Monday, 25 April 2022

The Donald Featherstone Memorial Weekend 2022

Well I'm just back from the yearly Featherstone Memorial weekend organised by Mark Freeth of Wargames Holiday Centre fame. I've attended once before but as a post covid crisis pick me up I booked myself a place. This year was a pike and shot weekend which made me even more keen to attend.
The weekend consisted of a series of games leading up to Sundays mega game utilising all the players in one battle. These weekends are a perfect way to meet some great people, push around some lovely figures and talk toy soldiers and general rubbish, usually from me. There were a minimum of two commands allotted to each player of varying size. I chose the Spanish-Papal side and decided I wanted to be the Pope with all the attendant splendour and interesting troop types. I also wanted some gendarmes well actually I wanted all the gendarmes which would have been incredibly selfish so I opted for only one large command in the first two battles.    
                              
The enemy, French,Venetian and Florentines were encouraged to fight a defensive battle based around redoubts and hills.As Pope I was officially the C in C but after a short discussion, it invariably degenerates into a free for all with only a loose interpretation of the plan taking place.The first two games were no different in that respect, but to be honest as long as everyone is enjoying themselves who cares.
Given the number of players, 14, and the number of units, lots Mark had opted for the use of Pike and Shotte rules which was a wise choice as they give a good, fast game thats easy to pick up if you arent aut-fait with the rules. On my main blog I will give a more in depth account of the weekend but I can honestly say it was highly enjoyable and I would recommend one to any wargamer who wants to command large amounts of troops.
One of the highlights was that Mark asked me to do a 'talk' about Peter Gilder and his impact on wargaming. I have attached the notes from the talk. My intention was to keep it light, a bit informative and basically a bit funny. Hopefully it worked. To fit with the point of this blog I took some images of troops used on the weekend that were from the original Wargames Holiday Centre days.  




    Looking around this table tonight shows how much one person can affect our lives. We are here to celebrate the life of Donald Featherstone and his role in making wargaming the hobby it is today.

But of course, there were other wonderful characters who helped create the hobby that we all know and love, Charles Grant, Brigadier Peter Young, Charlie Wesencraft, Jack Scruby, et al.

However, there is one man who sadly many younger wargamers know little if anything about the late PETER GILDER.

So, what do we know of the man? 

PETER WILCOX GILDER was born on the 12th October 1930, his birth was registered in Luton.

He obtained an RAF apprenticeship when 15 years old and was posted to their training camp at Halton in 1945.

Peter was clearly a good student because he qualified to be sent to RAF Cranwell to train as a pilot. He flew single seater jets and was also involved in some small way in the Berlin Airlifts, probably selling nylons to the ladies or some such. 

After leaving the RAF he became an inspector for BAE Systems at Brough near Hull.

I will let the great man Donald Featherstone reveal how Gilder became involved in wargaming;

DF; How and when did you first become involved in wargaming?

PG; I have always been involved in sport of some kind which took up a good deal of my time in 1962 when I was getting on a bit I broke my leg cycle racing and had been in plaster 16 weeks.

At my age that more or less finished me for the season and I found that I had so much time on my hands that I had to do something with. It was at this time you had written an article in the SHE women’s magazine which my wife used to get. It mentioned your newly published book WARGAMES and something sort of clicked.

Never one to let the grass grow under his feet Peter Gilder advertised in the Military Modelling looking for wargamers in the Hull area. The advertisement was a huge success and amongst the attendees were people who in time became wargaming household names such as Keith Rotherham, Barry Manchester, Mike Sharp, John Braithwaite and Bill Lamming and later Phil Robinson and Harry Harrison.

In true Gilder style, Peter badgered Lamming into creating smaller scale soldiers, the first being a one-piece French hussar in mirliton, probably the first figure of the later Lamming Miniatures figure range. I suspect Peter may have studied how Bill Lamming sculpted his figures, but that is pure conjecture.

