Monday 1 May 2023

The Polish Connection

Newark, the home of the Irregulars and the Partizan shows, has a long and much treasured connection with Poland. This began in the Second World War when hundreds of Polish airmen flew from many of the airfields around Newark, and the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade was based a little to the south around Stamford. 

Sadly, many of these men did not survive the war and Newark became home to the largest Polish War cemetery in Britain. Over 400 Polish servicemen were laid to rest in the cemetery and are still remembered in services every November 2nd - All Souls Day - both by the large ex-patriot Polish community in Newark and by their many non-Polish friends and neighbours. 

Most notably, General Władysław Sikorski, the Polish Prime Minister in Exile and Commander of the Polish Armed Forces, was buried at Newark after he died in a plane crash in 1943. Sikorski had always made clear his desire not to return to Poland until it was a free country and, as a result, he was laid to rest in Newark. His body was only returned to his native land after the restoration of Poland as a free and independent nation following the end of Soviet control in 1990. 

The repatriation of Sikorski's remains in 1993 was a major event, attended by Prince Philip along with senior political figures from both the UK and Poland. In addition, last November, three further Polish Presidents who had served their country in exile during the war and subsequent communist era who had been buried in Newark were returned with honours to their homeland. 

The large Polish community and the close links between Newark and Poland meant that it seemed natural that the town should also honour another notable Polish figure from the Second World War. This time it was not a military figure, but a nurse - Irena Sendlerowa - who was responsible for saving hundreds of Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw ghetto during the Nazi occupation. Captured and tortured by the Gestapo, she nevertheless refused to reveal the location of any of the children she had saved, and was eventually able to escape and survive the war. She finally passed away in 2008. Amongst the many honours bestowed upon her over the decades was a statue of that was unveiled in Newark in 2021.

If you have the time whilst visiting Newark, either for the show or for any other reason, then perhaps you might consider visiting the cemetery on London Road and the nearby statue of Irena Sendlerowa to pay your respects to two important but largely forgotten figures of the war.  

In honour of the Polish connection with Newark, this year's Partizan figures, created for us as always by Martin Baker, will be representations of General Władysław Sikorski and Irena Sendlerowa.



Saturday 18 February 2023

In Memory of John Dowman


Friday 17th February was the 3rd anniversary of the death of one of our dearest friends, the renowned wargamer and long time Newark Irregular, John Dowman. John passing away just before the start of lockdown meant we were unable to attend his funeral, to mourn and to celebrate his life and it was because of this that his wife Michelle arranged for a memorial service last Friday. Along with Rob Rowell, his old partner in crime from the Guild, the Society of Twentieth Century Wargamers and the Wargamer’s Forum, I had the honour of delivering a short eulogy for John. Given this was for his friends and family, most of whom had little idea of wargames, it was perhaps a little light on detail and I have expanded it somewhat since Friday and present it here now as a tribute to our much loved and much missed friend. 


When talking with Laurence Baldwin this morning, we realised that neither of us could remember when we first met John. He was there, with his brother Dave, from the earliest days of the Irregulars when we used to meet upstairs at the Grove Pub in Newark, chatting, playing games and trying to convert us all to the dark side of tanks and guns and of course to ‘God’s own scale’ of 20mm. He was one of the most approachable people I ever met and even though, over the years, like us all he had his ups and downs, he would always make time for others. Whether they were his oldest friends or someone he just met around a table at the local show he was always happy to see them and made sure they knew it.  

John had auspicious beginnings in wargames. At school in Lincoln his gaming group included Rick Priestly and Richard Halliwell, both of whom would of course go on to make their names with Games Workshop. Another of his old school friends remembered evenings spent watching the three of them devising wargames rules and kit-bashing Airfix models. As Rob remembered, John was a fearsome rules tinkerer, always with the aim of making rules both more playable and more realistic for the period. Something I am sure you will agree takes knowledge, skill and no small amount of the dark arts. 

He was an obsessive model maker all his life. Again, Rob noted that he would regularly aim to build at least 100 kits a year. More than most of us build in our lifetime. After a career change in his early 50s he started working as a dive support technician in the North Sea and he would take a pile of models with him off on the boat and that would be him set for a month or two.      


