I am sorry to have to inform members of the death of Richard (Dick) Tennant on 21st February. He had been ill for a number of years though the twinkle in the eye (evidenced in the photo) and his gentle humour never left him. Many members will be pleased that they were able to meet and talk to him at the AGM in 2020 when, characteristically, he had brought along a selection of items to sell or, just as likely, give away. Books, wargame figures, CDs - you can read about how Dick disposed of his collections in the last two issues of Mars & Clio.
For many BCMH Members Dick was known as our highly efficient Treasurer in the 2000's and for his passionate interest in the Peninsular War, to which he led our Battlefield Tour to Spain in 2012.
I cannot remember when I first met Dick but by the time he organised the Tour to Spain I knew him very well as we were both on the Committee. Before then I had met him at the ICMH Conference in Portugal in 2009 when he took me to some very good restaurants and introduced me to the glories of Portuguese wine then, and still now, not as widely known it deserves to be.
As Treasurer he brought his many years of experience gained at the Electronics company Philips to bear on our accounts. Although not all of us on the Committee felt sufficiently confident to voice - or even properly to articulate - our inability to understand his presentations the beneficial effects of his tenure are reflected in our bank balances today.
It was only over time that I realised just how much knowledge Dick possessed about the Peninsular and with how many people and publications he conversed. In recent years he sent me three long and highly scholarly articles about the three M’s – Maps, Mules and Music which I published on our website. In my view they were quite eligible for publication in an academic Journal but Dick was always diffident about approaching them possibly, and I speculate freely, suspecting that the expertise of the 'peer reviewers' in the detail of the subject might conceivably be wanting. In any case a Journal would not have published the coloured maps and artwork which brought his material to life. I had to format the articles which took me a while but I also had fun in finding some suitable illustrations to accompany these essential but slightly arcane areas of the subject.
Music was the last of the three Ms that I received and it was accompanied by two CDs of music played on contemporary instruments from the Bate Collection in Oxford supported by a commentary. It was, I think, unique in its subject matter and still deserves wider exposure.
Like many historians of his generation, whether professional or amateur, Dick had developed his interest via wargames. He had known Donald Featherstone since the 1960's when his book 'Wargames' introduced a generation of male baby boomers brought up on 1950's films and the wartime experiences of their parents, to the military experience and thence to the history.
Dick was convinced that Featherstone's influence on the post-war generation of military historians - the likes of David Chandler and Richard Holmes and their numerous readers was under acknowledged because for every Peter Young or Paddy Griffith who espoused the value of the genre as a teaching aid there were others who were reluctant to admit that they had started out by 'playing with toy soldiers’. I recall several events where Dick would sidle up to me and say “I bet that X over there was a keen wargamer” and then go and chat to them!
Despite his illness in recent years Dick's activity and interest never seemed to flag. In the last couple of years he was active in the Waterloo Diorama at the Museum of the Royal Greenjackets in Winchester and the latest researches on the Siege of Badajoz. Only a few weeks ago he sent me details of Stephen Petty's book for children (or is it?) Bugler Boy to Talavera.
With Dick's passing we have lost a man of great good humour, a very strong amateur historian in the finest sense of the word and a great friend.
Adrian Munns writes:
In 2009 Dick was invited by Lt General Sir Christopher Wallace to be a Trustee of the Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum in Winchester.
To mark the bicentenary of Waterloo the Trustees commissioned a £400,000 exhibition to remodel some of the galleries, including the intricate restoration of the 25 square metre diorama of the battlefield. The new galleries were opened by the Duke of Wellington on 25th March 2015. Dick was made an Honorary Member of the regiment by the Colonel Commandant, General Sir Nick Parker and stood down as a Trustee in 2019.
Dick was for many years a great supporter of the Wessex Military Dining Club founded in 1974 by Don Featherstone, and its partner organisation, the Wessex Military Society. He took over as President of both when Don died in 2013. The Society continues to meet for a monthly lunch and a lecture every other month, and whilst declining health caused Dick to hand over the baton in September 2020 he retained a keen interest in its activities - albeit currently conducted via Zoom - until he passed.
