“An evocative programme of army marches and songs from the period 1808-1815”
I cannot remember how I first came across this 2016 CD of recordings of Napoleonic music played by the Bate Military Ensemble on original period instruments from the Bate Collection at the University of Oxford.
I thought it might make an interesting quirky present for a relative with an interest in Napoleonic history. Tracks unheard, I bought this a few weeks ago for the very reasonable price of £10.50 plus postage from the University of Oxford online shop:
As I bought this tracks unheard, before I send this CD off as a present, I had second thoughts and opened the shrinkwrap to listen to a few tracks to check this CD out in case it was not suitable.
I was impressed enough by what I heard. There is a short spoken introduction to each track or bugle call by Major Richard Powell. There are also extensive liner notes by Colin Dean with fascinating details of the songs and instruments.
As well as French and British marches and songs, the Allies part of the title covers other marches and songs from nationalities who fought against Napoleon including the Dutch and Prussians. It finishes with the well-known tune “Ich hatt’ einen kameraden”.
Major Richard Powell explains the different trumpet, bugle or fife calls used by cavalry or infantry. The fife or whistle infantry and rifleman calls sound like a form of Morse Code that would have to be carefully learnt by both musician and rank and file. Just as you may target Enemy officers, picking off their musicians, signallers or radiomen could cause similar chaos in the Enemy ranks. These often very young musicians were the “comms” of their day, giving officers the ability to pass on ‘coded’ orders in the heat of battle. The audio version of a signal flag, to rally around?
The film about Arnhem and Operation Market Garden, A Bridge Too Far, amply illustrates that well over a century later, without comms such as radios that work, you might be better off with a bugler or whistler!
There is lots of interesting material here – from the difference between sound quality and audibility over distance of brass or copper instruments, a bugle played at Waterloo by 15 year old Trumpeter Edwards, who joined up aged 9 years old to trivia nuggets such as where the phrase “being drummed out” comes from and what this sounded like.
For those gamers who enjoy having suitable films playing during games in the clubhouse or background, they might like this album.
For those like me who have a playlist of suitable period music to use whilst painting those era of troops, this is also a very good album.
Admittedly some might not like the short spoken introductions and prefer just solid uninterrupted music.
Attractively packaged with the Christa Hook picture, informative liner notes, spoken introduction and good clear sound quality – if you are interested in vintage instruments, military music, signals and comms or the Napoleonic and Peninsula War period, this is an affordable and interesting addition to your music collection.
I hope my intended gift is suitably well received!
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 2nd July 2021
B.P.S. Blog Post Script
Donald Featherstone’s vintage typed American Civil War rules had a section for the morale role of military bands on the gaming table – I am indebted for this bit of gaming archaeology to MSFoy of the Prometheus in Aspic blog
2. April 23rd is also St George’s Day, an under celebrated and quite odd National Day whose main point is to ignore it if you’re English and not make a fuss about it unlike other country’s more noisily observed National Days.
“If I should die … a corner of a foreign field that is forever England”
3. It is also Rupert Brooke’s death day – 23 April 1915 – whilst serving with the RNVR en route to Gallipoli. Brooke was amongst the first to die of the well-known WW1 poets. His Neo-Pagan circle of artistic bohemian wealthy Edwardians included Harold Hobson, an early player of H.G. Well’s Floor Games or Little Wars:
Brooke met Wells when he as an emerging literary talent met several leaders of the Fabian movement including George Bernard Shaw, Wells, Beatrice and Sidney Webb. Like fellow Fabian Society members he developed an enthusiasm for long walks, camping, nude bathing, and vegetarianism (Spartacus Educational website). Through the Fabians, he would also have known E. Nesbit and her husband.
“Brooke’s accomplished poetry gained many enthusiasts and followers, and he was taken up by Edward Marsh, who brought him to the attention of First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill. Brooke was commissioned into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a temporary Sub-Lieutenant shortly after his 27th birthday and took part in the Royal Naval Division’s Antwerp expedition in October 1914.”
“Brooke sailed with the British Mediterranean Expeditionary on 28 February 1915 but developed pneumococcal sepsis from an infected mosquito bite. French surgeons carried out two operations to drain the abscess but he died of septicaemia at 4:46 pm on 23 April 1915, on the French hospital ship Duguay Trouin, moored in a bay off the Greek island of Skyros in the Aegean Sea, while on his way to the Gallipoli landings (Another Churchill’s brainchild). As the expeditionary force had orders to depart immediately, Brooke was buried at 11 pm in an olive grove on Skyros.” (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rupert_Brooke)
There are tantalising glimpses of the Floor Game that became Little Wars in the memoir of Mathilde Meyer, H. G. Wells and his Family (1955).
She arrived for work at teatime at the Wells’ seaside house, Spade House, Sandgate, Kent on October 22, 1908 when she first meet Frank (b. 1901)and his younger brother Gip (b.1903):
At the far end of the room I saw two little boys squatting among numerous wooden bricks and boards of various sizes, with toy soldiers, and cannons in ambush ready to do battle.
Mrs. Wells asked her two sons to leave their game to come forward and greet me, which they did with the greatest reluctance.
Both Gip and Frank – my new pupils – were dressed alike. They wore navy-blue serge suits with white sailor collars and cuffs, brown shoes and white socks.
Gip, the elder boy, who had brown hair, a small snub nose and intelligent eyes, looked at me critically for a moment, while his brother, a very pretty fair-haired little fellow, showed plainly that he was not interested.
After tea, Gip (the future zoologist) shows his new governess his pet mouse.
“Please come and have a look at my soldiers,” said Frank, taking me by the hand and leading me to the battleground in miniature set out on the linoleum on the floor. Little did I realise then that I was gazing upon one of those early ‘floor games’ which before long became the favourite pastime of distinguished visitors to Spade House and elsewhere.
The battleground had been carefully chalk marked, and divided in two, by a river. On either side of the imaginary river were houses and huts made of wooden bricks, with brown ribbed paper as thatched roofs. There were woods made of twigs from trees and bushes, taken from the garden, and grotesque monuments of plasticine.
“The red-coated soldiers are mine,” explained Gip, who was squatting on his side of the river.
“Yes, and all the other coloured men are mine,” added Frank.
“Is that the town hall, or the post office, Frank?” I asked, pointing to an extra large building bearing a gay paper flag on a pin.
“Oh no,” he replied, “that is the British Museum, but what you can’t see what’s in it unless you come down here where I am.”
I squatted down beside the fair little fellow and looked through an opening in the museum.
“Oh!” I exclaimed amused, “your museum is full of soldiers with cannons and all! How terrifying!”
“Ssh! Ssh! You shouldn’t have said that,” whispered Frank, frowning. “Now Gip knows where most of my soldiers are hidden.”
Alas, yes, I had made a major gaffe. I had given away important military secrets, and the leader of the Red Coats was chuckling quietly to himself on the other side of the chalk lines.
I apologised for my stupid mistake and offered the leader of the Khaki soldiers my help in removing everything from the museum to another place before the next battle.
But Mrs. Wells , who had been looking on highly amused! Intervened at that moment , saying that there was no time now for battles, that it was the nipght when the floor had to be scrubbed, and soldiers and bricks to be put back into their boxes, before bedtime.
Both boys protested wildly:
“Oh, Mummy, Mummy!” They shouted, “not to-night, please, not to-night!” But Mummy was firm.