He was so long a fixture of the club, of the wider hobby, that it just seemed like we had known him all our lives. He was the voice of reason during arguments and disagreements and worked hard to make sure that everyone was included, no matter how frustrated he might have got with us all at times. And rest assured we could get VERY frustrating if we put our minds to it.  Of course if things got too fractious he could always retreat to the ubiquitous Shed, to build and paint models and to game with a select few who became known as the Shedheads. As the years passed, members moved away or found other pursuits, and the Irregulars drifted into obscurity, John was still there, a constant light drawing people to him. He had long made friends and influenced people far beyond just Newark and his local club. Under the name of Mausman he was, for many years, a massive presence in the Guild and the Society of Twentieth Century Wargamers and made friends all over Britain and Europe – indeed all around the world. We started in wargaming at a time when the internet didn’t even exist but John embraced this way of making new friends and bringing people together like no one I know. He was one of the founders of the Wargamer’s Forum and it is a sign of the great affection in which he was held that, the year after his death, the members arranged a memorial model build in his honour with nearly 30 members putting in many hours of work to create models in his memory. As much as the models themselves and the work they represented, what was so telling were all the comments from people about how much John had influenced them and how welcoming he had been to them when they got into the hobby. The most common word used to describe him, after he passed away, in that rather retrained manner of people not used to showing their emotions, was ‘Gent’. I think that summed him up perfectly.  

Of course, although our initial friendship started over a wargames table, it developed far beyond that. A few of us; myself, Duncan Macfarlane and John Laing, had long had a habit of meeting up when we could for drinks at one of the pubs in Newark. And whilst the pubs changed, the ritual was always the same. Over a pint of beer or, in John’s case, more usually a glass of wine or a brandy, we would talk, putting the world to rights, chatting about the latest hobby gossip but, mostly, discussing history and of course particularly military history. In the company of Duncan and John Laing, for whom military history and wargaming was pretty much a career rather than just a hobby, John shone with his depth of knowledge. His work in the North Sea meant that he couldn’t always be around for these meetings and we were the worse for it. I was in the same situation as we shared an industry but I kind of doubt my absence was missed as much as John’s. As in all things, the world, whether online or in person, was an immeasurably better place when John was in it.         

Always playing the game for its own sake rather than to win, getting as much enjoyment out of a well played close defeat as from an overwhelming victory, content as much to just sit and chat as to actually roll any dice, John was a lesson to us all – it is the journey that matters, not the destination. I am immensely grateful that I was able to share a small part of that journey with John. 

I will close with a comment from the Wargamer’s Forum which I think sums up John        

“I remember John as everlasting positive, encouraging and passionate. He was always welcoming, kind, polite, and supporting to others and one of those who by these fine qualities made our small community yet so great. John was also inspirational as a modeler, relentlessly working and completing new subjects and as such one could not help but being impressed by how productive he was. Still, he was equally inspirational in how marvellously skilled he was with his air brush and paint brush. John was an artist. I will miss him very much.”

Tuesday 12 October 2021

Our great and noble hobby


Sunday was a difficult day for the Partizan crew. Whilst the show was, by all accounts, a great success and we could be satisfied in a job well done there was a huge gap left by the passing, since the last Partizan show in August 2019, of four great friends; Klug, Hengist, John Dowman and, of course, Duncan Macfarlane. This was our first show without them and it was felt deeply by all of us, and I think also by many other regular Partizan attendees who were half-waiting for these familiar faces to appear. 

There were times throughout the day that I found this particularly hard and one of the reasons for this brief entry is to pay thanks to so many people at the show who realised this and who were there for us; big men with big hearts who made it clear we should not be embarrassed to show our grief and that they understood what we were feeling. I will pick out two for special thanks - Henry Hyde and Guy Bowers, two true blessed souls who both seemed to know, even before we did, what it was going to be like and made a point of being there for us when we stumbled. We will be forever thankful for their support and kind words. 

But they are just two out of so many in our hobby who make a point of looking out for each other, treating each other with kindness, respect and understanding, who celebrate other people's victories, share their troubles and mourn their losses. 

