Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A few words with Henry

Recently, I posted a link to an eBay auction Henry Hyde was running. The proceeds from that auction went to the Combat Stress Appeal in the UK. In that same post, I pledged to donate a matching amount to Wounded Warrior Project here in the US. Thanks to some vigorous bidding, Henry’s auction raised £76.66 GBP or roughly $116 USD. I decided to make it a nice round $120, plus a kicker from my dad of $20 made the total $140 donated to Wounded Warrior Project.

I took the opportunity to shoot some emails back and forth with Henry about his ongoing commitment to raising awareness and funds for Combat/Post Traumatic Stress treatment. Henry provided all of the photos in this post along with the captions.

Longbows To Lasers: Henry, thanks for agreeing to this Q&A. As a veteran myself, I want to applaud your efforts to bring combat stress and the difficulties returning service members face at home, whether in the UK, US or any country, really.

"Myself (yellow 25) at the Royal Commissions Board examinations in 1981,
_nearly_ becoming an officer in Her Majesty's Royal Horse Artillery."

Henry Hyde: You're welcome, and I'm flattered that you feel my efforts are worth commenting on. I look at how much money is needed to really cope with the problem, and I often feel that what I've raised is just a tiny drop in the ocean. But perhaps the more valuable aspect of what I've been able to do is use my position as a magazine editor to raise awareness, so that many more people in our hobby understand more than they might otherwise have done.

I'm humbled by the risks that people like you have taken on behalf of those of us at home, and feel that the very least we can do is make sure that those wounded, both physically and mentally, as a result of their service in our name are well cared for. Only very recently has our government started to wake up and realise the sheer scale of the combat stress/PTSD problem, with thousands of reservists as well as regular soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen being exposed to terrible experiences, made worse by the asymmetric nature of modern counter-insurgency warfare in which absolutely anyone you encounter might be the enemy.

This means that it becomes a problem for the whole of society as the aftermath of these experiences is not confined to the returning veteran alone, but shared by their family, friends, neighbours and co-workers too, as they find themselves dealing with people whose personality has changed and who often end up self-medicating rather than admit their problems. Combat Stress report that on average, it's a shocking 14 years before a veteran will seek help. By raising awareness, I hope that those affected will cease to feel that there is any stigma attached to seeking help (often difficult, of course, for someone trained for combat and a macho environment) and that family and friends will know who to call to get them the treatment they need.

"My grandfather, Harry Knott (right) in a funfair photobooth
with one of his pals, early 1915 just before shipping out."

LTL: You've mentioned before on the View from the Veranda podcast how your own father was in the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm during WWII. Do you have other personal connections with service members now, either family or friends?

HH: None of my current family are in the services – though I nearly joined the Army myself when I was at university (I took our Army's Royal Commissions Board to become an officer, but a wise Brigadier urged me to pursue a different, creative path). My father was in the Fleet Air Arm during WWII and I recall the terrible nightmares he had, and sudden tearful episodes, as a result of his service – he had been bombed early in the war when temporarily posted to Biggin Hill airbase in Kent, the famous fighter aerodrome, and as an air mechanic, had also seen some terrible accidents dealing with propellor-driven aircraft.

Both my grandfathers fought in WWI, and my mother's father was wounded and invalided out in 1915. His battalion had been involved in a fruitless attack on the Hohenzollern Redoubt during the Battle of Loos. I have his war diary and published part of it in issue 7 of Battlegames.

"My grandfather's pocket diary, showing the entry when he was wounded during the assault
and was left lying in no-mans-land and the trenches all night. 'Did go through the mill'
is a euphemism of those days meaning that he was in agony (he had been hit by shrapnel
in the groin and hip)."

My friend, retired Brigadier Charles S Grant OBE (I imagine that he and his late father must be two of the best-known names in wargaming) is one of the Vice Presidents of the Combat Stress Charity here in the UK and was instrumental in encouraging me to get involved. In fact, the Combat Stress Commemorative Miniatures idea was first launched by Julian Evans, who used to own the Figures in Comfort business. He was in the British Army and suffers PTSD as a result of his experiences in Bosnia. He decided to emigrate to Australia (and who can blame him?) in 2008 and asked me to take on the task of getting the miniatures cast and sold, but I decided to go one step further and created the Battlegames Combat Stress Appeal.

Another highly respected wargamer and writer here in the UK with whom I have had the pleasure of playing is retired Major General John Drewienkiewicz CB CMG (everyone knows him as just "DZ"). He too served as the British Army's Engineer in Chief in both Bosnia and Kosovo and, just to prove that PTSD has no respect for rank, he also suffers from PTSD.

There are many ex-servicemen in the UK hobby, both full-time and reservists. Bill Thornhill of Musketeer Miniatures served in tanks – he now lives in the US. "Eclaireur" (whose real name I have promised not to use because he also holds a prominent job in television) also served in an armoured regiment. Dave Brown, author of the General de Brigade Napoleonic rules, is still, I believe, in the Territorial Army. I can't begin to guess how many to the guys I've met at shows, or have subscribed to my magazine, or that I chat with online (such as yourself) have served or are still serving, but I guess it's quite a few.

