‘BATTLE!’ — A lost volume, sadly

By Rob Morgan

So, I read the brief reconsideration of the late Charles Grant’s volume and, of course, memories kicked in. My copy is on the shelf next to The Don’s ‘Naval Wargames’ and the similar sized Ian Alle’ volumes of the ‘60s … but it’s not there now! I think I loaned it, maybe a decade ago, possibly longer, but it didn’t come back to me. Ho hum! Admittedly, after the first few years of the 1970s, it wasn’t a wargame book I consulted regularly. Better volumes appeared, and, of course, I joined the Society of Twentieth Century Wargamers, and their Journal  provided an interesting range of game options and rule tweaks. Charles Grant Sr, I recall, passed on in the late’70s, but had made his indelible mark in publications like Battle, then the main monthly wargame magazine, and in articles in Military Modelling.  His scenarios were always good to read.

As for Meccano Magazine, in the 1960s it was a hotch-potch of articles on almost any aspect of model making, gaming, small-scale electrics, spotting and railway modelling — one of those publications to be examined carefully before purchase; sometimes there was a gem within its pages, often nothing of value. I suppose the main disappointment where ‘BATTLE!’ was concerned was the use of the 1960s Airfix German Infantry and their British counterparts; yes, there were panzerschrek rocket launchers, and one of those amazing sPzB 41 reduced bore a/t guns, but the figures didn’t last the course of time. They did however fit in with the ROCO mini tank range, or at least most, well, ok, many of them, as the photos in the book show. If I recall, some of the scenery is Bellona, but I rarely bought any of that.

That substantial ROCO range of mainly 1/87th scale tanks, afvs, trucks, light vehicles and guns (other models were 1/72nd or 1/76th, and there were also a few figures) was one that many of us admired but few could afford. I bought a ROCO Pz IV Ostwind a/a tank, because I’d never seen one anywhere else before, and don’t think in plastic kit terms I have since — it was expensive. Well-made models those ROCO tanks, and most had a set of plastic road wheels on metal axles underneath, you really could roll them along.

I discovered that these small 8mm or so circles, usually about 4 or 5 mm deep would make excellent Monitor turrets if cemented on thin plasticard hulls – or did I read it in Airfix Magazine? Anyway, I made half a dozen cheap Federal warships, single- and double-turreted, with the addition of small lengths of cocktail sticks for funnels, using wheels from two or three ROCO models.  I fought with them for years. If asked, I’d say they were 1/1200th-ish, but in those days no one really complained.

If the discussion on Charles Grant’s 1970 book leads to anything, let’s hope it leads to a review or at least a reconsideration of that astonishing ROCO range, World War II and Modern which promised so much, but if anything was seriously underused by the wargames fraternity.  I might have as many as a dozen scattered through my Eastern Front units, certainly no more.

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