The Army of Georland

The Army of Georland

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Three Fathers - the historical importance of George Alfred Keef and Georland

My thanks to Tim Gow of Megablitz and more and to the late John G Robertson of Dundee, whose copy of Don Featherstone's Wargamers Yearbook 1966/7 has yielded the material for the next few posts.

In his introduction to the Yearbook, Don Featherstone explains that he has used it as an opportunity to publish material which was too long to work in his regular Wargamers Newsletter. The article which really caught my eye, because of my current interest in George Alfred Keef and the History of Georland, was called The Early Days of Wargaming. in fact this is about Robert Louis Stevenson and his wargaming activities in Davos in 1880-1883 with his stepson Lloyd Osbourne. This has been well known through Osbourne's article "Stevenson at Play" in Scribner's Magazine of December 1898, which has led to the generally accepted view that this was the first documented instance of systematic wargaming with figures.

Several impressions quickly emerged:

that George Keef's wargaming activities shared many characteristics with those of RLS;
and that George Keef got into full swing as recorded in the History of Georland in 1872, eight years before RLS games in Davos, and that the collection and wargaming with it hasd started as early as 1860.

Apart from its early date, the other notable features of the Georland Campaigns are how well they are documented, and that they were not known outside the family before this year (2013) when they came to light on the Antiques Roadshow.

In his article Don Featherstone talks about H.G. Wells and the other "DADDY of Wargaming" Robert Louis Stevenson. It now seems clear that while he didn't have the same public impact as the other two, as the History of Georland was not published, that George Alfred Keef now has an undeniable claim to join their company as the third Father of Early Wargaming.

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