Monday, 17 October 2016

Prussia falls!

Last event of the year. Jena, Germany, 210 years since the battles of Jena and Auerstadt! A battle that I didn't know that much about before heading up on it for this outing, and it all started with a car to the coach to the ferry and more coach with an airing of 'Pride and prejudice and zombies'. We arrived at five o'clock on a very cold, dark morning. The sun would soon rise over the great rolling landscape of Thuringia though.

This was my first 'early' event and we all swapped our shakos for bicornes, although mine was a bit of a sad old civilian style, I signed up late for Jena! I also decided on the stripey trousers to add to the effect although 1806 was already far from the days of the ragged armies of Italy... but which way to wear it? Sidelong? fore and aft? a jaunty angel?  I went for jaunty, partly as the back peak kept being knocked by my rolled up blanket when straight and the left side got knocked by shouldering the musket if straight across. you can't beat jaunty.

One of my favourite bits was that morning, just taking a walk with two of the other guys up to the long ridge, now lined by small trees and plaques bearing statements by Europeans about the mistakes of the past and hopes for the future, and the odd battle memorial. From the ridge you get a fantastic view of where the French would have come across from the south and south-east, including the Dornburg hill and Trafenburg, both of which are less pronounced than they appear in contemporary pictures. There is a windmill at one end of the ridge which was rebuilt by locals to replace the original a few years ago and makes a great reference point.

Having strolled into Vierzehnheiligen and having a bit of spare time I grabbed my sack and thought to look at how far it was to Isserstadt where there were supplies (the coach had been unable to stop for any, although there were apples everywhere!). No sign of it on the horizon, but I kept going. Soon after a car pulled up and (presumably) asked where I was going.. I explained and was told to hop in! Dropped off outside the shop I offered my thanks but was quietly concerned at how far away I might be from camp. However the walk back proved fairly straight forward, the church tower being visible from half way back and then being given another lift. German people always seem so helpful.

Later on it was wondered if there would be enough food for a dinner and lunch.. which made me ponder the French army of the day where food was theoretically provided from above.. but a soldier that couldn't secure food for themselves was likely to risk going hungry. I can think of at least one soldat who would have probably died without being fed and watered by his superiors!

We were meant to be marching out to the battlefield at Cospeda and doing an hour and a half of brigade drill before some food and then the hour and a half battle. In reality by the time we had done a pleasant(ish) route March there it was getting late and we went straight into the sausage-bread-beer lunch. It's funny that some events say no drink! whilst here they give it away, sure it is only one but it took so long to dish out the provisions I'm sure a few seconds were sneaked in.
Things went from askew to farcical in the next half hour as our brigade commander (whom I'd mentioned in a previous post for marching us up and down in specific and theoretical ways.) maneuvered us about. We literally marched down and back up and across the hill and waited (along with the audience) to get engaged as the cannons to our front fired across the gentle valley. There had been a rumour that not all units were going to get to do much.

Finally we were on the march, closing with the enemy. A white coated Saxon battalion just ahead and across to our right presented themselves. We stood around a bit. Any of Napoleon's firebrands or any wargamer would have seen the picture and pushed us into the convenient gap in the line to start volley fire but it seemed to take some hints from the lesser mortals before this happened. Much better, we were firing vollies, niggles are forgotten when the shooting starts!   Some pretty fireworks went off and further up the field a startled deer was seen streaking across the field. Cannons were roaring at us from across the field.

Sadly the deer was not the only animal to be startled as a rider came off their horse and was injured just behind the Prussian line and an emergency vehicle rolled on to see to them. On the right a great cheer and rush went forward as the Prussian line gave and the French there went forward but on our part the troops surrendered with more of a sigh than a scream. That was it then. Historically we'd be pleased at our marginal involvement. Indeed there were few visible casualties, I had been told at a previous event everyone had been given a number and if it was called you died! good way of imposing a sense of fate on participants, will I get through this one or fall at the first volley?

So we we're marching back to camp, by a quicker route than we came in on, and there were plenty of people there until we got onto a track across the fields, marching at a keener rate than the poor motorists trying to get out along the country roads.

