“And for the more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys games”

Famous or infamous quote from H.G. Wells https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2018/08/25/that-more-intelligent-sort-of-girl-who-likes-boys-games-and-books/

Female war gamers often describe themselves as legendary or mythical creatures.

Search around, there are now a fair number of female war gamers blogging (usually more fantasy than historical).

Other Mythical Creatures – https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2017/12/22/military-unicorns-of-the-world-in-colour/

Cards on the table: I am not a club war gamer or club board gamer, never have been and probably never will be. I have always been essentially an occasional solo gamer, but mostly a repairer, converter, painter, collector and general hack-abouter of toy soldiers.

However the ‘social history’ of gaming and war gaming is an interesting one to me as it spread out from a military training tool in the nineteenth century onwards via H.G. Wells’ Little Wars, avoiding a destructive swish of skirts on the nursery floor to a more diverse civilian audience in the 1960s and 1970s boom.

I was intrigued whilst casually researching ‘war games’ on the British Newspaper Archive to come across this curious snippet from The West Briton November 18, 1971 (interestingly around the Armistice / Remembrance period):

Wargame Society

“A meeting of wargaming societies from Truro School and Truro Girls Hugh School was held last week at Truro School to discuss the possibility of forming a Wargaming Society which would be open to members of the public of Truro.

About 20 attended the meeting, which was presided over by Mr. Derek Burrell, headmaster of Truro School.”

*************

What makes this noteworthy fifty years later is the words “and Truro Girls High School“.

Both schools are still in existence, both long established (nineteenth century) independent, fee-paying or private schools in Cornwall.

The time of the event is not surprising: 1971 was midway through the ‘first Wargames boom period’ from Featherstone’s War Games 1962 onwards with Airfix riding high: cue vintage wargaming sort of nostalgia.

A month or so later a further interview turns up in the West Briton, 20 December 1971: almost no mention of any girl gamers or female gamers.

Club spokeswoman sixth former Bob Aldridge on “Britain’s fastest growing hobby” West Briton, December 1971. (Bob Aldridge was still active on Facebook in the last few years.)

I can find no further trace of this Truro Wargames Society involving girls or female gamers.

As club members move on, it may not have lasted very long. Clubs schism over rules, scale and periods played.

A Fantasy and Wargames Society was announced in the same area in the 1983, according to the article, one particularly seeking female members to play Dungeons and Dragons.

Kevin Roke, organiser of a Fantasy and Wargames Society of Cornwall, (21 March 1983 West Briton) sought more members including women gamers. Keen to “attract some women, secretary Kevin Roke believes, the games being played have appeal not only for men.”

This type of press article is always fascinating, as bemused local journalists try to get their head round a quirky niche hobby and make it sound interesting to outsiders:

West Briton 15 December 1980 – Trevor Jones and Grant Pettit name checked – Grant is still active in the Cornwall Wargames Association Facebook group forty years later. Life-long lasting hobby!

An Armageddon Club of gamers also met in the Truro area in the 1980s, maybe not the most sensitive of naming in the Nuclear 80s when the phrase The War Game in the British Newspaper Archive ironically throws up multiple 1980s listings of the local CND groups showing ‘The War Game’ film in village halls.

Another West Briton newspaper snippet about a new Wargames West society was announced at a local boys club in Truro in 1993 suggesting the other 1971 Society or 1980s ones were no more?

As mentioned, the Cornwall Wargames Association and other SW games societies still exist, with a few outposts of Games Workshop stores down West and a declining number of local model shops.

Maybe other readers know more?

There may be some veteran Truro High School for Girls female war gamers in their sixties and seventies out there with vague memories in 1971 of pushing lead and plastic figures around a table

but sadly I somehow doubt this …

*************

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, down far West, 2 October 2021.