This was the worst about Floor games. The linoleum, on which they were set out, alas, had to be washed periodically. An armistice had to be declared. The battlefield had to disappear completely; the boards had to be out against the wall, and twigs that looked already looked a little wilted, burnt with the paper flags.
I wished my new pupils good-night, wondering what kind of inspiration I had made on them. It was not until weeks later that Jessie told me what their verdict had been. “Stupid – but quite nice.”
A few pages later, we get another glimpse from Mathilde Meyer of the Floor Game:
My little pupils and I slipped softly upstairs, and were soon ready for tea, which Jessie had prepared for us in the schoolroom.
The boys had brought in from the garden fresh bay twigs and other greenery, and after tea they set out a new battleground on the well scrubbed linoleum. Newly enrolled soldiers with movable arms * were to take part in the forthcoming battle, and new paper flags had to be made. The armistice was called off, and before long the two young generals were firing their toy cannons from opposite sides, and the peaceful life of the schoolroom was once more overshadowed.
Seeing how engrossed my pupils were in waging war, I left the schoolroom for a while. When I returned, the battle was raging fiercer than ever. Guns were now in action in three corners of the battleground, because a third war-lord – a mighty one – had suddenly appeared on them scene. Mr. Wells, relaxing from his work in the study, was lying fully outstretched on the linoleum and aiming a toy cannon with devastating accuracy at his son’s red and khaki clad soldiers. Ah, yes, to be sure, it was a very serious affair, this floor game.
After the battle the wounded were taken to hospital, for, alas, even in toyland, there are always some casualties. Hopelessly damaged soldiers were melted down in an iron spoon on the schoolroom fire, and others had a new head fixed to the body by means of a match and liquid lead.
Then suddenly the schoolroom door opened, and there stood Jessie, gaunt and serious. ‘Bath-time for you, Frank,” she announced curtly, and a Frank without a murmur, followed her out of the room …
Spade House Chapter 1 / Part 1, Mathilde Meyer, H.G. Wells and his Family (1955)
It is good to see that Jessie their former nurse maintained her relationship with the boys, even though Mathilde has arrived formally as governess.
Interesting that Mathilde mentions “soldiers with moveable arms” as prior to William Britain’s Ltd, this was not the norm. This makes them different from the Germanic flat toy soldier. Britain’s soon had competition from other British based firms also producing toy soldiers with moveable arms.
When Floor Games was published in 1911, Mathilde made a mistake in allowing The Daily Graphic to photograph the boys, thinking Wells had agreed and arranged it. Mr Wells was not pleased but allowed the photograph to be published in the Daily Graphic.
If her recollection is correct, this press photo is not the one on the cover of Floor Games. I have so far failed to find a copy of this Daily Graphic December 1911 photograph.
I have identified two more literary players of the Floor Games in November, 1912, both suitable for a future blog post. Finally for today, a link to a past blog post about three friends of the Wells family, well known Edwardians, that Mathilde Meyer mentioned who also played the ‘Floor Game’ at Easton Glebe c. 1912/13:
In another blog post I will feature more about Jessie Allen Brooks (b. 1873, Richmond, Surrey) the nurse to the Wells children until 1908 who then reverted to more general household duties (‘cook – domestic’) when Mathilde Mary Meyer arrived:
Mathilde Mary Meyer, Governess, 28, single, born Switzerland Lucerne
Jessie Allen Brooks, 38, single, cook (domestic) born Richmond, Surrey.
They were previously briefly mentioned on my blog post here:
The other household employee, most probably the wielder of the dread mop and scrubbing brush, interruptor of Floor Games and Little Wars, burner of wilted twigs and paper flags, was in Hampstead in 1911 one Mary Ellen Shinnick.
Mary Ellen Shinnick, 27, single, housemaid (domestic) , born in Ireland (Co. Cork, Coppingerstown)
Again another incidental character to research. Jessie Allen Brooks gets mentioned by name in Mathilde’s memoirs, the other domestic (Mary) doesn’t. This suggests that one is more permanent than the other or that Jessie has more of a working ‘handover’ relationship with Mathilde as their former nurse.
For Wells’ health, the Wells household also had before Church Row Hampstead a seaside home at Spade House, Sandgate, Kent. After time at the Hampstead (London) house, the Wells family moved their main residence from Spring 1912 to a new Wells country bolthole on the Countess of Warwick’s estate at Little Easton Rectory which Wells renamed Easton Glebe, Dunmow, Essex. Here Wells’ second wife ‘Jane’ (Amy Catherine) Wells died in 1927.
This is the only photograph (below) that I have found of Mathilde Meyer, taken from her memoir H G Wells and his family.
This lawn may be where the famous photographs of Wells’ outdoors playing Little Wars on the lawn were taken. It is also where the only photo I have found of Mathilde Meyer from her book seems to be taken.
I’m not yet sure if these same household servants travelled with the Wells family from place to place, house to house, as the cook and housemaids were often part of the emotional stability of a young middle class Edwardian child’s life (before boarding school).
A young tutor Mr Classey arrived and after five years as governess teaching the boys French and German, Mathilde Meyer moved to another post in late 1913, around the time that Little Wars was published July or August. A year later both boys went as boarders to Oundle School in Northamptonshire throughout WWI. Gip was about twelve, Frank ten years old.
Mathilde Meyer moved on to tutor another child, the only daughter of Lady Swinburne at Capheaton, Northumberland, the area where she stayed during WW1. This child may possibly have been Joan Mary Browne-Swinburne (1906 -2012).
It is nice to know that Mathilde Meyer kept in touch with the Wells children well in to the 1950s when, with their permission, she wrote her memoir in 1955 in her late sixties / early seventies. H. G. Wells had died in 1946. It is a highly complementary memoir towards the Wells family. Wells offered her the promise of support ‘like a distant brother’ throughout the rest of his life. Frank helpfully wrote the preface to the book.
I also looked at press images of “Rosies” (one of the nicknames for US women war workers) and a similar Norman Rockwell 1943 magazine cover.
I restrained myself from trying to do the polka dot head piece or the lapel badge, even in 54mm. Gloss acrylic paint , gloss varnish and pink cheek dots give this figure an old fashioned toy soldier feel.
I wanted her to look like she had been made by William Britain’s Ltd during the war, albeit unlikely as Britain’s Ltd was turned over to munitions production after 1941 .
Next up, almost done on the painting table – the BMC Plastic Army Women – painted for FEMbruary – including another version of Rosie.
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 15 FEMbruary 2021
Blog Post Script B.P.S.
Thanks to Alex at the Lead Balloony blog for setting up the FEMbruary challenge of painting believable female Miniatures and gaming minis.
“These ladies form a nice segue into another topic – that of my now-annual ‘Fembruary Challenge’! It’s a simple affair, just paint & post one or more female miniatures from your piles-of-shame, in the name of fair representation within the hobby. Just link back to this post, or ping me directly & I’ll grab a pic and include your entry in the final round-up in early March (usually by International Women’s Day, 8th of March)
Given that this is intended as an encouragement to think about inclusion in the hobby then it makes sense if your entries are kick-ass ladies, and not the product of some socially awkward mini-sculptor’s sexy fantasies… Anything dodgy & I’ll omit it from the round-up, otherwise, have at it! I usually pick my favourite of the bunch – no prizes I’m afraid, but a boatload of kudos to you as an official Fembruary Winner!”