Second night was mild compared to the first, when I had armoured myself against the frost with long coat and hat on and double blankets and a (faux) furry shawl/poncho thing and it all worked very well. I think this would keep off all but a Russian winter, which is good to know. The straw is also a help but UK events don't have it.

For breakfast I cooked some butternut squash, I wasn't sure how peeling and halving it before spitting it on a bayonet was going to turn out, I feared it was going to be black on the outside and uncooked in the middle but on peeling away the skin of black it was lovely and well cooked, will make it a regular provision next year, is quite hardy too.  My bottle of Barwurz 'Traditional Bavarian root schnaps' was spurned by all. Poor Barwurz.

Sunday was a day of rest, there was a formal ceremony at the church in Vierzehnheiligen but due to space only a few regiments were in attendance, a few of us went to watch though. Amidst the dignitaries and generals, including the Emperor, there were quite a crowd of locals turning out, it was all very respectful yet friendly.

I wasn't sure what to do with the rest of the day (packing up about half three) and wandered back up to sit under a tree on the Europaweg and have a drink and look out over the landscape, occasionally passed by a strolling silver haired couple hand in hand or little groups of cyclists or horse riders, many of whom said hello. It was lovely, though I suddenly felt a bit maudlin about the whole Europe thing, so went to find cake. There must be cake.

All in all it was a good weekend, glad I signed up for it, and just being there was a top draw. The disorganisation around the battle and not really feeling like we did much on the field were a little bit of a down side.
I also felt mildly embarrassed that as there were no official duties on the Sunday the public were wandering through an 'Historical camp' heavy with plastic beer crates and bin bags and a motley mix of fully dressed grenadiers sitting next to blokes in t-shirts and combat trousers. I fully appreciate some folk had to get away early but with a lot of public around at lunchtime maybe ask units to stay in kit until one o'clock at least but over all a good time was had and saw the season draw to a suitable close.

Possibilities are already a foot for 2017, Marengo in Italy has been whispered about even though I"m not aware of an organisation going on for the event.. I've booked time off for Brettan (Landskneckt fest) and James and I are keen to do at least one campaign event in France. In the mean time like minded Generals of little men are keen to get together for some war games over the winter. So if you'd excuse me I have some Hungarians to paint.


Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Pack life

"Somewhere in this rural French landscape, seemingly devoid of any living souls but ourselves, was a force of British and allied soldiers, marching into fair France after the rumoured defeat of the Emperor at some obscure place in Belgium..'
'I lifted the peak of my shako to ease the pressure on my forehead and a little drop of sweat escaped to slip down passed my eye, the sun was still an orange ball above the long clumps of trees on the horizon that were themselves shrouded in a hazy morning mist.
A jangling sound came from my right, at an opening in the trees and we paused and watched as mounted gunners appeared on two horses pulling a cannon and limber out of the shadows, which passed by the line of strung out soldiers who marched east with muskets slung or shouldered as each man pleased. Somewhere amidst the forests and farmland was the enemy..'

Frequieres 1815, sorry, 2016. 

Seventeen hours hours earlier at London Road station, Brighton.. all packed, approved foods correctly weighed and packed in brown paper and string, drink in suitable bottles, fifty cartridges rolled, blanket in pack with jacket rolled up on top, lighter material shirt and waistcoat selected, it was hot here and apparently hotter there. 

Getting there was two trains to a meeting point where Caporal James, soldat Rene and soldat Darren would gather and drive to the channel tunnel and under the sea, then an hour and a half, hopefully, to Frequieres. Which more or less happened.
The site did have some tents, which had been allowed, I suspect, to attract a wider range and one group had several camp followers not on the field/march so probably refused to come if the had to spend so much time in an empty field, it wasn't entirely empty, there was a rope to keep the herd of cows on their side, and a hastily knocked up latrine including a box with a hole in the top behind a blanket and a hole underneath. Which again was more than I expected.
A few mugs of wine were had as we met our comrades for the weekend, the Caporal called a curfew and then it was to sleep on a bed of straw with a hessian sheet pulled over it, the four of us all top and tail like sardines. The three guys next to us simply lay on the straw bundle, and occasionally snored.

