Sunday, 10 July 2016

Wargames Nostalgia – Salisbury Old Guard

1985 - one of Jans scratch built models
Shortly after our second visit to Peter Gilder’s WHC I retired from the army and we moved to Salisbury in Wiltshire.   This involved moving and finding a new house.  We were determined to have sufficient space for a wargames room, and were delighted to find a house with a large, stand alone brick garage.   It would be large enough to hold a 12x6 foot wargames table and have space for shelves for all of our model soldiers and scenery.

It took a few months to convert the garage to an all year wargames room, and we were delighted with the final result.   We wanted a similar, though much smaller, table to the WHC.  So I modelled about 20 scenic squares each 2x2 foot. 

By now I had sufficient model soldiers to provide both armies for large battles, and with the games room ready we wanted to contact other wargamers in the Salisbury area.  We placed ads in the local shops and notified the nearby Larkhill and Tidworth garrisons.  I even contacted the local newspaper and I was impressed that they sent a reporter and photographer and put a full page article in the next issue. 
1986 Salisbury Old Guard

We had a very good response, including many from the army serving on nearby Salisbury Plain.  We were particularly pleased that Alison, our first and last female member, was one of the first to attend. We met for an evening game once a week.  I would set up the table and usually act as umpire.  

The games were always Napoleonic, and I tried to make them as even as possible.   We usually had 6 to 8 players, but it worked best with two teams of 3.   Each player would then have an area 4 foot wide.   I would brief both teams, and each player would have their own objective.   Games were always friendly, though it was not unknown for tempers to get a little heated.
I had learned from my visits to WHC how important it was to have a non playing umpire to keep the game flowing and to resolve problems quickly.  We used In The Grand Manner rules, and I soon found the difficult of using rules written by someone else.   With such constant use of the same rules all players became very proficient with them, and many played to their weakness.  I quite understand why this would happen, but it did make my task of umpire very difficult.   Each week I would have to make a decision where the rules were not clear.   I kept a record of major decisions, but even so would often be held to account many weeks, or months, later.  I quickly found that each time I amended the rules to meet resolve a problem not covered that amendment would create many more problems in the future.  And I would often have to try to justify two decisions perhaps months apart.

The club would run for almost 20 years, and would meet every week except for short breaks for summer and Christmas holidays.   The members would change over the years, particularly the military who would get posted regularly.  I was always very impressed how loyal they were, and how they would turn up in all weathers.  Despite my best efforts it could be quite uncomfortable in the winter months.


Chasseur said...

Very interesting to hear about some of these games and community in the 80's - thanks!

thistlebarrow said...

Hi Chasseur

Glad that you are enjoying it. It has certainly brought back a lot of happy memories for us looking back through old photo albumns.



2010sunburst said...

Hi Paul
Was I really that young once, and was it really that long ago....Tim
PS, passed the link on to Roger so he could laugh at his moustache...

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,

Well that was a blast from the past. I am the 'Roger' fellow next to Alison in picture two and the same dodgy jumper and tache in picture 5. I am still in touch with Tim and we still get together for an occasional game of Napoleonics but we now use a board game called 'Command and Colors' which is probably a lot simpler but still retains the flavour of the period. Certainly enjoyed my time at the club and I particularly enjoyed some of the weekend games we played and always appreciated your efforts as the ref!

Hope you are keeping well and I will keep an occasional eye on your blog. Thanks for the memories.

All the best,


thistlebarrow said...

Hi Roger

So nice to hear from you after all this time, and particularly pleased to hear that you and Tim are still gaming together. It all seems so long ago, and we were all so young(er) then.

We live in Spain now, and are still wargaming, but just Jan and I now. I am more into campaigns, and have just finished a very long PBEM campaign which was good fun.

best regards

Paul and Jan

thistlebarrow said...

Hi Tim

So nice to hear from you and Roger after all these years. I have a photo of the group in our wargames room and we often wonder how everyone is and what they are doing now. We have a lot of fond memories of the Salisbury Old Guard. Thanks for posting.

best regards

Paul and Jan