Wednesday, 6 April 2016

A Tidying up of things.

The centre spread from Charles Grant's book Napoleonic Wargaming, published 1974, and featuring the terrain and figures of Peter Gilder. [I am sorry about the quality of the scan] Even in 1974 Gilder's terrain was far in advance of any other wargamer, and I would argue better than the majority of today's wargamers.
 Now that I have decided to create a blog solely for all things Peter Gilder, I thought it logical to transfer my post that I wrote on my main blog, Independent Wargames Group, and place it where it should belong.
 Just to show any readers that I havent forgotten about the Peter Gilder ambition to create some sort of readable record of the great man, I thought I should start the damn thing.
 I would like to thank, Doug Crowther, Harry Pearson and Clive Smithers, for their time and patience in attempting to provide me with some information and potential starting points.
 If the idea falls flat on its face, at least I have had a couple of pleasant hours talking to some wargamers that I have wanted to actually speak to.
 But I digress.
 I would also like to state, that this initial outline, is made up of secondary sources, because frankly the great man seemed to have a transitory early wargame career.
 I can confirm that Peter Gilder was employed as a pie machine salesman for a company known as Alberken who were based in Newark Nottinghamshire. [ Its strange that even then, Newark had a wargames connection ] Gilder was working for the company from about 1964, and was employed by two men, called Albert Horsefield and Ken Watkins. [ For those of a younger age, every cafe and canteen used to have a glass fronted display in which pies were put. These were heated by lights, and were a hazard to any greedy boy who decided to touch them.]
 For some reason, Alberken decided to diversify into making painted toy soldiers which they sold in wonderful red coloured boxes, obviously emulating Britains.

Having now seen some of these figures in the flesh, they were a little crude but have a charm of their own. They measured about 22mm tall [ early 25mm figures?] and were a tad stiff, but then this was the early 1960's.
 Although I cannot confirm the assumption, I think it would be fair to say that Peter Gilder helped design the castings. I do remember an early interview with him in a wargames magazine, where he stated that because he had injured a leg and was in hospital,so he turned his hand to making soldiers as he was bored.
  From the excellent Vintage20mil site, the figures are described as similar to the Hinton Hunt Napoleonic's of that time. Knowing a few anecdotes about Peter Gilder I think it would be fair to say he may have plagiarised a couple of figures from Hinton Hunt, prior to him developing his own style. But then without being too judgmental, there wasnt that many figure ranges about so an aspiring sculptor would want to check out the opposition.
Albeken Figures didnt exist for too long, due to a fatal accident of one of the owners, and in 1965, they were taken over by Neville Dickenson who founded Miniature Figurines based in Southampton.
 It was the original intention for Peter Gilder to continue sculpting the Miniature Figurines ranges, but Gilder never produced the figures that were expected, and the pair parted company. [ I believe acrimoniously.]
 In 1967 Peter Gilder began designing wargames figures for the legendary Frank Hinchliffe, who was making wonderful metal scale models of artillery and the like.
 Hinchliffe however could not sculpt the human form and Peter Gilder stepped in to start their wargames ranges.
 A common thread running through our early wargaming beginnings, is how feuds and acrimonious disputes flared up amongst the pioneers of wargaming. There seems to be two clear camps about Peter Gilder, one is that he was a generous and brilliant friend, and the other which seems to be he was a bit of a chancer. Personally its not important, hell even Peter Young used to cheat when wargaming!
 Anyway, Hinchliffe was formed selling the new wargames figures ranges, and lets be right, anyone who wargamed in the early 1970's would either buy Mini Figs or if they were lucky Hinchliffe. Their rivalry was pretty intense as they jockeyed for the growing market. 
    I hope to get a lot more detail when I visit Salute in a couple of weeks, where I intend to blag some time with Duncan Macfarlane et al. I also hope to get permission to use all the images that featured in the original Miniature Wargames magazine, that Gilder was instrumental in founding.

A badly scanned photograph from the Grant book, again showing just how good Gilder's terrain and overall look of his wargame  was. This is some 42 years ago.

 I now know that this wonderful image shows Gendarmes painted by the great Phil Robinson who was and is still in the Hull Wargames Club, that Peter Gilder influenced . As I have touched upon, I hope to travel and talk to some of the founder members of the Hull group.
 Phil conatcted me yesterday and we had a natter about several things. He explained that when Duncan Macfarlane set up Miniature Wargames magazine, his famous camera was static at Peter Gilder's original wargames holiday centre in Pickering, so all the units photographed by Duncan, were mainly wrongly attributed to Peter Gilder, although he invariably obtained the units, especially if they were Napoleonic's.

 Some kind people have offered to send images of the Gilder collections that are now scattered across the world. I think that it would be a great idea now I have started this thing. So send them to

Acknowledgements, Thanks again to Doug Crowther, Harry Pearson and Clive Smithers for their time, also check out the great Vintage 20mil site for a potted history of the early wargames ranges.

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