Thursday, 27 June 2013

Authenticity II.

See this unsuspecting linen fellow, he is a breadbag. Some people want him ERADICATED.
Mr Breadbag is a not an uncommon sight in Napoleonic reenactment. I bought one as an early piece of kit as they are cheap and seem rather handy. To a newbie it seemed a useful thing to get when perusing reeneactment supplies. My breadbag is for food or my leather notebook or knife what my canteen is for water, easily accessible on or off the battlefield.

Recently I became enbroiled in a debate about how authentic they are, one corner saying they were NEVER issued to French soldiers and not official kit, the other, like me, saying they did get used by other armies and civilians and were very useful so a soldier would have picked one up. Yes, French soldiers had a leather backpack but would you as a person want to carry it everywhere and struggle to remove it amid rolled blackets and cartridge boxes everytime you wanted to get something?   I bet if you stopped a soldier on the road he would be festooned with Non-issued items, although that dosn't mean he will have them on parade.

It mutated into a clash between parade ground mentality and the campaign look, with the main breadbag hater claiming everyone should have identical kit down to the last button and back then a soldier would have been seriously reprimanded for turning up on parade not in issued kit. Yes I am sure he would. But we as reenactors are not issued identical kit, many can't afford to buy all the kit (except over time, I kept making this point) and some even enjoy having a little personal touch here and there. One guy has a stuffed partidge hanging off his backpack, looks good but is obviously a campaign thing, a bit of forage, but authentic forage never the less. Nor do we march 30 miles a day, get screamed at by Sergeants, steal food off the locals and sleep in a field in the rain at the end of it.. generally.

We build a camp with tents and cooking fires, this suggests life on campaign, and whilst we recreate the lives of Soldiers.. we are not under military discipline and are here because we consent to be and enjoy the hobby and love the history, history that we take seriously.

A breadbag with half a loaf in it also doubles as quite a good pillow, with a greatcoat for a blanket.

I spoke about authenticity earlier and those points still apply. Also about how we always want more recruits to fill the ranks and arguments like the one above would have quite put me off if I thought I was going to be balled out for not turning up with a full and correct head of shako furniture on day one. Everyone makes the most of what they have, no one turns up for drill in a baseball cap.

But each to there own, a friend of mine who runs an Anglo-Saxon group says that in reenactment you 'Get out what you put in'  and there is so much enthusiasm about that people are not purposefully tardy. I am proud that my unit embraces the campaign look and if you want to be involved in more of a parade ground reenactment then their are units out there that will cater for you.

Vive l"Emporeur! Vive L'Breadbag!

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