Alfred Lubran’s “Action” DIY wartime chess game rules

Bright and colourful cover to this 1940s DIY toys and games

‘Action’ according to its creator or author Author Lubran  is a ‘thrilling’ war or chess variant game played on a draught board of 64 squares.

First make your own pieces; after all this is one of six games in his booklet, Let’s Make a Game!



I can find no obvious publishing date on this booklet by Bairn’s Books, Imperial House, Dominion Street, London EC2 (B/300/16 68copyright printed in England) but the style suggests 1940s. The style of tanks suggests early British tanks, the Spitfire style monoplane and British soldier also suggest early 1940s.

The style of front cover is surprisingly bright but the children look 1940s enough.

The Do It Yourself scrap modelling “make your own games and toys” approach in the first place also suggests as war time shortages there were not many toy manufacturers in Britain left in production and obviously no  toy imports from Germany or the continent.

Bretahless  prose in a jolly ‘Blyton’ style with a few wartime word clues.

In the introduction there are a couple of clues to its wartime origin – Lubran suggests that you: “Make the games … Share them with friends in shelters, billets, hostels, clubs, schools, hospitals, at home or wherever else they may be.”

Shelters and billets sound very wartime. He also suggests that “when the games become worn out or broken, save them for the salvage collector“, another wartime clue.

Pen knives, saws and hammers are required, so maybe this is something an older child or adult might make for younger children.  However in the 1940s no such health and safety culture existed and these would be within the capability of many a boy (or girl). When you see (below) where Lubran worked, it would be little problem for a boy to knock up these makeshift games with the right tools and materials.

Occasional copies of this 17 page booklet turn up on EBay. Most of this Educational and Instructional Series games in the booklet are quite mathematical and complex.

Players of Hex and Grid war games will find it an interesting version of what Donald Featherstone called Wargames as “Chess with a thousand pieces”

Behind this little booklet is an interesting story of Jewish emigration, wartime evacuation and a highly prolific author.


Who was Alfred Lubran?

I can find no obituary or website for Alfred Lubran.

A UK Teachers’ Registration record exists for 1934-36 for his role as  his art and handicraft teaching at the Bayswater Jewish School  (now ) and later Principal in The Jewish Orphanage in West Norwood, the building of which closed in 1963.

Part of its work merged with a Jewish organisation for learning difficulties, maybe reflected in some of his education / psychology titles

During World War II, the children were evacuated to homes in Worthing and Hertford and the Jewish Orphanage building in Norwood was used by the London Fire Brigade as a training centre.

Alf Graham in his reminiscences recalls

“In the winter months in the short evenings we had to pursue hobbies under supervision. There was a large choice like crafts, leatherwork, painting, drawing, and other things … It was compulsory to take up some activity. You were not allowed to opt out and had to stay with it once chosen. I must say that having a hobby of some sorts stayed with me for the rest of my life. I have never been without one.”

A photograph of the carpenters shop can be found at Jewish Museum of London Norwood files

Alfred  Lubran, prolific author

As for Alfred Lubran (not to be confused with author Alfred Lubrano), apart from his  teaching role , appears to have been a highly prolific author and compiler of small press publications on an impressively wide and eclectic range of themes including words, the British Printing Society, Special Educational Needs, teaching, printing, world poetry, heraldry  and children’s poems and stories. He seemed very fond of the word ‘abecedeum’ in his many titles, maybe an alphabetical ABC compilation.

A family history search suggests he was born in 1913, possibly not in the U.K., married a Beatrice Bennister in 1949 and he died in Christchurch,  Dorset in May 2001. Lubran is quite an unusual name. Two other Lubran names crop up in recent times, the marriages of a Timothy Lubran and Robert Lubran. Possibly sons?

Assuming they are all the same man, there are currently around 108 Book listings for Alfred Lubran on

Similarly he is well listed as out of print on Amazon

and many limited edition copies on Abe Books.

Some of his illustrated early reading books for children such as I Can ‘Phone are published by Brimax in 1957. Many of these other prolific publication are short limited editions by his own private press Narbulla Press or Agency of London (anagram or spell Narbulla backwards and you get his name  ‘Al Lubran’) throughout the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s when Narbulla seems to have moved to 12 Fitzmary Avenue, Westbrook, Margate or Deal in Kent.

Margate incidentally was the holiday home area for the Jewish Orphanage in summer. He was then published by (his own?) Thimble Press of Christchurch, Dorset throughout the 1990s until 2001 where he lived until his death in 2001.

Lubran’/ prolific writing career seems to have taken off in the late 1960s, after his Jewish Orphanage school building closed or moved out into the community.

His 1980 book A List of Mini-Book printers in Herne Hill (London) is catalogued on world as “An advertisement for Lubran’s Narbulla Agency, which is the only firm in the list. Edition limited to 160 copies, “produced for distribution to members and guests at the Wynkyn de Worde Society’s luncheon.” This society still exists, dedicated to the art and history of printing and typography. Other listings for Narbulla list it in the 1970s at 4 Stradella Road, Herne Hill, London, SE24, possibly where he lived.

