Sunday, 8 September 2013

Don Featherstone

Don Featherstone died this week in Southampton hospital.   He was 95 years old.  He was also one of the “founding fathers” of modern Wargaming.

Don is one of the best known modern wargamers in the world, if not the best known.   He has been a leading light in the hobby since the early 1960s and has written a long list of Wargaming books.   He is one of the very few personalities in the hobby that I have never heard a bad word written about.   For the past 20 years he has been a legend and few would have dared to criticise his work.   On the two forums which I follow there have been pages and pages of posts in praise of him.   The worse thing I read was that one or two, of the younger members, had not read his books.   But even they acknowledged that he had had an influence on their own hero’s.

My introduction to the hobby was when I found a copy of “Charge or how to Play Wargames” in the local library.   I am not sure, but I think, that there was a mention of Don Featherstone’s “Wargamers Newsletter” in there.

I loved the newsletter.   I can remember the joy of receiving the small brown envelope each month and the anticipation of opening the first page.   Even then it looked very amateur and old fashioned, with its smudged writing and tiny print.   But it provided much more enjoyment than the later glossy magazines like “Miniature Wargaming” and “Wargames Illustrated” etc.

I can still remember, almost word for word, my favourite article.  It was called “At the Colonel’s Table”.   It was the fictional tale of a novice wargamer invited to play at the great Colonel’s wargames table.   Whilst they were having a break for dinner, with a glass of wine, the dastardly Colonel slipped away to move his model soldiers to avoid defeat.   The article was spread over two issues, and it was a long month waiting for part two.

Most people praised his many books on Wargaming.   To be honest I found them boring.  I have never been one to learn rules quickly or easily.   I bought every single book as they became available.  I also read them cover to cover.   But I found it hard going.  Very much like reading a technical manual.    Nowhere near as good as the very readable “Charge”.

Some were easier, such as “Wargames Campaigns”.   But my favourite was a soft cover books called, I think, “Wargamers Handbook”.   In contained sections on different aspects of the hobby, and I was particularly interested on the section on museums.   I am pretty sure that it was here I found the first mention of Kulmbach museum of tin figures.   Jan and I spend a marvellous weekend at nearby Nuremburg and spent a whole day studying the displays in the lovely old castle of Kulmbach.

In 1982 we moved to Salisbury, and met Don a few times.   I remember we went to a few of his monthly military lunches in Southampton, where he would have a well known guest speaker.    He was always very friendly and approachable.   He was a legend even then, but always without “airs or graces” as my mum would have said.

So though I never did play his rules, and often found his books pretty heavy going, he was always there in the background.   “Wargamers Newsletter” provided me with hours and hours of enjoyment.  

He had, as they say, “a very good innings”.   He obviously loved the hobby and must have gained great satisfaction from his acknowledged contribution and being accepted as the “Grandfather (or perhaps Godfather) of modern wargaming”.

Thanks Don.   RIP


  1. Nice to read those stories of the man who, as you point out, was very much a 'godfather' of modern wargaming.

  2. Hi James

    Its particularly nice that he seems to be universally liked and respected. Not many "names" in the current wargaming community that you could say that about.

    Mind this might well be because Don withdrew from airing his views before the arrival of the internet. It seems to be very easy to upset people on the internet!



  3. Ah yes, the inter-web...
    I am most pleased that the approach on these blogs is for people to make supportive or constructive comments or say nothing at all. We can discuss and seek opinion and listen to (read) reasoned argument, and make counter-points, respecting others' points of view, without resorting to personal attack and profanity. In the end, I think we all just love to see pictures of othes' figures, games and plans and progress with such!
    It's a bit sad when the 'usual', and 'proper' way of interacting should be considered to be remarkable, isn't it?


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