Stories that we tell ourselves…..


We wargamers love to show our learning. How popular you can make yourself in Wales by pointing out the defenders of Rourke’s Drift weren’t in actual fact a Welsh unit at the time in which this amazing film is set. The ‘fact’ that every office and workplace has at least one person who claims decent from the defenders just adds to the controversy. Hilariously ,  the local re-enactment group had to be rescued from a modern day Zulu audience on a tour of South Africa, nevermind stabbing spears, it was the thrown chairs that caused most losses to our gallant redcoats.

But, it was a family visit to Texas that really got me to realise just what the attraction is of the following list of twenty films. My brother in law was asked by the waiter what he thought of a group of British naval personnel who had been captured by the Iranians in disputed waters. The female in the group was wearing a headscarf , in deference to her captors, and another male sailor had been crying allegedly because he had his iPod confiscated. My brother in law was of the opinion that it didn’t really matter and you must do what you must do……

Uncharacteristically I was livid. I spat out the tale of my Uncle Eley. He was captured by the communists in Korea. Being an officer, Eley was held in solitary confinement until the ceasefire. On leaving the camp, the camp commandant asked if he could have the model ship that my uncle had made in his cell from matchsticks. Eley stared at the commandant, smiled and dropped the ship on the floor before stamping on it….

Below is the list of films which I think best display why we are always drawn back to our hobby. Not because of blood and gore, but rather to hear such tales of heroism and wonder just how we would have acted.


Good communists this time, in at number twenty “Come and See”

Number nineteen, “Land and Freedom”. Ken Loach’s homage to my personal hero, George Orwell.

Number eighteen, “Enemy at the Gates”. Full of suspense, will Jude Law’s babysitter get it!

Number seventeen, “Waterloo”. If you were born before 1970 and didn’t recreate this with bendy yellow Airfix figures then you probably aren’t a wargamer.

Number sixteen, “Lone Survivor”. Mark Wahlburg charges through Afghanistan with minimal collateral damage….

Number fifteen, Gettysburg. Watch out for amazing battle scenes and even more amazing facial hair.

Number fourteen, “The eagle has landed.” Michael Caine leads his paratroopers against the heroic Larry Haggman! Brilliant battle scene, including recce tactics that I am accused of using!

Number thirteen, “Red Badge of Courage”, the original black and white one, not the remake with Johnboy Walton.

Number twelve, “Glory.” The campfire scene before the battle is so moving.


Number eleven, “A bridge too far.” Tragic story but Fox delivering his talk…no wonder they followed him into hell.

Number Ten, “Gladiator”. Superb film, despite the hero demanding a pillow for his death scene ( check for yourself) . This one nearly got knocked out by the equally brilliant ” the Waterdiviner.”

Number Nine, “Cross of Iron.” Gritty realism and a stark anti-war message. Outstanding!

Number Eight, ” Battle of the Bulge”. One of my sons has taken to humming ” Panzerleid”, oh dear……

Number Seven, “American Sniper”. I don’t mind admitting I cried at this hero’s funeral. Inspirational story and a guide to dealing with the Godless. This one may rise as I’ve only watched it five times…..


Number Six, “Saving Private Ryan/ Band of Brothers”

Private Ryan took us all by surprise. The Longest Day never prepared us for the first ten minutes of this film. The series gets the viewer to really empathise with these young heroes. The counter-attack in the Bulge in Foye is the most amazing scene on TV.

Number Five, “The Wild Bunch.” When you just can’t let things ride, get the heavy machine gun. Peckinpah’s classic , “Let’s go!”

Number Four, ” The Alamo”. The remake is very good, the John Wayne version is unforgettable. One of my earliest memories is sketching scenes from this. Drawing books full of  scribbled out stick men, they were the days……

Stay tuned for the top three or send your own votes in. New for 2016 is of course our Facebook page: Tercio Despertaferres. Birth of a new error (era)


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About the Author

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The wild ramblings of an infamous wit and wargames guru. One of nature's true gentlemen who devotes his time to the care of his two sons, i.e. watching episodes of Peppa Pig together, and recreating great moments of military history using toy soldiers. Currently a leading light in The Collectivo Despertaferres wargames and duelling association who meet regularly at Firestorm Games ( formerly Ali Baba's Carpet Warehouse). Find me also on Facebook "Despertaferres"!