Alan Tradgardland Gruber’s post on Skirmish Kokoda Trail rules from Lone Warrior magazine reminded me of a failed experiment of mine last summer.
Maths was never one of my strongpoints.
I have often found that drawing hexagons that interlink well is not easy either.
I found this out about twenty years ago trying to plan some hexes to make a D & D style random terrain jungle path to suit Donald Featherstone’s Close Wars forest skirmish rules in the Appendix to his first War Games book (1962).
These simple rules call for impenetrable forests and dead ends to paths etc. as Natives track down Troops in the cluttered terrain on the tabletop terrain, mostly collected from the garden.
I discovered some interesting things.
Hexagons are not Octagons.
One of them has six sides.
I noticed too late that the toffee tin castle lid that I found at home, my sure-fire way to mark out rough draft cardboard hexagons, had on closer examination eight sides.
I was happily looking through the photo archive of original and DIY versions of Games Workshop’s Lost Patrol minigame (2000) on Board Games Geek. The game was reissued in a different form in 2016 and here is also a useful Skip the Rule book on YouTube video on the rules and tile placing in the 2016 re-release.
This difference between hexagons and octagons eventually explained why, as I tried to produce rough cardboard copy DIY version of the original tiles for Lost Patrol, that some curved path tiles and the ‘start’ clearing tile of six paths did not work for me. They did not copy across for some reason. It was admittedly quite late in the evening that I was roughing this out.
I wondered why it didn’t work.
One of my family pointed out that my cardboard tiles did not tessellate properly without square inserts. Hexagons should fit snugly together without gaps.
Featherstone’s Close Wars Appendix to his 1962 War Games that inspired my first hex attempts on tiny paper c. 1999 / 2000.
Maybe I would find the answer looking at my tiny flimsy paper hex versions from the year 2000?
Putting numbers on the paper hex tile edges meant that using a d6 dice roll could help to place the tiles for solo play at random. Throw one d6 for the connecting tile edge, another d6 for which of the newest tile sides is connected. And so your path randomly grows before the game or as you travel … d6 dice roll by d6 dice roll.
Fast forward to 2020: Late one evening a few weeks ago I decided to have another go at a random forest path of larger hex tiles.
I had been looking at the Solo Wargaming with Miniatures group on Facebook post on this attractive 3D DIY terrain hexes for Lost Patrol by Raymond Usher.
Obviously the attractive 3D terrain modelling would be more difficult to store than the original design of flat tiles but they looked very impressive.
Raymond Usher’s solo play ideas are very interesting including the random tile choosing tokens.
The interesting concealed enemy (originally ‘lurkers’) have the advantage that they can cross the jungle across country from tile to tile whereas troops need to stay on the paths, which are surrounded by impenetrable jungle forest.
The jungle grows around the troops and can even encircle them. Apparently it is very hard to survive and win in the original Lost Patrol game as the Marines.
The Lost Patrol type hex or octagon path could be easily adapted back from fantasy and futuristic sci-fi of “aliens and lurkers” back to other jungle encounters in colonial times, ImagiNations, Victorian and Interwar explorers or modern / WW2 jungle forces. This malicious forest has a strong fairy or folk tale feel to it.
The Original Lost Patrol rulesby Jake Thornton 2000
Useful starter rules from Games Workshop’s Lost Patrol 2000 version game design / rules by Jake Thornton – reprinted by Hulkskulker on Trove.net
Looking at Board Game Geek, now that the GW 2000 Lost Patrol original is no longer available at sensible prices, there are lots of interesting DIY variations that people have posted including using hex tiles from other games like this urban warfare futuristic game.
The Octagon and Hexagon thing aside, these tiles were ‘doodle relaxing’ to draw up as rough tile copies. They could hopefully pass for alien forests or earth jungles.
The original Lost Patrol had ensnaring Tangleweed tiles that you had to dice to escape from. I used ridged garden wire to create my own renamed ‘Snarewort’ tiles.
In the original 2000 Lost Patrol, lurking forces of spirits of the forest were represented by card markers, an idea which could be cheaply and easily adapted such as card markers for the forest Natives in Close Wars / French Indian Wars. Forest spirits? Spirit warriors or ghost soldiers (Thanks, Wargaming Pastor / Death Zapp! ) are another possibility. That’s why your troops should never camp on the old Indian burial ground …
The route out or victory and end condition for the troops is to make it to the crashed dropship and retrieve documents. They do not have to fight their way back anywhere in the original. Presumably they get zoomed somehow out of the situation.
Again the lure or target such as the ‘drop ship’ plans could be adapted to period – a rescue mission, rescuing plans or vital maps and secret documents from a lost wagon or appropriate era vehicle. Explorer figures would have to find the Jungle Temple artefact Indiana Jones style etc.
Like the random path, where will this idea go?
Who knows? I could add or insert 3D jungle elements to the square spacer tiles but again this is a challenge for storage.
First off, I will explore Raymond Usher’s solo wrgaming ideas, read through the original and simplify it to my level.
If it doesn’t work it has cost only cardboard, paint, some ink and some time. I will have relearnt again some basic geometry. Hexagons. octagons. One of these has six sides.
Watch this space.
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN August 2020 / 12 February 2021
A World War I British Army patrol is crossing the Mesopotomian desert when their commanding officer, the only one who knows their destination [and mission] is killed by the bullet of unseen bandits. The patrol’s sergeant keeps them heading north on the assumption that they will hit their brigade. They stop for the night at an oasis and awake the next morning to find their horses stolen, their sentry dead, the oasis surrounded and survival difficult.
One of the literary figures supporting H. G. Wells and his development of the Floor Game and Little Wars was the author Jerome K. Jerome (1859-1927) or J.K.J. as he is known in Little Wars. I mentioned him in a recent blog post:
As H G Wells says of the origin of Little Wars being the spring loaded cannon, “It was with one of these guns that the beginning of our war game was made.” It was at his seaside home at Sandgate in Kent, England. Wells had two young sons, Gip and Frank Wells, born 1901 and 1903, to whom the “irrepressible debris of a small boy’s pleasures” probably belonged. Wells wrote:
“The present writer had been lunching with a friend – let me veil his identity under the initials J. K. J. – in a room littered with the irrepressible debris of a small boy’s pleasures. On a table near our own stood four or five soldiers and one of these guns.”
“Mr J. K. J., his more urgent needs satisfied and the coffee imminent, drew a chair to this little table, sat down, examined the gun discreetly, loaded it warily, aimed, and hit his man. Thereupon he boasted of the deed, and issued challenges that were accepted with avidity. . . .”
“He fired that day a shot that still echoes round the world. An affair – let us parallel the Cannonade of Valmy and call it the Cannonade of Sandgate –occurred, a shooting between opposed ranks of soldiers, a shooting not very different in spirit – but how different in results! – from the prehistoric warfare of catapult and garter. “But suppose,” said his antagonists; “suppose somehow one could move the men!” and therewith opened a new world of belligerence. The matter went no further with Mr J. K. J. …” (H G Wells, Little Wars, 1913)
Here Wells’ war game with toy soldiers moved from skittles or a shooting game more to one of strategy.
Reading his biography page on the website, Jerome can be seen as a hidden casualty of the Great War that Wells warned about in his Pacific last chapter of Little Wars in 1913.
