Thank you all for reading this, I know I’ve been a little silent this past week. Been a little busy/tired/not motivated enough to write. I’ve decided that since I’m approaching heading back to uni, and the well of good material write is beginning to run low, I’m going to be posting once a week. I can pretend it’s so I can guarantee quality for you, the consumers, but it’s simply because I haven’t the inspiration write 2 entries a week, and the energy to write them well. These’ll be published every Friday from now on, and I may occasionally do 2 a week, but thought I’d let you know. Now onwards!
Now, this week’s title may seem somewhat peculiar to those not versed in the events of last weekend, or wordplay. I was at the Military Odyssey show in Kent (take a second to think it through…got it? Good!); one of the largest multi-period events in the country, now that English Heritage are no longer running Kelmarsh. There is, sadly, a predominant focus on WW2 – but I was surprised as to how much other stuff there was. From Ancient Greek, to Imperial Japanese, the Wild West, Saxon/Viking, us Napoleonics, some very smart looking Victorians, War of the Roses, Catalunian War of the Spanish Succession-era, American Civil War, and then of course World War 1 and 2. There were even some American Iraq-era troops there…which I wasn’t quite sure how to react to. A really diverse mix, and it was wonderful to be able to see how well researched so many of the impressions are. Personally, I think it’s far easier to start a 20th century impression, particularly WW2, as there are photos and it’s still in living memory – but talking to one of the founding members of one of the oldest American WW2 units in the country, it appears a substantial amount of legwork is still required actually sourcing specific items. I digress. The point is that this was a big multi-period, but that we were not the main focus – that being the tanks and other assorted vehicles.
I got a lift down with Ed, our CO, and we arrived as our unit’s advance party after a smooth run down the motorway. The 79th Cameron Highlanders and 42nd Black Watch were mostly encamped, so we began the task of marking our street, and the street for the Buffs (the 3rd East Kent, the last of the 4 units registered to be there for the Napoleonics) – my tent became the end of our line, and once that was up I began co-ordinating the erecting of the lean to, and the unloading of the van. This was helped along massively by the appearance of Ted (our newest recruit, sporting some lovely sideburns), and his children who he’d…’gently encouraged’ along. As more arrived, the business of setting up camp got along nicely, and by the early evening we were finished. The shopping run was organised, and once dinner had been imbibed we made a brief appearance at the bar to inspect the facilities. Good range of beers, and a nice space. We finished the evening around the campfire, having been given a healthy size pile of wood to burn.
The next day began, and we knew it was going to be warm. And it got warm quickly. But that was ok, I’d been round the fire since half 6 getting breakfast ready. Gotta say, volunteering for breakfast means I can’t go insane during the evening as I have to be up to get the fires going – quite a good control mechanism! Anyway, yes, doing breakfast I picked up my first burn of the weekend (a small one on my left arm caught on the fire tray) – but onwards. It began getting warm around 9…just as we started getting dressed. Now it became apparent that there were no French at the event, so I was aware of many people scuttling around trying to sort out the problem for our arena battle. It transpired that the solution was to invite a group portraying generic 18thC pirates to act as French resistance during Wellington’s invasion of France in 1814 (also it was suggested that we do Quiberon Bay, 1794!). Other than the battle, we didn’t have much to do Saturday, or Sunday, other than talk to the public…which there could’ve been more of. Because we weren’t the main attraction there weren’t many wandering by our camp, although there were some very interested people. It’s also lovely talking to reenactors of other periods who have come for a look, I try to at least go on a brief wander at some point at these events, because every era’s reenactors are different – and I find it amazing to see some of the stuff from different eras. Once we got to the evening, it was a lovely chicken dinner, and then onto the drinking! This involved another trek to the bar, this time I decided to go in Mexican kit (since I’d brought the jacket, and received my bonnet d’police on the Friday). A lovely evening, again, spent at the bar (I even met another Rory!) – although at this point I need to raise a discussion point.
There were many dressed in SS uniforms at the bar, and so I want to ask my readers what they think of those who reenact the SS/the Gestapo? In my opinion, it is important to demonstrate both sides of WW2 and so, while the “clean Wehrmacht” is a myth, I have less of a problem with those reenacting the other German Armed Forces. The SS, however, I would say are not ok to reenact. They did some horrible things, things which for some are still in living memory – and so I would argue that it is insensitive to recreate those who executed civilians and committed war crimes. The only exceptions I would make, are the SS Panzer divisions who verifiably did not commit any war crimes (such as the 9th, ‘Hohenstaufen’, who make it clear on their website that they picked that unit because they feel the SS need to be portrayed, and so picked one which was comparatively not as/not at all involved in the atrocities committed). What’re your thoughts?
Anyway, the Sunday was much the same. It was so hot it was hard to find the energy to do much – although talking to the public is always a good motivator! The battle was similar (us advancing onto a small fortification, and then charging once we began running out of rounds), although this time I was seconded to aid the general staff. I got to fire at a guy charging me with a pike! (Hey, it’s the little things! And my gun went off!). After the battle we went off behind some of the tents and had a little firing range with the Buffs. Gotta say, I’d forgotten how small the Baker rifle feels compared to a Bess. And it gives, comparatively, more of a recoil, I think. Interesting stuff. In the evening, we were invited to join the Catalunians (I’ve no idea why they’d come this far, but whatever they enjoy) – who were performing a ceremony, of some sort, as they mixed a lovely concoction (I think rum?) as we traded off songs. They were singing amazing ballads…we started with drinking songs. Although I have now learnt a new opener, courtesy of Ted:
Ribena Wild Rover for many’s a year!
I then went to visit my friends in Soskan (the Southern Skirmish Association, one of the 2 American Civil War reenactment societies in the UK), and I rounded off the evening there singing a mixture of folk and comedy songs into Monday morning.
I was up to cook breakfast, for the 3rd and final time, and managed my 3rd burn of the weekend – on my right index finger. Luckily that stopped hurting soon after. I also managed to inhale a mouthful of smoke through our fire pipe, but we’ll get to that! I was lucky enough to have been granted the honour of raising and lowering the flag at the weekend, and it was so uplifting to have finished the weekend and not screwed up the procedure once (bearing in mind I may or may not have broken the rope on it a few months ago…)! The battle was fun again, although this time I died! Some of the ‘French’ clearly didn’t want to go down and so dying seemed like a nice way to pass the time…
We also did a short drill demonstration a few hours after, although clearly the rest of the unit need to work on their 3 rounds a minute! I tried to get to 4 rounds, at the firing range, but was a good 10 seconds short. I will make it eventually! Once the time to pack up ticked round we cleared away extra speedily. Having packed most of my stuff away during the day, I was able to take over my dad’s role of dealing with the fires – before loading the van as well. Feels good being this productive!
It was when I got home that the final chapter in this saga (apologies for the ramble!) reared its head. I had begun to develop a sore throat, cough, and headache on the way home – so thought that I should call NHS 111, having breathed in. Well, halfway through dinner I was ordered to go to A&E…at 10.30pm…with my entire family out…on a Bank Holiday Monday. Thankfully an old friend came to the rescue, and after waiting just over 2.5 hours was cleared – my O2 sats were fine, and my blood came back as clear. Thanks to all those who wished me well! When I finally got back home at 2.15am Tuesday morning, bed was all I needed!
And that’s the end of my Bank Holiday weekend adventure! Sorry it went on a little longer than normal, but if you’ve persevered this far then well done!
Photo by Alan Balding