A busy fortnight coming up

I’ve a busy couple of weeks ahead of me. On Wednesday 17th I am giving my talk about Freemasonry in the British Army to Lambourne Lodge (No.3945) in Loughton, Essex, and on Friday 19th I’ll be at Boundary Lodge (No.7695), Ashwell House, St Albans talking about the Halsey family of Hertfordshire.

On Monday 22nd I’ll be in the Chair at the Veritatem Sequere Lodge (No.9615) meeting at Royston, and on Wednesday 24th I am off to Letchworth to attend the Burns’ Night meeting of the Iceni Lodge (No.5975), where the members of the Lodge are presenting a talk (with poetry) about the Masonic poetry of Rabbie Burns … and I will be eating a traditional Burns’ Night dinner!

Whilst all this is going on I have a couple of writing projects that I hope to get finished. The first of these (which is almost finished as far as it can be) is the centenary history of the Hertfordshire Master’s Lodge (No.4090), and the second is a book about Eric Knowles’s Madasahatta campaign.

The latter book will contain all the background information and the maps that Eric produced along with copies of the campaign newspapers and memories of some of the participants. The book will also have two appendices, one of which will be about Eric’s South East Asian naval campaign, and the other will cover Eric’s ‘Quest of Thane Tostig’ rules. I hope that Eric’s family will give me permission to publish the book so that it will be available to the general wargaming public and can serve as a memorial to this pioneer British wargamer.

Advertisements

Charlie Muffin

Back in the late 1970s Brian Freemantle wrote the first of what has become a number of novels whose central character is one Charlie Muffin. Charlie is a rather scruffy member of the British Intelligence Service (MI6), and the first of the books in the series was turned into a made-for-TV film by Euston Films in 1979.

During some research I am doing into the life of Eric Knowles, I discovered that Eric had supplied the company with wargames figures and models. These were used in several scenes that featured Charlie’s main opponent in the world of espionage, General Valery Kalenin. In the book Kalenin was a veteran of the Great Patriotic War, and his hobby was recreating battles that he had taken part in. IT was one such battle that was featured in the film.

The following are some stills taken from the film.

The actor playing General Kalenin is the wonderfully-named Pinkas Braun, and the battle is unusual as it seems to feature German, Russian, and British troops on the same battlefield.


Eric Knowles’ funeral

I had hoped to be well enough to drive from London to Lincolnshire and back today to attend Eric Knowles‘ funeral, but the virus is still hard at work making it very difficult for me to concentrate or to stay awake for more than an hour or so without having to have a short doze. Driving for three hours in each direction was not only out of the question, but would also have been dangerous for myself and other road users.

I hope to attend the memorial event in London for Eric when it takes place in the near future, but in the meantime I am trying to think of an appropriate way to mark his passing. My initial thinking was to make the Madasahatta material that I used to have on my Colonial Wargaming website available again … or even to re-fight the campaign using my PORTABLE WARGAME rules. Both are possible; its just a matter of decided which to do.


Eric Knowles RIP

Last night I was informed by David Crook that Eric Knowles had died at the age of 91 years.

Eric was one of the early modern British wargamers, and took part in the famous re-fight of the Battle of Waterloo at the Duke of York’s Headquarters alongside Donald Featherstone, Neville Dickinson et al.

On his retirement from working for the ‘Daily Mirror’ newspaper he set up a wargame shop in Manor Park in East London called the NEW MODEL ARMY (formerly WALL MODELS), and it was during a visit to his shop that I got to know him. Eventually he invited me to join the small group of wargamers who met regularly in the shop’s basement to play wargames, foremost amongst these being the famous MADASAHATTA campaign.

I visited Eric’s house several times, and his family were always extremely welcoming. His home seemed to be full of wargames figures, and it was reputed that they even occupied space in the airing cupboard!

After the shop closed and Eric moved away to Lincolnshire, I managed to see him a couple of times at wargame shows, and he still had a very lively mind and an active interest in wargaming. I understand that in later years he became a guide for visitors to the RAF’s ‘Battle of Britain’ flight, and I am sure that he would have proven to be an enthusiastic and very knowledgeable one.

It is true to say that without Eric’s encouragement and advice I would not be the wargamer that I am today. He will be greatly missed by his many friends as well as his family.

Eric Knowles RIP


A can of worms, the death of an actor, and comfort wargaming

Today I have three things that I want to write about. Firstly I would like to thank everyone who has commented on my most recent blog entry. When I wrote it I thought that I was probably opening a can of worms, but I was pleasantly surprised that the comments that were made were all well-reasoned and thought through, and that even if we were not all in agreement with one another, we respected each other’s points of view.

The second thing that I want to mention is the very recent death of that wonderful Indian actor, Saeed Jaffrey. Besides starring in Satyajit Ray’s SHATRANJ KE KHILADI (THE CHESS PLAYERS) (see below) and more than 100 Bollywood films productions, he also appeared in A PASSAGE TO INDIA, GANDHI, MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE and THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING. The latter is one of my favourite films, and his portrayal of Billy Fish, the Gurkha soldier who helps Peachy Carnehan (Michael Caine) and Daniel Dravot (Sean Connery) to conquer Kafiristan, is a film gem and deserves greater recognition.

The third thing that I want to mention is what I term ‘comfort wargaming’. We all know what ‘comfort food’ is (i.e. food that induces a nostalgic, sentimental, or comforting feeling to the person eating it) and whenever I lose the desire to fight wargames – a feeling that has dogged me for the last few months – I look to what I think of as my ‘comfort wargames’ as a way to reinvigorate my appetite for the hobby.

