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Veteran wargamer Charles Wesencraft recalls the moment that designer John Braithwaite unveiled his first figures. It was at the first National Wargames Convention hosted by Don Featherstone in Southampton in 1966. "We all had our plastics which was about all you could get back then and John brought out this box and started unwrapping all these wonderful little metal Greeks".

Wesencraft had travelled down to Southampton from Newcastle-upon-Tyne with a couple of wargame pals and was doubly amazed when he found that Braithwaite lived on Teesside. "Back then I thought I knew all the other wargamers in the North-East — all two of them, "Wesencraft says, "And then here was John"

John Braithwaite lived in Eaglescliffe near Middlesbrough where he later bought two adjoining houses, using one as his workshop. A sales rep by trade he had apparently produced the figures he showed off in Southampton purely for his own games.

Soon, however, he was making figures commercially, joining Neville Dickinson at Minifigs for whom he designed a 20mm ancient range based on the figures Wesencraft had seen. The JB range, as it was coded, seems to have been based on conversions of Airfix plastics. The only figure from the range that we have seen, a very nice Assyrian archer, is plainly modelled from one of the bowmen from the Robin Hood set.

The association with Minifigs terminated after a couple of years and Braithwaite left Southampton shortly after Dick Higgs arrived on the scene. He then began working on a new range specially designed for Bill Pearce at The Garrison in Harrow..

The Garrison (which also traded as A&P Militaria) had an impressive roster that would at various times include Jacklex, Douglas, Lassett, Sanderson, Cameo and Olive.

Braithwaite’s Garrison range first appeared around 1968. These original ranges of Ancients were "true" 25mm — that is to say 25mm from sole of shoe to top of head. "Initially rather flattish, though attractive" is George Gush’s later verdict. Scale Models was more complimentary noting in 1970 that the figures were "very well detailed and nicely proportioned".

Though the range concentrated on Braithwaite’s first love, Ancients, it gradually expanded to cover Napoleonic subjects too.

Early Garrison figures came on bases that had striations on the top to suggest grass. The code number is scratched on the bottom. Later figures had "Garrison. Made in England" and the code number either printed on the bottom of the base in copperplate script or heavily embossed upon it. The figures are flat in the style of early Hinton Hunt or Les Higgins’ 20mm, but they are well proportioned with a "sketchy" quality that gives some, the Greeks especially, a passing resemblance to the drawings of Ronald Searle. The Carthaginian command are particularly good with the nicely animated drummer a real stand out figure. One criticism of the range might be that there is a considerable variation in height within it - earlier figures such as the Imperial Romans and Persian Immortals being dwarfed by later additions such as the Ionian mercenary hoplites and Nubian auxiliaries.

Garrison discontinued the 20mm range in the summer of 1973 and a new redesigned range by Braithwaite replaced it. These figures are a couple of millimetres taller and considerably chunkier and fit in alongside Hinchliffe.

Bill Pearce closed down his Garrison shop in Northolt Road, South Harrow in 1971 (though Northern Garrison in Knaresborough continued to operate under the aegis of Alex Hardie). Shortly afterwards Greenwood and Ball emerged as the name for a company that produced the Garrison range of 20mm figures along with the other Pearce-owned ranges. Initially based in Harrow the firm eventually re-located to Braithwaite’s native North-East, setting up in Thornaby and later Stockton-on-Tees. In 1975 Pearce retired and handed over the production side of the company to Braithwaite.

In the mid-1970s Braithwaite earned himself a place in wargaming folklore when he took part in the Tyne Tees TV series Battleground. Hosted by actor Edward "Callan" Woodward the show was the first and possibly the last (we’ll discount Channel 4’s ludicrously dull Game of War and the computer-generated slug-fest of Time Commanders) attempt to put wargaming onto television. Charles Wesencraft designed the scenarios for the series and Peter Gilder and Braithwaite fought them out over Gilder’s beautifully sculpted terrain.

A lifelong smoker of mentholated cigarettes Braithwaite succumbed to lung cancer in the early 1980s. When Bill Pearce himself died in 1981 Greenwood and Ball’s 25mm range was taken over by Steve Thompson of SKT in Twyford who had been helping run the company for some while. The masters eventually passed via Paisley Miniatures to Amazon Miniatures. The original "small" Romans and Greeks should be available at some point through Amazon who also stock the bigger versions that replaced them.


1) The original Garrison ancients range designed by John Braithwaite was launched in January 1968 and sold through Bill Pearce in North London and Bill Lamming in Hull. The first figures issued were Imperial Romans and the Persian Immortal.

2) John Braithwaite was the offical artist of the Society of Ancients and designed and drew most Slingshot covers in the 1960s.

3) A review in Sligshot suggests Sassanian Cataphract and Sarmatian horse archer may also have been issued as part of the 20mm range. The review also mentions forthcoming Huns c.420AD including three cavalry figures and five other Sarmatians.

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