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.