Monday, 13 April 2009

John Sandars

One of the neglected pioneers of wargaming from the 1970s is John Sandars. Personally I was entranced by his series on 8th Army in the Desert in Airfix Magazine, later published as one of the Airfix Magazine Guides in 1976. I still prefer the first Airfix 8th Army set over the better sculpted second verion, purely because of the range of conversiions undertaken on them by John Sandars in this series of articles.

John was a supreme modeller, scratchbuilder and wargamer, who was one of the leading lights of the British Model Soldier Society. He edited the BMSS Bulletin from 1976 to his untimely death at 41 in 1979. Described in "Multum in Parvo", the history of the BMSS from 1935 to 1995 by Paul H Vickers, as an indefatigable worker for the Society, he was also involved with the BMSS Curator John Ruddle with the BMSS National Collection. Fittingly his small scale wargaming models became part of the National Collection and could be seen at Hatfield House. As of May 2011 they were in process of being returned to his family.

John published an influential book on Second World War wargaming, An Introduction to Wargaming (Pelham, 1975). This was based around his "Sandskrieg" game and rules. Unfortunately these rules were not published, but were reconstructed by Dave Tuck and Richard Marsh in the journal of the Solo Wargamers' Association, Lone Warrior number 76, March/April 1988. I hope to make these available here lter once permission has been sought from SWA. They contain a number of innovative systems and rank for interest as a wargames system with Gavin Lyall's Operation Warboard, published the following year.

John Sandars' other publications included Operation Crusader (Almark 1976), a number of Ospreys including British 7th Armoured Division 1940-45 (1977), the Vanguard on British Guards Armoured Division 1941-45 (1979), The Sherman Tank (1982), and British 7th Armoured Division 1940-45 (Squadron/Signal 1978), presumably the US version of the Osprey.

I will post further on the 8th Army in the Desert series, the Airfix Magazine Guide, and An Introduction to Wargaming, in the future.

The two posts below contain the three parts of his short series The Battle of Mahnraf Ridge for Miniature Warfare magazine, August - October 1971. These give a good feel for John Sandars' wargaming stuyle, and are illustrated with pictures including models from his collection, when the availablity of plastic, resin or metal kits was far lower than today. I hope to follow this theme up in more detail in due course when looking at the wotk of Bish Iwaszko.


DC said...


Thanks for posting that. I had no idea Sandars was so young - for some reason i had assumed he was one of the Grant/Young/Featherstone generation. He certainly left his mark on the hobby though e.g. the influence he had on the creators of Rapid Fire (though i feel Sandskrieg is a more 'realistic' game than RF), and generally 'raising the bar' re. the modelling side of the hobby.

Another classic Sandars' battle report can be found in the the Airfix Annual 7 (1977) - 24 Hours at Alamein. He also wrote articles for Mil Mod.


Anonymous said...

John Sandars' models are no longer on public display and are in the process of being returned to his family by the National Army Museum as at May 2011.

The Old Metal Detector said...

Thanks for the information - I have amended the post to reflect this