I was honoured to receive an invitation to attend an event called “A Celebration of the Life of Richard Tennant.” It was held on the afternoon of 13 November at his golf club in the New Forest.
Richard was one of a number of former members from the very early era of the Temperance Institute venue. He is one of those who moved away from the Southampton area and we have maintained contact with each other. His moves were dictated by his employer and, initially, I thought it was far enough when he went to Stockport. But Richard always did things in style, and he subsequently spent the years of his career in Taiwan, Nigeria, Greece and the Netherlands.
His discovery of wargaming followed the trail blazed by Don Featherstone's first 2 books. It was the most popular route in the world in the nineteen sixties and seventies. It was a time when I sensed that the Napoleonic period was the epitome of the hobby. Partly, I think, because with Napoleonics you couldn't mess around back then. You had to have the real thing, proper lead figures.
Richard created a vision of a collection which he proceeded to follow through. Such was his dedication, after collecting incrementally for a while, he placed a single order for 1,600 figures with Hinton Hunt. This was principally to make sure in the future the collection would have compatible figures and also, rather shrewdly, to obtain a better unit price. Like me, he was an accountant.
Richard was meticulous with his research and painting of the figures. He methodically worked through his plan and won many awards at conventions exhibiting his figures. The project occupied him from 1970 through to 2003. The collection was sold on in 2020 to a keen gamer in Tennessee who was ecstatic with the collection. No doubt his enthusiasm was enhanced by appreciating the provenance of a connection with Don Featherstone, who was a good mutual friend of Richard.
In retirement Richard's strong, consistent interest in the Napoleonic period evolved into historical research. He became the treasurer of the British Commission for Military History. In addition to enhancing their financing, he won great respect from the members for the quality of his research into original sectors. He organised and led the bi-centennial Peninsular battlefields tour of 2012. Doing so with thorough organisation and an excellent itinerary.
In another avenue close to his Peninsular history interests in 2009 he became a trustee of the Royal Green Jackets Museum, Sharps regiment. During his tenure he was involved in a project for restoration of the Waterloo diorama. A display of 26 square metres with 22,000 figures restored in time for the bi-Centennial. It is a vast display. During the period of the Waterloo exhibition he arranged for a meeting of the Wessex Military Society to take place at the museum in Winchester. Following a dinner of lamb shanks at a huge long table in a grand room at the museum the members enjoyed a leisurely private viewing of the exhibition. Including the restored diorama. One exhibit was a life size rifleman Harris with an audio recording. Richard had me lined up as the authentic Dorset voice of Harris. Unfortunately the curators opted instead for the actor in the Sharp TV series.
Richards contracted cancer and managed to fight it off and survive. Sadly it recurred some years later and he eventually succumbed on 21 February 2021. The pandemic permitted only a limited attendance at his funeral. His wife and daughters were aware he had many friends and arranged a later Covid cautious event in his memory.
The Celebration event was aptly named and, in the image of Richard, well organised. His wife and daughters introduced the meeting and then a series of colleagues and friends representing period in his life or his interests shared their memories of Richard. It was like boarding a biographical omnibus of anecdotes that transported us through Dick's life.
I imagine if you have read through to the end you maybe wondering, can I see some of this fabled figure collection, without going to the states. The answer is yes, you can see illustrations. There is an article about Richard on a wargames website and if you scroll past all the text the article concludes with a gallery of 46 photographs of the wonderful figures and brilliant buildings.