Man of TIN Blogvent Calendar Day 24: Alfred Lubran’s “Peckitin” matchbox target game

When I was a child, I used to supplement my pocket money in various ways – catching cabbage white butterflies in summer to protect the family allotment (price one penny each) or mostly gutter-sniping.

Gutter sniping? This is an urban form of mudlarking on the River Thames or beach-combing.

guttersnipe (n.)

also gutter-snipe, 1857, from gutter (n.) + snipe (n.); originally Wall Street slang for “streetcorner broker,” attested later (1869) as “street urchin,” also “one who gathers rags and paper from gutters.” As a name for the common snipe, it dates from 1874 but is perhaps earlier.

Many interesting things were dropped and discarded in the street in preplastic days from coins to matchboxes and matchbooks,  before disposable plastic lighters became a staple of marine plastic waste on our beaches.

Picking these matchboxes  out of the gutter, you would look to see if it was a special Matchbox label in good enough condition to trade or sell on to collector friends, who were like stamp collectors. Added bonus – If they only wanted the label, once carefully removed, the wooden matchbox sides were good for figure basing.

Some Donald Featherstone books used sets of matchboxes for campaigns, surprise or Solo Games movement options.

Nowadays with few matchboxes around with less smokers, more vaping, less matchboxes, if you want enough matchsticks or matchboxes  for crafting, you can buy matchsticks or blank non-striker card ones in craft stores online.

I still have this gutter-sniping habit even today.

So what has my 1970s / 1980s gutter-sniping got to do with wargaming and handmade toys for a wartime Christmas? The answer – Alfred Lubran.


Following up the interest there was about Action (a kind of DIY gridded wartime chess) in my last Alfred Lubran post back in 2016 about his book Let’s Make A Game,

Several of Alfred Lubran’s friends or connections have contacted me since 2016 about this remarkable man.


I was reminded of another of Lubran’s six DIY games called “Peckitin” whilst looking at a post by Scottish Wargames blogger Jim Duncan about comic Naval Wargames encounters, his 2012 Cotton Wool Ball Battle:

Recently  many Old School / Little Wars inspired gamers have been using every missile from the old matchstick firing guns, lawn darts to party poppers  and the like onto targets to simulate missile fire and party popper ‘flak’.  It seems to work equally well for solo or group games, exhibition or convention participation games.

Jim Duncan uses cotton wool balls onto a ship template to see if a broadside hits and where damage occurs. Having problems with the first smaller target, he quickly redrew a larger target ship on cardboard.

In the lively comments section which ensued, Wargames bloggers such as Bob Cordery suggested simulating torpedoes using cotton buds, fired from matchstick cannons etc. Inventive and ingenious!

All this throwing adds some skill or randomness as an alternative to dice, once the target is in range. Range firing can be simulated by throwing the missiles from closer of further away.

Landing cotton wool ball so onto a fact 2D ship outline  takes some skill.

I wonder what would happen to the skill level if the cardboard target was made with some matchbox sections, like Alfred Lubran’s Peckitin DIY matchbox target game?

Second page of Lubran’s Peckitin games instructions

Lubran uses any available tiddlywinks or buttons in his wartime DIY scrap game, rather than cotton wool balls.

As ever, levels of complexity or alternatives are built into Lubran’s games to increase the challenge level.

The idea of tilting the cardboard structure or raising the target off the table adds to this, whilst adding deflection barriers at a certain points level could also be adapted. These could be tank armour plating or spaceship deflected shields.

It would take a little time and gunnery practice to get the tilt level of the target right for the cotton wool ball or button missiles to remain in the matchboxes. A book rest, IPad or cookery book stand or pyramid of books would all help here or some angled cardboard.



I foresee several adaptations of Lubran’s target game, mashed together with Jim Duncan’s target outline and cotton wool ball missiles.  A generic modern war ship target from the side  is by far  the simplest. Merchant ship versions could also be drawn.

Designs could include a wooden ship of the line with compartments for gun decks etc, masts etc.

A generic tank outline of matchboxes would need front / back / left and right sides templates for its 3D nature. That’s a lot of matchboxes!

A genetic starship  outline is another possibility, hit by laser guided cotton wool balls or cotton wool asteroids.

Deflection shields’ could be placed in front of tanks or spacecraft, building on a suggestion by Lubran of matchbox screens to be fitted in front of or onto the matchbox targets. This adds some difficulty.

Even a castle outline with matchboxes would be suitably blocky for siege games. Sometimes my past childhood experience throwing cotton wool balls at an Airfix coastal defence fortress and beach invasion scenario  was an equally satisfying and 3D way of simulating off table naval gunfire, especially when it falls short as friendly fire! Better still, none of the figures got damaged, just flattened if using unbased or lightly based plastic figures.

All together, a mad fairground game requiring lots of big or small matchboxes or some clever woodwork!

Q. Now where do I get lots of matchboxes, and what can I build with all the surplus matches? A. Craft shops

B.P.S. Blog Post Script

Inspiration for this blog post came from Alfred Lubran, and many thanks to :

Jim Duncan

Shandy and Vauban

Megablitz and more ‘s inventive party popper flak

And many other garden gamers.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, (Guttersnipe, third class), only one more sleep till Christmas 24 January 2019.


Alfred Lubran’s “Action” DIY wartime chess game rules

Bright and colourful cover to this 1940s DIY toys and games

‘Action’ according to its creator or author Author Lubran  is a ‘thrilling’ war or chess variant game played on a draught board of 64 squares.

First make your own pieces; after all this is one of six games in his booklet, Let’s Make a Game!



