Rosemary Sutcliff Birth Centenary December 2020


About 18 months ago I re-read Rosemary Sutcliff’s first book The Eagle of The Ninth for the first time since childhood. I also had strong memories of this Roman adventure story set beyond Hadrian’s  Wall in Scotland from the late 1970s BBC Children’s / Family TV serial version.


I was reminded of this book by Alan Gruber the Duchy of Tradgardland blog’s latest SPQR related Roman scenario

A brief biography …

How the book was written or inspired:



C. Walter Hodges’ illustrations

A suitably mountainous pine tree background with some of my Toyway 54mm Romans.


December 2020 is Rosemary Sutcliff’s birth centenary. There are several interesting blogs about her including sporadic ones by Anthony Lawton, her godson and literary executor:

Oxford University Press have a few,  sadly very few,  of her most popular titles in print:

Rosemary Sutcliff  has a good extensive Wikipedia entry with links

Blue Remembered website has several years of blog posts  up to 2017 written by Sandra Garside-Neville and Sarah Cuthbertson, two fans of her work

Hang on a minute, I ask myself, weren’t you working on Scouting Wide Games?

Suggested reading for Boy Scouts for imaginative Wide Games personas  -Wide Games 1931

This is not a million miles from my Scouting Wide Games as some of the recommended imaginative historical reading for  “The Cloak of Romance” section of Scouting Wide Games includes authors that Sutcliff’s admired.  Rosemary Sutcliff also liked Kipling’s historical romance Puck of Pook’s Hill.

The webpage mentions:

“Sutcliff felt a particular affinity with Rudyard Kipling. His work, especially his collected stories Puck of Pook’s Hill, aroused her interest in the way a conquered land can become “heart-home” to its conquerors, as seen in The Eagle of the Ninth and epitomised by Kipling’s poem “The Roman Centurion’s Song”. 

I think Rosemary Sutcliff’s work and Henry Treece books have probably inspired the odd Wide Game Scouting scenario.

One great fun 54mm Roman Wargames website to explore is By Toutatis! or Romans Go Home by Allan Tidmarsh channels Asterix


For the last 18 months I have had a Roman “Close Wars” Skirmish idea focussed on troops vs natives nicknamed Full Metal Hic Jacet

Other equally spurious projects have got in the way a bit.


Teutoburg Forest AD 9 (Osprey) was one example of an Eagle of the Ninth style disaster.

The  Marcus Didius Falco detective series set in Ancient Rome  has similar disbanded and destroyed legions.

To end …

Some more gratuitous pictures of Peter Laing Romans (painted by Stuart Asquith!)


Peter Laing 15mm catalogue extract

So there you are, another cheerfully rambling blog post about toy soldiers and books.

Blog posted by Mark, Man of TIN on 16/17 July 2019.

13 thoughts on “Rosemary Sutcliff Birth Centenary December 2020”

  1. Thanks for the links and also the other Roman stuff on the blog today. I had a whole legion at 1 to 20 scale of Peter Laing in my uni days which is gone. The full metal jacket idea is most interesting.
    A combination of Airfix Romans & Ancient Britains, Ladybird history books and family trips to Hadrians Wall etc have left me with an ongoing fascination for the period. The reconstruction drawings of Alan Sorrell (in the form of postcards bought for me) informed my vision of a brooding dark Roman Britain.
    I looked out my Treece, Duggan and Sutcliff novels this morning and they are more than l expected. I wonder how many readers of your blog or mine have read much by these authors?
    Having popped over to the Sutcliff blogs l see l have many more books to look out for and read. Thanks for the links and inspiration contained within.


  2. Interesting post, I am sure back in my history that my ancestors were running around the hills and woods of this great land ambushing Roman supply columns on their march up or down the Fosse Way.
    I feel smug to think we were running around this island probably half naked (especially in hot summers) and eating all manner of furry thing’s that live in the woods long before the Romans, Saxons, Norman’s or anyone else arrived here.
    I feel this in my bones when I come across a lonely copse on a hill (supposedly a tree planted for fallen warriors) or on the ancient Moors of Dartmoor/Exmoor or the wilds of Wales and the Highlands of Scotland, both countries of which I have ancestry from. Even the scurl of pipes or other ancient instruments whether they be Breton, Cornish,Irish, Scottish or Welsh makes me want to run off into the hills to cut down branches to make spears bows and arrows! And prepare for war! And eat fried Voles as that English man Jeremy Clarkson once said that the Scots would be eating regarding Brexit.


