Friday, 25 June 2010

Paddy Griffith

Paddy Griffith is dead.

The news of his untimely death so soon after his recovery from bowel cancer reached me this afternoon ... and stunned me. It stunned me for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, next weekend Wargame Developments will be hosting the 30th COW (Conference of Wargamers) and Paddy was going to both attend for the first time in many years and he was going to run the Plenary Game. This always sets the 'tone' for the Conference, and by all accounts it was going to be a good one. The fact that Paddy was going to attend was one of the reasons why places at the Conference were almost all gone by early this year.

Secondly because it made me realise how much I owed him both directly and indirectly. When he organised the NEW DIRECTIONS IN WAR GAMING conference that took place at Moor Park College from 23rd to 25th May, 1980, I had no idea quite how much it was going to influence my life. I was very much a solo wargamer and went not quite knowing what to expect. What I ended up with was a whole new view on what I could get out of wargaming and – ultimately – a whole new group of friends and wargaming companions.

At the final session of the conference it was decided to set up an organisation that would 'spread the philosophy of realistic wargaming through the hobby ("better realism and better game structures") and ... put like-minded 'realistic' wargamers in touch with each other, so that they can more easily exchange ideas and rules. ... We will hold a conference similar to Moor Park, every year.'

Forgetting all that I had ever been told about volunteering, I was elected Treasurer and Membership Secretary of Wargame Developments … and I have remained in that post ever since.

Paddy Griffith was the ‘father’ of Wargame Developments, and like all fathers he saw his ‘child’ grow and develop over the years. Eventually he left it to its own devices, but I know that he liked to keep in touch with what it was doing and how it was developing. In many ways his ideas about how Wargame Developments should develop were ahead of their time, and in retrospect one can see that he was right more often than he was wrong … and that many of those who were loudest in condemning his ideas have eventually has to agree that they were in error and that he was not.

The continued existence of Wargame Developments and the Conference of Wargamers are testimony to the fact that Paddy had recognised thirty years ago that there was a need for a group of people within the world of wargaming who could work together to develop and improve wargaming. Contrary to popular belief anyone could (and can) join Wargame Developments; you did not nor do not have to be invited to join … and it has always been thus. It has always been a self-selecting group. Some people have been members for many years; some join for a year and then leave because they find that it is not for them. What can be said is that its membership has and does include people from many different backgrounds and whose wargaming interests are eclectic. This was something Paddy wanted to encourage as he saw the cross-fertilization of ideas and experience as vital to the continued development of wargaming.

But Paddy was not just a wargamer; he was a gifted and insightful military historian, a consummate writer, TV presenter (albeit for a relatively short time), and an educator. He was born in Liverpool in 1947 and attended Corpus Christi College, Oxford. In 1973 he became a lecturer in the Department of War Studies at RMA Sandhurst, where he remained until 1989. It was during his first year at Sandhurst that he organised a large-scale kriegsspiel of ‘Operation Sealion’ for the DAILY TELEGRAPH MAGAZINE. This brought together senior officers who had served on both sides during the Second World War, and showed that had the landings actually taken place the invasion would have been beaten during the following land battle. He followed this in 1979 with another large-scale kriegsspiel – ‘Operation Starcross’ – for Southern Television. This time the scenario looked at the possible course of a war between NATO and the WARPAC countries.

During his time at Sandhurst Paddy gained his Doctorate (1979) for his work on MILITARY THOUGHT IN THE FRENCH ARMY 1815 – 51 and also organised the NEW DIRECTIONS IN WAR GAMING conference.

On leaving Sandhurst he became a freelance write and publisher, and it was as a result of the reputation that he built up as a military historian and designer of wargames – along with his previous experience of working in television – that led to him being asked to become part of the team that worked on the TV series GAME OF WAR. Despite its poor reception at the time – partly due to it being scheduled very late at night – it was a bold if unsuccessful attempt to popularise wargaming.