Peter Gilder had moved into Hull and lived in a small flat above a fish and chip shop, which was rather appropriate as he was now employed as a salesman for the Alberken Pie Heating Company.

It was during this period that veteran wargamer John Tilson was introduced to Gilder by Bill Lamming. Both men were members of the British Model Soldier Society and shared an interest in Britain’s. John remembered that Peter was a very generous soul who was keen to encourage would be wargamers. A typical Gilder trait.

 John was subsequently invited to a small flat above the fish shop in Hull where he saw a table laid out with painted toy soldiers and well sculpted terrain. He would return to the flat frequently to wargame with Peter. Strangely he remembered never winning a game against the great man, shades of Brigadier Young I think.

Somehow Gilder convinced the owners of Alberken to diversify into casting and selling toy soldiers created by him. Now bearing in mind that Gilder was still learning how to create toy soldiers one has to wonder at his confidence.   

The initial Alberken range stretched to about 50 figures which were sold in beautiful red boxes, ready painted by Gilder. They were a huge success.

These original Gilder figures were approximately 22m tall, static in pose, lacking in detail and rather flat. These original figures bore a very strong resemblance to the newly released range by Marcus Hinton. Peter was later threatened with copyright law by Hinton which thankfully came to nothing

In 1965, one of the owners of Alberken was tragically killed in a road accident and the sole remaining owner decided to sell up.

The buyer was NEVILLE DICKENSON from Southampton who had become interested in wargaming after knocking on the door of Donald Featherstone’s home in order to buy a copy of his book WARGAMES.

Dickenson wanted to expand the Alberken range and initially asked Peter Gilder to continue as a designer. Advertisements were circulated in the Wargamers Digest announcing the new partnership and their intention to produce well sculpted and painted wargaming figures, apparently orders began to pile up…..

As Dickenson recalled, ‘I WAITED AND WAITED FOR THE NEW MASTERS BUT I NEVER GOT THEM.’

Dickenson changed the name of the company to Miniature Figurines and employed the talents of Dick Higgs, and the rest was wargaming history as we say.

 As for Gilder?

In 1965 Peter created his first representation of the field of Waterloo for Featherstone’s Military Festival in London. He not only supplied the terrain but also the 2000 painted figures and the rules for the re-enactment.

The French won the day, naturally. Peter was always a Boney supporter.

His fame as a creator of beautiful wargaming terrain coupled to thousands of figures was born.

It was clear that Peter had the gift of the gab, hence his time as a pie machine salesman and wargaming went mainstream courtesy of the wonderful television series, CALLAN.

For the youngsters in the room, Callan was an anti-hero, a killer and a man with the good taste to be a wargamer.

But why is it that wargamers were always portrayed as killers and nasty types?

In 1967, Armchair Theatre aired the pilot of a series called  A MAGNUM FOR SCHNEIDER, where Callan, the antihero talks his way into the house of a foreign spy who has a table covered with toy soldiers [Peter’s] marching across a rudimentary terrain.

 Naturally Callan uses his wargaming knowledge to charm his victim, which he duly shot dead,…. no saving throw for that poor bugger

In the later very successful series the battles displayed contained beautifully painted soldiers moving across a basic terrain. Wargaming had arrived into the public consciousness.   

By 1974 Peter, his figures and terrain were a key part of the first Callan film. Two battles were portrayed, Talavera and Gettysburg, both were typical Gilder in their presentation. Sculptured terrain and beautifully painted figures, this at a time when I was fighting across a piece of tatty chipboard with chalk roads, hills and rivers using the Airfix Foreign Legion as French Napoleonic’s.

For a fevered teenager, all my birthdays had come at once as I sat in the cinema to watch educated men and spies to boot play wargames while watched by the beautiful and sophisticated [ she drank Cinzano] Catherine Schell admiring the tactical skills of Callan and wondering what he looked like in his nylon y fronts.

Other successes followed for Peter, as his terrain and figures were shown in various wargaming and military history books including Grant’s Napoleonic Wargames and Chandler’s Art of Warfare. In this book, another version of Gilder’s now famous Waterloo terrain was shown.

