Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Peter Gilder and Me

                                Peter Gilder and Me – Part Three.
                                   by Paul Leniston.

We returned from our week’s break at the Wargames Holiday Centre in Scarborough very tired but greatly motivated and determined to return again. At the next meeting of the Devizes Wargames Club we told our stories of the week’s wargaming and everyone agreed it would be an excellent idea to book a weekend game as a club.

My wife Jan also had to put up with my enthusiasm about everything at the Wargames Holiday Centre. She was also keen to join the club weekend visit, though as a spectator rather than a player. She was not a regular member of the club, and did not know most of the members very well. However she was particularly interested to see the collection of model soldiers and even more the scenery and buildings. Jan has always been interested in model building and had been very impressed with Peter’s model buildings.

It took quite some time to confirm who would be able to join the weekend, rather than those who would like to do so but could not afford the time or the expense. It would be about a year before we finally booked a weekend fighting Leipzig.

  Our group took the French command and a varied collection of other wargamers played the allies. This game was much better planned and executed than Waterloo on the previous visit. Peter gave us each a written command brief and map and we spent the first night planning the battle.

   Once again Peter left us to get on with the actual wargaming, and despite our planning the game soon became something of a shambles. Most of our group had a working knowledge of In The Grand Manner rules, though only three of us were experienced Napoleonic wargamers.
   I have no idea how much our opponents knew of the rules, but the particular chap I was playing against seemed to have no more than a passing knowledge. Playing with a stranger, without an umpire, is always a little difficult. In circumstances where he has paid to take part and is pretty determined to win it can be more than a little difficult.
  After an hour or so I was pretty fed up with him moving his figures without bothering to measure, and hotly resenting my attempts to explain the rules and why he could not always do what he wanted to do.

  As a small part of a large multiplayer game I did not want to spoil everyone’s enjoyment of the game, but it is difficult to maintain interest when the other player is clearly cheating. I am not sure which side won the game because I had lost interest after the first few hours.

   Jan had watched the game for an hour or so and then went off to explore the shelves of model soldiers and buildings. When we booked I had explained to Peter that Jan would not be taking an active part in the wargame, but would be very interested in his model buildings. He suggested that they get together so he could explain his model making and painting techniques.

 Driving back to Salisbury Jan was as excited about the model making as I had been about the whole centre after my first visit. Apparently those complicated looking buildings which graced the pages of the model magazines were constructed from various wooden blocks. Very basic model making.    However the skill came in the details and painting. He was certainly a very talented man.

  I was also quite surprised to hear that he was becoming increasingly disappointed in the centre. Most of the people who attended the WHC were very appreciative of what he had achieved and marveled at the collection of model soldiers and scenery.

  But apparently he had a lot of problems with teenagers who were not accompanied by an adult. There were groups of younger wargamers, but also individual young lads who were dropped off for a week whilst their mum and dad went off on their own holiday.

It seems some of these younger visitors had done considerable damage to figures and scenery and had even stolen some of his iconic personality figures. The end result was that he had lost a lot of his enthusiasm for the centre.

It may have been that he was just in one of those moods when he was speaking to Jan. I hope so, because it would be a great shame if he became disillusioned with what he had created.

We never did return to the Wargames Holiday Centre.
  But the short time we spent there would have a great influence on our own wargaming. I was determined to wargame “In The Grand Manner”. We did not have the space, nor the figures, that so impressed at Scarborough. But we did have a free standing garage which I converted into a wargames room.
  There was space for a 12x6 foot table and sufficient shelving to display my collection of model soldiers and scenery. It was a poor “second cousin” to the Wargames Holiday Centre. But it became the home of our Salisbury Old Guard which would run for twenty years. I provided the figures and scenery and set a game up once a week. We had a changing membership of 4 to 8 players and only closed its doors when we retired and moved to Spain.

I have very fond memories of meeting Peter Guilder, a true legend of wargaming.

 I would like to thank Paul, for taking the time to provide his account of the early days of the Wargames Holiday Centre, without people like Paul this site would not be able to grow. So thanks again Paul for the trouble you took to provide this invaluable information.

1 comment:

  1. An interesting and honest memoir. We attended the Wargames Holiday Centre about 18 years ago (in Scarborough) and I think our experience was similar in many ways. This was, of course, after Peter Gilder. We found that the initial wow factor was there but also were left fairly un-supervised which may be fine for experienced ITGM gamers but not for fee paying beginners. I do remember having my battery attacked in the flank,even though it was flanked in base to base contact by a supporting battalion on either side, as apparently they didn't extend a quarter inch forward of the battery. I lost interest after that. Overall though it was a worthwhile experience for the spectacle and the laughs!