Tuesday 23 October 2018
The Collection of Eric Knowles....Part 4
You may recall at the end of last year the UK lost one of its unsung wargaming pioneers in the shape of Eric Knowles. There were many blog posts about Eric by both Bob Cordery and I who had the honour and privilege of wargaming with him during the legendary Madasahatta campaign at the end of the 1970s and into the early 1980s. At the time of writing I am helping, when I can, Eric’s son Bill to organise his father’s extensive collection prior to disposal.
Eric’s collection was huge. When I say huge I mean as in filling up a double garage, a loft, a downstairs reception room and a horsebox huge. Bill was tasked with the Herculean labour of sorting out the whole and arranging for its disposal. I offered to assist him with this and trust me, it is a gargantuan undertaking. The main bulk of the collection is painted 25mm 18th century armies and an awful lot of WW2 in 20mm. There is also a prodigious quantity of unpainted metal organised into armies that Eric had not gotten around to. Bill has made some inroads into the collection and has sorted out some dozen or so plastic storage boxes full of the unpainted metal – at least that which he has found so far. At this stage I have no idea about what the unpainted 18th century figures consist of only that is covers the 1680 to 1740 period and is divided up into complete armies. That is complete armies – cavalry, infantry, artillery, the whole nine yards. Unpainted. The collection also includes an extensive library and a lot of 1:1200th scale ships – both plastic and metal.
In many ways the unpainted material is the easiest part of the collection to sort out as for the most part the figures can be bagged and stored quite unceremoniously in bags and boxes. The painted part will be rather more challenging as care will be needed in storing the figures. Eric has units in boxes with labels but time has not been kind on the boxes and so a new storage system will be needed. The average size for each army is around a dozen or so infantry regiments usually of anything from 24 to 36 figures, half a dozen or so cavalry units of up to 20 figures and artillery like you would not believe. Eric was fond of artillery as well as the whole siege and baggage train thing, not to mention command and staff and sundry non-combatant hangers on so there is plenty of peripheral material.
One of the largest armies in his collection was his Ottoman Turkish force. This is enormous and also has rather a lot of unpainted metal to go with it. Eric really went to town with this army and the end result was simply outrageous in respect of its size. As I recall much of it was 25mm Minifigs but lord alone knows what else is in it and waiting for Bill to unearth. I remember facing this army in its full glory when we refought the siege of Vienna 1683. When is was deployed on the table it took the combined efforts of several collections to field the required scale of opposition.
I say unearth intentionally as Bill does not have a clue what is where until he actually opens the boxes. Any order these may have been in disappeared when Eric’s bungalow was cleared and the contents stacked, box upon box, in Bill’s horsebox for the first of a number of trips to various destinations. By degrees the remaining parts of Eric’s collection is converging on Bill’s house which is fortunately large enough to store it. I have this image of him in full on Indiana Jones mode brushing off the dust of ages by the light of a guttering torch….
Anyway, to the point of the post.
Bill is of the opinion that Eric’s collection as far as possible should go to those that would appreciate it for what it is. There is a tangible value to much of it but money is not the sole motivator for his decision and he is to be applauded for this. The 18th century painted collection alone is probably quite valuable and when you factor in the books and ships etc there is some significant financial return to be made in due course. We were discussing this very point when Bill casually slipped into the conversation that the Ottoman Turks and the Madasahatta stuff he was giving to me.
That’s right, Eric’s Ottoman Turkish army and all of the Madasahatta kit is coming to me.
Gobsmacked, awe-struck and most certainly moved. Eric and Ivy, his wife, were an important part of my life when I first moved away from home to London as a mere boy of 17 and as Eric was responsible for my lifelong interest in the Sublime Porte (not to mention WW1 Colonial-style campaigns) this bequest is a marvellous way to remember them.
Bill pointed out that as yet both collections needed to be found and reorganised – the only part I saw when I visited him was the Sultan’s camp complete with scimitar wielding eunuchs and a harem for the Turks as well as British artillery from the Madasahatta set up, together with some unpainted African tribesman. The condition of both collections is yet to be ascertained but suspect that some running repairs will inevitably be needed. This is of little import in the overall scheme of things though.
Being the steward of two such significant collections is a singular honour and I am truly at a loss for words at this incredible gesture. I hope that my gaming efforts using these armies in due course will be worthy of the memory of both Eric and Ivy.