A recent post on Nundanket's Blog about influential books in our wargaming past got me to a thinking about what books really had an impact on me as a wargamer. So after a week or so of thought I have come up with the following:
Airfix magazine is obviously technically not a book, but it is the first publication that I can remember that really got me interested in modelling, WWII and wargaming. Looking at the dates of the issues that I remember very clearly (September 1969 - August 1971), this interest must have started when we moved to a new house and village around mid 1970. These issues we read over and over again and certainly had a huge impact on me as a child. When I bought the copies again in the Summer of this year, it was pure and blissful nostalgia to read them again.
Published in June 1976, these are the first historical rules that I can honestly say we played as kids. With our Airfix and Matchbox soldiers and model kits, many a happy hour was spent lining our soldiers up with the most basic scenery and playing games with whatever we had to hand. No set orders of battle, no attempts at balanced sides, but it was always the Western Desert or Normandy and D-Day.
Alongside the WWII rules I had the Airfix magazine guide to the Afrika Korps. This was poured over many times, looking at the glorious photos and the exploded drawings of the conversions from existing model kits or for ones completely scratch built. I dreamt of making the models but never had the time, the tools nor the skill, but still I dreamt. Ever since owning this book, the Akrika Korps and by extension the north African campaign, has held a special place in my heart.
Around the same time as the above books, I bought a copy of 'A Bridge Too Far' and was completely hooked by the story of Operation Market-Garden and the Red Devils holding on against all the odds. I was so captivated that this book was read more or less none stop whilst on holiday in 1975 or 1976, to the point that my parents despaired of me doing anything else whilst on the beach. This book led to a life long interest in the campaign that hasn't diminished over time.
This book on German tanks and AFVs, was bought from WH Smith's in Cambridge, again around 1975, that led to an enduring love and interest in WWII German armour. The sheer variety of the vehicles inside seemed so much more exotic than the Allied tanks, so I bought and made as many German Airfix and Matchbox kits as I could, which immediately made their way to the wargames table, carpet or lawn, depending upon the space available at the time.
Again whilst not books, these comics were loved for their superb illustrations and the exciting (at the time) stories inside and just fueled my interest in WWII. The Battle magazine came out in 1975 (you can see a theme here) and I remember vividly buying the first issue from the local newsagents and reading it straight away in the local park.
I also have to mention the 'World at War' tv series, first broadcast in late 1973 into 1974. It would be remiss of me to exclude this as it was part and parcel of all of the above that over a period of a few years, led to enduring interest in wargaming WWII, that has continued right through to today. Although I have discovered many other periods that I enjoy gaming, WWII is my first love and will always be so.
Some of the books I still have, some have been replaced and some are on my list to buy, just for memories sake. I would love to own a copy of the WWII rules, but the prices are too high to justify purchasing them. Maybe one day I'll get lucky and stumble across a copy for a reasonable price.
So I hope my list above might have re-kindled some memories for you as it certainly did for me whilst compiling it. Those few years in the early to mid 1970's were so formative to my wargaming interests and as I type, memories are coming back of time spent with our Airfix soldiers and kits. Happy days!