It is exemplified by the response to the awards that are made at each show. For many years the Irregulars resisted the idea of rewarding games with 'best of' trophies. We were aware that every single game that appears at Partizan - or at any other show for that matter - is the result of endless hours of hard work and dedication and that without them our shows simply would not exist. It was why we originally started the gamers raffle where every game, large or small, gets an equal chance to win a prize as a small token of our appreciation. I am not sure now why we did eventually decide to start giving 'best of' prizes when we moved to the new venue. I was still more than a little concerned about the reaction from those who had not won each time but, as another example of the great heart of our hobby, I need not have been afraid. At every show, when we make the announcements and give out the trophies, the first people right there to congratulate the winners are the other gamers. They might have hoped their game would be the one to win at this show but you would never have guessed it from their reactions both on the day and on social media afterwards. The genuine warmth of their praises is a credit not just to the individuals but to our whole hobby.

It is one of the reasons why we were so keen to get the shows started again. Yes the hobby has weathered the storm and perhaps even thrived online during lockdown. But nothing can replace that wonderful moment of meeting up with fellow gamers face to face once again, of sharing anecdotes and stories, of comparing notes on purchases, painting tips and the latest project and of just putting the world to rights over a coffee or the shake of a set of dice. We are a hobby filled with the most wonderful individuals, the sorts of men and women who, to use an old quote, you would want right beside you in the trenches. It is for this reason we feel it most keenly when some of them pass away but for every one who falls there is another, five more, who are still here and who we should value just as highly. 

Personally I am very proud of our hobby; of the intelligence, thoughtfulness and humanity that you all display day after day. We may provide the space, but it is you who are the heart of Partizan and of wargaming as a whole. In spite of the moments of sadness it was a delight to meet up with so many of you again on Sunday and I am already looking forward to seeing you all again next May. 

Until then you all have our gratitude and our heartfelt best wishes. Thankyou for making the Partizan shows and wargaming such a worthwhile and enjoyable part of our lives.  



Saturday 5 June 2021

Duncan Macfarlane 1948 - 2021


On Tuesday 1st June, Nick Eyre phoned to give me the news that I never imagined I would ever have to hear. Duncan Macfarlane, former editor of Miniature Wargames and Wargames Illustrated, founder of the Partizan shows and one of the best known figures in British wargaming - but more personally, my great friend of more than 40 years - had died suddenly. In the days that have followed there have been many expressions of regret, condolence and shock. Alongside these have been many fond memories and stories of Duncan's warm kindness and the enormous impact he has had on our hobby over the last half century. 

Some might wonder why we were so shocked at the news; he was, after all, 73 which, whilst no great age these days, is never the less more than the three score and ten we are vouchsafed (Duncan would love me slipping a suitably obscure word into his obituary). And yet Duncan was one of the certainties in life, one of the anchors around which our hobby has been developed and thrived. He was always there, seemingly never aging - he had looked middle aged since his early 20s - rarely if ever ill, always just a phone call or a quick trip to Nottingham away.   

Duncan was a studiously private man. An obituary would normally have some general details of his life but to be honest even after many decades, few of us really knew that much about him. I mentioned earlier that he was 73. The question of his age was one of the great secrets of his whole life and formed a regular topic of conversation amongst his friends with everyone making their own calculations of how old they thought he was. In the end he was older than any of the guesses but it is terribly sad that it took his passing to finally resolve that question. He hailed from Driffield in the East Riding of Yorkshire and studied at the University of Leeds, graduating in 1969 and securing a job as Librarian at Sir Leo Schultz High School in Hull. Looking through the memories of some of the students from those days, it is clear that Duncan was a popular member of staff and was already pursuing the interests with which he would become synonymous in later life - teaching wargames to the students, organising board games events and holding scrabble competitions. He was remembered as a 'breath of fresh air' at the school. 

It was whilst working in Hull that Duncan first met Peter Gilder, a meeting he recalled in Peter's own obituary that Duncan penned in Wargames Illustrated in 1991. Duncan had gone to Ron Jewitt's model shop in Hull looking for an elephant for his Achaemenid army and Peter happened to be in the shop and took Duncan to his house to present him with a gift of said elephant. They became firm friends, entering competitions together and, even though Duncan left Hull in 1981 to move to Newark to begin work at Citadel Miniatures, they still gamed regularly together and, in the early days of Peter's Wargames Holiday Centre, Duncan would be called upon to make up the numbers if paying guests were a little light on the ground. 