Title Quote from H.G. Wells https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2018/08/25/that-more-intelligent-sort-of-girl-who-likes-boys-games-and-books/

Here is a bit of background research from early 2021 into the women around the Wells household when Little Wars was written.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2021/03/07/the-dread-broom-and-the-swish-of-skirts-jessie-allen-brooks-part-of-the-h-g-wells-household-floor-games-and-little-wars/

18 thoughts on ““And for the more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys games””

    1. Thanks James – I sometimes drop in and read Tamsin’s Wargaming Girl blog, she was I think the first I came across to describe herself as a mythical beast as a female wargamer. http://wargaminggirl.blogspot.com
      I didn’t want in my post to start listing female blogs or gamers in case I left some out. Librarian Gamer, Hippolyta’s Tiny Footsteps, The Angrian War Room … Sue Barker, Mary Bath …
      There are blogposts out there on how unwelcoming and hostile some gaming clubs are to women and also closed Facebook groups for women gamers only.

      I’m sure there are good research posts / articles on women’s involvement in recreational wargaming. Then the WRENs of tactical Royal Navy wargaming training in WW2 … not to mention the believable female figures and YouTube vlogging of Annie Norman of Bad Squiddo Games. Lyra Penrose in Behold Her podcast (RPG and D&D). I’m sure I’ve left plenty of names out …

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    1. Thanks – I’m sure the West Country / Truro examples of gaming clubs rise and a fall and marginal female involvement in the hobby are a microcosm of what went in elsewhere in the U.K. (And potentially Europe, the US and beyond).

      Probably should make an artificial distinction between the increasingly fewer men and women who play Historical Wargaming and the more who play Fantasy Sci FI RPG gaming and board gaming …

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  1. At university there were girls in the D& D society who actively participated , the same could not be said of the Uni Wargames club. I have never met female wargamers nor played against them . They were rather mythical in my club days, a friend of a friend or someone’s cousin. Talked of but never really seen.

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  2. Good research on an interesting topic. I well remember the explosion of interest in wargaming as well as the vast expansion in the model figures available that took place in the late sixties and very early seventies. Military Modelling magazine provided endless articles on how to convert Airfix kits into other vehicles and Miniature Warfare magazine led the way in wargaming. Of course times have moved on and these magazines have gone along with others like, for example, Altmark transfers, a great loss, and that rush of enthusiasm has abated somewhat. However our hobby in its many forms still thrives and the ranges of both figures and vehicle kits available today is extraordinary when viewed against what we had back then. That said it is apparent that most wargamers/modelers in the “public eye” are males of a certain age and may not appear especially welcoming to anything or anyone a little different to the “norm”. I personally suspect there are many female modelers and wargamers out there but like many of us they are not club members and follow a “solo” path. Our hobby is perfect for those who prefer privacy. Don’t forget I painted woodscrews for 45 years before “coming out”. Who knows who and what else is lurking out
    there !!!!

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    1. Diversity is a great thing. There are clubs and there are people who enjoy clubs. There are parts of the country / world where clubs are few and far between.
      There are niche clubs or circles such as the Woking 54mm Little Wars Revisited proboard forum gamers or tin flat wargamers.
      Diversity is great, people’s perception of ‘inclusion’ may be another matter.

      Overall I think the internet and blogging has in my limited experience formed a new inter-network of clubs or communities or gaming circles worldwide, in each language; I say this speaking as a male, non-club solo gamer, mostly by choice ‘playing with my toy soldiers’.

      As you say and Covid showed, it is a perfect hobby for those male and female gamers and modellers and collectors who enjoy privacy … and then curiously releasing the fruits of some of this private life by sharing it all on the internet!

      As a 70s Airfix kid, I came in on the end of the 60s Airfix boom. By the 80s Airfix was erratic and imploding.
      There is an interesting article by Jeremy Brook in the latest Airfix Club Magazine (finally joined the Club this year, about forty years late) all about the impact of Airfix’s affordable “Little Tanks” models and soldiers in the sixties (and touching on the ongoing OO / HO or 1:72/1:76 debate) on modellers and wargamers.
      In figure and kit terms our 1960s vintage hobby is changing or declining into a golden age of figures and kits but where the bulk of the young Miniatures gamers are into fantasy and sci fi and games systems.
      Hope the Wood Screw Miniature Army on manoeuvres is keeping you busy.

      P.S. I look forward to painting the German horse drawn artillery soon this winter.

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      1. You hit the nail on the head, diversity is great but people’s idea of inclusion is another thing altogether !!!!!
        I often wonder where the young blood is going to come from to keep our hobby going, you are right it seems to focus more on the sci-fi and fantasy stuff as illustrated by the success of Games Workshop etc. Maybe that is the future of the hobby ???? Yes the Woodscrew army continues to keep me amused. I very much look forward to seeing the German horse drawn artillery on a future post. Enjoy !!!!