So what are my ‘comfort wargames’? The answer is simple; they are either World War II wargames fought with lots of 20mm-scale figures and model vehicles using simple old-school rules or colonial wargames set in some imaginary late nineteenth century European colony or colonies. The former harks back to the wargames of my teenage years whilst the latter evokes memories of Eric Knowles’s famous Madasahatta Campaign.

As the slow process of sorting out my wargames room gradually comes towards a conclusion, I am looking forward to fighting a couple of ‘comfort wargames’ to revitalise and reinvigorate my desire to wargame.


SHATRANJ KE KHILADI is set in 1856 and focuses on the events leading up to the British annexation of the Indian State of Oudh and the Great Mutiny of 1857.

The main characters are two aristocrats (Mirza Sajjad Ali and Mir Raushan Ali) who become so deeply immersed in the development of numerous chess strategies that they become oblivious to the pending invasion their country by the British. In fact they are still playing chess as the British capture their city, Lucknow. It is an excellent film, and I have never seen a better portrayal of the life and customs of the ruling classes of 19th century India and an explanation of the methods by which the British East India Company enacted its policy of colonial expansion.


Return to Madasahatta?

One experience that David Crook and I share is our participation in Eric Knowles’s epic Madasahatta campaign. It is a topic that usually crops up in any conversations that we have, and once or twice we have even talked about running our own versions.


With this in mind I looked at the initial start-up positions for the various forces involved in the original campaign … and realised that I probably have more than enough figures to actually do it! If I make one PORTABLE WARGAME unit equal to a company, all I will need is the following:

Garrison of New Surrey

  • Port Victoria
    • 3rd Battalion, Connaught Rangers (less 1 Company) [3 Infantry Units]
    • 47th Mountain Battery (2 x 12pdr. Guns) [1 Mountain Artillery Unit]
  • Rumbletum’s Kraal
    • 1 Company, 3rd Battalion, Connaught Rangers [1 Infantry Unit]
  • Clinkajeer’s Kraal
    • 1 Squadron, Bengal Lancers [1 Cavalry Unit]
  • Fort Chupatty
    • HQ and 2 Companies, 1st Battalion, Ludhiana Sikhs [2 Infantry Units]
  • Fort George
    • 2 Companies, 1st Battalion, Ludhiana Sikhs [2 Infantry Units]

Garrison of Hansaland

  • Festung Teufel
    • 2 Companies, 1st Battalion Askari Infanterie [2 Infantry Units]
    • 1 gun (1 x 88mm Howitzer), Hansaland Kolonial Artillerie [½ Mountain Artillery Unit]
  • Festung Askari
    • 2 Companies, 1st Battalion Askari Infanterie [2 Infantry Units]
    • 1 gun (1 x 88mm Howitzer), Hansaland Kolonial Artillerie [½ Mountain Artillery Unit]
  • Festung Amelia
    • 1 Company, 12th Marine Battalion [1 Infantry Unit]
  • Seemanstadt
    • 12th Marine Battalion (less 1 Company) [3 Infantry Units]
  • Bluchershafen
    • 10th Wurttemburg Artillerie Batterie (2 x105mm Guns) [1 Field Artillery Unit]

Garrison of The Arab Concession

  • Port Maleesh
    • 1 Battalion, State Guard (4 Infantry Units]
    • 1 Battery, Artillery (2 x 88mn Howitzers) [1 Mountain Artillery Unit]

Whoppituppas Tribal Forces

  • Hornikraal
    • Royal Bodyguard [4 Infantry Units]
    • The Elephant Regiment [4 Infantry Units]
  • Militini’s Kraal
    • The Lion Regiment [4 Infantry Units]
  • Gindrinka’s Kraal
    • The Leopard Regiment [4 Infantry Units]

In total the forces involved would be:

  • British: 8 Infantry Units, 1 Cavalry Unit, and 1 Mountain Artillery Unit (37 figures and 1 gun)
  • German: 8 Infantry Units, 1 Mountain Artillery Unit, and 1 Field Artillery Unit (36 figures and 2 guns)
  • Turkish: 4 Infantry Units and 1 Mountain Artillery Unit (18 figures and 1 gun)
  • Native: 16 Infantry Units (64 figures)

I have several other projects that I want to finish before I even start to seriously think about re-staging the Madasahatta campaign … but if and when I do, it looks like if could be a very nice little war to fight!


Doing lots of thinking

Thanks to various circumstances over which I seem to have had little control, I had lots of time today to do little else but think about my numerous on-going wargames projects.

I have almost finished painting the two coastal defence guns that I have built, and with luck they will be in action by the weekend … but what should I do next?

  • Make and paint some 20mm-scale vehicles for my World War II project?
  • Build some more coastal defence guns?
  • Build some coastal defence forts?
  • Build some more ironclad/pre-dreadnought model warships?
  • Paint some of my 15mm-scale and/or 20mm-scale unpainted figure ‘mountain’?
  • Give in to temptation regarding the creation of an imagi-nation based on FATHER BROWN’s Heiligwaldenstein?

I am not sure … but I have a sneaking feeling that the answer may be related to a series of emails I have been exchanging with David Crook about whether or not to use 15mm-scale or 20mm-scale figures for twentieth century wargaming, Eric Knowles’s famous MADASAHATTA campaign, and the work done by THE INCH HIGH CLUB.

Nothing is certain as yet … but the ideas that have gone backwards and forwards have set my mind racing.