Up for black coffee, bread and cheese and off, down a long lane and out into the fields, it was a marvelous sight to see the French countryside in the morning light, and think of the day a head. We marched in two sections in a strung out line until we came to a wood overlooking an open expanse where the British might come from, we hoved into the woods, spread about ten feet apart to watch the open ground, I half expected to see figures emerge from the mist. I couldn't see most of our own troops, even a blue and white uniform can disappear in the woods. I was glad they had no riflemen, you never really appreciate their camouflage potential at a normal event because its open and short distances, rifles here really would be like commandos. 

After a while no one appeared and we set off along the next woodline, mostly avoiding open spaces, I put a bit of cut straw in my mouth as I had heard it kept your mouth shut and moist, troops marching into Russia had been ordered to do it to help with the dry dust that was kicked up. I think it worked to a degree, if you don't mind looking like a yokel.

Then into a wood of small but close-to trees. I volunteered to go forward with Caporal Karl, trying to move quietly, the enemy could be close. walk, stop, look, pause, Ssshh! walk, look... Karl stared out, someone was moving down to the left! it was our own artillery set up on treeline. No contact. I was to tell the Captaine.
unfortunately he was in another wood with deuxieme section, across an open, ploughed, sunlit field. I couldn't just stroll across with the enemy close by.. a run.. message given I tried to understand, with the help of a map and a droite, a gauche and le rue.. where he wanted us to go.. just had to run back across.. pwerffff.. this was the only point I felt a bit sick, everyone was sweating gently under all there kit, but this was a real burst of energy and needed water and a brief collapse to get over once message was delivered. My hands were also quite scratched by getting through tangled vines.
Basically we didn't find anyone before lunch was called, a strange horseless wagon appeared bearing water and bread and boiled eggs for the other unit.. and they weren't even wrapped in brown paper! 

The British were missing.  We headed back the way we came, up a road to the open ground, and then contact! Three Hussars were seen out in the fields crossing from right to left. They didn't see us but a few minutes later and they might have. We expected them to be, like out own cavalry scout, the eyes and ears of the advance, but no infantry appeared behind them.  We marched along a vague path and unto a road where Rene and I had to watch out for the expected Brits, soon we resorted to eye spy instead.

Around another wood three of us were sent up to look across open ground with a stretch of dead ground before the opposite trees, James went forward to a clump of tall yellow grass around a post, he gestured he could see something. I joined him. There were three men, could I see? No, frankly, I don't wear my glasses at events often because you have no cause to see far, this weekend was proving different. Apparently these men in the dead ground were very tall and getting closer.. ? aaah, they are on horses. RUN.

Even as we hurried back with the warning our cannon up on a ridge fired, Highland infantry were coming the other way. The battle of the hay stacks had begun!  We worked in pairs, two to a haystack, then formed up to drive them off.. in a rock, paper, scissors kind of way skirmishers have to fall back from an advancing line.. they retreated but now the cavalry were coming.. I urged us into the trees as cavalry beats troops in open but sadly not everyone knew that so we stood in a formed block.. the hussar who came forward played the part excellently and said he would accept our surrender.. not everyone had read the rules of engagement and we threatened to shoot him instead.
The weather had made the muskets warm and after some firing they were notably hot, I put Henriette back up on my shoulder at one point and promptly burnt my ear!
Then we fell back to the trees, I had to help prop the soldier besides me up as we struggled for the treeline. Soon we were fighting the Highlanders in the trees, never really fought as a skirmisher in a wood before, it was great. 
Then they captured Karl. I suggested we form up and drive them off, en avant, en avant! but they did not flee.. instead the Scotsmen from Belgium traded whisky for brandy with the Frenchmen from England. Fratenisation had broken out and soon spread to the rest of the field. It turned out that the reason we had not bumped into the British sooner was they had been travelling as a small group and gone off the beaten track more.. because a third of them had become casualties from the heat and exertion even before mid morning, one chap collapsing after an hour.

The day was done, except the march back to camp, no one had any water left. Then there was a wrong turn, how much had we gone astray? fortunately not too far or plenty of us would have just demanded crashing out there and then for a bit. When we got as far as the water point the four of us 45emers just filled our mugs, ditched packs and lay on the grass in the shade. oh luxury and comfort, I couldn't stop smiling, even laughing quietly at the simple joy of it. 

     Original campaign picture by Albrecht Adam, but pretty much like some of the guys in our field.

