This blog is dedicated to all things concerning the late Peter Gilder, wargamer, prolific figure designer, master figure painter and innovator of all things wargame orientated.
So in an effort to address this injustice, this blog will attempt to record as much as is possible about the great man.
The Wargames Holiday Centre, Scarborough September 1983
soon as I heard about the wargames holidays offered by Peter Gilder in
Scarborough I was determined to book one. My wife,Jan did not want to come with me, as she was put off by the idea of a
full week of wargaming with complete strangers, but I did not really want to go on my own
for the same reason.
raised the subject at the next meeting of the Devizes Wargames Club, but the members were not too keen either. I suspect that
the cost put most of them off.
Fortunately there was one member who was just as keen to go as I
was, unfortunately I can only remember he was called Frank and was the only other serious
Napoleonic player in the club. There
were two options, either a weekend or a full week. We both agreed that it should be a full week.
Each week had a theme such as
Napoleonic, Ancient or WW2. We naturally opted
for the Napoleonic week.
holiday arrangement was for Peter to meet everyone at Scarborough railway
station and take them to the hotel.
However due to delays on the London underground I missed the specified
train and arrived late. I then had to
catch a taxi to the hotel. I was quite
disappointed to find that there were only two other lads for the week, plus
Frank and I,however we were all very excited
and spent an evening in the bar getting to know each other.
breakfast Peter drove us to the Enchanted Cottage which was where the Wargames
Holiday Centre was based at that time. It was a
large room dominated by the wargames tables and around the walls wooden shelves packed with model soldiers. There was a
very large table about 36 foot by 12 foot.
Behind there were two tables about 6 foot wide for reinforcements. The wonderful terrain was created by using three x
three foot scenic squares. The centre
squares could be removed to allow players to stand in the centre of the
table, as a result there was only 6 foot between
table was already set for an introductory Napoleonic wargame. The first day would be spent getting used to
the rules written by Peter Gilder and to playing over such a large table. This was my first experience of a large
multiplayer game, and I knew I would need that day to get a feel for it.
Before the initial battle started we were allowed to wander around admiring the figures we had so often
seen in the pages of Miniature Wargames. I was quite surprised to find that they were less impressive when viewed closely. I believe Peter painted his
figures to be seen on the wargames table, and they did not have the details
most of us would normally paint at that time.
was however a delight to see masses of his French and British figures which had also
graced the magazine pages. I was
also surprised, and quite disappointed, to find that many of his model soldiers
were older Hinton Hunt or early Miniature Figurines,and many were very poorly painted. Peter explained that to collect the large
number of figures required he had to buy any and all available second hand
figures. It is true that once the mass
of figures were on the table they were not so noticeable, but I had imagined
that he only used his own model soldiers painted by himself.
in the week Peter would asked Frank and I if we would be prepared to paint some
figures for him. He offered figures in
payment, at the rate of two castings for each one painted. I was not interested as I had a busy
painting schedule already. However Frank
was retired and happy to take on the offer.
I don’t know how long it lasted, but it must have been nice for Frank to
realise that he had painted some of the new figures which in time would replace
the tired old Hinton Hunt and Miniature Figurines.
set up the table the night before and briefed us on the game. He was also available for any questions
about the rules. But the game itself was
left to us,with only four of us
playing, we each had a huge area and many thousands of figures each.As one can imagine by the end of the first day I was exhausted and settled for a short visit to the bar as I was more than ready for an early
second day was Quatre Bras. We played
from 10am to 6.30pm, with only a short break for a picnic lunch. We then returned to the hotel for dinner,
and then returned to the Wargames Holiday Centre for another two hours.
I love “In the Grand Manner” rules, but at that time just did not
understand them fully. My opponent only
has a vague idea of how they worked. So
the wargame turned into a real shambles.
three was Waterloo. Again Peter
explained the orders of battle and the sequence of the game. As there were only four of us he removed the
Prussians. However that still left
massive armies for each of us to play with. I played Napoleon against Frank’s Wellington. We both had a good knowledge of the rules,
so the game went better than Quatre Bras.
