Richard Tennant and Donald Featherstone’s Incomplete Wargaming

Like many others growing up playing with toy soldiers in the 1960s or 70s, Donald Featherstone’s wargaming books borrowed from the public branch library were a great source of ideas and inspiration to me as a youngster.
Sadly I never got to meet Donald Featherstone before he died in 2013 but I do have a couple of books signed by him amongst my collection. Touched briefly by genius!
Richard Tennant and the start of his mini biography on Miniature Minions blog post

I am pleased to have a signed Featherstone volume of Complete Wargaming, this one dedicated to Dick Tennant, obviously released as the result of downsizing a lifetime collection.

The inscription to Dick Tennant celebrating 30 years friendship (published 1988)

This is one of two signed Featherstone books I have acquired over the last few years.

Featherstone’s Complete Wargaming came from a second hand seller for only £15 even though it was pencilled in next to the price ‘signed’.

I had no idea who Dick Tennant was.

Aha! Thanks to David Crenshaw at the Miniature Minions website in the USA, who has acquired some of the Tennant Napoleonics collection of figures, I now know who Richard Tennant is.

R.J. Tennant is one of the surviving original Donald Featherstone wargames conference circle from Southampton from the early 1960s.

https://miniatureminions.blogspot.com/2019/05/the-richard-tennant-collection.html

On the back of a David and Charles catalogue flyer for the book, someone has noted some proofreading errors and some photo reversal mistakes. Written by Richard Tennant?

Alongside the Featherstone signature are some pencilled notes that I take to be Richard Tennant’s corrections. The pencil handwriting appears different from Featherstone’s signature and dedication. It exactly matches the handwriting in Miniature Minions’ blogpost about Tennant’s figures and research notebook.

Reading the MiniatureMinions blog post, there is much mention of the Peninsular War and even a mention of this windmill made by George Erik.

From: https://miniatureminions.blogspot.com/2019/05/the-richard-tennant-collection.html

See the fly leaf pencil note about the “model illustrated on page 197 custom made by G.Erik photographed with own figures” – written by Richard Tennant

The Peninsular War appears to be a particular interest of both Tennant and Featherstone; I recall reading some of Donald Featherstone’s later articles about the battlefields in modelling or gaming magazines in the 1980s.

See flyleaf note re Page 142 about an incorrect caption for Napoleonic Cavalry

One of Richard’s figures used in the book? See the pencil flyleaf note re. “Photographs p. 139”

Featherstone’s Complete Wargaming has been reissued in a revised and corrected paperback version by John Curry of the History of Wargaming Project, working to correct some of these original printing and photographic errors.

http://www.wargaming.co/recreation/details/dfcomplete.htm

John Curry’s Foreword about the original Complete Wargaming and the revised version.

My other Featherstone signature is in At Them With The Bayonet!, Featherstone’s book on the Anglo Sikh Wars. Unusually it is signed by Featherstone in lurid pink felt-tip (maybe you sign with whatever you have to hand?) inscribed to A.S. Donald, whoever that is. Again, this signed copy was not expensive, not being one of his better known Wargames books and one on an obscure Victorian conflict.

That distinctive Featherstone signature – in pink felt tip.

As well as Richard Tennant, I have come across another of Featherstone’s early circle, one who is still blogging:

Rod’s Wargaming is by another still blogging member of this early wargames conference / community, Rod MacArthur has on his website some great pictures of 1960s Airfix conversions that sometimes involved Featherstone’s mould making help:

https://rodwargaming.wordpress.com

A little bit of Featherstone wargaming history, all still going strong and in use – I’m sure both Don and Dick would be pleased!

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 22 December 2020

10 thoughts on “Richard Tennant and Donald Featherstone’s Incomplete Wargaming”

  1. Morning,
    I enjoyed your post very much . I had been reading about Richard Tennant on the Minions blog only yesterday. I like the pencil annotations on the books , most interesting. Years ago I got some books from Archbishop Ramsey’s collection in a second hand book shop in York. He had made his comments in the margins which added to the book greatly for me. I popped over to Rod’s blog and will go back, most interesting and well laid out.

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    1. Morning Alan, I think books with marks of their previous owners, an old bookplate, ex libris etc, even just an inscription and date, are always more interesting. That saying, oddly I usually obliterate or remove my name in any book I pass on to local charity shops etc.
      Rod’s blog is interesting both in modern posts about his Jacobite campaign and conversions, as well as his posts about his past Airfix conversions and castings with help from Donald Featherstone.
      I wonder if the identity of A.S. Donald will become known …

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    1. Thanks Tony and many best wishes to you & yours for a happy and a healthier New Year – and another year of reading your interesting and varied blog – and of course the next thousand miles – Bravo!

