Calling all UK reenactors

In the last couple of decades there has been a great deal of legislation affecting and in the main restricting our reenactment hobby.

You may think that you cannot influence this, or you may simply leave it to your society’s organising body or NARES to speak on your behalf.

When I used to serve on various reenactment committees I had a subscription to Hansard, the daily record of every word spoken in the UK parliamentary sessions.  On a daily basis I would search for keywords and read the surrounding discussions. I often wrote to my MP with views, questions and suggestions.

 But I have found a more user-friendly tool. If you subscribe to http://www.theyworkforyou.com you can automatically receive an e-mail when keywords are spoken, or you can follow your local MP to see what he/she said and how he/she has voted.

I currently have an alert for my MP and for the keywords “shotgun”, “firearm”, “sword”, “knife” and “explosive”.

It is also useful as a route to taking part in public enquiries.

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During the public consultation period before legislation relating to storage of gunpowder and other explosives was introduced I, as a registered powder store owner and Powder Officer for the UK Napoleonic Association was obviously very interested.

I received from the Home Office a consultation document of several hundred pages with the title: “Storage and Handling of Explosives”.

With a couple of hours in flight on a business trip I took the opportunity to peruse the document and make notes.

When arriving at our destination I found that the two passengers who had been seated next to me were headed for the same factory, so we shared a taxi.

En route, one of them asked me: “What was that you were reading on the ‘plane?”. I explained, and he said: “Thank God! We had decided that if you went to the toilet we would call a steward!”

I never even thought I might be considered a potential terrorist, but a lesson learned about how easily one’s activities can be misinterpreted.

A re-enactor remembers, No.1

In the English Civil War Society of the 1990s it was common for those of the female persuasion to take rôles as male musketeers.

After all, who wants to accompany their male partner, or travel on their own, several hundred miles to spend the weekend cooking or sewing while the blokes have all the real fun?

Our “regiment” had no problem with this. In my view, most of us were too old, too healthy and too fat. Where was the problem in being too female, provided that you made an effort not to be too feminine?

But, as a junior officer, there was one problem with commanding a company that could be, on some days, up to 70% female*. It has been documented that female mammals as a group in close company tend to synchronise their menstrual cycles as a semi-defensive mechanism against male attentions.

So, at some events, stentorian commands, such as “SHOULDER YOUR MUSKETS” had to be accompanied by submissive eye contact, indicating “Please?”. Thank God that the ladies never had bayonets! I hope and believe that I was able to quite accurately read the general mood for the general well-being of all.

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* When I was a corporal with 6 or 7 musketeers under command, I found that I frequently seemed to gather the same half-dozen ladies in my file. They called themselves “Paul’s Bang Gang”

A re-enactor’s remeniscence

Back in 2002, taking part in a living history display representing 1642 in the undercroft of the Banqueting House in Whitehall, Central London.

My rôle was hand-sewing linen sheets together, supposedly preparing tentage for the troops in the expected dispute between the King and the Parliament, but actually manufacturing an awning for my re-enactment officer’s tent.

Mid-afternoon I fell asleep, slumped forward on my stool.

I awoke to find a group of school-children clustered around me, and a hand-written cardboard notice: “This exhibit is currently out of order.”

 

 

 

 

Continue reading A re-enactor’s remeniscence

For Wargamers – forming square

For any wargamers who think that you can form a nice, neat square in one turn, this sequence of photographs show what actually happens when something like a half-battalion is approached by a troop of cuirassiers.

http://thomason-photography.net/Waterloo/CavalryAttack2015/

Note how the light company  and the Rifles decided to form their own defensive clumps because there simply was no time to safely reach home.

This then gave the rest of us a problem because there was a light company sized hole in the rear of our square!

Incidentally, talking to one of the spectators the next day, he told me that he watched this incident and said to his wife “Look at those chaps – they’re not going to make it.”, which was very much my own feeling (in the square) at the time.

Old Technology

Found in the attic

While digging out our advent tree from the attic I came across my old portable typewriter.

I bought this machine from Argos en route to a re-enactment event in the late 1980s or early 1990s, simply because I was the “Adjutant” for Sir Thomas Blackwell’s Regiment of the English Civil War Society at the time and the monthly newsletter was due the next week.