However with so many figures over such a large table I found it
impossible to maintain any real control over my part of the game. Within an hour I had lost the plot and never
really regained it. We all agreed that
we would call it a day at 6.30, and not return as we had the previous evening.
A Television Crew at Wargames Holiday Centre, September 1983!
we arrived for day four of our holiday,Peter advised us that a Television crew would be spending some time with
us on the Thursday. He did ask if
anyone objected, and no one did. But I
did feel that it was a little high handed not to tell us when we booked.
continued our Waterloo game, which was now is some confusion. So much so that I was really quite glad when
the Television crew arrived and we had to halt the game.
In fact they spent most of the day filming,
though most of that time was waiting for them to move lighting, measure
distances and do take after take. We did
restart the game when they finished, but everyone had lost interest by then.
last day was a really fun game using Peters famous Sudan set up. The included a large winding river with a
large gun boat. We all commanded parts
of the British force. Peter controlled
the masses of Arab fanatics by using dice.
Each move he would dice to see where the next group of Arabs would
appear. Our gallant British infantry
and cavalry, plus the field gun on the boat, would cause heavy casualties. But eventually we would run out of ammunition
and be overrun. It was a great game and
so much fun to play.
For me it
highlighted the difference between a well controlled game with an umpire, and a
disorganised shambles when there was too much playing area, too many figures
and not enough discipline and knowledge of the rules.
week for me was a great experience. It was
memorable to play on his famous tables with his equally famous figures and
terrain. The games themselves were
disappointing, but I learned a great deal on how not to organise large multi
am sure that many visitors, particularly those who went as a club, have enjoyed
the games they played at the Enchanted Cottage. But I just felt out of my depth and
shattered trying to control it all.
left full of enthusiasm and determined to do something similar myself. That week would completely change my whole
concept of wargaming and would convert me to playing “In The Grand Manner”.
would be only the first of my two visits to the Wargames Holiday Centre
first became aware of wargaming in 1969, when I discovered a copy of “Charge,
or how to play wargames” in my local library.
In the reference section it mentioned Wargamers Newsletter and the
address of Don Featherstone. I
subscribed to the newsletter and the rest is, as they say, history.
the pages of Wargamers Newsletter I first heard the name Peter Guilder. I do not have any of my old magazines, so I
have to rely on my fragile memory, so forgive me if some of the details are
incorrect. The memories are strong,
the details are very weak. He was
mentioned as one of the early English wargamers who formed part of Don’s
wargaming circle. In the early 1960s
there were not very many around and the few that were seemed to travel long
distances to play a game.
first magazine article I can remember would be from about 1970. I believe it was in Miniature Warfare. This was the first “professional” magazine I
had seen. It was printed on glossy paper
and though the photographs were black and white it looked comfortable on the
shelfs of my local Smiths in the High Street.
Unlike the Wargamers Newsletter, which looked like it was home printed
using a type writer.
article was “In The Grand Manner” and concerned building wargames terrain. It used the battle of Waterloo as the example
and had black and white photos of the scenery.
It was the first time I had seen this standard used for wargaming. It looked similar to model railway
that time my own wargames were fought on the table or even the floor. Whilst impressed with the article I did not
for a moment imagine that I could aim for anything similar.
the grand manner rules.
the 1970s I had served outside the UK with the British Army, and what wargames
I played was with my wife. Throughout
this period we used WRG rules, and were quite happy with them.
in 1980 I was posted to Salisbury in Wiltshire. I joined the Devizes wargames club and they
introduced me to “In the Grand Manner” rules by Peter Guilder. They were the Napoleonic rules that they
used and if I wanted to take part I would have to use them. I bought a copy and spend the next few
months rebasing my army.
would remain my wargame rules of choice for the next twenty years.
the same time I saw the first issue of a new magazine called Miniature Wargames
in my local Smiths. The front cover was
a photo of Gilder figures in full colour.
I bought the magazine monthly, providing that they had photos of
Napoleonic figures. They usually did,
and they always seemed to be from Peter Gilders collection. They showed a standard of wargaming that
seemed impossible to achieve, but which was inspiring to see.
more important was an article about the Wargames Holiday Centre in