Jerome wrote in his memoirs that in August 1914: “I heard of our declaration of war against Germany with cheerful satisfaction. The animal in me rejoiced. It was going to be the biggest war in history. I thanked whatever gods there be that they had given it in my time. If I had been anywhere near the age limit I should have enlisted. I can say this with confidence because later, and long after my enthusiasm had worn off, I did manage to get work in quite a dangerous part of the front line.”
“Men all around me were throwing up their jobs, sacrificing their careers. I felt ashamed of myself, sitting in safety at my desk, writing articles encouraging them, at so much a thousand words. Of course, not a soul dreamt the war was going to last more than a few months. Had we known, it might have been another story. But the experts had assured us on that point. Mr. Wells was most emphatic. It was Mr. Wells who proclaimed it a Holy War. I have just been reading again those early letters of his. A Miss Cooper Willis has, a little unkindly, reprinted them. I am glad she did not do the same with contributions of my own.”
“The newspapers had roped in most of us literary gents to write them special articles upon the war. The appalling nonsense we poured out, during those hysterical first weeks, must have made the angels weep, and all the little devils hold their sides with laughter. In justice to myself, I like to remember that I did gently ridicule the “War to end war” stuff and nonsense. I had heard that talk in my babyhood: since when I had lived through one of the bloodiest half centuries in history. War will go down before the gradual growth of reason. The movement has not yet begun.” (P.281, Jerome’s My Life and Times)
At first Jerome was keen as any other volunteer or writer to do his bit, preferably near the front line (or “got out”). However by his age his options were limited including the ‘Home Guard’ of the Volunteer Training Corps VTC, nicknamed the “Gorgeous Wrecks” or Rejects from their red GR arm bands:
Jerome K. Jerome’s 1925/6 memoir “My Life and Times” was written a year or so before he died:
“It was in the autumn of 1916 that I “got out,” as the saying was. I had been trying to get there for some time. Of course my age, fifty-five, shut all the usual doors against me. I could have joined a company of “veterans” for home defence, and have guarded the Crystal Palace, or helped to man the Thames Embankment; but I wanted to see the real thing. I had offered myself as an entertainer to the Y.M.C.A. I was a capable raconteur and had manufactured, or appropriated, a number of good stories.”
“The Y.M.C.A. had tried me on home hospitals and camps and had approved me. But the War Office would not give its permission. The military gentleman I saw was brief. So far as his information went, half the British Army were making notes for future books. If I merely wanted to be useful, he undertook to find me a job in the Army Clothing Department, close by in Pimlico. I suppose my motives for wanting to go out were of the usual mixed order. I honestly thought I would be doing sound work, helping the Tommies to forget their troubles […]”
A few years younger, Jerome could have joined the Cavalry or Yeomanry. In an earlier chapter ‘The Author at Play’, Jerome mentions his dislike of game shooting, his dislike of fox hunting (because of the fox) and his love of riding and driving carriage horses:
“I learnt riding with the Life Guards at Knightsbridge barracks. It was a rough school, but thorough. You were not considered finished until you could ride all your paces bareback, with the reins loose; and when the Sergeant-Major got hold of a horse with new tricks, he would put it aside for his favourite pupil.”
There is a whole chapter in his memoir (published in 1925/26) about his war experience, starting with his news of how foreign wars were reported, supported or opposed in Britain throughout his childhood, almost taking the Queen’s shilling out of poverty:
“I was down on my luck when the Russo-Turkish War broke out. There were hopes at first that we might be drawn into it. I came near to taking the Queen’s shilling. I had slept at a doss-house the night before, and had had no breakfast. A sergeant of Lancers stopped me in Trafalgar Square. He put his hands on my shoulders and punched my chest.
“You’re not the first of your family that’s been a soldier,” he said. “You’ll like it.”
It was a taking uniform: blue and silver with high Hessian boots. The advantages of making soldiers look like mud had not then been discovered.” (Chapter 12, The War)
… right through to the shifting colonial and international tensions in the build up to WW1 and how he served with the French Ambulance units. You can read this for free in this Project Gutenberg ebook free download:
Over service age in 1914, he volunteered to serve in the Ambulance units in France and the experience of what he must have seen had a lasting effect on the comic novelist.
When he returned to England, his secretary observed “The old Jerome had gone… in his place was a stranger … a broken man”.
JKJ – player of Little Wars, sportsman, comic novelist – “Those who talk about war as a game … ought to be made to go out and play it.”
This quote came from his 1925/26 memoir, remembering his experiences in the Verdun French sector where a field hospital was shelled by the Germans but also thinking about his trip to America (1915) shortly before.
Now writing as Ambulance Driver Nine, he notes:
“The town was strangely peaceful, though all around the fighting still continued. Our Unit, Section 10, had been there the winter before, during the battle, and had had a strenuous time. During the actual fighting, Hague Conventions and Geneva regulations get themselves mislaid. The guns were eating up ammunition faster than the little tramways could supply them, and the ambulances did not always go up empty.
“Doubtless the German Red Cross drivers had likewise their blind eye. It is not the soldiers who shout about these things. I was on the “Lusitania,” the last voyage she made from New York to Liverpool, before she was torpedoed. We were loaded to the Plimsol line with war material. The Germans were accused of dropping shells on to the hospital. So they did. How could they help it? The ammunition park was one side of the railway head and the hospital the other. It was the most convenient place for both. Those who talk about war being a game ought to be made to go out and play it. They’d find their little book of rules of not much use.”
Presumably his quote about playing at war was not too much of a dig at his friend Wells’ Little Wars Chapter IV and its warning about the blunder of Great Wars?
“How much better is this amiable miniature than the Real Thing,” Wells writes in Little Wars. “You have only to play at Little Wars three or four times to realise just what a blundering thing Great War must be. Great War is at present, I am convinced, not only the most expensive game in the universe, but it is a game out of all proportion …”
Wells’ wartime path diverged from that of Jerome. Wells was very active in Government Propaganda throughout WW1 through the Wartime Propganda Bureau run by his friend and Little Wars opponent Charles Masterman (see the related blog post on the Declaration of Authors).
Maybe Jerome’s remark is aimed at fellow jingo writers and poets like Sir Henry Newbolt with their sporting analogies to war (echoed in the sportsmen’s battalions)?
“Play Up, Play up, and Play the Game!”
(Vitai Lampada! or “They Pass On The Torch of Life”)
There’s a breathless hush in the Close to-night —
Ten to make and the match to win —
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it’s not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season’s fame,
But his Captain’s hand on his shoulder smote —
‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’
The sand of the desert is sodden red, —
Red with the wreck of a square that broke; —
The Gatling’s jammed and the Colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England’s far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks:
‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’
This is the word that year by year,
While in her place the School is set,
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind —
‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’
Sir Henry Newbolt, 1892
Like Wells and Jerome, Newbolt signed the 1914 Authors’ Declaration and was part of inspiring a generation of ‘heroic’ war poetry in the style of Rupert Brooke and minor, often public school wartime poets.
It is worth noting that even some of the later antiwar poets like Wilfred Owen started out with a flowery Rupert Brooke style heroic poetic view of the war at its beginning.