We all pitched in meat and vegetables from our rations to help make a cassoulet (haricot beans left to soak yesterday) and we ate with a bunch of others and had a modest drop of brandy. Another difference between campaign and usual events is soldiers probably didn't stay up late drinking and singing because they were probably knackered and hadn't been able to carry four bottles of Speckled hen across the land only to drink them all at once, and repeat next day. 

Sunday, day of rest.. not, but it seemed all parties knew the extended marching of the day before was not going to be repeated and the event ended earlier to let people get off home. We followed the same path with the sun slightly higher in the sky and came to a wood. Someone went a head a little and said the British were in there just about to leave 'camp'. Premiere section (us) was sent off through the woods in a wide circle to come round near the road through it, Deuxieme section were to wait and attack. Soon musket fire banged off and we quickened our step, timing it perfectly to take up position in the shadows of the woods and watch the Scots withdrawing from the fight. We were loaded and ready as they came by, oblivious to their peril. Fire!

It was a magnificent moment, already withdrawing this ambush just sent them into full headlong retreat, joined by the Hussars. 
We regrouped and followed the way they had fled,  and about half an hour later exchanged skirmish fire across a valley and they disappeared beyond the low rise. Problem was if we chased further and further that way we would be late getting back at the end. So we went off back towards the end point, and waited a while, us in a second line behind hey bales.
We fell back and scrabbled up a short, steep path that moments later our cavalry scout climbed up with ease much to our surprise (and relief), this Chasseur a cheval had a marvelous horse who had been in plenty of action, he could even fire his carbine from horseback without it being too bothered. 
The last clash came when the British (spotted by said Chasseur) emerged and came up the path and were met by our fire, eventually catching them between two groups but then we were called off and marching away.

I had a small mutiny here when it was pointed out by the Captain (translated by Soldat Rene) that I should have waited three paces before joining in a 'route marche'. It is not something we have done in the 45eme, not a thing at usual events, and my French is poor but I found myself saying some very rude words in English probably loud enough for him to hear and get the gist of. It wasn't really about this though but him being non-receptive and even blanking me at one point at the table. It just came out! 

One more march and we were suddenly at a place with some of those building things, a last few instructions and clearing of muskets and we all joined together, all participants in a few drinks of Breton cidre and cheese and peaches and pate and bread. I didn't eat that much as I'd been nibbling a carrot and picking blackberries. I had met some lovely folk that weekend and now chatted with the British hussars, their chief being from Denmark, and an excellent fellow I commended on his charge. 

After saying our goodbyes we set off into the village.. and soon became lost.. with hardly anyone about. James flagged down a motorist and he gave him a lift down the road on recce, but came back without success, so went a second time. Darren and I waited at the other end of Frequieres by a closed garage we recognised and got regularly honked and waved at, time was running short for the tunnel crossing.. eventually the man returned and dropped us two off at camp, we could have been there hours without him!  Some hours later we were back in the UK and all on our final legs. 

It had been an experience, so different from the usual battles in a flat field where you march on, fight back and forth for half an hour and then one side loses and its a three minute march in formation back to camp. Most people also lost various detritus of war, a pom pom, half a set of chin scales, a bag of flints and wormer, brush and pricker, several buttons.. something falls off in the woods and you don't notice.. it's gone. 
I ended the day in the bath, counting insect bites but glad I hadn't picked up any ticks!  It had been an adventure and one our little band of 'brothers' were all keen to repeat another time.  

Marche on!  

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Tanks for the memories.

Back to Bovington for 'Warfare through the ages'.

 Kicking off with a train cancellation, nevermind, only one change and 30 minutes added to the plan... detraining at Wool at about eight thirty and then just a couple of miles to camp.
Shock and consternation of the evening was..  NO BEER TENT.. however as proper troopers we all pitched in and supplied more than enough between us even if it was a mix of brandy, rum, beer, wine and Napier's gun oil. We had a sing song but why was everyone else so quiet?  Next day we had a complaint about the evening and again when we got up.  45eme, last ones to bed and the first ones out of it! 

I was on sentry duty when the event opened at the side entrance, I quite enjoy this, it's difficult to go wrong! People seldom stand and ponder the world going by without looking at a phone or searching for pokemon but sentry duty feels like your doing something whilst.. not really doing something.. just keeping your eye on things and nodding good morning.

