Schneider.

Its all become very clear now!

Thanks to Thresh, I now know why the number of ‘hits’ on my blog shot up so suddenly!

Apparently the people who run the FLAMES OF WAR website put a link from their website to my blog entry about Edward Woodward.

It is good to know how high the esteem he – and his character Callan – we held in by wargamers of a certain generation.

It is also nice to know that the people at FLAMES OF WAR thought it important enough to make newer wargamers aware of his indirect contribution to wargaming.

Edward Woodward

It was announced earlier today that Edward Woodward had died at the age of 79 years after a period of illness.

He was a consummate actor and singer who was probably most well known for his portrayal of the anti-hero CALLAN in the TV series of that name. What made David Callan (his character’s full name) memorable was the fact that he was – besides being a ‘fixer’ and sometime assassin on behalf of an unnamed section of the British Security Services – a wargamer. For wargamers of a certain age this made wargaming look a bit less nerdy and a bit more macho and certainly changed public opinion about the hobby.

I was lucky enough to see the pilot episode for the series – A MAGNUM FOR SCHNEIDER – when it appeared on TV in February 1967, and I watched every episode thereafter. The pilot episode later went on to become the basis for the spin-off film entitled CALLAN. This featured an American Civil War wargame that was fought out on a beautiful created specially for the film by Peter Gilder. Peter also provided the figures, and it is rumoured that after filming Edward Woodward bought both the figures and the terrain for his own use.

Wargaming also featured in the episode entitled ACT OF KINDNESS, which was screened on Wednesday 27th May 1970. For personal reasons this was a memorable day for me, and whenever I watch this episode on DVD I do so with very fond memories.

Edward Woodward also starred in what I consider to be one of the more under-rated films about warfare, BREAKER MORANT. This dealt with the dark side of counter-insurgency warfare during the latter part of the Boer War.

He will be sorely missed by his many fans, of which I am one.

Edward Albert Arthur Woodward OBE
(1st June 1930 – 16th November 2009)