I can find no obvious publishing date on this booklet by Bairn’s Books, Imperial House, Dominion Street, London EC2 (B/300/16 68copyright printed in England) but the style suggests 1940s. The style of tanks suggests early British tanks, the Spitfire style monoplane and British soldier also suggest early 1940s.

The style of front cover is surprisingly bright but the children look 1940s enough.

The Do It Yourself scrap modelling “make your own games and toys” approach in the first place also suggests as war time shortages there were not many toy manufacturers in Britain left in production and obviously no  toy imports from Germany or the continent.

Bretahless  prose in a jolly ‘Blyton’ style with a few wartime word clues.

In the introduction there are a couple of clues to its wartime origin – Lubran suggests that you: “Make the games … Share them with friends in shelters, billets, hostels, clubs, schools, hospitals, at home or wherever else they may be.”

Shelters and billets sound very wartime. He also suggests that “when the games become worn out or broken, save them for the salvage collector“, another wartime clue.

Pen knives, saws and hammers are required, so maybe this is something an older child or adult might make for younger children.  However in the 1940s no such health and safety culture existed and these would be within the capability of many a boy (or girl). When you see (below) where Lubran worked, it would be little problem for a boy to knock up these makeshift games with the right tools and materials.

Occasional copies of this 17 page booklet turn up on EBay. Most of this Educational and Instructional Series games in the booklet are quite mathematical and complex.

Players of Hex and Grid war games will find it an interesting version of what Donald Featherstone called Wargames as “Chess with a thousand pieces”

Behind this little booklet is an interesting story of Jewish emigration, wartime evacuation and a highly prolific author.


Who was Alfred Lubran?

I can find no obituary or website for Alfred Lubran.

A UK Teachers’ Registration record exists for 1934-36 for his role as  his art and handicraft teaching at the Bayswater Jewish School  (now ) and later Principal in The Jewish Orphanage in West Norwood, the building of which closed in 1963.

Part of its work merged with a Jewish organisation for learning difficulties, maybe reflected in some of his education / psychology titles

During World War II, the children were evacuated to homes in Worthing and Hertford and the Jewish Orphanage building in Norwood was used by the London Fire Brigade as a training centre.

Alf Graham in his reminiscences recalls

“In the winter months in the short evenings we had to pursue hobbies under supervision. There was a large choice like crafts, leatherwork, painting, drawing, and other things … It was compulsory to take up some activity. You were not allowed to opt out and had to stay with it once chosen. I must say that having a hobby of some sorts stayed with me for the rest of my life. I have never been without one.”

A photograph of the carpenters shop can be found at Jewish Museum of London Norwood files

Alfred  Lubran, prolific author

As for Alfred Lubran (not to be confused with author Alfred Lubrano), apart from his  teaching role , appears to have been a highly prolific author and compiler of small press publications on an impressively wide and eclectic range of themes including words, the British Printing Society, Special Educational Needs, teaching, printing, world poetry, heraldry  and children’s poems and stories. He seemed very fond of the word ‘abecedeum’ in his many titles, maybe an alphabetical ABC compilation.

A family history search suggests he was born in 1913, possibly not in the U.K., married a Beatrice Bennister in 1949 and he died in Christchurch,  Dorset in May 2001. Lubran is quite an unusual name. Two other Lubran names crop up in recent times, the marriages of a Timothy Lubran and Robert Lubran. Possibly sons?

Assuming they are all the same man, there are currently around 108 Book listings for Alfred Lubran on

Similarly he is well listed as out of print on Amazon

and many limited edition copies on Abe Books.

Some of his illustrated early reading books for children such as I Can ‘Phone are published by Brimax in 1957. Many of these other prolific publication are short limited editions by his own private press Narbulla Press or Agency of London (anagram or spell Narbulla backwards and you get his name  ‘Al Lubran’) throughout the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s when Narbulla seems to have moved to 12 Fitzmary Avenue, Westbrook, Margate or Deal in Kent.

Margate incidentally was the holiday home area for the Jewish Orphanage in summer. He was then published by (his own?) Thimble Press of Christchurch, Dorset throughout the 1990s until 2001 where he lived until his death in 2001.

Lubran’/ prolific writing career seems to have taken off in the late 1960s, after his Jewish Orphanage school building closed or moved out into the community.

His 1980 book A List of Mini-Book printers in Herne Hill (London) is catalogued on world as “An advertisement for Lubran’s Narbulla Agency, which is the only firm in the list. Edition limited to 160 copies, “produced for distribution to members and guests at the Wynkyn de Worde Society’s luncheon.” This society still exists, dedicated to the art and history of printing and typography. Other listings for Narbulla list it in the 1970s at 4 Stradella Road, Herne Hill, London, SE24, possibly where he lived.

Lubran has an impressive collection of letters after his name –  FRSA, Fellow of the RSA, M.B.Ps.S, Member of the British Psychological Society, M.R.S.T.  Member of the Royal Society of Teachers? and A.Coll.H ? Associate of the College of Handicraft  possibly?

Some of his ‘wordy’ books can be downloaded including this reprinted list (see link below) of the names for collectors of different things including the name for collections of ammunition, swords, bows, old guns, spears, muskets (Percussophily) and naval and military uniforms, Nautemephily and Sambatohphily.

An impressively long and varied publishing career.

Who knows what Alfred Lubran would have done if he had survived into the Age of Blogging?

If anyone knows more about Alfred Lubran, I will be happy to add it as a postscript here.

More incidental hobby learning.

Posted by Mark, Man of TIN blog, October 2016.