About us

We are a wargames group based in Longton Stoke on Trent Staffordshire UK, We meet on Friday nights from around 7.30 and play a wide variety of table top wargames: We play both historical and fantasy wargames including Role Playing, Some of our more popular games are: Warhammer Ancient Battles, 40k Renaissance, American Civil War, Napoleonic WW2. Contact us for further information. Click here
Wargaming in Staffordshire, Stoke on Trent and Newcastle Under Lyme. A Staffordshire Wargaming club

A Brief history of the formation and early years of the group

Contributed by Mike Leese, John Massey and Phil Callcott.

Back in 1999 when John asked how the club had originally formed as one of the first in the country and one of the few that had its own, if rented, premises Mike wrote:-

In early 1970 Mike met Tony Ackland in Brookfield's (a local toy and model shop) and unsuccessfully tried to persuade him to take up WWII, but Mike agreed that he would try Napoleonic wargaming.
They met on Friday nights at Tony's and played on a 6' x 4' table in Tony's kitchen using CHARGE! rules by Peter Young.

Tony was a modeller for Wedgwood and lived in Blurton at the time, later an artist at Games Workshops Nottingham; some of the art work on the earliest Games Workshop literature was done by Tony
They decided that they knew someone else who might be interested, Trevor Bates. An extra player made games more interesting and enthusiasm increased
Trevor persuaded Bob Craig to join them and Robin? whose surname is lost in the mists of time, also joined.
Meanwhile in April 1972 Mike obtained premises over a newsagent in Burslem at the top of Newcastle Street, long gone.
The rent was 30/- or £1.50 per week.
Each member was to pay 5/- (25p) per week with Mike making up any shortfall, usually an extra 10/- (50p) per week.
Mike managed to interest the Sentinel (the local evening newspaper) and they interviewed him and the others, taking a few photographs and publishing an article.

On to John Massey:-

John came to join because Bob Craig's wife was the Secretary to one of his customers (Wintonfield Joinery of Newcastle Street, Burslem). The club had been running at Burslem about 2/3 weeks before he joined. Other members who were there at the opening were Gary (of Pleasure Treasures, another local toy and model shop) with who John had his first games with, the English Civil War period.

They used Gary's and a mate of his Airfix converted figures with pins for pikes.
All too often, John recalls, they moved a Pike unit by accidentally putting a hand down onto the pikes before dropping them off in a new position with real blood on the pikes. They used a set of rules from a small book by Donald Featherstone of about 50 pages that covered almost every period, (the simple rules are the best).

Phil Callcott, having seen the Sentinel article on returning from holiday that summer, joined either the same week or soon after John as John remembers him with Jeff Davis as part of the ACW mob. Others John remembers were Ernie Gilroy, Denzel, Jim, Phil Ireson, Ken Milward, Peter Chadwick (now living in Trentham who still wargames at home) plus about 10 others he can't put names to.
Phil remembers that Mike gave him a lift home to Blurton after his first night, the journey took about 25 minutes, the chat after arrival home lasted another hour plus!

Members, arriving early at the club on a Friday evening occasionally found themselves locked out because either the rent had not been paid by Trevor or nobody with keys had turned up. John also remembers the dreadful fogs and snow when very few found their way in the murk to Burslem (winters were worse in those days).
The Napoleonic gamers at Burslem were very fond of Guinness, but never took the bottles back for the deposit to the pub on the corner, so some members got free membership by taking the empties back, once there was so many they had to take them over back over several weeks!

John moved to join Jeff and the two Phils (Callcott and Ireson) in ACW when Gary began not turning up on a regular basis.
He later joined Mike Leese's lot in Napoleonic 25 mm games after the club moved to Longton.
Pete Ridgway & Richard Hogarth joined about two weeks before the move to Longton.

The Burslem premises were out grown by then.

