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
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
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
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.
Braithwaites 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 Gushs 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 Braithwaites 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 Braithwaites 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 (well
discount Channel 4s 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 Gilders 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 Balls
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
2) John Braithwaite was the offical artist of the Society
of Ancients and designed and drew most Slingshot covers in
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.