Wednesday 2 May 2018

The Collection of Eric Knowles

Yesterday evening I spent a few hours with Bill Knowles over at his rather nice place overlooking the Roding valley in Essex. The purpose of this visit was to help Bill formulate the plan for the disposal of his father's substantial collection of wargames material.

I knew that Eric had a large set up - I recall seeing boxes and display cases full off figures and other bits and pieces of wargames paraphernalia at their old house in Seven Kings - but what I saw yesterday evening was off the scale. Bill and his wife own a couple of horses (whom I met, and very nice they are as well in that horsey way - for the equine enthusiast they are Irish Cobs) and so also own a motor horsebox. This at the moment is home to roughly a third of Eric's collection....

The horsebox has a side opening door and when Bill lowered the flap all I could see were boxes and boxes and boxes of figures, scenery and other bits and pieces reaching nearly to the roof. Bill mentioned that he had the same amount again still to be moved as well as a double garage at his holiday home full of books....

In order to restore the horsebox to its rightful use Bill is having the double garage loft boarded out so that the collection can be stored and sorted prior to disposal or whatever he decides to do with it.

Just to whet the appetite (and I apologise for the lack of photographs - to be honest I was too bemused and befuddled to take any!) I saw a substantial chunk of Eric's Early 18th century collection including French, English, Bavarian, Dutch, Prussian and Ottoman Turkish armies. The figures are a mixture of Minifigs, a lot of Les Higgins, Hinton Hunt and even Front Rank. The armies are not complete as the boxes forming the collection were not packed in any particular order so half are at Bills whilst the remainder are still at Erics. What I saw though, was a good sample and, if I am honest, I recognised some old friends amongst the collection from games fought long ago. There were even some of the figures from the Madasahatta campaign - British artillery in tropical uniforms and a whole pile of unpainted natives destined to form the Whoppituppa tribe.

Some of the kit to be frank has seen better days - Bill and I had a chuckle over a couple of Bellona rubber buildings that were so old the rubber had in fact perished - and so will be consigned to the bin but the main bulk of the collection, particularly the 18th century stuff, is in good order.

In later life Eric was heavily involved in WW2 games and so he accumulated a vast amount of kits and figures (all 20mm) for the period. There are untold boxes of plastic models that have not even been taken out of the packaging as well as copious amounts of period specific terrain and fortifications.

I should also point out that Eric had a large 1/1200th scale naval set up which has not surfaced yet - this is with the remainder of the collection - and contains a large number of Mercator, Viking and other manufacturers models.

The plan at this stage is firstly to get the loft boarded so that the collection has a home. During this part of the process Bill and I will be sorting the boxes into period specific collections and then we can see exactly what we are dealing with.

It is going to be a long job for sure.


Steve-the-Wargamer said...

A wonderful sight I'm sure, but did it make you wonder about what we will leave behind when we shuffle off this mortal coil in (hopefully) a few more years? Have to admit I have a loft full of stuff most of which I don't touch from one decade to the next.. books I no longer read (old, and/or easier to research on the web), magazines piled high but which are never re-read... paper items in particular have been hit hard by the interweb - it's much easier to buy stuff and store stuff online... kind of sad in a way...

David Crook said...

Hi Steve-the-wargamer,

I would have to say after the initial 'Wow!' had passed I did feel rather melancholy about the whole thing - it was after all the collection built up over a lifetime - and thoughts drifted to my own set up and what would happen eventually. My own collection is fairly lean (my wife would say otherwise...) and I have been making a conscious effort to keep it that way. My lead/plastic/resin/wooden mountain is very modest and by far the biggest part of my collection is the books and even these are but a shadow of what they once were.

I have been making more use of digital editions and this saves acres of space.

I have been giving some thought recently about the disposal of my 'stuff' when the day comes and seeing the collection of Eric has hardened my resolve to do something sooner rather than later.

All the best,


PS, You are right - it is a wonderful sight to look at!

Robert (Bob) Cordery said...


At least Eruc's collection got used, unlike many such collections held by wargamers. It's a pity that there isn't a national wargaming museum, that we - or our families - could donate stuff to.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Bob,

I must admit that seeing some the 18th century models and the British WW1 Colonial artillery certainly brought back some memories! There was also a whole pile of Faller German model railway buildings that I seem to recall being used as part of Vienna when we did the refight of the siege of 1683. So many memories.

A museum would be a nice idea although I suspect Eric's collection would fill one up on its own account!

All the best,


BigLee said...

Sounds like he was a proper wargames magpie.

David Crook said...

Hi Lee,

Eric could never be described as a magpie although perhaps a rather feisty tawny owl would fit better.

I take your point though and am sure that it could apply to most of us!

All the best,