Peter Gilder had always been very keen on expanding the appeal of wargaming to the wider public. In 1978 he worked as advisor and provided all the terrain and figures for the first television programme dedicated to the hobby - Tyne Tees' Battleground, fronted by Edward Woodward. Duncan, along with John Tilson, was chosen as one of the opposing generals for the first programme and, even at a distance of more than 40 years, is instantly recognisable in both voice and mannerisms, hunched over the table refighting the Battle of Edgehill. When, in 1983, Peter Gilder and the businessman Stanley Gee decided to produce a Wargames Magazine for the mainstream market, it was Duncan who was chosen as its first Editor. He would always jokingly claim that this was because he was the only wargamer that Peter knew who, having worked as a librarian, knew anything about 'literature'. Whatever the reason, it was a perfect pairing. Duncan very much shared Peter's vision of a high quality glossy magazine with top notch articles and particularly with the very best colour photography that would serve to inspire budding wargamers, and hence Miniature Wargames was born. 

From the very start it was a great success. Duncan was not only editor but also photographer, travelling to the Wargames Holiday Centre to photograph the huge collection figures, exquisitely painted by such notables as John Blanche, Phil Robinson, Dave Thomas and Mark Allen, that would grace the pages of the magazine. Later he would invite gamers to bring their collections to be photographed in his wargames room at his house in Newark or would travel around the country to clubs and wargamer's houses, carrying with him his lighting rig and 5x4 plate camera. He was meticulous in getting the right picture and showing the figures in their very best light, set in superb hand crafted terrain and insisting on each stand being carefully 'flocked in' to hide the bases and make the scene look more natural. He put the same effort into editing and proof reading and the result was a representation of our hobby that looked as professional - often more so - as any other magazine on the shelves. 

It has to be said that Duncan was a terrible businessman and his organisational skills were, to put it bluntly, shocking. After a few years he lost control of Miniature Wargames but then decided to do something unheard of. He turned around and founded another wargames magazine based on exactly the same ethos as Miniature Wargames. Launched in 1987, Wargames Illustrated quickly became the world's premier tabletop gaming magazine. From the start it signalled its intent with the symbol of the phoenix rising from the ashes and, with the same attention to detail and quality in both photographs and articles, it continued the aspirations of Miniature Wargames to inform and inspire in equal measure. When he sold the magazine to Battlefront Miniatures in 2009 Duncan continued to work on the publication alongside its new editor Dan Faulconbridge, photographing and proof reading in much the same way as he had as owner. This remained the case after Dan took over ownership in 2015 and it was a relationship that continued up to Duncan's passing. 

Whilst the magazine was Duncan's main focus of attention, he also produced a series of 28mm miniature ranges - most notably an extensive War of Spanish Succession range under the Stratagem imprint and, more recently the Trent Miniatures Late French Revolutionary range. 

Of course the business side was by no means Duncan's only contribution to our hobby. In 1983 Laurence Baldwin, recently moved to Newark, contacted Duncan to ask if there was a wargames club in Newark. Duncan's response was "No. Why don't you start one?". Thus the Newark Irregulars were born. In 1986 Duncan suggested that the Irregulars should host the East Midlands Regional finals of the Nationals and, with a couple of demonstration games along side the competition tables and three traders, the first Partizan show was held at the Grove School sports hall.               

Duncan continued to organise the show alongside Laurence, John Laing and myself into the mid 1990s when he started to take a less prominent role, concentrating more on photographing the amazing games that were bought to the Kelham Hall venue. It is undoubtedly the case that the success of Partizan as a showcase for the hobby rests largely on the fact that those bringing games had a good chance of seeing their hard work rewarded by being published in Wargames Illustrated. But even though he took a less active role in running the show, Duncan never the less continued to influence its development and direction for many more years.            