Brooke through the Neo Pagans group on the edge of the Bloomsbury group knew Harold Hobson, who played at Little Wars with Wells. We could play this ‘six degrees of separation’ connections and influences game back to Wells and Little Wars with a number of people. You know the sort of thing – Hobson knew Brooke who died en route to Gallipoli, a Churchill inspired disaster of a campaign; Wells can be doubly connected to Churchill through toy soldiers and through Liberal politician Charles Masterman. And so on and so on …
Reading Gissing’s letters to and from Wells and his family, there is a lovely informal group snapshot in Italy c. 1890s of Gissing, Wells, Conan Doyle and his brother in law Hornung. As the ‘Declaration of Authors’ signatures also show, the literary world was well connected at a professional and social, even friendly level.
“[Israel] Zangwill used to be keen on croquet, but never had the makings of a great player. Wells wasn’t bad. Of course, he wanted to alter all the laws and make a new game of his own. I had to abandon my lawn, in the end.” From the ‘Author at Play’ chapter in Jerome’s memoir.
Reading Jerome’s 1925/6 memoir I found that he was not the only one of the Author’s Declaration to suffer during WW1. In his chapter the ‘Author at Play’ about the “internationalism” of winter sports at Davos in Switzerland and such like in the years prior to the outbreak of WW1, p.233 –
“Engelberg is too low to be a good sports centre. We had some muggy weather, and to kill time I got up some private theatricals. Kipling’s boy and girl were there. They were jolly children. Young Kipling was a suffragette and little Miss Kipling played a costermonger’s Donah. Kipling himself combined the parts of scene-shifter and call boy. It was the first time I had met Mrs. Kipling since her marriage. She was still a beautiful woman, but her hair was white. There had always been sadness in her eyes, even when a girl. The Hornungs were there also, with their only child, Oscar. Mrs. Hornung, née Connie Doyle, was as cheery and vigorous as ever, but a shade stouter. Both boys were killed in the war.” (P.233)
Oscar Hornung, Conan Doyle’s nephew, was killed in 1915 – CWGC entry. Like the Hornung family, the Kiplings suffered the added grief of a son missing and an unknown grave until a recent (and disputed) identification – CWGC entry. The tragic story of John Kipling, Kipling’s only son, is well told in the Holt book, play and BBC TV drama My Boy Jack.
As Wells writes it at the end of Little Wars “And if I might for a moment trumpet! How much better is this amiable miniature than the Real Thing!”
Bloog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 2 / 3 February 2021
Blog Post Appendix – the ‘pacific’ challenge by Wells at the end of Little Wars, 1913: source – e: text from Project Gutenberg
I COULD go on now and tell of battles, copiously. In the memory of the one skirmish I have given I do but taste blood. I would like to go on, to a large, thick book. It would be an agreeable task. Since I am the chief inventor and practiser (so far) of Little Wars, there has fallen to me a disproportionate share of victories. But let me not boast. For the present, I have done all that I meant to do in this matter. It is for you, dear reader, now to get a floor, a friend, some soldiers and some guns, and show by a grovelling devotion your appreciation of this noble and beautiful gift of a limitless game that I have given you.
And if I might for a moment trumpet! How much better is this amiable miniature than the Real Thing!
Here is a homeopathic remedy for the imaginative strategist. Here is the premeditation, the thrill, the strain of accumulating victory or disaster—and no smashed nor sanguinary bodies, no shattered fine buildings nor devastated country sides, no petty cruelties, none of that awful universal boredom and embitterment, that tiresome delay or stoppage or embarrassment of every gracious, bold, sweet, and charming thing, that we who are old enough to remember a real modern war know to be the reality of belligerence.
This world is for ample living; we want security and freedom; all of us in every country, except a few dull-witted, energetic bores, want to see the manhood of the world at something better than apeing the little lead toys our children buy in boxes. We want fine things made for mankind—splendid cities, open ways, more knowledge and power, and more and more and more—and so I offer my game, for a particular as well as a general end; and let us put this prancing monarch and that silly scare-monger, and these excitable “patriots,” and those adventurers, and all the practitioners of Welt Politik, into one vast Temple of War, with cork carpets everywhere, and plenty of little trees and little houses to knock down, and cities and fortresses, and unlimited soldiers—tons, cellars-full—and let them lead their own lives there away from us.
My game is just as good as their game, and saner by reason of its size. Here is War, done down to rational proportions, and yet out of the way of mankind, even as our fathers turned human sacrifices into the eating of little images and symbolic mouthfuls. For my own part, I am prepared. I have nearly five hundred men, more than a score of guns, and I twirl my moustache and hurl defiance eastward from my home in Essex across the narrow seas. Not only eastward. I would conclude this little discourse with one other disconcerting and exasperating sentence for the admirers and practitioners of Big War. I have never yet met in little battle any military gentleman, any captain, major, colonel, general, or eminent commander, who did not presently get into difficulties and confusions among even the elementary rules of the Battle. You have only to play at Little Wars three or four times to realise just what a blundering thing Great War must be.
Great War is at present, I am convinced, not only the most expensive game in the universe, but it is a game out of all proportion. Not only are the masses of men and material and suffering and inconvenience too monstrously big for reason, but—the available heads we have for it, are too small. That, I think, is the most pacific realisation conceivable, and Little War brings you to it as nothing else but Great War can do.”
In the early chapter of Little Wars, H.G. Wells identifies by initials some of the men who had helped in the development of his ‘Floor Game’ that became Little Wars. This material was published first in magazine article form in late 1912 and in book form by Frank Palmer in Summer 1913.
A number of famous men are identified – J.K.J. – Jerome K. Jerome the writer, another writer and invalid friend of Wells was probably George Gissing, Mr. W as the socialist and writer Mr Graham Wallas.
I’m not sure if the Great War in South Africa meant the Boer War which Captain M. served in, the Great War not having yet acquired its WW1 connotation or this 1906 Bambatha Zulu Rebellion.
Having read H.G. Wells and his Family, the 1955 memoir by Mathilde Meyer, Swiss Governess to Wells’ two young sons Frank and Gip, I noticed that she described how on wet afternoons at Wells House, one of the favourite indoor pastimes was “The Floor Game” as it was called in the house. Three more of the named players were Liberal politician Charles F.G. Masterman, engineer Mr. Harold Hobson of the Bloomsbury literary set and Mr. E.S.P. Haynes.
This gave me a clue to who might be “a certain Mr. M” – could this be Mr Charles Masterman, important enough a political figure not be obviously named by Wells in association with Floor Games and Little Wars?
Did he have a “brother, Captain M. hot from the Great War in South Africa”?
I started tracing the Masterman family tree and a Boer War connection.
At first sight, the Tonbridge Boer War Memorial lists only a dead brother Captain Henry [Thomas] Masterman (1875-1900) who died on service in South Africa, a casualty like so many in that war of disease.
MASTERMAN, HENRY (Harry) [Thomas]. Captain. 3rd Battalion, Welsh Regiment.
Died 28 November 1900. Aged 25.
Born Wimbledon, Surrey 17 July 1875.
Fifth son of Mrs. Margaret Hanson Masterman, (1841-1932) (née Gurney) of “Lonsdale,” Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, and of the late Thomas William (Willie) Masterman, F.R.G.S. (1839-1894) of “The Hall,” Rotherfield, Sussex.
Buried Prieska, Northern Cape, South Africa.
“At the time of the 1881 census, the Masterman family resided at “South Villa,” Main Road, Bexley, Kent. Head of the house was 41 year old Wanstead, Essex native Thomas William Masterman, who was of Independent Means.
Henry was a Day Boy at Tonbridge School, Kent in 1889, and after leaving Tonbridge School he went to Weymouth College. At the latter establishment he was in the cricket and football teams. On leaving Weymouth College, Henry went up to St. John’s College, Cambridge, and afterwards to Christ’s College.”
