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Friday, 8 November 2019

Stuart Asquith, 1946 - 2019

Most readers of this blog will probably already be aware that one of the great figures of our hobby has recently passed away - Stuart Asquith, who died a few days ago. As this blog has recorded, I was lucky enough to find myself living in the same small town as Stuart, and we first met nearly three and a half years ago. The photo below was taken during our first wargame together. A bit of pointing action is taking place for the photographer - which became a bit of a standing joke between us.


A Life In Wargaming
Stuart was already a keen wargamer by the time of his marriage in 1966. Like so many of us he seems to have started with Airfix ACW armies, but in 1967 he discovered the book Charge!, by Lawford and Young, and essentially never looked back. I have lost count of the number of times he has told me that that particular book would always be his favourite, and the rules within were the ones he most enjoyed playing. Many of our games on his 6' x 3' dining table were fought with stripped down versions of the Charge! rules.

The cover of Battle seen below has Stuart in the blue shirt on the left, sporting what he used to call his 'porn star moustache'. By this time (1978), his writing career was already well under way, and within the magazine was the latest in his 'Battles of the ECW' series. He was eventually to take over Terry Wise's iconic 'Observation Post' column, which moved to Military Modelling when Battle was incorporated into that magazine. Terry was one of Stuart's colleagues in the famous Rayners Lane Wargamers Group, which Stuart founded and which included many well known wargamers, including Donald Featherstone and Charles Grant (senior). The group lasted from 1978 to 2001. Charles Grant's son, Charles S. Grant, became a life-long wargaming partner and friend of Stuart's.



Stuart's first book was out in 1979 - The Campaign of Naseby, published by Osprey. Since then Stuart has had over 20 books published, the last of which (Stuart Asquith's Wargaming 18th Century Battles) was published by The History of Wargaming Project in 2016.

Apart from the books, Stuart's greatest publishing legacy is undoubtedly his editorship of Practical Wargaming magazine, which was published bi-monthly from 1987 to 1999. Alongside Practical Wargaming, Stuart worked for the same publishers as editor of Regiment magazine.



                       

Sadly, the cut-throat world of publishing saw both the above magazines stopped in 2000. This was a considerable blow to Stuart - his own words from 2016 demonstrate the consequences:

"Suddenly my wife and I had no income and a mortgage on a large London town house still to pay. So for about 5 years I was at a low ebb with the hobby. I gave away all my 25mm figures; my terrain boards, formerly belonging to Terry Wise, went to the tip. I thought I was selling my books, but the buyer defaulted on payment..."

Temporarily disillusioned with the hobby, Stuart moved to Northleach in the Cotswolds, and for about 5 years did little or no wargaming, until gamers from the nearby Cirencester Wargames Club brought him back into the fold. He rebuilt his collection as his painting mojo returned, maintaining a prodigious output of excellent figures, and we met a few years later.

Stuart was always an Old School wargamer. Mainly he was a strictly historical gamer, but he was also dismissive of those committed to pedantic detail. He was a firm believer in simple rules - he said my Honours of War rules made his brain hurt! As for figures, it was the 25-30mm 'Willie' figures of Edward Suren and the work of Charles Stadden which particularly inspired him, right through his wargaming life. He was never shy of calling his beautifully painted collection 'the toys'.

When I first met him, Stuart was still bubbling with ideas for games that would get his collection out on the table. I treasure the memories of the gentlemanly and relaxing games we played together, when winning hardly mattered and the pre- and post-game discussion would include ideas for the future and stories from the past. You can get the flavour of those games from the posts HEREHERE and HERE. Those were days when my wall calendar was graced with entries such as 'Wargame with Stuart' or 'Stuart - Black Cat Cafe'. Now I have had to make a final and very sad entry - 'Stuart's Funeral'.

The photo below shows Stuart, with his friends Steve Gill and Phil Olley, on 1st September this year awarding prizes at the Cotswold Wargaming Day held in Northleach. His last wargaming event. As usual, everyone was keen to speak to him, and he always had something interesting to say.


I'm going to miss that guy. Stuart is survived by his charming wife and three children. My sincerest condolences to any of his family who may read this. We have lost a giant of the hobby - rest in peace my friend.

20 comments:

Jonathan Freitag said...

Fitting tribute to your fallen friend, Keith. Stuart was one of the cornerstones in the hobby.

Steve J. said...

A fine tribute to one of the wargaming greats and a true gentleman. I count myself as being fortunate to have met Stuart at your house Keith and at the Cotswold Wargaming Day. On all occasions he was happy to chat about all aspects of our wonderful hobby and life in general. I will treasure the memories of those chats, but especially of the last time I saw him, as we sat and chatted away at our Crimean War game in September, which he greatly enjoyed. Gaining the 'Most Gentlemanly Wargamers' award from him was one of the gaming highlights of my life. He will be sadly missed.

