Monday, 28 July 2014

War Stories.

Whereever reenactors may gather, and especially if the drink is flowing, which it usually is after the days soldierly work is done (and the public gone home) tales of former events will undoubtably be voiced and often shared memories be called upon.. 'You were there weren't you Bob? at Eaton-on-the-wold in 2003 when Brian Gaskit got blown up in a hot air balloon and landed in a porta-loo?' 
such are the epic tales told round the fire, the war stories.

One from the weekend (as I recollect it) was the French commander at a Waterloo event who marched a brigade out in the rain and had to stop and wait, a practice (in theory at least) at the time was for muskets to be laid down so that they might get less wet.. this was done but they were not quite in a straight line so that the commander demanded it be done again, during which time the enemy were advancing closer and closer and someone had to point this out.. leading to panic-ed orders and a hasty volley.. naturally now ineffective after having had the muskets lying on the wet ground. D'oh! I don't think anyone knew who this commander was but evidently he could afford the uniform and the horse so..

The troops at Marengo (?) who were struggling up a mountain path in the Italian sun only to be overtaken by an artillery crew (on foot) pushing and pulling their cannon up the mountain side.. and arriving at the top before anyone else. Men of steel!

A slightly less amusing tale was of the soldier in a regiment who kept loading and firing and having a flash in the pan.. without noticing and continuing to load until he had six rounds rammed down the barrel! it was fortunate indeed that the battle came to a close or someone noticed because if the gun had fired the barrel would most likely have exploded like a pipe bomb. I asked what happened to the guy and he apparently left the unit (but joined another British one).. I wonder how voluntary that leaving was. This story was told to be by a young chap whose father and grandfather were also both in the regiment.. makes me wonder if in fifty years what the record for this will be, and the stories passed down the generations.

Then the legend of one of our guys who after a fair amount of booze went to sleep in his tent but with his head sticking out the end, in the night it started to rain and noticing this he promptly got up to put his head inside the tent.. by lying down with his body on the outside and just his head inside, and went fastly back to sleep.  The same guy who fell asleep by a campfire and woke up to the smell of burning only to find his shoes (on his feet) were on fire, and desperately had to beg, borrow or steal some more for the following day as the ground was covered in snow.

Like real war stories they are both inspiring and make you want to collect stories of your own. Looking passed Waterloo200 there are battlefields of Europe I'd like to visit/fight on.. Aspern-Essling or Austerlitz for instance, which is often fought in the snow as the battle was in December in the Czech republik (as it is now) and of course everyone seems to have stories about Waterloos past, like the bemused locals of Placenoit who found the skirmishers spilling into the village and fighting in the village streets and came out to offer them drinks.. I wish I could have been there for 2005 as there is so much rumbling about next years bicentennial being a commercial excercise that quite a few folk seem to have lost most of their enthusiasm for it, but I still hope to go and be pleasantly surprised.. and in 2025 be sitting at a campfire telling some new recruits about 'ole '15.

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