Phil Callcott had a chance conversation with Andrew Whalley, the manager of Brookfields, who showed Phil some premises that Brookfields were prepared to rent out. After much to-ing and fro-ing and several inspections the move to Longton was agreed.

Moving to Longton’s larger premises for the club was a great success with 40/50 members, the Napoleonic game often had on paper 20/24 players, including Mike Leese, Allan Mountford, Dave Walker, Dave Nixon, John Wheawell, Chalky White, Ernie Gilroy, Ken Milward, Pete Ridgway, Peter Chadwick and others who we forget the names of. The table at that time measured 15’ x 6’.

About this time Trevor, who was club treasurer, asked Phil Callcott if he was interested in taking over, following nomination by Trevor, seconded by Pete Chadwick Phil was duly elected. Only after election did Phil realise the work involved in trying to collect money from so many members!

It was Phil who coined the name “Stoke on Trent Wargames Group” in order to open the club’s first bank account.

Ken Milward was a great bloke, he was a furniture maker at Fraylings and we used to see him in our premises building tables for gaming, often with a mouth full of nails which he used to spit out with great accuracy before clouting the nail with his hammer.
How those old skills have been lost, spitting that is!

We used to game until 02.00 a.m. on a regular basis - and sometimes it was 04.00 or 06.00 before everyone left.

Once Keith Hancock's wife thought he must have had an accident on the way home, he was actually hooked on a first world war aircraft game that Phil Callcott set up. She went to Phil’s house and knocked his parents out of bed in the early hours!
Phil arrived home after dropping Keith off to find the house all lit up, and concerned relatives on the front step.

Soon after this the first proper National Wargames show was organised by Donald Featherstone, Neville Dickinson, Brigadier Young and others well known in the hobby. This was held at the Great Eastern Hotel in Liverpool Street/Fleet Street London, John went with Allan Mountford, Richard Cotterill and a few others, and luckily they got there very early. Less than an hour later the queues were down the street and out of sight, you could not get in until someone else left. It was a very hot day. They were showing “The Battle of Waterloo” film in the basement, before it had been released in the cinemas (they did not get to see it). Featherstone and others like David Chandler were signing books.A big switch to 15mm. war-gaming occurred when we joined the Midland Wargames Association, which for a while was a great success (but those trips to Peterborough didn't half take it out on the horses).
During a meeting at Leicester we saw 15mm Napoleonics for the first time and were very impressed, although the very large game they had organised didn't last too long as we destroyed the Leicester club’s team so quickly (John remembers a massive cavalry flank attack by Phil Callcott, Phil has had an affection for Polish Lancers of the Guard ever since).
Phil recalls seeing a large table filled with 15 mm strip Minifigs and being asked with John if they “wanted a game?” They were told that they would be using “complicated” rules by Halsall and Roth, but not to worry as Maurice Roth was there and would be acting as umpire. Unfortunately for Leicester - John and Phil, with Mike, had been using those rules for their 25mm games for months!

To fill the rest of the day some of us joined a Leicester club member who introduced us to a new craze that had just arrived from some bloke named Gygax from the USA, we were fascinated with a game played with just pencil and paper and were hooked, Keith Hancock took part.

John started to Role Play at the club with Colin Salt and others such as Bob McGee, Bo, and Darren Longstaff.
Colin was also doing 1/300 WWII with the Tractics rules. Peter Neale, John Fletcher, John Pickles and others came.

John with a lot of help from Alan Mountford, Richard Cotterill and others organised our first show,  Midlands Militaire (a name used again by Bob Belt's Birmingham club a few years later) at Longton Town Hall, which was a great success. This was followed by shows at the King's Hall organised by Peter Neil and others, also very successful.

John and Phil wish to remember Terry (Sam Plank) Hilton who they miss greatly.
It was Terry who introduced Phil to wargaming. He became a good friend to John and the Group.

NB We decided to call our selves Stoke Wargames Group, although you can also search for us on the web as Stoke Wargames Club.

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