Stuart Asquith's funeral is on Tuesday 19th November. There have been many kind words spoken and written about his contributions to the hobby. Up till now I have held off making my own because I had hoped to do them following the funeral which is being held in Cheltenham. I had planned to take Jack or ‘Uncle Jack’ as he was known to Stuart’s children, with me but the dreaded cancer has decided to make a return and I have to have more chemo on the 19th so I can no longer attend.
So I thought I would share my thoughts and memories. I first met Stuart at the Harrow Model Shop when it was on St Anne’s Road. I had visited the shop before to buy Jacklex figures but this time I was going to purchase some Hinchcliffe ECW figures. It was Saturday 31st March 1973. It is hard to credit that it was so long ago. I remember it because it was the day when Red Rum won his first Grand National and I won the sweepstake at work! Stuart was so easy to talk to and gave me some useful advice on figures, the ECW and the size of ‘army’ to go for – 4 of foot, 2 of horse and a gun was the legend! I walked out of the model shop with brown paper bags full of figures. Not sure I paid the right amount.
After that I would go his house over at Rayners Lane, he would pick me up and drop me back at the station and we would wargame on his dinning room table, Stuart with pipe in hand. I became an unofficial member of Stuart’s Rayners Lane Wargame Group, and he would regularly host games involving two or three players. Stuart introduced me to Bob Black who I still wargame with and later to Jack himself.
We used the bayonet rules for the ECW and worked our way through various armies and periods, swapping armies back and forth; SYW, Ancients, Napoleonic’s, ECW always adding a unit here and there. On a memorable occasion we travelled up to Doncaster to stay with Stuart’s old wargame adversary and friend Terry Wise and I can boast that I shared a bed with Stuart!
|He was also great friends with Ted Herbert (when did wargamers stop wearing ties?)
I also know that he regularly met and spoke fondly of Charles Grant, unfortunately one of the wargame legend’s I didn’t meet.
Stuart’s writing was always important to him and I always felt he was trying to give something back to the hobby that he loved. His army organisation, for whatever period were thought out and often recorded. He, unlike me, knew when to finish his ‘army’ and move on to another period.
In December 1978 Stuart stepped into the breach to act as my best man, after my friend came down with flu the day before.
|Ahh, the days when I had hair!
Eventually, Stuart and Beryl decided to move from London to North Leach in Gloucestershire. He called me before he left and said did I want some 54mm figures. Two Zafira car loads later my loft was groaning under the weight!
Jack and I went to visit Stuart and Beryl a couple of times and often spoke on the phone and then for whatever the reason we seemed to lose touch. When Stuart heard about my cancer I got an amazing letter from him and we communicated again through snail mail and by phone. In September with Bob and Jack on board I drove down to North Leach to meet Stuart and Beryl . I was able to return lots of the 54mm figures to him. He had been unwell during the course of the previous year and having not seen him for some years I was surprised. However, once we got upstairs and started opening draws and looking at figures the old Stuart was back. His enthusiasm for the various periods and ranges he had collected was wonderful to behold and as always, he and Beryl were wonderful hosts.
I had thought it would be the last time we would meet up largely because of my cancer, but little did I know. Jack has joked that he would be waiting for me at the pearly gates, now hopefully it will be Stuart and we can resume our wargames were we left off so many years ago.