Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Donald Featherstone (1918-2013)

One of the fathers of modern wargaming, Donald Featherstone, died yesterday after a fall at home. He was 95.

It would be hard to find a wargamer - British wargamer, certainly - of my age who was not influenced by him in some way. He wrote over forty books on wargaming and other military subjects, and the rules and idea in them inspired endless ideas. I was lucky that our local libraries were stocked with his books (as well as wargames books by other authors of the time), and as a teenager was able to read them at my leisure.

Like many others, I have some of his books on my shelf. One of them is one of the ones I used to get out of the library - retired from service and sold off for a massive twenty pence.

Donald Featherstone represented a bygone, more gentlemanly, era of wargaming. At my previous club we used to joke about the photos of wargames events from the 1960s, showing players smartly decked out in shirts and ties. Five years ago we decided to celebrate Donald Featherstone's 90th birthday at our club (not that he ever knew). Our game for the night had already been scheduled as 'Rapid Fire' - a perfect set of rules with which to do such a tribute, harking back as they did to the games of our youth. We included a paradrop, featuring squares of paper dropped onto the playing area - a Featherstone classic. And, finally, we wore shirts and ties. And those who know me will know that for me to put on a tie it must be an event of some real importance. Donald Featherstone was a man who truly merited the wearing of a tie.

(True Fact - It was me who added him to Wikipedia's 'Births On This Day' list for March 20th. Although at some stage the entry has been changed from 'British Wargamer' to 'English Author')

Update: I'm not kidding about the ties.


  1. Love that story about the celebration game. A very fitting tribute.

    Don will be sadly missed, but fondly remembered.

  2. My start in wargaming was with his original "Wargames" book. I still have it and it will always be a favorite of mine. The rules were simple and assumed gentlemanly players. I always preferred that sort of game over the more "modern" adversarial contest at the table.

  3. My local gaming group's Open Day is on the 21st of this month. I was preparing to celebrate the centenary of Little Wars. I will now include a celebration of Mr Featherstone's great contribution to our hobby. He will be missed but his works will live on.

  4. Yes a sad loss to us all. I certainly feel I owe a lot to him for my enjoyment of this great hobby. In any case, as a WW2 veteran all of us who have enjoyed peace and freedom have a debt to his generation that served.

    Being inspired myself to dip back into his 'Battle Notes for Wargamers' its actually interesting how many of his ideas and innovations have come full circle! Military Possibilities = Action cards for example!


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