Sunday, 13 March 2011

Thirty Years Ago …

I don’t remember precisely where I bought it, except that it was somewhere in Hull. I do remember when it was – sometime in February 1981. It was my first wargaming magazine. I have a dim memory of hunting through the magazine shelves to find it. It was on the other side of the shelves from the Radio Times, and absolutely nowhere near the comics I usually bought.

At first sight it really didn’t look very inspiring. “Military Modelling”. A picture of what I thought looked like a pretty unexciting Bren Gun Carrier on the front cover. I didn’t want detailed transports, I wanted wargames figures. Where on earth were they? I felt a little cheated, but after all I had been told by Mr Farrar, the teacher at school who ran the wargames club, that “Military Modelling” was the magazine I should get if I wanted wargames figures. I wasn’t going to argue with that.

When I got home, and looked through the magazine, I realised what Mr Farrar was on about. It wasn’t so much the feature articles (Painting Tartans, British Light Cavalry Equipment 1800-1815), as the shorter articles which got me excited. Wargames Briefing, Across the Board, Observation Post … these were articles about wargaming, about how to get started, about what to buy, and about what was good and what was really good.

And there were adverts. Lots of adverts. They sold everything from D&D miniatures (CF1 Cleric with Mace – 25 pence), to micro scale infantry (85 pence for 50 Saxon Fyrd) to a mail order company called Games Workshop selling everyone else’s board games and just three or four of their own. I wonder what happened to those guys?

I didn’t make a note of how long I read the February 1981 copy of “Military Modelling”, but I don’t think I’ve ever read a magazine quite as closely. I knew where every advert was on every page, and knew as much about painting tartans and “The Miniatures of Pete Kailus” as the good Mr Kailus himself possibly.

After I’d read the magazine, my friends from the school wargames club read it. And, in the end, after long discussions we worked out what we were going to buy. By that time the original magazine had started to fall apart, the front cover got ripped in a school bag and someone started writing in the margins which figures they wanted. So the photos here are from a copy I picked up on Ebay in a flush of nostalgia in January.

And what did we buy? Oh yes, well, here they are – the very first wargames figures I ever painted.

They're 25mm Lamming Miniatures medievals. Although the Lamming Miniatures advert in the magazine is deeply uninspiring and mentioned only “multi-purpose figures”, Bill Lamming’s workshop was close by in Hull and Bill’s advert gave his telephone number. We’d seem Bill’s figures at the school club (thank you again, Mr Farrar !) and we’d wanted to get our own. Me and my friend Mike cycled across Hull to the workshop in Wincolmlee on a cold March morning Saturday morning, and collected a package of figures each. I didn’t realise it at the time, but these were the very first foothills of the lead mountain, and the start of a hobby which I would love for the rest of my life.

And, alongside the first figures I painted, are the most recent ones from the trench raiders project which I’ve just finished yesterday. Ok, so sculpting, basing, paints and painting have come along a bit in the last thirty years, but there’s no way I am ever parting with the old timers.

Thirty years in, and no sign of stopping now !


  1. I feel old as well, but in a contented sort of way. Sid, my own experience with a wargames magazine is similar. For me it was a US publication called The Courier, which was a mimeographed magazine in a cardboard cover, devoted mostly to Napoleonics as I recall. My older brother ordered it sometime around 1975 and it filled my imagination with possibility, even if I couldn't figure out how I'd ever get a table full of all those figures. Miniatures advertised, I recall, were of the early Minifigs and Scruby ilk. I used paper route money to buy a batch of Minifigs shortly after, and Lord knows where they are now. I still feel the same rush of excitement when a package arrives in the mail today. Thanks for rekindling that joy for me. :)


  2. Phil and Mike,
    No need to feel old, chaps !! I think it's the hobby which helps me look forward to what's coming in the future - the next period, a new army, a different set of rules and, above all, new friends. These are wonderful days for the hobby, even if flicking the pages of "Military Modelling" or "The Courier" allows us to remember the days when the lead mountain was but a foothill !

  3. Smiling a lot, reading this.

    Curiously, my first set of metal miniatures (and I have NO idea where they are now) were bought off Tom Farrar (a relation?), one of my contemporaries at *our* school wargames club, which can't have been far from yours (Hymers College) in 1980 or so. They were a small unit of British Napoleonic Light Infantry.

    I'm also pretty sure I had that copy of MM, too :D

  4. (Forgot to add, reading back - said light infantry were Lamming, in case that wasn't obvious!)

  5. @Mike - Hymers? Not far at all - I went to Wolfreton. What a small world. I only remember Mr farrar as "Mr Farrar". He left Wolfreton when I was about 13 and went to teach in Sheffield. I'd certainly love to get in touch with him. As for Lamming infantry, they were awesome, weren't they? The head variants and open hands were pretty innovative for their day in the late 1970s, or so they seemed to me!

    Ddi you ever go to Humberside Wargames Club (HWS) in Thomas Street, or at the Marina?

  6. (Whoops, only just spotted this reply).

    Sadly, no - wargaming was Wednesday afternoons at school (we were that enlightened school that did sports for the serious on a Wednesday afternoon), and that was pretty much it once I left.

    The Lammings were, indeed, gorgeous. I only wish I knew where they ended up!


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