Richard was the best of friends to many; kind, generous and thoughtful, and with what can best be described as a ‘well developed sense of humour!’
You mentioned his 'gifts' to people. Apart from his travelling bottle of wine which he always shared most generously, I remember in October 2019, at the King's College conference, he gave me the attached model of a 3rd Caçador, knowing my interest in all things Portuguese. I was in touch with him several times last year and will miss him greatly at future conferences.
Philip Haythornthwaite writes:
…. Dick was the most generous of people and was always trying to help me with finding material for whatever project I was engaged upon, always with success; nothing seemed too much trouble for him – for example, he even found the source of a quotation that had eluded me, which he traced to Spenser’s Faerie Queene (which I should have known, Spenser being almost local to here)!
Dick seemed to have been especially amused by a (true) story I told him years ago about an unlicensed ‘doctor’ who practiced hereabouts [Lancashire] about a century ago (no doubt cheaper than the ‘proper’ medics!), who would always greet his ‘patients’ with ‘now, why are you bothering me? I can see that there’s nothing wrong with thee: you’re warm and you’re walking, aren’t you? What more do you want?’; so Dick would usually answer my enquiry about how he was doing by saying that he was still ‘warm and walking’.
He will be greatly missed.
Dick's daughter, Trudi Marsden is still trying to find all the publications in which her father's work appeared and has written as follows:
Richard Tennant 1944-2021
His first published article The Royal Sappers & Miners was published in 1971 in Tradition magazine, and Rocketmen of 1814, published in 1973 in Military Modelling, provided him with the funds to purchase an MGS medal which proved to be a valuable investment. The Journal of Napoleonic Association then published a four-chapter article in 1989. Richard went on to carefully research, write and publish many articles covering the Napoleonic Period and in particular the Peninsular Wars. His articles often took a new perspective, exploring the impact of language and logistics challenges of the period. He built an impressive collection of books, maps and rifles and spent his lifetime meticulously and lovingly painting Hinton Hunt figures in superb detail. By 2020 he had complete 2,816 figures representing both an Anglo/Portuguese/Spanish Army and a French & Allied Army of around 1812/13. These were sold as a complete collection to David Crenshaw in Nashville, Tennessee.
Richard was Treasurer for the British Commission for Military History having been one of the 43 original members in 1977, and was made an Honorary Life Member in 2019. He became a Trustee for Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum in Winchester. His contribution to the Waterloo Diorama at the Museum earnt him Honorary Membership of the regiment presented by the Colonel Commandant, General Sir Nick Parker. He was President of the Wessex Military Society from 2013 until 2020, and recently was a key sponsor supporting the publication of Stephen Petty's book Bugler Boy to Talavera.
Many of Dick's articles appeared on the Napoleon Series website and can be searched for here Search - The Napoleon Series (napoleon-series.org)
So sorry to hear the news about Dick Tennant.
He was a stalwart of the British Commission for Military History from the very beginning, and stood by David Chandler and myself over the years when we were striving to gain academic recognition for the BCMH and many 'famous' names were standing aside. I know it gave him great satisfaction to see what we have since become,
I was very sorry to see that Dick Tennant had died and have a few words to offer.
I did not know Dick that well but we hit it off straightaway when he noticed my interest in drummers and buglers and associated topics. He very freely shared all he had on the subject and last year offered me his collection of military music LPs. I had the feeling he just wanted them to go to a good home and while I still cannot play them as I lack the means I felt too that I should take them. I guessed he was pretty ill, although he said little on the matter. My son is now sourcing a record player for me and I shall remember Dick and his very kind nature when I listen to the recordings.
Very sorry to hear of the death of Dick T - a hard-working supporter of the BCMH, a thoroughly nice man, and always interesting company.
I particularly remember his magnificently organized Peninsular War tour in 2012 - I think the best BFT that I have ever been on, for its combination of the sight-seeing (that fantastic Roman river bridge... the village church at Arroyo dos Molinos, covered with storks); the battlefields (being able to stand at Fuentes d'Onoro within yards of the original recipient of a medal I own); and the feasts, complete with charming local singers and dancers. Thanks, Dick; I'll never forget it.