“Whilst at Cambridge he was a Captain in the University Royal Volunteer Corps. In January 1899, he entered St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, but his battalion was embodied in December 1899, which he joined and accompanied to South Africa in February 1900. Whilst at Prieska he was appointed the Garrison Adjutant, a post which he held until he was taken ill. Henry died of Malaria and Meningitis at Prieska, which is situated on the south bank of the Orange River, Northern Cape, South Africa.”
This was not looking promising – Captain Henry Masterman died in 1900, so he could not be Captain M., until the same useful Kent Fallen Boer War Memorial Tunbridge publication mentioned another brother who became a Captain after service in the Boer War in South Africa:
“Henry’s brother; Walter Sydney Masterman was a Day Boy at Tonbridge School from 1889 to 1893, and he too served in the 3rd Battalion, Welsh Regiment which had included serving in the Second Boer War in 1900 and 1901.
Whilst at Tonbridge School, Walter won the Swimming Points Cup in 1893. From Tonbridge he went up to Christ’s College, Cambridgeshire.
In 1901 following the Second Boer War he was promoted to the rank of Captain, and attached to the 1st Cadet Battalion, Kings Royal Rifle Corps.
In 1910 he became an Inspector of Musketry, and resided at 25, Woodbury Park Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent.”
Surely this must be our Captain M hot from the Great War in South Africa?
Chapter 1: “But as there was nevertheless much that seemed to us extremely pretty and picturesque about the game, we set to work — and here a certain Mr M. with his brother, Captain M., hot from the Great War in South Africa, came in most helpfully—to quicken it. Manifestly the guns had to be reduced to manageable terms.
“We cut down the number of shots per move to four, and we required that four men should be within six inches of a gun for it to be in action at all. Without four men it could neither fire nor move—it was out of action; and if it moved, the four men had to go with it. Moreover, to put an end to that little resistant body of men behind a house, we required that after a gun had been fired it should remain, without alteration of the elevation, pointing in the direction of its last shot, and have two men placed one on either side of the end of its trail. This secured a certain exposure on the part of concealed and sheltered gunners. It was no longer possible to go on shooting out of a perfect security for ever. All this favoured the attack and led to a livelier game.”
[It is difficult to know how much of Little Wars was developed with Mr M (Charles Masterman) and Captain M (Walter Sidney Masterman) but I assume here that ‘We’ and ‘Our’ refers to his collaboration with Mr M and Captain M, quickening the game.]
“Our next step was to abolish the tedium due to the elaborate aiming of the guns, by fixing a time limit for every move. We made this an outside limit at first, ten minutes, but afterwards we discovered that it made the game much more warlike to cut the time down to a length that would barely permit a slow-moving player to fire all his guns and move all his men. This led to small bodies of men lagging and “getting left,” to careless exposures, to rapid, less accurate shooting, and just that eventfulness one would expect in the hurry and passion of real fighting. It also made the game brisker. We have since also made a limit, sometimes of four minutes, sometimes of five minutes, to the interval for adjustment and deliberation after one move is finished and before the next move begins. This further removes the game from the chess category, and approximates it to the likeness of active service. Most of a general’s decisions, once a fight has begun, must be made in such brief intervals of time. (But we leave unlimited time at the outset for the planning.)”
“As to our time-keeping, we catch a visitor with a stop-watch if we can, and if we cannot, we use a fair-sized clock with a second-hand: the player not moving says “Go,” and warns at the last two minutes, last minute, and last thirty seconds. But I think it would not be difficult to procure a cheap clock—because, of course, no one wants a very accurate agreement with Greenwich as to the length of a second—that would have minutes instead of hours and seconds instead of minutes, and that would ping at the end of every minute and discharge an alarm note at the end of the move. That would abolish the rather boring strain of time-keeping. One could just watch the fighting.”
“Moreover, in our desire to bring the game to a climax, we decided that instead of a fight to a finish we would fight to some determined point, and we found very good sport in supposing that the arrival of three men of one force upon the back line of the opponent’s side of the country was of such strategic importance as to determine the battle. But this form of battle we have since largely abandoned in favour of the old fight to a finish again. We found it led to one type of battle only, a massed rush at the antagonist’s line, and that our arrangements of time-limits and capture and so forth had eliminated most of the concluding drag upon the game.”
“Our game was now very much in its present form. We considered at various times the possibility of introducing some complication due to the bringing up of ammunition or supplies generally, and we decided that it would add little to the interest or reality of the game. Our battles are little brisk fights in which one may suppose that all the ammunition and food needed are carried by the men themselves.”
Little Wars, H.G. Wells, 1913
After Little And Great Wars
If we are correct about Captain M being Walter Sidney Masterman, then he had a strange career path after the War, not unlike H.G.Wells’ early career.
I wonder if their semi-professional football career and games had an effect on the shaping and briskness of Little Wars, as much as their military careers:
“fight to some determined point, and we found very good sport in supposing that the arrival of three men of one force upon the back line of the opponent’s side of the country …We found it led to one type of battle only, a massed rush at the antagonist’s line.” (Little Wars, 1913)
Walter became an Assistant Headteacher (1903-5) in a private school after the Boer War in the period when Little Wars was being developed. He was also active as a Football player with Tunbridge Wells FC.
For a brief while Walter Masterman was part of the British Boy Scouts, the BBS, a more ‘pacifist’ Peace Scouts rival to the more ‘militaristic’ Baden Powell’s Scouting Movement –
Being an Inspector of Musketry attached to the 1st Cadet Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifles, at the same time as being part of the BBS or Peace Scouts, whilst also being involved as Captain M. in the shaping of Little Wars shows what a complex character Walter Masterman was and what odd times that he was living in.
He served as a Major with the Welsh Regiment during the Great War / WW1. After Demob in 1919, Walter became again a Fisheries Inspector (civil servant) in Grimsby in his zoologist brother Arthur’s area of fisheries.
According to his relative Colin Salter in his family history blog, this career ended in court and jail for three to four years in 1922 over allegations of embezzlement.
Walter Sidney Masterman, fishery inspector at Grimsby, a brother of a former Liberal Minister, is being charged with embezzling £862 belonging to the Board of Fisheries. The prosecution alleges that the defendant paid into his own account sums received, for the sale of coal and gear handed over from German trawlers.
February 1922 the Sunday Times of Perth in Western Australia
His ‘Former Liberal Minister’ Brother Charles’ position (Mr. M) was the only thing that made this newsworthy around the world.
His next career move in the mid 1920s was to become a writer of science fiction, detective and mystery novels as Walter S. Masterman.
His first book The Wrong Letter in 1926 had a Foreword or Preface by Charles and Wells’ mutual friend G.K. Chesterton which can be read here on these sample pages
I wonder if his author brothers Howard Masterman the bishop and Charles the Liberal Politician (Mr. M.) or H.G. Wells were in any way able to help or involved in aiding Walter’s postwar literary career?
Chesterton was also friends with Charles Masterman and dedicated a book What’s Wrong with the World to him – see
The list of titles and supernatural topics is not so far from fellow Little Wars witness and fellow Sussex resident, the author and ‘ghost hunter’ Robert Thurston Hopkins, also on such a sci-fi database.
The Masterman family were quite amazingly accomplished – writers, bishops, politicians, army officers, medical missionaries and naturalists.
