Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Rainstill park

Painshill! in Cobham, Surrey, was once again to be a venue for a bank holiday shindig. Being a bank holiday it would be rain and shine.  I arrived with John Flapjaques about four-thirty and many folk were already there and set up and the beer was on the go. A chap called Sam Reid was with us to research his next book 'The Daughter of the regiment' and he was soon well enough at home, hopefully the 45eme will get a cameo in his story.

Senting up my little camp I elected to be our piquet against any incursions from the 60th rifles in their bivouac/palisade just across the way.  I would pay them several friendly visits, the traditional bon accord between piquets.. except one where I threatened to shoot them for being half asleep under canvas whilst the 'sentry' had wondered off to get something from the car.

Next morning after breakfast I took a stroll around the area and found some sites I missed last time like this mock-ruin down by the lake, still in the morning shadows.

At about ten was some drill, including a bit of individual instruction, just to see if people get basic orders without being able to copy their neighbour.  At the end of the drill we formed up with the British for a minutes silence, one of our long standing members, Barry, had recently passed away, and we remembered him as we always will.

Then came the first battle (two were planned each day) with us starting on top of a slope down to the road. Which would become a French victory.
Marching up for the second battle I noticed a big wet patch around the pan on my musket, spillage? unlucky splop of rain water? and I worried it might not fire well if powder immediately turned to gunk.. I then had the honour of being sent out with Rob to skirmish at the head of the army, great! unless I couldn't get a shot off in front of everyone, in which case awful.  Bang! Henriette was fine and I was relieved and enjoyed popping off half a dozen rounds at the rifles and redcoats emerging from the trees, then fell back to the ranks.

             Please note that all the battle pictures in this post are by the excellent Alan Balding.

                                En avant! Drive off the few surviving rifles from the crest of the hill.

                                Will Squeaky re-load before that Scotsman with the sword gets him?
                                     Second skirmish, me being bundled to death in the centre.

 Another evening under the awning, bit reduced in numbers, cooked myself a red onion flomlette (flour and water) and some Crabbe's ginger ale, Mr Crabbe himself was around in the 1800s sourcing ingredients from around the world to make new drinks, apparently including ginger beer. So there.
 The rain had come now and the Riflemen in the piquet decided the flood warnings were not a good sign and we bid them adieu.

I got to sleep quite well and awoke to the sound of rain on the canvas cover a couple of times, but then dawn was upon us and someone was asking if I wanted a coffee. Yes I would, I have really come to like black coffee in camp although I don't drink it anywhere else.

Another glorious morning.

  With the prospect of a day of rain Duncan went off to see if the plans had changed and sure enough there would be no morning drill and probably only one battle instead of two, depending on visitors, if people were here there would be but as ten o'clock came and went only a couple of brave souls with umbrellas had ventured out. It was pleasant just sitting under the awning and passing the time.

Come one o'clock more folk had appeared and the second battle from yesterday was re-fought, which meant a British victory. The rain actually stopped about ten minutes before hand. Everyone was still worried about whether the rain would cause misfires and there were whole vollies where the 'fire!' order was met with a dozen miserable 'Clicks'. No fire at all.  In one exchange about four Riflemen were killed by only two muskets going off. That's good shooting.

 The Birthday biscuit. A year ago to the day Sergeant Gower traded me a biscuit for a bit of cake, this is a bit of that biscuit, still entirely edible and possibly more so with damp conditions to soften it up.

                                       These people declined my biscuits. Poor biscuits.

The battle being wrapped up and weather seemingly on the mend another battle might have been on the cards but no, more rain was forecaste and we were told we could pack up once the public had dissipated from the battle area. One of the organisers came to thank us for coming and that they were pleased. At first we had worried that far fewer reenactors had turned up than promised, due to other events on that weekend and what was coined 'Waterloo fatigue'.. people who did the run up to, and battle of, Waterloo then decided they were done for the year. Coming back next year was spoken of so they must have been happy, though perhaps on another date as it always rains on the bank holiday.

Packing away the wet awning and tents was not a pleasant prospect but everyone pitched in and the camp began to disappear, leaving brighter green patchs here and there. Goodbyes were said and next meet ups mentioned but it felt like the year was closing.. still not done quite yet! 

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