    1. Fosse Way supply column good scenario target. Almost Wild West …
      Having Celtic fringe ancestors from the far SW mostly unconquered by Romans, I agree with all this – you almost feel sorry for The Romans. And what did The Romans ever do for us?


  3. Alan
    I was surprised and forgotten how much she did write over the years. Many of these I have not read since hardbacks in my childhood library days. I don’t think I have read her memoir Blue Remembered Hills
    I don’t think from the book lists on Alfred Duggan that I remember reading any of his but Henry Treece and Rosemary Sutcliff was pretty common reading materials in school and public libraries.

    What a shame your Peter Laing Romans are no more. Whilst ancients Peter Laings song usually sell well, the Romans do sell when they bob up on EBay.

    For me, the Romans will always be certain Ladybird books, Asterix, the hard to obtain Airfix Romans and Ancient Britons (mixed with Robin Hood figures) with box art and the Airfix Milecastle Roman Fort. I still have mine, and original very frail brittle Romans and Britons. Luckily they reissued them with the fort playset in the 1990s Either Henry Hyde or James Opie the figure collector talks highly of the marching Roman figure with their fiddly square shields.
    Mark Man of TIN


    1. And painted by no less than Stuart Asquith editor of Military Modelling in the past. So the Romans should definitely win with this pedigree. But then so were the Celts or Ancient Britons that I have, also painted by Stuart, so that kind of cancels out any advantage.


  4. A series I’ve been meaning to read for ages, real classics that are sadly mostly out of print. I’ve been reading an Irish mystery series set in the seventh century AD, the Sister Fidelma novels by Peter Tremayne, and they cover some of the same ground post-Roman abandonment. Irish, Saxon and British soldiers abound, particularly the Nasc Niadh, the guardians of the king of Muman (Munster), who often join Fidelma (a princess and lawyer) in her investigations. Women could even be warriors in the Irish culture of the period!

    I was looking over the starter Ancients rules in one of your Featherstone posts the other day, too, so this post is making me itch to play. Thanks.


    1. Eagle of the Ninth is superb, I don’t remember much about the sequels but will follow them up next year. Scout handbooks take precedence first.
      Thanks for the Peter Tremayne tip off, I will look out for these through my local library.
      The Marcus Didius Falco Roman detective series is quite good.
      Female Celtic warriors are well covered in the Bad Squiddo miniature range by Annie Norman (28mm figures)


    1. Steve
      Thanks for mentioning or reminding us about Ronald Welch. I recall one or two of these titles when younger but didn’t connect them with a family saga timeline.
      Beautiful Welch reprints – I thought I had read about them recently and found that they are on this Vintage Wargaming blog post that you have commented on, alongside Donald Featherstone’s historical fiction.

      Beautiful Rosemary Sutcliff reprints. Resisting. Resisting. The four Roman novels alone – that’s £70 quid that could be spend on figures ….


      1. I’m trying to resist as well.. the Ronald Welch interconnected novels about the carey family were a staple when I was first starting out wargaming – I read them over and over – in fact that was how I foubd out about the publisher reprinting the Sutcliff books, as they did a reprint of the Welch books that I couldn’t find for sensible money (s0me of the originals were going for three figures!)… some exta names to throw in the mix in that genre Henry Treece (I see Alan mentioned him) and also Geoffrey Trease – who can forget “Bows against the Barons”?! 🙂


  5. Very interesting diversion indeed, particularly the Rosemary Sutcliffe novel. I recall reading in my teens the Alan Garner time shifting book set in Cheshire (Red Shift) which features his own take on a handful surviving remnants of the 9th legion making their way through hostile territory – a particularly savage and brutal depiction in a complex and densely written narrative as I recall, stretching the adult reader – never mind the teenager!


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