The two Captains Henry and Walter we have already mentioned.
They had one sister called ‘Daisy’ or Margaret Masterman, who had an academic career.
1. One older brother, easy to tell by his dog collar in the photo is the second son John Howard Bertram Masterman (1867-1933), Suffragan Bishop of Plymouth, author and Historian. Howard the bishop married Theresa Boroder (b. Saxony, Germany) and became father of Cyril Masterman (1896-1973) OBE (1956 for services as Technical Director, Underground Gasification Trials, Monistry of Fuel and Power). https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Masterman
These were the six sons of Mrs. Margaret Hanson Masterman, (1841-1932) (née Gurney) of “Lonsdale,” Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, and of the late Thomas William (Willie) Masterman, F.R.G.S. (1839-1894) of “The Hall,” Rotherfield Hall , Sussex. Rotherfield Hall in Sussex.
The Masterman brothers were the grandsons of William Brodie Gurney (and so a distant relation to prison reformer Elizabeth Fry through him). The Gurney and Masterman families were variously involved with Banking, shorthand, court stenography and with the Fox family of Quakers.
Crossposted from my Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog – a wash and brush up for the new 54mm BMC Plastic Army Women figures, prior to the FEMbruary believable female figure painting challenge (started by Alex at Lead Balloony)
We present Mr H G Wells (General HGW of the Battle of Hooks Farm)
Supported by a cast behind the scenes, acknowledged and unacknowledged: which makes this a bit of a long post.
A C W – Amy Catherine Wells, or Robbins (1895-1927) his second wife (known as Jane) who took the photographs for the original magazine articles and the book of Little Wars. The photographs in the companion “uniform with this volume” Floor Games (1912) were ‘taken by the author’.
Colonel Mark Sykes and the Kriegspiel Appendix to Little Wars (1913)
“is not a book upon Kriegspiel. It gives merely a game that may be played by two or four or six amateurish persons in an afternoon and evening with toy soldiers. But it has a very distinct relation to Kriegspiel; and since the main portion of it was written and published in a magazine, I have had quite a considerable correspondence with military people who have been interested by it, and who have shown a very friendly spirit towards it–in spite of the pacific outbreak in its concluding section.
They tell me–what I already a little suspected– that Kriegspiel, as it is played by the British Army, is a very dull and unsatisfactory exercise, lacking in realism, in stir and the unexpected, obsessed by the umpire at every turn, and of very doubtful value in waking up the imagination, which should be its chief function.
I am particularly indebted to Colonel Mark Sykes for advice and information in this matter. He has pointed out to me the possibility of developing Little Wars into a vivid and inspiring Kriegspiel, in which the element of the umpire would be reduced to a minimum …”
“Of course, while in Little Wars there are only three or four players, in any proper Kriegspiel the game will go on over a larger area–in a drill-hall or some such place–and each arm and service will be entrusted to a particular player. This permits all sorts of complicated imitations of reality that are impossible to our parlour and playroom Little Wars. We can consider transport, supply, ammunition, and the moral effect of cavalry impact, and of uphill and downhill movements. We can also bring in the spade and entrenchment, and give scope to the Royal Engineers. But before I write anything of Colonel Sykes’ suggestions about these, let me say a word or two about Kriegspiel “country…”
“the following sketch rules, which are the result of a discussion between Colonel Sykes and myself, and in which most of the new ideas are to be ascribed to Colonel Sykes.
We proffer them, not as a finished set of rules, but as material for anyone who chooses to work over them, in the elaboration of what we believe will be a far more exciting and edifying Kriegspiel than any that exists at the present time.
The game may be played by any number of players, according to the forces engaged and the size of the country available. Each side will be under the supreme command of a General, who will be represented by a cavalry soldier. The player who is General must stand at or behind his representative image and within six feet of it. His signalling will be supposed to be perfect, and he will communicate with his subordinates by shout, whisper, or note, as he thinks fit. I suggest he should be considered invulnerable, but Colonel Sykes has proposed arrangements for his disablement …”
“The toy soldiers used in this Kriegspiel should not be the large soldiers used in Little Wars. The British manufacturers who turn out these also make a smaller, cheaper type of man–the infantry about an inch high--which is better adapted to Kriegspiel purposes.”
Who was this Colonel Sykes?
ColonelSir Tatton Benvenuto Mark Sykes, 6th Baronet (16 March 1879 – 16 February 1919) was an English traveller, Conservative politician, and diplomatic advisor, particularly with regard to the Middle East during WW1.
His name is associated with the Sykes–Picot Agreement, drawn up while WW1 was in progress regarding the partitioning the Ottoman Empire by Britain, France and Russia. He was a key negotiator of the Balfour Declaration. (Wikipedia link)
Mark Sykes – The man who discussed Kreigspiel and Little Wars with H. G. Wells for pleasure was associated with the partition of the Middle East in a way that would rumble on into Great Wars decades later into the next century.
Sykes never got to see any of this as he died suddenly during the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1919 – and nearly 100 years later, helped in the ongoing research into the Spanish Flu.
Mark Sykes, Lt Col Mark Sykes, MP or Our Mark, caricature by Wallace Hester ‘WH’ for Vanity Fair 1912 “Men of the Day” series No. 2278 – image source: Wikipedia
I like this Vanity Fair caricature from the Little Wars period, it has a cheerful Wellsian look to it. Look closely, you can see Hull (his constituency as an MP) mentioned and a tiny picture of a Redcoat Soldier (Marlburian? colonial?), maps of Turkey noting his travels, and a paper with Politics written on it.
Sad to realise that only 7 years later after the sort of Great War that Wells talked about in his final “pacific” chapter of Little Wars, Sykes would die aged only 40 of Spanish flu in 1919, leaving a widow and 5 young children. Sykes was in Paris in connection with the peace negotiations in 1919.
With the permission of his family descendants, Sykes’ remains in a lead coffin were recently exhumed in 2007/8 as part of the ongoing scientific investigation into the 1918/19 Spanish Flu pandemic, preparing for pandemics of the 21st century.
As H G Wells says of the origin of Little Wars being the spring loaded cannon:
“It was with one of these guns that the beginning of our war game was made. It was at Sandgate–in England.
“The present writer had been lunching with a friend–let me veil his identity under the initials J. K. J.–in a room littered with the irrepressible debris of a small boy’s pleasures.”
On a table near our own stood four or five soldiers and one of these guns.
Mr J. K. J., his more urgent needs satisfied and the coffee imminent, drew a chair to this little table, sat down, examined the gun discreetly, loaded it warily, aimed, and hit his man. Thereupon he boasted of the deed, and issued challenges that were accepted with avidity. . . .
He fired that day a shot that still echoes round the world. An affair– let us parallel the Cannonade of Valmy and call it the Cannonade of Sandgate–occurred, a shooting between opposed ranks of soldiers, a shooting not very different in spirit–but how different in results!– from the prehistoric warfare of catapult and garter. “But suppose,” said his antagonists; “suppose somehow one could move the men!” and therewith opened a new world of belligerence. The matter went no further with Mr J. K. J. …”
So that seems to have been the limit of Jerome’s input into Little Wars.
The Cannonade of Sandgate?