 I know of four versions that he created and then sold or gave away, each a masterpiece in their own right.

Apparently for one Waterloo display in Paris, Peter ‘borrowed’ a lovingly painted Brunswick Corps from one of the Hull members. It was never returned, and when asked about its whereabouts years later Peter admitted he had inadvertently sold it with the Waterloo terrain to some French collector.

In 1970 Peter framed the term In the Grand Manner, originally a series of articles by him for the wargame’s magazine Miniature Warfare. The articles were typical of Gilder and showed wargamers how to make wonderful terrain like him, well that was the theory anyway.

 My attempts using papier mache, poster paint and privet looked like regurgitated cat sick.

The early 1970’s was another important time for wargaming as Peter and Frank Hinchliffe who wanted to dip his toes in the wargaming phenomena created Hinchliffe Figures.

By 1972 the company produced a beautiful catalogue which included articles by Peter on how to paint the figures. Not only quickly but well.

This at a time when all wargamers were happy to slap a bright pink, usually a Humbrol oil-based affair on the hands and head of their figures and stand back and admire them.

But not Peter, who was talking of washes of Humbrol leather over a white undercoat. Try it, even now the effect is amazing.

 And then there were his horses.

Those famous beautifully painted horses, for which he suggested the following;

Time to now look at the problem of horses, although of course this isn’t really a problem at all and it is far easier to achieve a well painted horse than to paint a first-class figure.  Using Humbrol RUST, cover the whole horse, remembering the previous notes regarding cleaning and undercoating. When it is well covered and before it is dry take your brush, clean it, dip it in the thinners and carefully remove from the highlights of the horse.

1978 was an important year for wargamers, well certainly those that could watch Tyne Tees Television. The legendary BATTLEGROUND series was series of six programmes presented by Edward Woodward [aka Callan] of wargamers refighting famous battles from history.What some wargamers might not know but it was Charlie Wesencraft who was the instigator of the series.

Charlie remembered the historic times;

I was asked by North Tyneside Council to do a series of six historical wargames for them. [Imagine that nowadays] On the first night, two ladies from the local television company turned up and asked me about wargaming in general. Much later I received a telephone call out of the blue asking if I could write a series of six scripts of battles fought by famous military personalities, originally, I wanted to portray Cannae and Hannibal but the producer said very few people would know who he was. In the end I got John

Braithwaite to help me prepare the battles. It was decided to record a pilot battle. The producer was a vicar’s daughter who swore like a trooper, I was

appalled.

 A young wargamer called Peter Gilder was supposed to do the first battle, but the nerves got the better of him, he had an anxiety attack and fainted. Poor Peter ended up being taken to hospital. So, me and John staged the pilot game. The producer wanted us to throw a six to hit a gun, but neither John or I could, and that vicar’s daughter started to turn the air blue,

so, in the end we cheated a bit. The worst thing was when she insisted on having smoke blow across the battlefield, hiding all the beautiful figures.

Of course, Peter recovered from his nerves and played an integral part in the six programmes.

Who can forget his appearance against John Braithwaite in their refight of Waterloo. Gilder’s sledging was merciless and it was then I realised that not everything that was needed to win a wargame was contained in the set of rules. Against Paddy Griffiths, his tactics didn’t work, and Dr Griffiths had the measure of Peter. But what beautiful games that have stood the test of time.

As an aside, in the first programme featuring the Battle of Edgehill fought between Duncan Macfarlane’s gorgeous Royalists and John Tilson’s carefully painted Parliamentarians, the said Parliamentarians were stolen from the boot of John’s car a week later and never seen again.

Like war, sometimes fate plays a part in the differences between success and abject failure.

 The year 1983 was a seminal year for wargaming and was when Gilder, the late Duncan Macfarlane and a shady chap called Stan Gee were having a boozy lunch in a salubrious pub in London that the future of modern wargaming was assured .