The list of publications with which he was involved as a writer, contributor, or editor is prolific and phenomenal:
  • ‘French Artillery 1800 – 1815’ (1976)
  • ‘Napoleonic Wargaming for Fun’ (1980; Revised 2008)
  • ‘A Book of Sandhurst Wargames’ (1982)
  • ‘Not Over by Christmas’ (1983)
  • ‘Wellington-Commander: the Iron Duke's Generalship’ (1985)
  • ‘Rally Once Again’ (1986)
  • ‘Battle in the Civil War: Generalship and Tactics in America 1861-65'’ (1986)
  • ‘Military Thought in the French Army 1815 – 51’ (1989)
  • ‘Battle Tactics of the Civil War’ (1989) [an revised edition of ‘Rally Once Again’ that was published in America]
  • ‘Armoured Warfare’ (1990) – Chapter entitled ‘British Armoured Warfare in the Western Desert 1940 – 1943’
  • ‘America Invades’ (1991)
  • ‘How to Play Historical War Council Games’ (1991)
  • ‘Battle Tactics on the Western Front 1916 – 18’ (1994)
  • ‘The Battle of Blore Heath, 1459’ (1995)
  • ‘British Fighting Methods on the Western Front’ (1996)
  • ‘Verification 1995: Arms Control, Peacekeeping and the Environment’ (1995) – Chapter entitled ‘The Body Bag as Deterrent and Peace Dividend’
  • ‘Verification 1996: Arms Control, Peacekeeping and the Environment’ (1996) – Chapter entitled ‘The Military Need for Contact Mines’
  • ‘Passchendaele in Perspective: the Third Battle of Ypres’ (1997) – Chapter entitled ‘The tactical problem: infantry, artillery and the salient’
  • ‘The Art of War of Revolutionary France, 1789 – 1802’ (1998)
  • ‘A History of the Peninsular War, Vol.IX, Modern Studies of the war in Spain and Portugal, 1808 – 1814’ (1999)
  • ‘The Napoleon Options: Alternate decisions of the Napoleonic Wars’ (2000) – Chapter that describes the effect of a successful French invasion of Ireland
In recent years Paddy spent much of his time involved in projects such as THE BATTLEFIELDS TRUST and more recently the organisation and running of study days/wargames at the Imperial War Museum’s Duxford site.

I suspect that it is only now that he has died that his true worth as a military historian and innovative wargames designer will be recognised. For my part, sitting at my computer writing this blog entry has made me realise how influential Paddy had been on my life without me realising it. Thanks to him I have a group of very good friends with whom I not only wargame but with whom I enjoy a rich and varied social life. I know that if I had not gone to that first conference in 1980, I would have had none of these things, and my life would have been poorer as a result.

Paddy Griffith (1947 – 2010): May you rest in peace.


  1. A very sad loss. I never met him and have not yet read any of his work, apart from a few short magazine articles, but even so, it is not possible to be active in this hobby and not be aware of the man, his ideas and his effect on the hobby.

    It also speaks well of the man that so many people are relating a very personal sense of loss and awareness of his positive impact on their life.

  2. Mnay thanks for posting this appreciation, Bob.
    Although so many of us feel the need to say something, most of us do not know where to start.
    Reading the posts on various mailing groups and on TMP, one thing stands out - just how many people knew him and felt influenced by his contributions and by his personality.
    Today's historical wargaming is very much the product of those contributions and that personality.
    I think we are all still stunned by this news.

    Phil Steele

  3. His classic wargaming book (Napoleonic Wargaming for Fun) was ahead of its time; it demonstrated there were many ways to play wargames.

    His contribution to wargaming has been huge. His work also helped demonstrate that wargames can teach alot about military history.

  4. Well said Bob. Thanks for space to remember him. I'm going to miss him a lot.
    Guy Farrish

  5. To the many who have posted here and elsewhere saying they did not know Paddy, this: he would have welcomed you, supported you, included you in his circle, elicited tasks and initiatives from you, made you a part of his mission to challenge and to innovate. In the days before e-communication he would have sent you funny and wise audio-tapes of his monologues on wargaming, and relished your replies. As he got to know you, he would have argued and debated with you, all the time pushing at your preconceptions and challenging your beliefs. He would have set you quizzes, demanded to know why you did not appreciate French cuisine, and kept you awake with his snoring. It would not matter that you were no expert, that you knew less than he: above all he valued your enthusiasm. You would have been glad to have known him.

  6. I can only say that I admired him from iconoclast and a man who valued the truth of the matter however it appeared....bravo sir, rest in peace.

  7. A moving tribute Bob

    I only met Paddy a few times but I have the fondest memeories of helping him investigate the utility of flaming pigs as an anti-elephant measure using cardboard, firecrackers and 50 volunteers.

    A sad loss, he will be sorely missed.


Thank you for leaving a comment. Please note that any comments that are spam or contain phishing messages or that come from Google Accounts that are 'Unknown' will be deleted.