On several Websites it mentions that “It was at Spade House that Wells wrote ‘Mankind in the making’, ‘A Modern Utopia’, ‘In the Days of the Comet’, ‘The New Machiavelli’, ‘The War in the Air’, ‘Tono Bungay’, ‘Anticipations’, ‘The Food of the Gods’, ‘Ann Veronica’, ‘Kipps’, ‘The History of Mr Polly’, ‘New Worlds for Old’,
But no mention of Floor Games or Little Wars, the writing of this appears to have happened when the family returned to London.
Sandgate in Kent was the seaside town where Wells lived from 1896 until 1909. A small plaque marks the writer’s first Sandgate house, where he lived from 1896 until 1901, when he built a larger family home known as the Spade House (now a nursing home). Here his two sons were born in 1901 and 1903. This gives us an idea of his family life and what play was happening in the nursery in the decade before Little Wars 1913
Wells with his first wife, his cousin Isobel lived in Woking where he based War of the Worlds. His poor health took him and his new second wife Amy Catherine Robbins (known as Jane) to Sandgate in 1896, near Folkestone in Kent where he constructed a large family home, Spade House, in 1901. It was here he and Jane had two sons:
There are several others who were involved in the origins of Little Wars that I have not yet identified.
1. The mysterious Mr W?
Wells then wrote in his introduction to Little Wars: “The seed lay for a time gathering strength, and then began to germinate with another friend, Mr W. To Mr W. was broached the idea: “I believe that if one set up a few obstacles on the floor, volumes of the British Encyclopedia and so forth, to make a Country, and moved these soldiers and guns about, one could have rather a good game, a kind of kriegspiel.”
I am not yet sure who the mysterious Mr W. is?
Update: suggested that this is Wells’ friend Graham Wallas
Another of these invisible men behind the origin of Little Wars is his unnamed ill friend (who died c. 1906/7, if Little Wars was written 1912/1913)
“But the writer had in those days a very dear friend, a man too ill for long excursions or vigorous sports (he has been dead now these six years), of a very sweet companionable disposition, a hearty jester and full of the spirit of play. To him the idea was broached more fruitfully. We got two forces of toy soldiers, set out a lumpish Encyclopaedic land upon the carpet, and began to play …”
Update: Suggested that this is the writer George Gissing
3. Mr M and his brother Captain M, hot from the Great War in South Africa
“But as there was nevertheless much that seemed to us extremely pretty and picturesque about the game, we set to work — and here a certain Mr M. with his brother, Captain M., hot from the Great War in South Africa, came in most helpfully — to quicken it. Manifestly the guns had to be reduced to manageable terms.”
Hot from the Great War in South Africa? That sets the origins again in the decade before it was published, the Boer War having finished eleven years before Little Wars was published.
There are others of whom little biographical information can be easily found.
4. J. R. Sinclair, the illustrator of Floor Games and Little Wars, worked as an illustrator of many children’s books in the Edwardian period – worthy of more research and a future blog post himself.
I think that J.R. Sinclair is possibly James Ramage Sinclair, a Scottish artist or illustrator born in 1866 in Edinburgh. His father Lauchlan and brother were both Lithographers (Engraver) in Giles St Edinburgh
As well as Little Wars and Floor Games, he is also known for an illustrated c.1910 edition of Alice in Wonderland.
By 1901 he had moved to Islington and was a boarder at 71 Mildmay Road , his trade listed as Artist (Painter). In 1909 he married Lila Smith and in the 1911 Census the forty-something newly-weds were living at 78 Gleneagle Road Streatham, S.W. London. His career is listed as ‘Artist’.
1911 Census entry for James R Sinclair and wife Lila
If my identification of J.R. Sinclair as James Ramage Sinclair, this marriage was a short one:’
5. Frank Palmer the publisher of Floor Games and Little Wars
Palmer was based at Red Lion Court (“Bloomsbury”?) and seems to have gone into partnership with (Harry) Cecil Palmer (1889 -1952) – any relation? – around the time Little Wars and Floor Games were published. There is not much information about Frank Palmer online:
Incidentally, Cecil Palmer & Hayward seem to have been in business from about 1910 to 1919. Overlapping with that period, Frank Palmer published a number of books between about 1909 and 1914, at which point Cecil Palmer joined him to form Frank & Cecil Palmer. Together they published several books between about 1914 and 1915, including H.G. Wells’ book The War that will End War, in 1914, and an H.G. Wells Calendar in 1915, this latter having previously been published by Frank Palmer alone in 1911.
(In fact, the calendar idea came from Frank Palmer originally – amongst others he published a George Bernard Shaw Calendar in 1909, an Oscar Wilde Calendar in 1910, and even a Napoleon Calendar in 1911.
Cecil Palmer seems to have gone solo between about 1920 and 1935, during which period he published a large number of books in a wide range of fields, from novels, poetry and plays, via books about music & musicians, people & places, literature & history, to ghosts, palmistry, astrology, reincarnation, and what we would now call self–help health books for both men and women … Many of Palmer’s other titles will get a mention in what follows. A list of the various calendars published by him up to 1920 is shown in Fig.6a, for example, and another list of his “National Proverb Series”, again dating from 1920, is shown in Fig.6b. Again, though, the National Proverbs series originated with Frank Palmer – he had certainly published a dozen such by 1913, beginning with England in 1912. (1c)
What happened to Frank Palmer? According to Bob Forrest, he appears not to obviously appear in the 1911 Census.
In the 1911 census H.G. Wells is living at 17 Church Row Hampstead
6. Mathilde Meyer
The author’s sons’ nurse Mathilde Meyer once wrote:
“Hopelessly damaged soldiers were melted down in an iron spoon on the schoolroom floor, and others had a new head fixed on by means of a match and liquid lead.”
Excerpt from H.G. Wells and His Family by M. M. Meyer (1955) memoir quoted from the BBC article link below.
According to Sotheby’s catalogue for a Wells book inscribed “To Mathilde Meyer | from | H.G. Wells | grateful as ever | for two well taught | sons | Xmas 1918”
“Fraulein Mathilda M. Meyer was a Swiss governess hired by the author’s wife Jane in October 1908 to give their two sons Gip and Frank lessons in English, French and German. She was employed for five years and later wrote an enthusiastic and perhaps over-flattering account of Wells and his household, but one which nonetheless is a valuable record of Wells’ home-life in the years leading up to the First World War. It was during this period that Wells developed the ‘Floor Games’ which he played with his sons and sometimes even visitors, leading to a book of the same name published in 1911. These games, and Wells’ account of them, have enjoyed a new vogue recently among child psychologists as an authentic form of non-verbal psychotherapy.”
Then there are the really invisible people who made Little Wars and a hardworking prolific writer’s life possible. Those “swishing skirts” of lady visitors, those of the other domestic staff apart from nurse Mathilde Meyer, the the servants who swept the cork floors and those who trimmed the lawns for Wells’ Little Wars played in the Dunmow Essex garden as seen in the photographs.
Mathilde Mary Meyer, Governess, 28, single, born Switzerland Lucerne
Jessie Allen Brooks, 38, single, cook (domestic) born Richmond, Surrey.
Mary Ellen Shinnick, 27, single, housemaid (domestic) , born in Ireland (Co. Cork, Coppingerstown)
Nice to see that Peter Dennis acknowledges these other people in his Little Wars illustration, the child with alarm clock and whistle to call time, the butler bearing drinks, the aloof young lady with the tea cup …
and on the left in a 2019 tribute, wargames magazine editor the late Stuart Asquith in that straw boater.