Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Gerard de Gre – A ‘lost’ pioneer?

My request for further information about Gerard de Gre – both on this blog and on THE MINIATURES PAGE – has led to some very interesting facts coming to light.

Mike Elliott was able to send me the text of the article from WARGAMERS NEWSLETTER that accompanied the original image of Professor de Gre playing his wargame; Allen Curtis pointed out that there was a mention of Gerard de Gre in George Gush and Andrew Finch’s book A GUIDE TO WARGAMING; and ‘Cheriton’ sent me the text of an article about Gerard de Gre that was written by Muriel de Gre and which was printed in the May 1965 issue of TABLE TOP TALK.

From this wealth of material – plus a long trawl through my collection of wargames books – I have been able to glean the following information about Gerard de Gre:
  • He was probably the first ‘modern’ hobby wargamer to advocate use of written orders by players – ‘Military Kriegsspiel had from earliest times employed simultaneous movement, thanks to the presence of an umpire, who received both sides’ written orders and worked them out on a map. Some early players in the hobby field no doubt followed suit, but the first suggestion of this in modern times seems to have come from Gerard de Gre of the USA.’ (A GUIDE TO WARGAMING, page 109);
  • He used tiddly-winks to simulate gunfire – ‘One extreme is the physical method, involving such missiles as the dreaded matchstick hurled by Wells’ Britains 4.7 naval gun … or even tiddly-winks as advocated many years ago by Gerard de Gre.’ (A GUIDE TO WARGAMING, page 117);
  • Further mention of this method of simulating gunfire is made in Donald Featherstone’s NAVAL WAR GAMES (pages176 and 177), where an entire set of experimental naval wargames rules devised by Gerard de Gre are included;
  • Gerard de Gre was the driving force behind the creation of the MODEL GENERAL’S CLUB, which he ran (and paid for) almost single-handedly (TABLE TOP TALK, May 1965);
  • Gerard de Gre wargamed with the young Joseph Morschauser, who was a student at the college where de Gre taught (TABLE TOP TALK, May 1965);
  • He – and not Joseph Morschauser – may have been the first wargamer to advocate the use of the ‘unit system’ of mounting several figures on a single base or stand (TABLE TOP TALK, May 1965).
I think that this shows that Professor Gerard de Gre had quite an influence on the development of wargaming in its formative years, and that he – and what he did – should be remembered.


  1. VERY interesting indeed! Especially since Morschauer is now considered on of the early pioneers of the unit base approach.


  2. Interesting to say the least... I must dig out my copy of Naval Wargames and see how the tiddly wink system worked...

    As a body, 'us wargamers' are a font of knowledge!