It was in 1971 that I first made contact with any kind of organised war gaming community in Christchurch. Good mate Pete and I had been pottering with model soldiers since 1969, partly as modellers ( I remember looking joyously at Pete's model ships.. his Airfix 'HMS Nelson' always took my fancy). I'd bought a few of those Meccano magazines that had some of the Charles Grant Series 'Battle" (soon reprinted as his famous book of that name) but we'd really only toyed with the ideas (forgive the pun).
I can't recall which one of us spotted the advertisement in the Christchurch Star Newspaper encouraging people to come along to an address in Hills Road if they were interested in table top wargames one Saturday.
So along we went, and there we met some real characters. The garage at the bottom of the dip in the drive way belonged to the parents of Barry Taylor, and he and Dave Crawford (as he was then known) demonstrated a world war 2 game fought using Dave's home grown rules. From this a small group varying numbers evolved but it wasn't long before the group split. Five of us were left: Barry Taylor, Malcolm Dennis, Pete, Errol Hooker and me. There was always 'the other group' featuring names such as Roly Hermans, Chris Brown, and of course the ever present Dave Crawford. But the five of us were the core of the original Christchurch Wargaming Society.
Oh the tales we could tell, but most are no doubt boring unless you were there. A group of us travelled to Dunedin in 1975, met Al Duncan, discovered WRG ancients wargaming, and things were never the same again. Dave seemed to metamorphose with various name changes, but always wanting to write the perfect set of wargames rules, often with paradigms that rarely seemed to coincide with those of the rest of us. There was always a rivalry between the groups, and of course people went their various ways as jobs, study and careers took us all into life. The one constant amongst us was that we kept on wargaming. There have always been new models, new periods, new rules, but the people have been the constant in our lives. As with the army itself, fellowship counts for much. Human beings are gregarious creatures. We have all made good friends through our hobby, most of them friends for life.
I recall Dave writing a set of rules for the Battle of Britain, and the interesting thing was .. I thought they weren't too bad. However he was dissatisfied with them because the Germans didn't win often enough and so he took something fundamentally good and took it apart.
But he was always there. He was opinionated, but he was a real character on the local wargames scene, and I always found him a likeable fellow.
But this past year has seen a fundamental change in the landscape. Late last year Barry Taylor passed away after a brief struggle with cancer. I was sad. It was as if no-one noticed. My sense of indignation was fuelled by the fact that in my opinion he was a good man. He was a real gentleman, and he really was one of the two founders of organised wargaming in Christchurch.
And then I got a text on Wednesday night to say that Dave St Clair (the third iteration of his name) had passed away in Dunedin Hospital after a stroke. Dave had moved to Northland for health reasons, and then recently to Oamaru. I'd not had the opportunity to catch up with him on his return to the mainland of New Zealand. And Dave was the other founder of organising wargaming in Christchurch.
Dave left his mark on everyone he met. He had strongly held opinions, opinions that seemed to either sweep people up, or repel them. But they were what made Dave who he was.
I regret his passing. But we are now entering that time of our lives when we will increasingly lose those who have been a part of our lives forever. At least these people have been a part of our experience of life, war games and otherwise.
It's a funny old world, and a funny old life. Dave and Barry .... God bless!!!!