Illustrated London News Article 29 August 1970 on the history of ‘the war game then and now’

Overview of the article by Christopher Farman, Illustrated London News, 29 August 1970.

The first two columns or first page – I found that I had read similar material about the history of Kriegspiel featured by Farman in the first two to three columns of the article, it was the information and photographs about how ‘War Games’ had re-emerges in the 1960s that I found most interesting.

“The simple Kriegspiel tradition is kept alive by a minority of authority of amateur wargamers whose devotion would certainly have commended itself to Spencer Wilkinson – and perhaps even the Kaiser.”

“Over a thousand enthusiasts in 24 different countries subscribe to Wargamer’s Newsletter, the monthly magazine produced by Mr Don Featherstone, a Southampton physiotherapist.”

“Mr. Featherstone, who served as a sergeant in the Tank Corps during the war, is a prolific author of books on wargaming and in 1966 organised the first War Games Convention.”

[They obviously don’t mean the well-attended meeting in his own house in 1961, followed by a Southampton hotel the next year.]

“Mr Featherstone, who is fascinated by the prowess of the Victorian soldier … was first inspired by Little Wars, H.G. Wells’s book on model soldiers, which he borrowed from Paddington Library during a leave in 1940.”

[Donald Featherstone was based in the Royal Armoured Corps (Tank Regiment) at Bovington camp at the time].

“I took it back to camp with me. Well you can imagine the effect this this had on a crowded barrack room. I suppose it was some sort of outlet. Some men, drink, some men smoke – I didn’t drink much and I didn’t smoke at all and I suppose this was my answer to it.”

“I used to sit around in holes in the ground in North Africa and Italy and think about having a room with a big table for model soldiers after the war. It was a sort of pipe dream. Immediately after the war I was too busy to do anything about it.”

“Then I moved to Southampton in 1957. One night I picked up the local paper and saw a picture of a chap who’d been to the cinema to see Ivanhoe and was so impressed with the knights that he’d fixed up models and was fighting war games with them. On impulse I phoned him and it all developed from that.”

“We’re not frustrated lance-corporals pretending to be generals,” emphasises Mr. Featherstone. “It’s just a game although it’s probably the most militant game in the world. I’ve never seen anything which arouses antagonism. It’s not like chess. Everyone has his own rules and nobody’s got time for anyone else’s.”

“I was once fighting a fellow in Birmingham. When I’d got my tanks in a fairly good position, he suddenly announced that he’d got a nuclear weapon off the table and that when it was fired it would clear the table except for a four inch margin all round. The table was only six by eight. I said, “But that finishes the bloody game!’ he said, ‘That’s right.'”

[He goes on to mention fellow gamers …

A Southampton money lender?

The Borough Treasurer of Worthing?

The police chief of Vienna?

I’m sure someone can put names to these descriptions amongst Featherstone’s circle of Tony Bath, Neville Dickinson and many others.]

Others are mentioned by name, the charming Derrick Guyler, Peter Young and Don Featherstone.

I was fascinated by this photograph of Donald Featherstone being dragged away from the gaming table by a child (one of his own children?)

The photo of Derick Guyler with his Romans.

An American Civil War game (that looks like Featherstone’s church terrain and Spencer Smith Miniatures, as shown in War Games 1962?)

A wargames championship in London 1967 in suits and ties.

Copyright for this article and images must remain with the now defunct Illustrated London News. Accessed via the British Newspaper Archive

The final page of the article is about Crisis gaming and wargames in military training, which some may find interesting:

An interesting article and a snapshot of gamers and gaming in 1970.

Post Script

The Kriegspiel bit

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN 25 March 2022

13 thoughts on “Illustrated London News Article 29 August 1970 on the history of ‘the war game then and now’”

  1. Excellant selection of articles – 1970 – the year I started work and had money to spend on toy soldiers !


  2. Excellent article, an guessing the chap with the knights was Tony Bath, he was local.The money lender….well I am guessing that was Neville Dickinson…..


    1. Tony Bath seems to fit. I haven’t managed to find the original knights article yet (it depends which national and local papers have been scanned).
      ‘Money Lender’ is an odd phrase with odd connotations these days …


  3. Great articles and great memories. I was fortunate that my library had copies of Charles Grant’s and Donald Feartherston’s books as we just could not get them in Oz back then.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Peter Young had formed a wargames group in the sixties at Sandhurst as he used to teach military history there. In 1968 he started off what is now the largest historical re-enactment Society in Europe. I was a member myself of the Sealed Knot Society of Cavaliers and Roundheads. When we were doing a battle re-enactment some joker would say ‘could you kick the dice over please!’ As we were life sized the dice would have been the height of a bus! I recall at Normandy in 2014 meeting two Chelsea Penshioners who were there for the 70th D Day anniversary. I recall them telling me about Brigadier Peter Young who had led them up the very beach in Normandy when they were teenagers. Peters unit was an Army Commando unit and he was the youngest Brigadier in WW2. They told me a lot of stories some tragic and others humorous when fighting the Germans.
    And that later in 1968 Peter tracked down the survivors of his old unit and recalled them to Sandhurst. And they said in their own words ‘he had us dressed up as Cavaliers, and some of us had to march about with pointy sticks (Pikes).’ The name the Sealed Knot is taken from the chain worn around the sovereigns neck as it is today and in the past. It was also the byword for a group of royalists who plotted to restore Charles II to the throne after the death of his father Charles I.


  5. I do like the cool, stylish wargamer look of back in the day. Different times indeed. It gives a gravitas to proceedings I would say…


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