 Duncan described Stan Gee as a spiv like figure with mannerisms similar to George Cole who owned a loss-making car magazine of limited circulation.

Gilder was bemoaning the fact that there was no decent wargaming magazines since the closure of the Battle magazine, whilst Gee was mourning his ownership of a loss-making car magazine and Duncan well he was simply enjoying his beer until Gilder allegedly said to him;

‘ you know about publishing Duncan, don’t you?

Duncan had been a librarian at the Leo Schultz School in Hull and knew one end of a book from another.

So,  Duncan’s encyclopaedic knowledge of publishing, Gee’s business acumen and Peter Gilder’s beautiful figures, wargaming was not only saved but flourished.    Miniature Wargames was born.

A professionally produced wargames magazine crammed full of wonderful articles and best of all beautifully produced colour photographs of Gilder’s figures. I defy any wargamer who lived through that time not to have been inspired by the figures of Peter Gilder.

It was only much later that I discovered that Peter Gilder wasn’t the sole creator of his wonderful and colourful armies, and why would he when he was surrounded by some of the most talented figure painters ever known.

Doug Mason, the man who created the wonderful Zastrow Cuirassiers and many, many others.

Mark Allen, Dave Thomas, Phil Robinson, Mark Moon the late great Ian Smith, all were taught by Peter who was keen for them to share his tips and knowledge and in return they gladly painted for him. Gilder would pay for these units with Hinchliffe castings.

I was lucky enough to meet and befriend one such painter, the great Tony Runkee who explained how he had met Gilder at the Hull club and how they had quickly become friends.

After the first meeting Peter and I would meet at the club, and after a couple of meetings Peter me around his house to show me some of the figures he’d been working on. This was before Milliput, he made his figure from a wire 

armature and solder. I remember watching him making one Napoleonic soldier in a greatcoat and he built the coat, which was loose and open using a piece of wire and solder, for its time it looked great.

So how can you tell an original painted figure by Peter from one of his many disciples? And there’s the rub. I know that Peter in an effort to get cavalry on the table as quickly as possible would sometimes not paint the underside of the horse, leaving it as bare metal or undercoat, but apart from that, I don’t think anyone can be sure.

So finally, [ thank God] Peter Gilder’s Wargames Holiday Centre. The original mecca for wargamers of a certain age and still the hall of dreams for many.

I’ll allow Tony Runkee describe what happened when Peter bought an old doctors surgery;

Peter bought a place at Thornton le Dale, and I helped him set it up his wargames room, doing the electric wiring and the like. Peter and I then started making the terrain boards. We didn’t have the pink insulation board materiel then, so Peter and I would cut up big sheets of fibre board and carve them to make the hills.

That’s when I was introduced to the rubberised hair method of making trees and hedges. A lot of the buildings were originally made of solid blocks of wood with roofs and windows added. I brought Peter a load of rubber gaskets from the Leyland A68 engines which he used as hedges that were fixed to the boards. The centre was a great place.

 

 

 


Friday, 1 April 2022

Ian Smith




I first met Ian in the mid 1980's at the old Claymore wargames show in Edinburgh. He was staging a 15mm game based around  beautiful German castle titled Falkenstein Castle. The game won best at show. After that I would bump into Ian at various shows around the country and being a cheeky chappie we would bait each other with quips about who had the better armies, the best painted figures etc. It was no contest because Ian always aimed for the best and always strove to produce the best games. 
As I got to know him I realised he had been a close friend of Peter Gilder through his friendship with the great Tony Runkee. Tony as is mentioned in this blog was one of Gilder's main painters and also general dogsbody where building terrain was concerned.
With Tony, Shaun Bryant and Ian the three were a very talented group of painters and wargamers who had gravitated to Peter Gilder , learned from the great man and then gone n to improve on his style. 


Ian was a big Sunderland supporter and we would have friendly arguments about the demise of a once great club. Sadly Ian died very suddenly last week, before he was taken he had been working on his latest 40mm masterpiece which he had hoped to display at some of the biggest shows. He had been determined to outdo his other games which was a huge ask.

