Monday, 9 September 2013

Wargaming on the Antiques Roadshow

Tonight's edition of the BBC's Antiques Roadshow (Eastbourne Bandstand 2) had an intriguing item on a collection of around 1,000 metal figures dating from the 1860s and 1870s, which had been used for wargames by a boy who became and officer in the Royal Scots Fusiliers in 1878. He took the bulk of them on his first posting to Rangoon, where he played wargames on the floor of his bungalow with the Regimental Surgeon on a large canvas map spread on the floor. It also sounded as if he might have conducted some play by mail activity with his brothers who remained with the rest of the collection in Liverpool. The collection also includes a large notebook which described how these wargames were carried out.

Antiques Roadshow expert Graham Lay says he is puzzled as he thinks wargaming (meaning battles with model soldiers) is usually accepted to have started at the turn of the century. This view is understandable - Lloyd Osbourne's article in Scribner's Magazine on Robert Louis Stevenson's wargames appeared in 1898.

While clearly people will have fought battles with their model soldiers for many years, from simple plying to more formal rules, this does seem a notable new instance and could be the earliest dated example of more formal wargaming.


Maverick Collecting said...

The figures are a fascinating mix, but the idea that war gaming was being conducted that early should come as no surprise.

One of the reasons I don't link to the Courier 'Timeline' is that it would have us all believe that the 'hobby' was invented by the Americans in the 1950's off the back of H.G.Wells and R.L.Stevenson, which is patently risible.

Kriegsspiel was invented around the turn of the 19th century and rapidly spread through the armies of Europe as a valid form of testing tactics and strategy, with the rules being adjusted/re-written several times before tonight's chap was fighting his carpet wars!

Indeed one of the reasons it spread was that after it's implementation in the Prussian army, they enjoyed a string of Victories!

Garratt's excellent work is full of accounts of the Crowned heads and generals of Europe ordering whole armies from sculptors in Nuremberg, Paris and the like - in wood, metal or multi-media.

I once got a right ribbing from a self-appointed 'someone' (probably on the HaT forum) for suggesting that war gaming with 20/25mm didn't really get going until the 1960's here in the UK [something I stand by], but I was referring to the hobby, not the art of war preparation!

If Graham Lay was 'puzzled' he hadn't done his homework!!!


Ross Mac said...

I think there is a difference between either military kriegspiel with blocks on one hand or boys playing with toys (inc fathers ala Tin Army of the Potomac) on the other, and young bachelor officers playing imaginary campaigns and battles with toy soldiers for amusement which sounds awfully familiar.

I'm not surprised to hear that it was happening but someone really needs to track this gentleman down and see if he will share what written record of games and rules exist.

As an aside, nice to see that many of the figures appear to be in uniforms that fit the period claimed.

Lee Hadley said...

Thanks for sharing this link. Fascinating and I agree with Ross Mac, lets see these documents published!

joppy said...

concerning publication, perhaps this is something that a person like John Curry could look into, as he has a more 'official' standing, as a publisher of such items than a 'normal' wargamer. These programmes are prepared well in advance (witness the current series of 'Flog It' that still has the late David Barby in it), and I believe the gentleman in question was in late stages of a terminal disease it may be too late to get in touch, though the family could be interested in some kind of publication in his memory.

Vintage Wargaming said...

I've started making enquiries via the Antiques Roadshow but it will be up to the family whether they wish to respond.

Chasseur said...

You might want to get Brian Carrick involved AS WELL TO AUTHENTICATE as their claims could be bogus!

MSFoy said...

Superb - thanks very much for sharing this clip. A pity the expert could not have held back a little to let the man speak, but these guys are born to the job, I guess.

To digress, my favourite moments on AR are those rare but precious moments when someone is told that his family's priceless heirloom was bought in Woolworths in 1957.

Brian Carrick said...

A superb collection of early German semi-flats, they look to me to be made by Allgeyer of Furth who was making these in 30mm from about 1860. I think there may be more than one manufacturer as some of them look a bit crude for Allgeyer and there were plenty of small firms around making pirate copies of their figures.

It's difficult to tell the size from the film but but they look a bit bigger than 30mm to me. There was a fair bit of scale creep among the German manufacturers at this time until their figures emerged as 40mm fully round solids about 1880. The wasp waists and "mini" kilts on the highlanders are typical of the earlier period though. Also it looks like the Guardsmen have been converted from line infantry by having a blob of something added to their heads to make bearskins.

In his book "Old German Toy Soldiers" (p161) Hans Roer shows a boxed "New Game of the War in Italy" produced in 1860, it contains a map play board and 30mm semi-flats by Allgeyer. The box is printed in English, suggesting it was made for the export market and that there was demand for miniature wargames as a leisure pursuit in the mid C19th.

I was away on hols when the AR show was shown so many thanks for providing the link.
Best wishes, Brian

tradgardmastare said...

Interesting discussion and Brian's contribution has taken things even further forward.
I do hope something comes out of this and that the book is published as a memorial to the gentleman on the show as well as his gaming fore bearer.
Do keep up abreast of developments please one and all.

John Curry Editor History of Wargaming Project said...

I have been in touch with the Antique Road show and put a request for the family to contact me. The show gave me some additional information about the figures, but it now depends of if the family want to talk.

Vintage Wargaming said...

Thank you John. Please see the latest post on the blog.