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.

The best laid plans – A trip “oop north”

On the Sunday and Monday of the English public holiday weekend (25th-27th August) the English Civil War Society mounted a battle display at Hylton Castle, Sunderland.
Since the camp site was available from Thursday 23rd to Wednesday 29th we decided to make it a holiday and see the sights. After all, the weather was wonderful and it is an area we have not previously explored.
And so we planned to set off from Hampshire early on Thursday 23rd and make a leisurely progress northwards, returning in the same way on Wednesday 29th.

Wednesday 22nd
Alas, Chrissy’s first day of holiday, planned for packing and preparation of the caravan, was annulled due to a subordinate’s illness, requiring her to go to the office to run the monthly payroll. Naturally, being in the office meant that she made herself available for every other work assignment and packing did not happen as planned.

Thursday 23rd
We packed the caravan and started off around two hours later than planned. All went well until we stopped for what passes for a meal at a motorway service area near Nottingham. Returning to the car we found one tyre flat.
We used the HGV facilities to pump it up and stopped at every second or third petrol station over the next 150 miles to check the tyre, which held up.
Arriving about three hours later than planned, we found that the campsite water supply had not yet been provided. An empty bowser was parked around 500m from the camp site. Plans were in hand to get it filled. The contract with the council was for a mains supply with three taps, but it was clearly lost in translation.
Our friends had saved us some “Spag-Bol” for dinner, after which we fought the caravan awning in the high westerly wind until it was erected. Then we returned to the water point for our supply, connected the barrels to the caravan and fell into bed, exhausted.

Friday 24th
As expected, the car tyre was flat again. We summoned the AA via their mobile phone app. About an hour later the mechanic called to say he was 200 yards away and needed talking into our temporary campsite. The app showed he was around 20 miles away at the time!
After we described the problem, he re-inflated the tyre and sent us off to Kwik-Fit tyre services around 15 minutes away. They found two small cuts in the tyre, either side of a previous repair. The tyre had to be scrapped. Unfortunately Kwik-Fit could only source a replacement about a week later and at a cost of around £200.
They sent us across the road where another garage was able to source a tyre immediately and fit it within 90 minutes at little over half the cost.
So with half the day wasted we did some shopping and returned to camp.

Saturday 25th
We made a trip north across the Tyne to a couple of camping shops in a vain attempt to source better and/or additional camping equipment, after which we stopped off for fish and chips (and a sausage for the dog) at the seaside.
Returning to camp we were told that our horses had arrived at the battle site four miles away.
Four of us drove to the site to find this was a false alarm, but also that an inadequate area had been fenced off for the horses, and we had to re-arrange and extend the 6ft x 6ft metal fence panels, before setting up an electric fence to keep the horses from different stables separated.
No water supply had been provided for the horses, so alternative arrangements were put in place involving ferrying 25 litre containers from the nearest tap around 500m away. This continued throughout the weekend.

Sunday 26th
Our caravan battery was registering low voltage, so I fired up the petrol generator (brought “just in case”) to top it up.
I played and supervised a few wargames played with my game designed to keep the kids amused, but which has grabbed the attention of some of the adults in our group. I lost at three of the four games I played.

The re-enactment battle started at 2:30 pm, and despite the driving rain proved to be a cracker from the cavalry point of view. The enemy cavalry, some of whom were drawn from a Scottish display team “Riders of the Storm”, were highly interactive and a good time was had by all. Our sponsors, Sunderland town council, were delighted.
After the battle, returning to camp we found that our caravan was without power, the newly charged battery now registering 0v. I installed the spare battery and all seemed well – so far.
In the evening a ceilidh band played at the beer tent until late.

Monday 27th
Off with the dead battery to Halfords, where we bought a solar panel charger for the caravan, and eventually had the dead battery checked, only to find it was registering a full charge.
Back to camp to get into C17th clothes for a cavalry drill and skill at arms display, for which I was providing the commentary. Not only did I have little clue about the planned display sequence but parts of it were carried out behind, from my commentator’s viewpoint, a large bush. It all went reasonably well, considering.
The afternoon battle was even better than Sunday’s version. Our biggest problem was crowd management. Thousands turned up and overflowed the designated viewing area.
Returning to camp some of our number had to depart for home almost immediately. Others prepared for an early departure on Tuesday, and then we sat and chatted around the camp fire.

Tuesday 28th
We awoke to reports of several thefts around the campsite. Our group’s gas range, a mountain bike, the beer pumps from the beer tent, and several other items had been taken. The police were called.
All except us from our group packed and left during the morning. We prepared to spend the afternoon at Beamish museum. Then we found that due to mis-communication most of the facilities had been or were being removed from site, and so with this and the security issues (our caravan now standing alone near the far edge of the field) we decided to go home.
So our leisurely drive home on Wednesday turned into an 8 hour slog home on Tuesday, arriving home around 10:30 pm. We transferred the food from the fridge and collapsed into bed.

Wednesday 29th
A day spent unloading, cleaning and preparing the caravan for our next trip to Blenheim Palace Horse Trials in a couple of weeks, where we will have real 240v electricity instead of gas and batteries.

We never really got to see the sights, but despite wind and rain and our technical issues we had a good break with good friends. Roll on next summer.

A new project

As if I needed anything else in my wargaming life I have decided to create a game for the younger members of my ECWS cavalry regiment.

We have a couple of 8 year old potential troopers, currently very able at fetching and carrying, horse “poo-picking” and firewood cutting.

I am trying to make a table-top game that will involve them and keep them from their other nefarious activities.  At our last event I was able to pick up 4 boxes of Revell Thirty Years War plastic soldiers (2 infantry, 1 cavalry, 1 artillery) for £5 (originally £4 but the stall owner had no change).

More to follow as it progresses in time for the August Bank Hoiday.

 

Preparations for Waterloo 200

At Waterloo in June 2015 I will be portraying a major of the 1st Foot (Royal Scots).

I have been working on the bicorne hat which I purchased on Ebay, and have achieved this:

A British staff officer's bicorne of 1815.
A British staff officer’s bicorne of 1815.

But apart from the Waterloo event in 2005 when temperatures reached 38c (100f), every reenactment I have done in Belgium has been wet and muddy, so I have made a cover to protect the glorious appearance of the headgear.

Suitable for Belgium?
Suitable for Belgium?

I searched the internet and every reference book I own for a pattern for the waterproof cover to no avail, so finally had to design my own. I find it amazing that although there are so many references to covers for headgear in this period there is little evidence as to how they were constructed.