How It Started

by Paul Rogers (Founder Member)

In June 1973 I moved to a new job in Huntingdon and a new home in Brampton. My wife of two years had, by then, become accustomed to my hobbies which she, somewhat irreverently, described as “strumming guitars” and “playing with toy soldiers”.

I had been fascinated with model soldiers since my father bought me a pack of the Airfix Infanty Combat Group at the age of eleven. Many similar boxes later I discovered metal 25mm figures and began to amass Greek and Achaemenid Persian armies from companies such as Garrison and Hinton Hunt. My gaming was almost entirely solo as my experience of visiting clubs had not been a happy one. Any sign of welcome was sadly lacking and the existing members seemed to spend more time arguing about rules than enjoying their game.

I decided then to explore the possibility of getting together a group of like-minded gamers who could meet regularly, share their individual enthusiasm for different periods of warfare and, most of all, have fun! The first step was to place an advert in the Hunts Post and await any response. I think I received five replies including one from a gentleman who wished me well but felt he could no longer indulge in “such militaristic activity”. Fortunately, the other four were more enthusiastic. One of these responses was from Colin Lord who was then the landlord of the Green Man public house at Leighton Bromswold. I went to meet him and formed a friendship which lasts to the present day. Colin occasionally arranged large Napoleonic games after closing time on Sundays and knew of other gamers in the area and so the numbers increased to about eight. Amongst Colin’s friends was Peter Batham, a toxicologist at Huntingdon Research Centre (now Huntingdon Life Sciences), a contact which had a great influence on the future development of what had then become known as Huntingdon and District Wargames Society.

It is often difficult to remember when one first met individuals but I know that early members included Gordon Smith ( the most affable Police Officer ever to wield a truncheon) and David Hathaway whose painting skills filled me with envy. The games took place either at my house or The Green Man but that was soon to change. Peter Batham reported back that several of his colleagues were interested in joining and that there was a possibility of our being provided with a regular meeting place. At that time Huntingdon Research Centre had its Social Club in Cromwell House, High Street, Huntingdon. After a little negotiation, the company agreed to let us have the use of a room on the first floor of the building where we could leave tables set up permanently and store scenery and figures safely from week to week. On the basis that several employees were members, the Society became “affiliated” to HRC and we had access to the downstairs bar at discounted prices. It was about as near to “Wargamers’ Heaven” as we could aspire.

Initially, many of the games were “Ancients” using Wargames Research Group’s Third Edition rules. We all equipped ourselves with clipboards and score sheets to take off one figure per twenty hits and carry the remainder and, as usual, ignored the complex morale tables in order to finish a game in an evening. Interest then developed in the English Civil War and I wrote a set of rules whilst members feverishly painted hordes of cavalry, musketeers and pikemen. We organised a knock-out tournament and, as rule writer, I was considered to be a favourite. It was not to be as, in the second round, I faced Gordon Smith . The games were played over eight moves with the winner being the player who inflicted more casualties. As we set up, Gordon positioned all his forces in the extreme corner of the table and fired his artillery piece, causing three casualties. I had no artillery and then realised that none of my troops could actually reach him in eight moves!

One other tradition was playing a “comedy” game just before the Christmas break. The game that sticks in my mind was between an Arab Conquest army led by a wizard whose spells could backfire disastrously and a Scottish army of the Civil War. The latter included a converted figure known as Hamish McFlasher. This individual was periodically allowed to raise his kilt at the opposition. Any Arab unit within range then had to test for “sexual alignment” and, depending on the result, would either charge or rout- all very silly but most enjoyable when accompanied by copious amounts of beer and wine.

There are too many other memories to recount here but they include the release of the first Minifigs 15mm. figures in strips of five infantry or three cavalry. They were basic by today’s standards but David Hathaway managed to produce a beautifully painted British army of the Seven Years War although, being David, it did contain an awful lot of elite troops! These figures still form the bulk of my Prussians and Austrians. One evening saw a game played to the sounds of a Hen Night in the bar below including screams and shouts at the male stripper which would have done credit to a Galatian warband.

Running a legal firm and family commitments eventually caused my attendance to reduce and then cease but I am pleased to have been there at the beginning and to know that the Society flourishes with more members than I would have thought possible. I am sure those original aims are still being met and that, most of all, it is a community of friends having fun.