In September 1971 (under the name of The South Bermondsey Military Modelling Society), the South London Warlords was formed by three wargamers: Jim Shiels, Dave Rotor and the late Bill Brewer. Bill ran the Rye Stamp and Hobby shop in Peckham for many years and – until his death in 1998 – was a professional figure painter of some renown and was instrumental in raising the standard of painted wargames armies.
The Club met in a small hall in Bermondsey in South London but in 1974 opened a second branch in Eltham. In 1975 the ‘Bermondsey’ branch moved its location to a more suitable hall in Dulwich where it stayed for almost twenty years.
In 1985 the two branches split into two individual clubs and so the South London Warlords became concentrated again at one branch in Dulwich.
In 1995 the Dulwich branch moved again to a bigger home in Dulwich at St. Barnabas Church Hall, where the club meets to this day.
In April 1972 the Club ran its first open day for the public. Called "Salute" it was held at the Surrey Tavern at the Oval Cricket ground. It was a great success and so next year bigger things were planned. ’73 saw a move to the central London Westminster Hotel and '74 The Regency Hotel. '75 took Salute to Chelsea Townhall where it stayed for the next two years. 1977 saw a change of tack with Salute being held at Margate on the south coast. While the venue worked well enough, it was thought that a London location was more appropriate for a London club and so ’78 saw Salute back at Chelsea Town Hall.
1979 saw another change of venue with the show moving to Kensington & Chelsea Town Hall – Salute’s venue for the next 20 years. In that period the Warlords also ran several late, post summer season conventions at the same Margate Wintergardens venue that had been tried with Salute ’77 (the last "Margate" being in 1982), but Salute itself stayed at Kensington and, over the years, gradually hired more and more of the facilities. 1979 saw just the Ground Floor and Lower Hall in use, but the Upper Hall was subsequently hired.
By ’85 the New Wing was added and after that more rooms off of this area. Even in its last year at the Kensington venue, new space had been found but, increasingly, the hall’s facilities were becoming ever more ‘warren’ like, covering three floors in two connected buildings and so, after Salute ’98, plans were put in place to hire a different venue.
On April 1st 2000, Salute opened at Olympia 2 in London. The entire second floor was hired in this prestigious venue. The show was a great success with a much needed, larger gaming and trading space and a more open feel but had some teething problems with public access. One of the great advantages of the Olympia venue was the room for expansion which seemed virtually unlimited. For Salute 2001 two floors were hired, which was again increased to three floors for Salute Zero Two. By Salute Zero Five this had increased to all four floors of Olympia 2, and once again the quest was on for an alternative venue.
Since 2006, Salute has been held at the ExCeL centre in London's Docklands, currently filling over 10,000 square metres of this premier venue.
Such is the reputation of Salute that many of the best games from clubs around the country are attracted to it.
Periods and Interests
The Club’s original name was the South Bermonsey Military Modelling Society and, when the name was changed (rather rapidly) into something a little more dynamic, the opportunity was made to change the named emphasis to reflect the Club’s activities. So the Club became the "South London Warlords Wargaming and Military Modelling Club" more often referred to as the "South London Warlords" or just plain "The Warlords"..
Throughout its life the Club’s interests have waxed and waned and – inevitably – been driven to some extent by popular culture. Napoleonics were popular early on, particularly so because of the film Waterloo. Samurai armies were popular in the early eighties after the TV series Shogun. In the mid seventies, fantasy armies were popular based on The Lord of the Rings, but in the late seventies Dungeons & Dragons became the craze of the moment: role playing had arrived at the Warlords.
Early on there were problems because the themes of D&D and other roleplaying systems were quite ‘alien’ to the accepted, historical wargaming culture but there were also complaints amongst some of the older membership about these new games’ formats. Some of the role playing games used hardly any metal figures and that some of those that were used were not actually painted…
After a while, the world, it was noted, hadn’t stopped spinning on its axis, and roleplaying became an accepted part of the Club’s activities leading to it’s inclusion in the Club’s name in 1988: The South London Warlords Wargaming, Role-playing and Military Modelling Club.
In around ’87, some of the membership began experimenting with Live Role Playing. This initially involved the Club premises but rapidly outgrew the facilities and so – after some late night ‘activities’ on public ground – reputable venues were hired and games run external to the Club. Some of the membership running around the woods shooting ‘laser’ guns caused a degree of friction within the Club – was LRP ‘proper’ wargaming? – but, as of the current date, most of the current Club’s activities seem to coexist along side each other.
The Warlords regularly attends other club's shows around the country and has, for many years, gained a reputation for putting on quality games for a (largely) participation audience.
Where are we now?
The Club’s membership is a little smaller than it has been in recent years although in actuality, the highest numbers it ever attained were (not surprisingly) in the mid eighties when there were two branches. Not so much emphasis is currently placed upon LRP or Ancients Competition teams as had been the case in the past. Similarly, fantasy card games, like elsewhere, have ‘had their day’.
Many periods gamed currently are firm favourites that would have been in play on a Club night at any point for the last three decades: Napoleonics, Ancients and WW2. Others - Warhammer, Warhammer 40k and various other SF and Fantasy genres – have also survived the tests of time. Hopefully the quality of figure painting and modelling at the club has advanced over the years, as have the commercially available figures and scenery, but that aside, many games on a Monday night at the Warlords would have been recognisable thirty plus years ago – and vice versa.
The Warlords is now nearing the end of its fourth decade of existence and - inevitably - only a very few of the original, first year members are still present. Like most Wargames clubs the Warlords struggles with an ageing membership who find playing with wargames figures (and owning them and painting them) difficult to justify to their careers, loved ones and bank managers. Running around the woods shooting infra-red toy guns also proved troublesome to the knees.
The Club, nevertheless, tries to excel in all areas - and lead in most - and is justifiably proud of its achievements since its early days in the seventies.
Members still meet weekly to game and, often, outside of Club hours on a social level. Furthermore, Salute has become - and maintains its position as – the premier show of its kind in the country.
Based on histories of the Warlords by (amongst others) Steve Gaines, Richard Burgin, Brian Cameron and John Treadaway.