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  3. Critical Role and Tabletop are two very popular gaming channels on Youtube with plenty of female players. Tabletop is run by Star Trek Next Gen star Wil Wheaton and usually has three or four guest players trying different board games; Critical Role is an ongoing Dungeons and Dragons campaign. Both have “raised the profile” of gaming in the public eye. Plenty of woman gamers out there now. A woman named Becca Scott does demonstrations of wargames on Youtube and has done them for Games Workshop games. So modern fantasy has plenty of female players and creators. Some of the best fantasy and sci-fi is by women, too.

    But yeah, the more traditional historical types are harder to find women. I think that’s partly because the people who play them are white and greying. There are two women in my local historicals group, and I’m the only one who turns up regularly. Also the only woman in the Zoom discussion group I participate in. Everyone’s white, and almost everyone is older than me. I found a magazine from the month of my birth with an ad for South Florida Gamers in the back, posted by a man who is still a regular fixture at the club today!

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    1. Thanks Jen for the online tips.
      A lifelong hobby, obviously, even if that end of life is looming nearer for many of the original 60s and 70s boom gamers.
      Some of the fantasy and historical posts or blogs I’ve read or heard have picked up the lack of inclusion element from Race and gender as well as age point of view. *

      Lysa Penrose – Behold Her – podcast – fantasy D&D – gaming in general – access and inclusion https://lysapenrose.com/beholdher

      With the internet you can found your own community.

      Fantasy seems to be where most women gamers are involved. I’m sure the railway modellers have exactly the same discussion as the historical wargamers about the white greying maleness of the model engine shed.

      Links for the curious to a few of your references
      Becca Scott YouTube Games Workshop –

      Will Wheaton Tabletop
      https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/dec/04/star-trek-board-games-wil-wheaton-kind-of-nerds-tabletop

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  4. I recall in the early 70’s many re-enactors in Devon and Cornwall who had joined the Sealed Knot to re-enact the English Civil War of the 1640s/1650’s were into Wargaming the period also. And the later Monmouth rebellion of 1685.

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    1. Interesting crossover. My only reenacting experience has been of a strictly WW2 civilian nature.

      There is a fine portrait painting of Sealed Knot members in Bude’s Castle Museum,
      The Sealed Knot still celebrate the battle of Stratton
      http://www.thesealedknot.org.uk/events/year/2018/south-west/375th-anniversary-battle-of-bude

      “The Heritage Centre includes an important painting by Robert Lenkiewicz, depicting local members of The Sealed Knot in costume.”

      https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/the-founder-members-of-sir-bevil-grenvilles-regiment-sealed-knot-a-bye-tryne-of-artillery-13764

      Presumably not then including a portrait of the wargamer and Sealed Knot founder Brigadier Peter Young?

      Cornwall and Devon are interesting for ECW sites including the important scrap / battle at Lostwithiel leading to the loss of Cornwall for Parliament, influencing the West Country etc. “Lostwithiel was fought in two main phases on 21 and 31 August 1644. The battle was the worst defeat suffered by a Parliamentarian army during the war and conversely the royalist’s greatest success”
      http://www.battlefieldstrust.com/resource-centre/civil-war/battleview.asp?BattleFieldId=88

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  5. Wargaming in all its genres is alive and well amongst re-enactors of all different periods of history/fantasy and science fiction and of all ages and genders.

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    1. “Wargaming” is alive and well but it is slowly changing; historical wargaming is potentially declining whilst it is Fantasy and sci-fi RPG / Board Games that are generally attracting more of the younger and the female gamers.
      As you say, there is an interesting overlap with re-enactors.

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  6. I think that an epitaph that reads “a repairer, converter, painter, collector and general hack-abouter of toy soldiers” would be evidence of a life well lived. I wonder if Truro Girls School continues to have a niche wargaming society. I suppose gaming of the online variety might well be thriving there.

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    1. It must have been “Write your own Epitaph Day”.
      You’re probably right – If gaming survives at an independent girls school today, I imagine it would be online or possibly fantasy / euro games and RPG games.

      Liked by 1 person

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