Our first official group activity of the day was the parade and we formed up at one in full kit and marched over in the sun to be told we were early, despite what our paperwork said. no matter. All the groups marched through the arena and we learnt that the English civil war started because Oliver Cromwell really, really didn't like Charles I being King. Wow. No one knew that, it was even a new one on the English civil war reenactors. Also the British, just the British, won the battle of Waterloo.. oh and here come the vanquished French! (and neither us nor the British were in Waterloo campaign kit). Who writes this stuff?

The first days battle saw the French with the artillery on the redoubt behind us and a few cavalry repel the British advance, they came forward, led by the 60th rifles, and were stopped at a breastwork and trench that we went forward to secure, driving them out.  It was fun leaping into the trench and scrambling up the other side.
The co-operation between us and the cavalry was really good, getting them to charge and force the men into square (Huddle) whilst we marched on them and opened fire. I actually got to fire off all my rounds.

I like multi-period events, always something more to see, and talk about.. the American civil war guys provoke conversation on 'Whose side are you on?'  I certainly lean towards the Union and everytime someone in the group shouted 'Vive L'Confederacy!'  I kept sturm and waited for the Union guys to come by and shouted for them instead. I've heard of ACW guys who carry on like the war isn't over yet! They seldom seem to mix in the bar.

Speaking of bars, there was one on the Saturday but it was sadly a mediocre affair of Fosters/John Smiths and strongbow which seldom got busy unlike last year when it was the social hub of the event.
Still that night at camp there was an outbreak of spontaneous morris dancing that will not be forgotten in a hurry. We won't let the newly re-named 'Maurice' forget.

On Sunday after the parade I got to try out my game of Gluckhaus that I'd made after Bretten, and it seemed to go down quite well despite it's game of chance simplicity. In the first game I was 'The house' instead of playing and when someone throws a total of four on two dice the house/landlord gets the coin, I never thought it would add up to much but I can see how a soldier running the game could pocket a fair bit without being out of purse, the house always wins! Although I believe it was John and then Tasha that cleared the table. 

Second battle and we had a bad feeling about this.. the cavalry were on the British side today and we began firing from the palisades, one of us got slightly deafened, you can forget that there is a cone of percusion/noise that goes outwards from the musket.. in ranks you don't notice but folk were twisting sideways to fire or being behind others. The blast from my own musket certainly varied as I had ended up with a mix of big and little cartridges from a PFfffft to a WHhuMp!
There was some confusion as we fell back, must form on the drummer! but it is easy to think 'I was next to Jim and stand by him only to find out that Jim is already in the wrong place.. or half the unit is reforming five feet from the other half.

We then got attacked by the cavalry, and intermittently shot at.. time to die with a scream!  Then lying on the ground I realised the cavalry were coming back round to attack, would they see me in time?  I shouted 'Man on the ground' but one of my comrades did the same and they galloped passed, still a new experience seeing horses pound by from between the grass stalks.

The weather had been lovely, bar a bit of overnight light rain, and some of us went for a last beer (even if it was Fosters) before the close of play and stowing of the camp, and folk talking of when and where they will be seeing each other next.
For a few of us it is the campaign weekend in France in a fortnight, must put some string and brown paper on the shopping list...

Vive L'45th!

Monday, 18 July 2016

Sandwich filling.

Sandwich medieval fayre was a two day event but I was only going up on Saturday evening for the second day. This would be my first proper medieval War of the roses type show and more of a reenactment event like the Napoleonic ones, with a living history camp and set battle times. I had been intent on 'Landskneckting' my stuff up before and so was kindly lent a more suitable (i.e. dull English) hat, a padded jack and a long spear for this occasion.

There was a trebuchet and archery/gunnery display and then some jousting. I was reminded that a few years ago I looked into the plausibility of doing jousting myself, unsurprisingly it wasn't that plausible, although if your very very lucky and know the right people you might be able to start out shoveling horse dung and work your way up to a squire.. and get some goes on the horsey stuff. I had been on a horse once.

                            ..and the horsemanship was amazing, these Knights of the damned do all sorts of film work and base the show largely on 'A knight's tale' (which they worked on) complete with rock anthems for each of them. Having seen plently of Napoleonic near misses with horses going all over the place it was quite a change. I don't think the 'Maces of fire' were that historically authentic though.