Lubran has an impressive collection of letters after his name –  FRSA, Fellow of the RSA, M.B.Ps.S, Member of the British Psychological Society, M.R.S.T.  Member of the Royal Society of Teachers? and A.Coll.H ? Associate of the College of Handicraft  possibly?

Some of his ‘wordy’ books can be downloaded including this reprinted list (see link below) of the names for collectors of different things including the name for collections of ammunition, swords, bows, old guns, spears, muskets (Percussophily) and naval and military uniforms, Nautemephily and Sambatohphily.

An impressively long and varied publishing career.

Who knows what Alfred Lubran would have done if he had survived into the Age of Blogging?

If anyone knows more about Alfred Lubran, I will be happy to add it as a postscript here.

More incidental hobby learning.

Posted by Mark, Man of TIN blog, October 2016.

10 thoughts on “Alfred Lubran’s “Action” DIY wartime chess game rules”

  1. Thoroughly enjoyable post. I particularly like the amount of background research you have done. Very reminiscent of Bob Cordery’s blog which is where I noticed the link.
    Thanks for sharing


    1. Many thanks Derek, for your comments, gals you enjoyed the post.
      Finding out about Lubran was just another example of the incidental hobby learning or distracting tangents I find so fascinating about our hobby.
      Best wishes
      Mark, Man of TIN blog


  2. Thank you for making this delightful piece of wargame history available! I can see myself making a version using 1/300 vehicles and planes, rather that the DIY woodwork approach, for a quick, fun game that can be set up very quickly. The puzzle is why the ambulance acts as a combat unit. I think I might rebrand it an armoured car to avoid accusations of war crimes by disguising combatants as medics!


    1. Dear Arthur
      Good to hear from you. I haven’t got around to the DIY side of this either yet, so your 1/300 idea sounds very appealing or possibly cut out counters scanned from the colourful artwork?

      I was pretty puzzled by the combatant ambulance too. A trifle odd or bloodthirsty behaviour for an ambulance so I think your armoured car (or Bren carrier?) suggestion is more appropriate …

      I wonder if he play tested this with the Jewish orphanage boys / children he taught?

      Best wishes, Mark, Man of TIN blog.


  3. Yes quite interesting. Nothing like a wargame to keep the youngsters’ minds off the Blitz and where their Dad’s (and possibly Mom’s) are or at least to get them ready to enlist should the war go on long enough!
    Interesting that ambulances are included but become an offensive weapon!?

    Still, I like the spirit and the ingenuity and the faith that kids could handle splitting wood with knife and hammer. Try suggesting that today!

    Thanks for sharing.


    1. Dear Ross,
      The whole war toys in wartime thing is always puzzling, although I’m sure each nation had them to involve their youth or to connect with whose parents and brothers were involved. I know my late evacuee Dad had his war toys to connect with the work of my RAF grandfather. His vanished Britain’s figures in wartime are possibly why I collect toy soldiers today. In some ways (Harry Pearson’s Achtung Schweinhund style) refighting WW2 post war through toys, comics, films, etc. was still actively going on throughout my 70s childhood …

      I think there is also some background irony that he was probably play testing and teaching this with his school Jewish orphan boys, who in another country …

      As odd as the ‘combatant ambulance’ which Arthur Harman suggested is maybe better as an armoured car?

      Much as I like the hands-on of casting, converting and painting, with my woodwork / handcraft skills I can see damaged fingers making these pieces. No such qualms in the handcraft 1940s!

      Enjoying the Battle Game of the Month blog, visually stunning as ever. I’m working this winter on some lead graveyard figures to repair repaint and repurpose, that I picked up on EBay.

      Best wishes, Mark, Man of TIN blog.


  4. A great piece of research, thanks for sharing it with us. I could easily imagine myself as a lad sawing 12 inches off mum’s broomhandle to make tanks, and her reaction when she found out!

    It reminds me a bit of a game I discovered recently called Invasion, published in 1938 by Dennis Wheatley (he of the occult books fame)


    1. Dear Brian
      Thanks for you comments – I have never read any of Dennis Wheatley’s books although I remember they had them in the public library in lurid yellow hardbacks, off limits high up in the adult section. I dimly recall him being discussed in Harry Pearson’s Achtung Schweinhund book .- yes found it on page 196-7, with mention of his WW1 gassing at Passchendaele, bizarre intelligence work for MI5 in WW2 including the Monty’s Double ruse. It mentions Invasion 1938 and also another game called Blockade (1939 – probably for Hutchinson?

      The earliest similar WW1 / WW2 era board games I have are Dover Patrol and Lattaque, not great favourites, but I still have our battered family (1960s reprinted) copies. The few original wartime playing card games in my collection such as Convoy etc are far far far too complex and fiddly for me to enjoy playing, but I love the graphics of these and the other board games.

      With all these broom handles chopped up to make tiny tanks, what else would the local Home Guard have drilled with and repelled the enemy?
      Best wishes,
      Mark, Man of TIN


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