Sandtables and the ABCA in a WW2 Training film

I recently completed a four week free FutureLearn course, a Military History sampler unit from the University of Kent / National Army Museum called From Waterloo to The Rhine: The British Army from 1815 to 1945 https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/waterloo-to-the-rhine

In the fourth and final week, there was a short section on this Future Learn: British Army From Waterloo to the Rhine course, which showed briefly a US Army training film clip on the British Army’s WW2 ABCA (the Army Bureau of Current Affairs). I spotted what looks like a sandtable in the midst of the education and training room, full of plane identification charts and models, German equipment and uniform.

Watch the ABCA film here, the sandtable is about 14:30 and 15:30 into the film:

Periscope Films YouTube ABCA film https://youtu.be/jtL3jQ3-87o

A screenshot close up reveals a little more fuzzy detail:

Donald Featherstone writes in War Games (1962) about the wargames use of the sandtables whilst almost wistfully for a former tank regiment sergeant, he remembers the military use of these at Bovington during WW2:

“… the author recalls, with some pleasure, a fascinating hut at Bovington Camp, Dorset, in the Second World War, where miniature tanks were made to move over realistic countryside, being made mobile by the movement of magnets under the table.” (P. 16, Featherstone, War Games, 1962).

There is more WW2 manual material on sandtable training for the Home Guard on my blogpost here as https://lookduckandvarnish.wordpress.com/2020/05/14/gaming-the-home-guard-with-sand-tables-1941/

Sandtables are a bit of a gaming rarity these days. They had many operational drawbacks, not least the weight of the sand, but several pages were devoted by Donald Featherstone to their use and construction in War Games (1962).

I recently spotted sand tables in use again for 1944 tank battles by some such as John Muzy on 1/72 forums and pages on Facebook, linked to a YouTube video here https://youtu.be/vNnOQJa7mvc

Blog posted by Mark, Man of TIN, 6th July 2020.

6 thoughts on “Sandtables and the ABCA in a WW2 Training film”

  1. Well spotted in the b&w film. I was amazed by the you tube clip, I had no idea folk still did sand tables. Looked really effective with the salt. I’m not tempted to follow suit however. I did the Hadrian’s wall course some years ago and was impressed.

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  2. Visited Bovington for a day, and was delighted to find a massive play table in the WWI hall, with a ton of plastic toy soldiers, tanks and terrain scattered about for kids to play with. I read in a Games Workshop book that at some point, the Bovington shop had a display of Warhammer 40,000 science fiction tanks, which appeared to no longer be the case when I visited. I do hope to visit again some day.

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    1. The Warhammer display may have been temporary but Bovington continue to be very innovative in engaging people online and in events, not just for tank buffs and treadheads. They have a special deal with the video game World of Tanks etc and a quirky shop!

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