Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Sad news

It was indeed sad news for all of us to learn that Stuart Asquith had passed away at the weekend, he has been a such monumental presence in the hobby for as long as I can remember.

I don't recall how we were introduced but we first met about 40 years ago through the Harrow Model Shop, which at the time was a regular place of pilgrimage for modellers and wargamers across North London. Stuart invited me round to his house in Rayners Lane to see his amazing collection of 7 Years War plastic Spencer Smith figures, all meticulously organised and including lots of conversions.  I visited many times but we never got around to playing a wargame, we just talked toy soldiers, he was very keen to explore 54mm wargaming after visiting John Ruddle of the British Model Soldier Society and taking part in one of his annual garden games.

Stuart (in glasses) with Steve Woods exhibits H G Wells "Little Wars" at Salute 1980.

Stuart wanted to put on a demonstration game of Little Wars at Salute but didn't have the figures for it so he wrote to Britains outlining his plan and asking if they would sell him the necessary figures at wholesale rates for the event.  He was genuinely gobsmacked when a parcel arrived containing enough infantry, cavalry and 4.7 inch guns to equip both armies, with compliments from Britains.  These were the figures illustrated on the cover of Military Modelling above, years later he swapped all those Deetail Napoleonic cavalry to me when he upgraded to metal.

Stuart demonstrated the traditional game, firing matchsticks with not a dice to be seen, this wasn't universally well received, Stuart told me that one disgruntled spectator came over and told him he had put the cause of wargaming back by 50 years!  Did he know who you were? I asked, we both found the irony amusing.  He went on to run the game at one of the early Plastic Warrior shows (the third or fourth I think, when figure displays and wargames used to be regular features) and found a much more receptive audience.

When we first met Stuart was working as a Manager for British Telecoms and writing occasional articles for Military Modelling, and later, Battle magazines.  His enthusiasm for this aspect of the hobby inspired him to greater ambition, he floated ideas for new columns and one off special editions which were taken up by the publishers.  Some years later after the state owned BT was privatised and embarked on a far reaching organisational restructure, he decided to take a redundancy package and told me this would give him more time to spend on writing for the hobby.  Today, when we have learned to live with labour mobility this move wouldn't seem such a big deal but back in the day when most workers saw themselves in a job for life such a major career change later in life was a very brave undertaking.  I thought he was crazy, giving up the security of a well paid job for an uncertain freelance future, what I didn't see was that he was following a path he loved and that his output would be prodigious.

Stuart introduced me to Frank Perry who had written the First and Second Books of Wargaming (54mm gaming), which were continuations of Little Wars, it was through this contact, and Frank's son Ross, that I became involved with the fledgling Plastic Warrior Magazine, which over the past 35 years has been a constant and major factor in my life.  And for that, Stuart, I thank you.

13 comments:

  1. A lovely and well deserved tribute. I really enjoyed your Britains anecdote. His influence has extended far and wide in the hobby geographically and also in the style of games many of us play.

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    1. I'm not sure how well it was appreciated that his influence went much further than the mainstream of wargaming, he was always keen to support and encourage those of us on the periphery of the hobby.

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    1. Thanks Anthony, I'm not given to writing this kind of article but I'm glad I did.

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    1. It's curious how paths cross in this hobby, I moved away from the area and lost contact with Stuart (this was before the days of email, and I've always been rubbish at keeping in touch) about the same time that you were getting into correspondence with him. Then about 10 years later I had left a message on your Little Wars Yahoo Group and got an email out of the blue from Stuart enquiring "are you the same Brian Carrick I knew years ago from the Harrow Model Shop?" and we picked it up again from there.

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  4. Some lovely anecdotes and background. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Writing these few words has triggered so many memories and stories, they were good times.

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  5. Brian, a lovely tribute. What a fantastic front cover to Military Modelling - I had not seen this before as this must have been about a year or so before my Dad started buying these magazines for me. This would have legitimised for me a little bit earlier the use of big plastic figures at a time when I was moving away from them as somewhat childish.
    Curiously, it was (reprinting on my blog) your Big Wars 54mm article in his Battle / Mil. Mod Wargames Manual (c. 1983?) that put me in contact with Stuart by email a few years ago, so thank you for that Big Wars article again.
    As mentioned to Alan Tradgardmastre, not only should we all raise a glass and get in a game if we can on the day of Stuart's funeral on the 18th of November but we shall have to raise a toast to Stuart at the Woking Little Wars day next year. Alan and I are both booked to attend and bring something simple along.

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    1. Looking forward to seeing everyone at Woking next year, I will certainly be raising a glass (or two) on the 18th, I plan to take that Wargames Manual to the pub for a quiet read and a moment of contemplation (and yes, it was 1983).

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  6. That's an excellent idea Mark. I'll mention it to Mike in case he hasn't seen your post yet.

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  7. LOvely article Brian. Anthony and I are planning a game using the Big Wars rules and 54mm figures on Monday November 18th, the day of Stuart's funeral to commerate him.

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    1. Well done you! We'd all love to see some pictures of that up on your blog.

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