Monday, 22 November 2021

Don Featherstone presents The Battle of Salamanca

In the summer of 2019 I fulfilled a lifetime ambition to spend a holiday to Spain and Portugal driving across the two countries from north to south and back again visiting on the way the key battle sites of Sir Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington during the long Peninsular War, staying in some amazing places along the way that included the castle at Ciudad Rodrigo.

You can follow that journey, if you missed the original series of posts in the link below or in the tab at the top of the blog;

A few weeks ago I was contacted by the host of The Hysterian YouTube Channel to include some of the pictures from my Salamanca battlefield tour to accompany a recording of the late great Don Featherstone recounting his several visits to the battlefield in the company of other greats such as Dr David Chandler together with many other recollections and anecdotes of people he got to know in the wider hobby and involved with military history.

Sad to say I never got to meet the man in person although his work had a great influence on my own progress in the hobby as a young man discovering the delights of it for the first time and I well remember carrying around his book on Wargame Campaigns for weeks on end, reading and re-reading his ideas on running such projects, and his accounts of the fun had with his own circle of friends doing so.

I think now, those of us who had that experience, now in the autumn years of our hobby, owe it to new generations to pass on that enthusiasm and passion that greats like Don Featherstone represent, and even though the hobby has moved on from his ideas for 'blast circles' and scratch built plastic figures carved up to represent this unit or another, his humour and enthusiasm based on that generation's experience of warfare for real, Don Featherstone having served in WWII with the Royal Tank Regiment, shines as an example of what the hobby is all about and how to enjoy learning about history in a unique fun way.

So needless to say I was very pleased to have the pictures I took on the day of our visit to the battlefield of Salamanca included with this presentation by the great man and listening to his recounting of the battle and his visits brought back a lot of happy memories of mine and Carolyn's, driving to and fro across that historic site, imagining the scenes of battle that would have played out there as we went.

There is nothing quite like walking a battlefield to gain a vastly superior insight to what happened there in the way that it did than by simply reading a book and looking at maps and pictures and I would reiterate Don Featherstone's comments to take the time to do it when the opportunity presents.

So if you would like to listen to the man presenting I think to an American audience back in the mid nineties about this particular battle then just click on the link below and if you would like to follow the series of other presentations by Don Featherstone I have included a link to the Hysterian YouTube Channel that has all six videos.


  1. Yet another interesting post - thank you. Featherstone was the figurehead of UK wargaming during my formative years in the hobby. His style of gaming might have fallen out of favour in these enlightened times but it was perfect for getting young people interested.

  2. Not seen that video mate, thank you for the link.

    I agree with you, as a surveyor, you get a better understanding of a battle if you walk the ground, and if you have the period maps you can understand the faults or success of some of the action.


  3. Wonderful post yet again and a clip I will view shortly. I couldn’t agree more with your thoughts on the legacy for Wargamers we leave now. Well said.

  4. Hi Chaps,
    Thanks for your comments, and glad you enjoyed the post.

    This is vintage Featherstone with some great tales and anecdotes and I laughed out loud to hear his recounting of meeting Monty after the war, classic Monty, and made me recall my own Father's accounts of the general, Dad having served under him in 21st Army.

    I should perhaps add that the greatest influence on my own approach to the hobby was dear old Peter Gilder but that I only found my way to Gilder via the likes of Don Featherstone.

    Those chaps are now gone and it seems to me that if the annual WSS Wargames Survey is anything to go by, the hobby is perhaps more fragmented than ever before with Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Historical and perhaps even competitive and non-competitive and on the plus sides that variety brings more and more folks into the hobby, with perhaps still not enough women encouraged to get involved however the new generations of gamers come to the hobby in these internet years by very different pathways, influenced by Games Workshop and others and their various game systems and/or online computer gaming.

    The WSS survey seems to suggest that players today seem to progress on to historical gaming at around 40+ with WWII a very popular entry drug and so I think it is important that the legacy of chaps like Don Featherstone and Peter Gilder, and their clear enthusiasm for all the aspects that make up historical gaming and a love of history, through reading books, walking battlefields, listening to academics, modelling and painting is passed on by those of us who are left standing and steeped in that tradition and I would say that's what this blog and those referenced along the side bar here are all about.

    Simply put, sharing the passion and sharing the love.

    Keep on gaming

  5. Thanks for this, JJ. I will take a look at these videos, certainly! And what an honour to have your battlefield photos accompany his talk.
    I am busily steeping a new generation in the hobby, with a 27 year old nephew, history buff and Warhammer player, coming up for a two day, four person game over Christmas. So doing my bit!

    1. Hi Bill, my pleasure.

      It was indeed great to see the pictures of our day whilst listening to an icon of the hobby recounting tales of his visits and an evocative description of the key moments of the battle.

      Both my own lads are a similar age and although they have other life distractions going on are both well versed in military history via the hobby with Will a keen ancients man and Tom more into the Horse & Musket era.

      Hopefully we too might squeeze in a game over Xmas.

      All the best

  6. Thanks for the link, which I had never heard of before.

    Listening to Don talk about Salamanca, and looking at the many photos, brought back happy memories of my two visits to the battlefield many years ago. As also did your excellent series of blogs about your own recent visits.

    I was fortunate to meet Don in Southampton back in the late 1970s when my wife and I attended his monthly meetings of the Wessex Military Society. When we were planning our first visit to the Iberian battlefields some years later I wrote to Don for advice. He send me copies of his own planning notes for the visits covered in the link.

    I look forward to listening to his talks in full

    Thanks again for the link



    1. Hi Paul,
      My pleasure, I think you will enjoy this new recording of the great man in action, I certainly did.

      Thank you for your kind comments and I should return the compliment as it was your series of posts recounting your own explorations in the Peninsular that inspired my eventual plan and determination to do it whilst still in good enough shape to really enjoy it, which is why it was the first big holiday adventure on the post-retirement list.

      All the best