As regards Peter Gilder, Ian had nothing but praise for the man who effectively had showed him what could be done with metal figures and a paintbrush. In return for unpainted castings Ian like so many other talented painters would create units for Peter.

In one of our conversations he had talked of the final game that Gilder's friends had created for Gilder after he was unable to hold a paint brush or sculpt. It was one of the few times one saw past the gruff exterior to witness a man who cared about wargaming and Peter Gilder in particular. 

There are many examples of Ian's beautiful games in the mainstream wargaming press. Each is testimony to his desire to produce the best. I would like to say thank you Ian for all the inspiration, banter and general chat we had over the years. A great wargamer. 
 

Thursday, 17 February 2022

Reminisces of John Tilson.


                    The Hull Group admiring the Waterloo terrain prior to a photo shoot with  Peter Gilder, Laurie Coverdale of Humbrol Paints, Rob Baker and John Tilson looking at one of Gilder's representations of the Battle of Waterloo, of which he made several. 
  


John Tilson has been wargaming a long time but had been interested in military history long before that, he started as many early wargamers did as a member of the British Model Soldier Society [BMSS] which contained most of the UK's pioneering wargamers.


John who lived in Hull in the early 1960's had become friends with Bill Lamming whom he had met at the BMSS meeting at York. At that time Bill Lamming was a soldier collector who also made 54mm figures.    


He was introduced to Peter Gilder by Bill Lamming. Gilder had just moved to Hull and was living in a flat above a fish shop. He was working as a salesman for a company supplying stainless steel equipment to fish fryers. John knew of  Peter Gilder via the Wargamers Newsletter where Donald Featherstone had sang Gilder's praises for his figure painting and terrain making.

In true Gilderesque style Gilder managed to interest Bill Lamming in creating smaller scale figures and amongst his first was an early French hussar in mirliton. Possibly this was the start of Lamming Miniatures which grew quickly through the 1970's and early 1980's.

 Because Peter Gilder knew of John's interest in wargaming as well as collecting Briton's he invited him to a game in his flat above the chippy, and the rest was history as they say.They fought a couple of small campaigns using Peter's figures but as John said, 'did anyone ever win a game against Gilder?'

 Gilder began to cast his own figures whilst becoming a member of the North Hull Wargames Club where he met John Braithwaite who later founded Garrison Miniatures. The pair became very close friends and sparked off each other. 

Gilder created his first Waterloo terrain and staged the inaugural game in Willerby near Hull. This was the game he took to the original Waterloo Festival arranged by Donald Featherstone in London. 

 Whilst at the North Hull Club Gilder staged his second attempt of his famous Waterloo wargame using an improved wargames terrain and more figures. He also staged Borodino and Dresden at the club. It was clear Peter Gilder was learning as he soon after moved out of Hull and began working with Frank Hinchliffe to produce new ranges of 25mm figures.

 During the time Gilder was in Hull he showed John how to improve is painting and how replace any bayonets and swords with flattened pins, a trademark Gilder touch. He also showed John how base and make better quality buildings. In order to speed up his unit production Peter Gilder would either leave bare or undercoat the underside off the cavalry and only paint what as visible, again it was a trademark Gilder trait for his early painted figures. 

Gilder also introduced company bases, moving away from the original single figure bases then in use. Initially the figures were affixed with double-sided tape before Gilder took to permanently fixing the figures to terrained bases and introduced unit causality sheets.

John described Peter Gilder as a generous and knowledgeable wargamer and modeler always keen to help.





   

Wednesday, 9 February 2022

John Tilson and Battleground.

Im a believer in Serendipity and although Im no flat-earther I have experienced events that cant be explained totally. I would like to think the tale Im going to recount is just such a thing. 

