Saturday, 3 January 2015

Bernard Lyall on Battleground Normandy

Bernard Lyall (son of Gavin, co-author of WW2 wargaming classic 'Operation Warboard', and participant - vs his father - in the Normandy episode of Battleground) has been in touch:  

After the book was published ['Operation Warboard' A&C Black 1976] , there was a certain amount of media interest, probably including much I'd have missed. My dad's career was going well and his minor fame would have provided an obvious hook for print, radio and TV producers. We did one other TV event, a slot on (I think) Pebble Mill at One, after Battleground, where we played a game in the background of the studio (using our own kit) and at some point the presenter wandered over for a five-minute interview. I remember being surprised at the hours of effort on our part - travelling there, setting up, playing at least some of a game - which went into such a small amount of airtime. After 30 years in TV, I'm much less surprised now. 

 The book has recently been republished, by a chap called John Curry, who's reprinting a whole series of classic books on the subject - see link below. I re-shot the cover, based on the original hardback design, and wrote a foreword for it. 

Of the Battleground episode, I recall that the figures, vehicles and board had all been prepared for us [by Peter Gilder of course], to a much higher standard than our own stuff. Our equipment (which is in the photos inside the book, and some of which still survives) was much simpler - two green-painted chipboard 4'x3' sheets, green painted polystyrene hills, and trees of green foam on cocktail-sticks. But then ours had to be widely adaptable for each new scenario. The rules were ours, of course (that would been much of the point of doing it, and besides I'd have been baffled by any others) as were the tools (graphs, dividers etc.) that we used. I turned up in a stripy shirt which I had to change, as the lines on it produced that curious 'moire' effect on the studio cameras. And it was all very hot and bright in our little pool of light, surrounded by mysterious figures and cameras moving around in the dark. 

 I don't remember much about the game. We played a lot of generic, post D-Day, northern France scenarios. I think we were both more interested in grasping tactics than recreating specific events - and in any case, since our forces were only really at battalion level, we'd only have managed a small portion of a significant engagement. 

We weren't given any recording of the show, and wouldn't have been able to play it if we had.