Der Alte Fritz said...

What a wonderful eulogy, Kieth. Thank you for sharing some snippets from your personal acquaintance with Stuart. He will be missed - he is already missed, but not forgotten.

BigLee said...

An excellent tribute to a giant of the hobby.

Maudlin Jack Tar said...

Great post Keith. I really enjoyed your reports on the games with Stuart Asquith - they must have been fun.

Ross Mac rmacfa@gmail.com said...

Great post, and certainly a loss for you and his friends and family as well as for us wargamers at large. Although I never had a chance to meet with or game with him, I learned from him and greatly enjoyed our occasional exchanges of letters and emails over the years.

(I feel doubly glad now that I paid him his asking price for the Britains he sold me back in the day despite it being strictly speaking beyond my budget but then it was his Soldier Box column that got me into them!)

Gone too soon.

Natholeon said...

Thank you for that very fitting tribute Keith. He will be missed, but he leaves behind volumes of work that will continue to inspire.

Archduke Piccolo said...

I always read Stuart Asquith's articles in the Battle, Mil Mod and Practical Wargamer issues I managed to get hold of. He always had something interesting to talk about. I recall Mt Asquith's taking over from Terry Wise's engaging 'Observation Post' column in Battle/ Mil Mod. Considering their difference in styles, the change had no effect on my continuing to turn first to that part of the magazine.

Phil said...

A fitting, moving, and heartfelt tribute Keith. it is good that Stuart was able to continue the hobby he loved so much over the past few years, and I know he enjoyed the games and discussions you had together. Take care. Will see you soon. Phil

Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...

As others have written already, what a moving and wonderful tribute to your friend and one of the guiding lights to so many wargamers around the world. Clearly, Stuart Asquith embodied much of what is so special about our hobby.

Best Regards,

Stokes

Keith Flint said...

Thanks everyone. There was so much more to say about the man and his contribution to the hobby, but I didn't want to write an essay. Such a shame that illness robbed him of his later years.

JM said...

A very nice tribute. I have a copy of his “Big Wars” rules and intend to play a game in his honor. I always enjoyed reading of the games you two played on this blog.

marinergrim said...

An excellent and moving piece. Long may Stuart remain in our memories.

Mark, Man of TIN said...

Thank you Keith for filling in bits of Stuart's professional life story that we didn't know - his sudden changes of career certainly must have been difficult for him and his family.

There has been many a very warm memory of meeting Stuart, correspondence or reading Stuart's work over the last forty years. Tom his son has responded on behalf of the family on the memories / comments by gamers on my blog and on Bob Cordery's Wargaming Miscellany blog etc:

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2019/11/05/a-muffled-drum-for-stuart-asquith

http://wargamingmiscellany.blogspot.com/2019/11/stuart-asquith-rip.html#comment-form

http://littlewarsrevisited.boards.net/thread/420/planning-stuart-asquith-memorial-game

Suggested by Tom, there is much support for raising a glass to Stuart on Monday the 18th (or the weekend before) as well as getting in a game in his memory. I am lucky enough to have some of Stuart's downsizing of old (Peter Laing) figures, bought back in 2017.

We hope to raise a glass to Stuart at a small gathering of 54mm Big Wars / Little Wars gamers next March.

So his family and you can rest assured that you are not alone in both your sadness and happy memories on the 18th, around the country and around the world we will be thinking of Stuart.

Stuart Asquith will not be forgotten as long as old and new copies of his books are dug out for scenario ideas and rules, old magazines leafed through for ideas ...

Brian Carrick said...

A very fitting tribute to one of the most influential personalities in our hobby.

Keith Flint said...

Mark, thank you for the links. Some great stuff there that fills in more of Stuart's wargaming career.

Anonymous said...

A lovely tribute Keith, a sad loss to the wargaming community.


Willz Harley.

Mike Vella said...

Today we mourn one of the founding fathers of our beloved hobby. Farewell Stuart Asquith!

Chris Gregg said...

Sorry not to have found this earlier Keith but I just want to add my words of thanks to you for taking the trouble to put all this information together, it fills in a few blanks for me. But thank you also for enabling me to meet Stuart in person through your Cotswold Wargaming days, certainly a highlight of my wargaming life considering how many years I had respected his relaxed and fun attitude to our wonderful hobby through "Practical Wargamer".
Chris
http://notjustoldschool.blogspot.com/

Keith Flint said...

I see I have been daft enough to call 'Practical Wargamer', 'Practical Wargaming".

A foolish error indeed. My thanks to readers and commenters who have had the tact to leave my gaff unmentioned.