A few weeks ago I had a call out of the blue from a wargamer Ive known for years who  I'd bumped into at the Fiasco show late last year. When we had met, I had mentioned in passing that I was reluctantly looking to sell my 6mm Napoleonic armies. It was just a throwaway comment and I never thought anymore of it. Anyway the chap, Steve Lloyd called and said there was a friend of his looking for some armies he could use now that he'd downsized and effectively had to sell all his collections. The friend was John Tilson.  

Now wargamers of a certain [old] age will recognise the name as one of the wargamers who appeared in the legendary Battleground series presented by Edward Woodward. John and Duncan Macfarlane staged one of the battles of the series, the beautiful Battle of Edgehill. It was a chance to speak to another wargamer who had known Peter Gilder and also knew some of the background to the legendary series Battleground.

John is an extremely shy bloke and I know he would be embarrassed by any mention of himself in a blog on the internet but he did agree to jot down some notes on Gilder and later when we met at the York show we chatted about Battleground and Duncan Macfarlane. For this post I thought I would talk about Battleground.
John was a member of the North Hull Wargames group and was a friend of not only Gilder but also of Duncan Macfarlane who lived in nearby Driffield and was a school librarian who wargamed. John would regularly pop into the school to meet up with Duncan who taught him how to play GO, very badly apparently. When Charles Wesencraft had been approached by Tyne Tees Television to help produce a programme about wargaming which was just starting to become a popular pastime he put them in touch with Peter Gilder who he rightly identified as the perfect person for the job. As the programme was planned, John and Duncan were asked by Gilder if they would stage the Battle of Edgehill.
Gilder didnt have any English Civil War figures then and he knew John and Duncan both had very large ECW armies. John had been working on a New Model Army and had created lots of one off figures, chopping and changing their heads to make some interesting units. Duncan possessed a beautifully painted Royalist army. It was a logical choice for Gilder. The programme was hosted in a very large empty hangar near Hull.Gilder naturally provided all the terrain which added so much to the spectacle. 
The producer in an effort to make the game more interesting? insisted that they use long measuring sticks and artillery cones even though they played no part in the actual rules being used. 
Because Peter Gilder didnt have any Civil War rules John and Duncan used a set written by George Gush.
The producer then thought of another great idea? which was to add more atmosphere by having a smoke machine puff clouds of white smoke across the battlefield and amongst the figures! Being an industrial strength smoke machine the hangar became full of white clouds which forced the production team to open the cavernous doors and stop filming until everything had cleared. The rest was history as they say. Edgehill was a beautiful representation of the battle and for many wargamers it showed what could be attained. Like most wargamers who have studied the Battleground series I thought all the figures used in the battles had belonged to Peter Gilder, obviously I was wrong. Gilder did take the time to show John how to customise the figures and paint them in a Gilderesque style, he was always generous with his time.     


 




Sunday, 23 January 2022

Black and white images of the inaugural Waterloo game.

          Two images taken by Joe of Zabadaks Zombies fame at Gilder's Waterloo in London
And a further snippet I located re the inaugural game in London 20th 1965.

Battle of Waterloo

Peter Gilder (left), holding a tool to represent canister grape shot, stands with fellow war-gamer Robert Gould and William Pearce as they take on the roles of the Duke of Wellington and the French Emperor Napoleon to re-enact the Battle of Waterloo, on the 150th anniversary of the battle, with miniature military figurines, 18th June 1965 at the Rembrandt Hotel in London, United Kingdom. (Photo courtesy of  Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

 


Monday, 17 January 2022

Simon Stokes at the WHC,

 I received this image from Simon Stokes who kindly sent me this photograph of him and his friends at Peter Gilder's holiday centre. Simon was wearing the dapper hat, ah the embarrassment of youth. 














Wednesday, 1 December 2021

You Tube, Promotional film of Hinchliffe Miniatures circa 1975.

I was very kindly given the heads up by the great Phil Robinson of a cine camera film from the early 1970's showing Frank Hinchliffe and Peter Gilder promoting their figures. A lovely piece of nostalgia.    https://youtu.be/lA6LCGONW1o

If the link doesnt work please just cut and paste it. Its definitely worth a look.