But I'm very much a civilian, and don't have day-to-day close contact with the military.

LTL: Since you mentioned it, how much have you raised via the Battlegames Combat Stress Appeal? Any fun stories about the figure auctions and sales so far?

HH: The current total stands at £11,886.59, plus the gift aid tax relief that the government allows on charity donations, which amounts to another £1,082.78.

The figure auctions have been fun. Naturally, the amounts they raise are unpredictable – it could be the nationality of the figure depicted, the period it covers, the 'elite' status of the unit, the person who sculpted it or the person that painted it, as well as the overall 'look' of the thing. But the current auction for the Australian SAS trooper from the Vietnam War is on target to hit around £80, which is excellent for what is, after all, a single figure!

But again, the main function of these auctions is to raise awareness over a period of 10 days, with repeated posts drawing attention to the charity.

LTL: I seem to recall you taking a little bit of a hike, to use English understatement, to raise awareness, if not funds for Combat Stress. What other avenues of fund raising have you gone down so far? Anything new on the horizon?

"Myself and Simone Drinkwater of Casemate Publishing at Battle Abbey
at the start of our marathon walk at 8am ..."

HH: The 27 mile walk was spectacular, as it turned out, because we walked on the hottest day of the year! I won't be in a hurry to do that again …

Coming up with new ideas is hard for any charity fundraiser, especially when you're trying to fit it into your spare time. I've been fortunate in that other groups have latched on to my Appeal and have managed to raise generous donations to add to our total. For my own part, especially now that I have a doubled workload, I have to be realistic about what initiatives I can pursue, but one thing I am planning is a range of my own e-publications, and a percentage of the revenues from these will go to Combat Stress. If I get the chance, and mad as it seems, I may well do another sporting challenge like a long walk, because it also gives me a good reason to improve my fitness! Other ideas spring to mind like playing wargames for 24 hours non-stop. To increase the 'fun' factor, I might do it using hugely complicated rules from the 1970s, just so the sponsors know I'm really putting myself through torture ...

"... and then at the finish at Lewes Castle at 6pm after 27 miles.
Spot the difference! It was the hottest day of the year, October 1st 2011,
with temperatures exceeding 30 degrees C."
- Editor's note: That's about 86 degrees F.
Or a typical day in June for us Midwesterners.

LTL: You have recently become the editor of one of the "Grand Old Men" of wargaming magazines, Miniature Wargames. What does the Battlegames merger with Miniature Wargames mean for the Battlegames Stress Appeal?

HH: The Battlegames Combat Stress Appeal continues exactly as before, unchanged. Atlantic Publishing own the Battlegames brand and they are happy for me to keep it for the Appeal.

"A pic of me working on my Wars of the Faltenian Succession campaign."
- Editor's note, in the storied "Loftwaffe" by the looks of it!

LTL: You recently posted on a small wargames show in England raising funds for Combat Stress. How did they get along, then?

HH: The Cavalier Show in Tonbridge, Kent, is run by the Tunbridge Wells Wargames Society and they raised a spectacular £500. This has already been donated directly to the JustGiving page at

LTL: Have you had the opportunity to visit with any vets that receive help from Combat Stress? How were those visits, do they "get" wargaming? Do any of them use wargaming as therapy or any type of gaming as simply a distraction?

HH: Last autumn I was invited to visit the headquarters of Combat Stress at Tyrwhitt House in Surrey. the occasion was the opening of a new garden courtyard, specifically designed for veterans suffering from PTSD. I wrote a report about this in BG32. I was especially moved by the art therapy, in which veterans had expressed themselves very powerfully both in words and pictures. I was lucky to meet half a dozen veterans there, some in their 60s, some as young as in their 20s, and with service ranging from the Falklands War through to Iraq and Afghanistan.

They were all very kind in their comments, and perfectly understood the appeal of wargaming, even if they didn't do it themselves. Neither they, nor any of the other serving or ex-servicemen I've met have specifically mentioned using wargaming as a therapy: like the rest of us, they see it as a welcome distraction and an absorbing, fun hobby. It would be an interesting study, I'm sure, to examine its therapeutic potential.

As I was finishing up this post, Henry sent me a post script:

HH: I forgot to mention that something that's happened lately is that people have sent or given me stuff to auction on eBay for Combat Stress, such as signed books from authors, collections of magazines and one guy has even given me a modern British wargames force that he painted.

This is lovely and I'll be auctioning them shortly BUT people need to please consult me first before sending me stuff because, as you know, I'm extremely busy and setting up eBay auctions and handling all the postage and admin is extremely time-consuming. Far better for people to organise their own auctions and just donate the proceeds either to our Combat Stress Appeal or direct to Combat Stress via eBay's Missionfish system.


In conclusion, I’d like to thank Henry for his efforts to raise awareness and funds for Combat/Post Traumatic Stress. I’d also like to thank those who bid on the SAS figure. I encourage everyone to give what you can to any number of veterans’ charities. Every dollar helps.