It might seem that Duncan's whole life revolved around wargames but nothing could be further from the truth. He was, in his younger days, an avid cyclist. When working as a librarian in Hull he still lived in Driffield and would cycle to and from school each day - a round trip of 50 miles. In the late 80s and 90s he would think nothing of jumping on his bike and riding the 65 miles from Newark to Beverly on a Friday evening to visit his father. He loved jazz music, good coffee, real ale and fine port. He was a life long scrabble fanatic and competed both at a national level and in regular sessions with other Irregulars at their houses around Newark. He also loved all manner of other board games, was an accomplished Go player and could lose himself in cryptic crosswords. He counted himself an expert on Tolkien in all its forms and  when, last Christmas, I texted him a quick seasons greetings on Christmas day the response - typically Duncan - was a curt "SSSH! THE LORD OF THE RINGS IS STARTING!". 

All this gives some indication of what Duncan did and perhaps a little of who he was. But it is not in the bare recounting of his life that we get a measure of the man but in the words of those who knew him and who have been expressing their feelings about him after his death. Uncle Duncan, as he was known to many, was widely respected and regarded not so much because of his achievements with magazines and shows but because of how he treated those he came across in his travels. People have reflected on how they approached him as a stranger at a show or competition event and found a man happy to talk, advise and listen. Someone who would become a friend. He did have a wicked, ironic sense of humour and a fine line in subtle put downs but these were always reserved for those who knew him well and who he knew would take them the right way. He was a generous opponent in competitions and always an approachable and knowledgeable expert on all matters relating to our diverse hobby. More than that, he was committed to helping others achieve their potential, encouraging writers, figure painters and designers and always ready to give a helping hand if he could. Though, like us all, he undoubtedly had flaws, some of which caused him much grief in his life, his character and good intent always shone through. He has left us with many happy memories and our hobby, though undoubtedly much changed from the one he joined over 50 years ago, still thriving throughout all the recent adversity.      

In his closing paragraph of his obituary of Pete Gilder in 1991 Duncan wrote "It is unlikely that our hobby will produce another Peter Gilder. His contribution has been tremendous. He will be missed."

I would like to suggest that our hobby did indeed produce another whose contribution was equally tremendous, who will be greatly missed, and his name was Duncan Macfarlane. 

Goodnight old friend.  

Saturday 16 May 2020

Partizan in the Cloud - past show archives

So, Partizan in the Cloud is tomorrow!! Hope you are all looking forward to it.

To add a bit of structure to the day, we have been working hard organising all the hundreds (actually thousands) of photos from previous shows. These have been arranged by show and tomorrow starting at 10.15am we will release a show at half hourly intervals. These will not be in order, there will be old shows and new shows, the gloom of Kelham Hall and the bright lights of the Newark Showground. But hopefully they will give you something to enjoy in place of seeing the games for real.

Spread the news. Lots of lovely game piccies will be flooding t'interweb thingy tomorrow starting at 10.15am.

Wednesday 6 May 2020

Partizan in the Cloud

We thought it would be a shame not to mark the date when Partizan 2020 should have been taking place, so we are proposing a very modest little celebration of wargaming stuff to be held via our Facebook page and other online outlets on the day (17th May!)

As you know, when we were transported into a tent for one year we called that event ‘Partizan in the Park’, so we thought it appropriate to echo that and call this one ‘Partizan in the Cloud.’

We know some traders like to mark events they cannot attend with special offers anyway, so this is a formalisation and expansion on that idea, and to that end we’d like to invite both traders and gamers (and societies who were attending) to join in, and we will highlight and link to items through our Facebook on the day, with a Facebook Live opening of the event, and hopefully new stuff going up through the day, depending entirely on what you can help us with!

So you might want to consider any of the following, or come up with some better ideas yourself:

VIDEOS – we thought no longer than 5 mins each – these can be tour of your game, or narrations of an After Action report of the game as played out on a club run through. For traders you might want to show things you are planning to release in time for the next Partizan, or are releasing during purdah, or things you are working on at the moment. You might want to just connect with your customers with a short message saying how much you are missing them etc… Videos might be uploaded to Youtube or Vimeo for us to link to them (try and include ‘Partizan in the Cloud’ in the title if you do this!) Or you might want to do a short video clip that we can embed in the site – simple programmes like Adobe Spark Video are relatively easy to master!