      I regret that I did not write to Donald Featherstone when growing up and reading his books, even though his Southampton address was clearly in the back of War Games and others of his books. It never occurred to me as a child to do so or that you could do such things. I enjoyed a brief order / return / reply sort of correspondence with Peter Laing when building up my ECW army, such notes sadly now lost, army still in play.
      And if I had met or written to Don Featherstone, what would I say? I have met other similar usually older people (I hesitate to use the total fanboy word ‘heroes’) that I admire and sometimes words fail.
      I think I would say how important his simple Close Wars appendix in his first War Games has been (and still is) on my simple gaming – and also thanking him for using / championing Airfix plastic figures in a world of expensive grown up metal. Why? Because it meant as a youngster I could take part and see my dinner table skirmishes somehow the equal of the beautifully painted and unachievable metal armies and gaming tables of the colour magazines. This metal perfection and rules systems advertorials of the magazines are partly why I laid off gaming in my 20s and 30s. Again Close Wars and War Games were what led me back.

      Don Featherstone comes across well from most of the people who knew him, though he had his fallings out – but when did Wargamers ever agree on anything? I wonder with his interest in American history and the kindness of American gamers what “The Don” (UK) would have made of the outgoing* namesake of “The Donald” (USA)? * = A happier new Year to us all in this respect. And that folks is as much politics as you will find on my Man of TIN blogs.

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  2. Hi Mark, a fascinating post, you probably know that the George Erik mentioned in the hand written notes was a freelance sculptor who designed 54mm plastic figures for various small firms including the “Conquistadors” for Hilco’s Monarch range which you picked up a few months ago (when Hilco went under the moulds were acquired by Cherilea who sold them through Woolworth’s). Erik later moved to Spain where he sculpted most of the plastic figures for REAMSA, we published an interview with him in Plastic Warrior magazine some years ago, but i never knew he had a tie in with the Southampton wargames community. if it weren’t for that hand written note in your book this additional piece of the jigsaw would probably never have seen the light of day.

    If I don’t speak to you again beforehand may I wish you and your family all the compliments of the season from all of us here under siege in tier 4. Best wishes, Brian

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    1. It is a small world full of coincidence – that I have recently bought the Hilco Monarch Conquistadors designed by George Erik – and it’s all a jigsaw made up of tiny pieces. I don’t know the REAMSA figures well but looked them on the ATS soldiers site – spirited figures. That’s why I publish things like these pencil notes as they will make sense to someone somewhere.
      Many best wishes to you and yours too – let’s hope that Santa is allowed to visit Tier 4 and leave Toy Soldier presents under your tree!

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  3. Mark, what a delightful read. Your work has helped fill in some pieces of my own knowledge of Dick Tennant and Donald Featherstone as I work to restore Dick’s beautifully painted Napoleonic collection. I do not actually own a copy of “Featherstone’s Complete Wargaming”, but how delightful to see pictures of Mr. Tennant’s figures in there. He mentioned that his photographs had gotten all mixed up in Donald Featherstone’s own photographs, hence the difficulties with attribution in the Airfix Guide by Quarrie, and the captioning in the “Featherstone’s Complete Wargaming”. I have recently received some 54mm figures from Mr. Tennant and who knows, perhaps the elusive French hussar on page 139 will be included. Thanks for pointing me to your wonderful blog!

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    1. Glad to be of service. From what I understand from reading the Foreword by John Curry of the History of Wargaming Project, who edited the revised version with Donald Featherstone’s blessing, the original Complete Wargaming is a bit of a “Dog’s Breakfast” of publisher errors.
      There are plenty of second hand copies of the colour original around, although it sounds like a copy of John Curry’s revised (black and white?) version would be useful too (I don’t yet own the revised one). I keep the original as a colourful “dipping into” book.
      Best wishes for your figure restoration and I shall keep an eye in future on the Miniature Minions blog. Enjoy opening these extra Tennant figures on Christmas Day.

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  4. Hi Mark,
    I just heard back from Mr. Tennant regarding the figure on page 139. “When attending hobby events one could occasionally pick up interesting figures that others were wanting to dispose of.

    The hussar, photographed on page 139, is a fine example. He is a 54mm Historex and I had him in my collection for many years. He is one of those early experiments I was making in photographing models 1969-73. It is similar to a painting by Jack Girbal. …. I acquired the Higg’s figures in the same way, at a convention. It is interesting that your forensic study revealed that there had been some embellishment to the figures after the photo-shoot. One can only surmise that it was done by the collector who eventually sold the figures to me.”

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