Photographs exist of me, dressed as a 17th century peasant, furiously typing away at the front of my tent on a Saturday evening in order to meet the copy deadline.

The following Monday evening would see me at our office photocopier running off 100 copies, followed by a late session folding, stapling and enveloping the results.

On Tuesday I would print the address labels and get stuff posted.

Aah, those were the days…

It’s a small world

Last Friday I visited my sister, who lost her husband on Tuesday 16th October, following an operation for aggressive bladder cancer.

Visiting my sister and going through some personal paperwork it transpired that the surgeon who tried to save her husband was the same man who successfully operated on me almost a year ago.   Clearly I survived my prostate cancer, but sadly Chris was more seriously afflicted and did not.  He was in the High Dependency Unit for some days before finally giving up.

A secondary “small world” connection was discovered   when going through Chris’s address book.  It turns out that an old friend of his in the folk music scene married a chap who was on the same organising committee as I was in a re-enactment society.

We have never been close in a personal sense, but it seems that we were in fact more closely linked than either of us knew.

 

Landscaping in two scales, and random thoughts

Inspired by spotting the last available item of steel racking on display in our local Homebase yesterday, I have ordered some “special offer” racking for the shed and for the lock-up in which all our camping stuff is stored.

I hope to better organise this stack of boxes housing my Kallistra terrain hexagons, and at the same time to get the tents and awnings off the sometimes damp floor of their storage facility.

Terrain production for the next Arnhem game proceeds with painting the last two railway hexagons.

While the paints were out and the railway sleepers drying I took the opportunity to paint a few bits of other wargaming projects: some 6mm MDF cavalry horses and the musket stocks of the US “Toy soldier” style infantry extracted from the box game of the American Civil War.

I have discovered that my bench in the shed is really not suitable for early Autumn morning painting.  The amount of sunlight is brilliant, but directly into my eyes! 

But while I have been painting the sun had dried the grass in the back garden so I had a go at mowing what is humorously referred to as a “lawn”.

The weed collection having been trimmed to an acceptable level I ventured out to the garden centre for some restorative grass seed for the bare patches.

One Kilo of grass seed and three bags of mixed soil and horse dung later, covered with a protective grid to keep dog and pigeons off, I could return to small scale landscaping.

(Sparky is not pleased with this new arrangement of his playground.)

While applying a steel metallic surface paint to the top of my model railway lines, and then applying the same to the ACW infantry barrels and bayonets I was reminded of an encounter some years ago at Kirby Hall (a multi-period reenactment event staged by English Heritage).  

 – Returning to the camp from our Napoleonic era display we encountered a Sealed Knot musketeer carrying a somewhat rusty matchlock musket of dubious safety.

– He asked us if our firelock barrels were “dummies”, made of aluminium.  We replied: “No, proper steel, proofed for shot, but clean.”

 – Our cleaning method was to scour the barrel, inside and out, using tools available in our chosen period, followed by an application of olive oil to lock, stock and barrel.  We learned the “olive oil” trick from some French re-enactors at a somewhat wet event on 30th August 1997.  (The date remains in memory because the Princess of Wales died the next morning and our weekend was spoiled.)  Returning to the subsidiary topic, an oil-soaked cloth in a small leather bag, used to wipe the metal parts of the weapon at the first sign of rain prevents rust and keeps the musket working in most weather conditions.  It works equally well for swords and pole-arms.

Before adding the newly-painted tiles to the wargame table I watched the film “Stalingrad” in the original German language, and it reminded me what a total shitty waste of lives real war is.  Reminders of H G Wells comments at the end of his book, “Little Wars”. 

Somehow the Germans are able to show the gritty reality in their anti-war films so much better than the English-speaking countries.  Maybe it is something to do with the comparative suffering of their countries?  The only film coming close to depicting the horrific reality of war that I have watched is the Russian “Come and See”, where the director even used live ammunition to enhance the reality!

And with all that in mind, this evening’s plan is to set up the townscape of Arnhem for yet another table top representation of historical futility.