After nearly a decade working at Osprey I am relocating... and sadly that means the time has come to wave goodbye to the wonderful military history publisher that has been my home for so long. And with my last day on Friday I have come over all nostalgic this week, reflecting on what it is that makes Osprey such a great place to work... and the sometimes weird situations that working in military history publishing sometimes throw up.
And they made me smile, so I thought I would share them with you.
1) 'Suiting up' at the London Book Fair
It had to be in there didn't it? There are not many jobs out there whose job descriptions include "dress up in a suit of armour and hand out catalogues at one of the biggest publishing events in the world". But at Osprey all bets are off and over the course of three days Richard, Phil and myself all donned a rented suit (of armour) and stood in sweltering aisles handing out catalogues. To the utter bemusement of the publishing world.
It wasn't comfortable. But it was unique!
2) Would you like a private tour around our museum?
Ahh the museums. And the battlefields. When you work for a military history publisher the opportunities to head off for a 'business trip' to a military museum are pretty much unrivalled. And usually when you get there (after lots of important meetings of course) there is quite often the haunting question - would you like a tour? Behind the scenes. Private archives. Hidden gems. Picking a favourite is virtually impossible, but the highlights would have to include:
- A tour round the National Army Museum was fantastic.
- A slightly soggy trudge round the Tank Museum at Bovington (complete with a long chat with Osprey tank expert David Fletcher).
- A night-time visit to the Imperial War Museum in London (dimmed lights and haunting music included).
- A visit to an area of the Cabinet War Rooms that is out of bounds for the public to attend a videogame launch - that was pretty ace.
- Visiting a range of ACW battlefields, including Gettysburg on a six-week road trip in the US.
- A guided tour round Udvar Hazy and marvelling at their Space Shuttle.
- And for one a bit out of the ordinary... a tour round Concorde from Christopher Orlebar, the author of the phenomenally successful Osprey book The Concorde Story. A pilot of Concorde Christopher had some incredible stories to tell, including the name dropping of a dizzying array of celebs.
3) Meeting heroes
Hero is a term that is thrown around far, far too easily today. But when you work in military history publishing you do tend to come face to face with men and women who are genuinely heroic. Not that any of them would dream of calling themself a hero. I have been fortunate enough to meet some hugely inspiring veterans (and serving military personnel) over the last 9 years and have always been struck by their modesty. Sharing a martini over dinner with Ed Shames - one of the members of the Band of Brothers and the subject of our fantastic book Airborne will remain a particularly fond memory - though the drive back to our hotel through a howling storm was terrifying. I wasn't driving I hasten to add... the martini would not have helped!
I have spent a great deal of time with a trio of SAS veterans working on publicity campaigns for their books. Pete Scholey, Soldier I and Rusty Firmin - author of The Regiment: 15 Years in the SAS (out this month... plug plug plug) was always exhilarating. Even if Pete "The Joker" Scholey continuously made terrible jokes which inevitably cracked me up, spurring him on to greater (worse?) jests. The bemused looks I received perched on a Pink Panther (the SAS desert camo vehicle, not the pink diamond / cartoon panther) whilst parked outside the National Army Museum were priceless!
And it is impossible to neglect the inspirational David Wiseman - injured in Afghanistan he would go on to attempt to climb Everest, before racking up medals in the pool during the Invictus Games. Another fantastic book and a remarkable experience being involved in it.
4) Being a little foolish...
The April Fools' gags. We try not to take ourselves too seriously... and when we come round to the end of March it is great to see everyone teaming up for what is essentially a throwaway bit of fun. Designers, editors, marketers, sales teams all working to craft the perfect joke, be it our Osprey inspired Lego set, a collection of musical hits named Fife and Drum, a series on War Animals, or a New Vanguard-style treatment for the USS Enterprise.
We even did a gag about making a boardgame - a Military Monopoly set. You never know- now that Osprey is venturing into boardgames that may still happen!
I still think the War Animals series had the best faux cover artwork though!
5) You call that work? Braaaaaains!
This one is included mainly for my long-serving (suffering?) boss Richard. Because every single chance I get to remind him of his starring role in this ace movie...I take it. This is probably the last time you will have to suffer through this boss. Though I have left strict instructions with the Osprey marketing team to dig it out for Halloween.
And so here is to a Friday afternoon that saw most of the office spending hours slapping on makeup, moaning, groaning and going all Romero on Oxfordshire. The scene with the lift. Loved it. The person who walked into the building trying to visit the legal firm on the second floor of the building couldn't quite believe his eyes. And of course - getting a named cameo in the book we were promoting was pretty ace too!
6) Taking tactics to a snowball fight
It happens. Almost by osmosis. You pick up a lot of military tactics when you work for Osprey. Tactics that were employed on a mass basis when the snow came and the entire office poured out onto the patch of grass opposite the Botley McDonalds for a pitched battle. The residents of Botley still speak of it. There are rumours of a monument to celebrate the moment. But till then, all that remains are the memories...
7) Watching Men-at-Arms hit 500
When I joined Osprey the Men-at-Arms series was at number 428 (Indian Tribes of the New England Frontier if you are interested). There were very concerned mutterings about the series having reached the end of the road. We weren't sure the series would even make it to 450 books, let alone 500. So a few of us got together and formed a team to look at what we could do to keep the series going. Working closely with Martin Windrow we gave our iconic series some much-needed TLC. The fruits of which were really delivered a couple of months ago with the publication of MAA 500 Armies of Castile and Aragon. And of course giving the honour of the 500th book to a title suggested by our customers was another fantastic moment... which brings me on to...
8) Meeting you all, and learning from you
It genuinely has been a pleasure being the person at Osprey that you - our customers - talk to. Be it blogs, forum posts, Twitter or Facebook over the phone or in person at shows and events. What makes Osprey really special is your passion and love for what we do - and it helps to push us to be better. Again there are probably too many to mention by name... but...
1) Troy - the superfan! Great to meet you, stay in touch!
2) Painty, AdamC, kuvaszsleepybear, Colin Upton, Alessio and the rest of the forum / blog regulars.
3) The thousands of people who have stopped by at the stands we ran at Beltring, Detling, Euromilitaire and Salute over the years.
4) Every single person who has ever provided us with a book suggestion or voted in our monthly poll - the fact that this year sees Osprey publishing more customer suggested titles than ever before makes me incredibly proud. It is something we couldn't have done without you all.
And that, friends, is that. I bow out after a wonderful 9 and a half years with lots of great memories. All that remains is to thank all my colleagues, the wonderful Osprey authors and the incredible Osprey illustrators. It has been quite a ride and one that I will watch and admire for many years to come.
Stay in touch - tweet me @Mike_Ramalho