BLOG SPECIALS – if you are more literary in your expressive style then maybe a special blog to mark the day? Links to these we can put up and create a bit of feedback as to how people are reacting on the day. Again, include ‘Partizan in the Cloud’ in your blog entry title if you can to help pull it all together.

PICTURE GALLERY specials – if you have a collection of pictures stored that you can allow access to on Flickr or similar, or if you’ve created some cool graphics using Comica app or something similar we can link to them during the day too. We have an Instagram account too, so we can link through that for the more visual stuff.

SPECIAL OFFERS – if traders want to do a special offer on the day, as some of you did for Not Salute Day we are happy to link to these and direct your customers to you and remind you of why they really needed more stuff!

LIVE EVENTS – Annie always does a Bad Squiddo coffee morning on Sundays, and I’ve seen some live painting sessions going on – we’re happy to incorporate these int the day, although we might need to plan timings so we don’t have you competing with each other for viewers! I’ve even seen people doing Facetime gaming in isolation, not sure if these are broadcast-able to a wider audience?

ANYTHING ELSE CREATIVE that you can think of, even Tik-Toks, though I’m not sure videos of wargamers dancing and singing is necessarily a good thing! We’re trying to keep this simple, and don’t want to pressure people to learn too many new skills (or stretch our own technical skills!), and we certainly don’t want to think you have to participate. We just want to do what we try to do on the day of a Partizan show, create a bit of a buzz, inspire people to think of new ideas, and build their enthusiasm for the hobby!

We already have offers of assistance from both Wargames Illustrated and Wargames Soldiers and Strategy to help make the event something special.

Henry Hyde will be doing a Patreon recording with me (Laurence) on Monday, and we’ll release that to the public in the build up to the online event.

Technically it’s better if you send links etc to Laurence (at – that way we can add it to the main page of the Facebook Partizan page. We’ll aim to release stuff regularly during the day, but as you may know Facebook allows you to schedule posts, so send me stuff ahead of time for release on the day so we get maximum impact and the feel for an ‘on-the-day’ event.

We hope you are able to participate and make this an isolation-busting wargames event!


Laurence, Tricks and Steve

Tuesday 24 March 2020

Cancellation of Partizan 2020

Evening folks

In my last update on the show I said that we would wait until April 2nd before deciding on whether or not to cancel this year’s May Partizan. I did this on the basis that, by then, we would have a clearer picture of the situation regarding the Corona virus outbreak and the Government’s reaction to it. I think it is now obvious to everyone that things have progressed faster than I expected and that, even if things have started to improve by May and some of the restrictions have eased, it would be irresponsible to try and hold a major event under the current circumstances.

We are therefore cancelling Partizan 2020 which was due to be held at the Newark Showground on May 17th.

Although nothing is certain we are hopeful that the situation will have improved sufficiently that we feel we are able to hold The Other Partizan on 11th October. Of course this will depend entirely on factors outside our control but, if it is possible, then our plan is to transplant the May show wholesale to October. This means that if you have accepted an invite to the show in May then you are automatically rebooked for October. I will of course be back in touch with all traders, gamers and societies individually nearer the time to confirm you are still willing and able to attend but the important point is that no one who was booked in for May will miss out on a spot in October if they wish to take it. This does also mean that, unfortunately, anyone who was not able to make the May show will be unlikely to get an invite to October unless we have drop outs.

The other issue of course is money. Whilst Partizan is going to take a hit on the venue costs, as I mentioned previously, we are able to cope with this and do not see it as a threat to the show. Importantly, we know this will be a difficult time for traders given the current restrictions, the uncertainty for so many people regarding incomes and the loss of revenue not just from Partizan but from many other shows. So the choice is easy. If you have already paid for your stand for the May show we can offer a full refund. Alternatively if you wish to use the May payment as payment for October then we can do that instead. The choice is entirely yours.

We will continue to monitor the situation through the year and make regular updates as we get a clearer picture of the prospects for October.

Thankyou for your continued support and we hope to see you back at the show, fit and well, in happier times.

Best wishes

Richard, Laurence and Steve