Before I get started on my short series of posts about this venerable aulde TV series from the 1970s, I'd like to acknowledge all the interest in it that many other bloggers have shown, and through which I came to know of, and ultimately love, the programmes. At the end of the series I'll list everyone that I can think of to whom I'm indebted. And, where I can actually remember, I'll also acknowledge where some of the images came from. But to start off I'd like to express my profound thanks to DC, without whose help I certainly couldn't have written this: thank you, sir!
So, what exactly was Battleground? The chances are that if you're reading this, you might already know. But, if this is your introduction to the subject, please let me know via the comments. In essence it was, very simply, wargaming on the telly.
At the time, in an article that appeared in the June 1978 issue of Battle, Terry Wise (author, modeller and writer of rules) enthuses about 'this revolutionary series', with its 'cast of thousands', referring, of course, to the toy soldiers - '11,000 figures to be precise'.
Well, truth be told, as several other bloggers on this topic have noted, it's quite difficult to make a wargame, which uses a collection of static models, visually exciting in the way TV, a medium of motion, is best suited to (Mind you, having said that, artist and wargamer Cristoph Mueller has recently done just this. See his short film here).
And actually, if we don our pedantry shako - as wargamers are all too often wont to do - and scrupulously dissect Wise's statements, they err a little, inasmuch as wargaming had already been given a starring role in mainstream TV, in the series Callan, and even in the spin-off movie of the same name.
Catherine Schell, sadly not very likely to be appearing at a wargames table near you! Actor Carl Möhner as Schneider perfectly captures the boyish grin toy soldiers bring out in a man.
If you read the texts of both the Wise and Taylor articles, they are very nearly identical, which rather suggests they originate from the same source! There are small differences though, with Wise focussing, as a wargamer himself, on the players, noting that 'Despite the stresses of being filmed, it appears Peter Gilder and John Braithwaite engaged in quite a bit of their regular light-hearted banter, though other players were more tense because of the circumstances'. He also records the fact that 'Over a hundred wargamers were interviewed before picking the players, who had to be able to endure not only the pressure of the game, but the lights, effects, and cameras.'
In Taylor's piece, which I suspect, as he was the Tyne Tees publicist at the time, was the 'original', the little nugget that we glean, and which Wise leaves out, concerns one of the only members of the production team, besides the cameramen and other anonymous studio 'gaffers', who is not credited.
I quite agree with Wise when he says, right at the end of his article, that 'we all owe a debt to the team that has made this dream of recognition a reality.' He singles out the ladies involved, producer Alex Murchie and scriptwriter and researcher Barbara Sinclair, saying that they 'have shown that the female of the species is not after all afraid to enter into our male-dominated hobby'!