We were actually on the French side who raided Sandwich (Baguette?) in 1457 and set fire to the town before English reinforcements came up. The medieval siege society were the hosts and read out a disclaimer about having no legal/insurance liability to anyone setting foot on the battleground and a series of rules of combat (no sharp items on the field, no head strikes, acknowledge hits, aim for padding/armour, etc), then it was the off!

Both the days battles seem a little confusing to me now, a series of advances, clash of arms and retreats, but as a newbie I was mainly concentrating on those rules, whilst some were bodily throwing themselves at people with abandon I was almost polite in my approach, trying to wordlessly communicate 'Excuse me! Im going to attack you there, okay? is it alright to hit your elbow?'  I did hit one guy in the elbow and was told to be careful of head strikes. I assume he was talking to me?
I was also trying not to thrust by running the polearm through my forward hand from the rear hand.. which is how I would naturally attack with one but is a no no.

Everyone was good natured but I confess I considered taking up a non combat role, which might seem odd for me, like being a monk going round assisting the injured, giving spiritual solace and also being practical as a water carrier.. maybe I still will.

The archery was interesting, occasionally a line of them would rain down a dozen shots on us and seeing them sail up in the air and level out, coming at you, gave me the same disconcerting feeling I get when standing opposite a cannon at a 45eme show. I seemed blessed though that many hit nearby but not me, infact few were hits except on a 'dead guy' who seemed an arrow magnet. You certainly don't want to get one in the face.

Sandwich was ours though! what could possibly go wrong in the afternoon battle? (part deux).

I was also surprised that I didn't get that hot being in the sun in a padded quilt, gloves, and coif (cap) under a metal helmet. After the show I kept it all on, just as I have the habit of doing with Napoleonics, as did Mr Denyer who I got the lift up with, and we chatted to the public a fair bit.

Medieval shows are a bit more general interest and family themed than most reenactments, I suppose because it is a broader time period and is backed by a lot of media from Braveheart, to Robin hood, To Henry VI to King Arthur to wolf hall (which is about 400 years..) not to mention Monty Python and the holy grail for a descent into silliness. Everyone has an idea of what they think it is all about.  People don't say 'There is an age of enlightenment show on at the weekend dear, shall we take the kids?'

                                                            Insert dog + tinned food joke here.

The second battle was a reverse of the first with some screaming ladies and smoke rising from the town (The south tent lines) as the Eeenglish approached. after several clashs we started to leave a smattering of dead with each push and as I turned to run back to the ships I met my end as a swordsman slashed me across the back.

I had an ice cream and won some Belgian chocolates on the tombola and so the day drew to a close. I felt I'd learnt a lot and ordered a padded gambeson of my own this afternoon and have a fleur de lis to add to it, I'm thinking of going for being a stranded Frenchmen in English service after his master has died (assuming I don't become a monk, Medieval gives you some scope for your own portrayal) although I shall be campaigning in France when the Free company do the next show at Hever castle.

Onwards and upwards!

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

& now for something completely different (Twie)

July the first was finally upon me!  

 I would be finishing the last day (early shift) of my current job on Thursday and coming home to get ready to go and catch a coach off to S/W Germany with many other members of the Free Company, who have been attending since 1996 and are something of a fixture.
 This would not only be my first non-Napoleonic event but also my first Brettan, fifteen or so hours on a coach away, with a brief pit stop in Luxemburg.

                                    The more simple travel attire.

First business on arrival was a supermarket for group food and beer, we would have our own bar set up in camp so crates of German beer made a goodly chunk of the shop, once at the site, a green space outside the original town walls we formed a human chain to unload the bus. A few of us first timers were given a brief tour of the town, though everything is pretty much in a ten minute walk of everything else.

Official duties that day included a practice parade and battle rehearsal, the battlefield is just a small park and different groups come on and off, it isn't that the festival is around the reenactment, there is so much going on.
 As a newbie I was asked to be a casualty who would then be treated, we would go on and fight a round when it was out turn then after that would be a scene with me as a walking wounded. Dusk was falling, I put on my sallet (enclosed helmet) as advised and fought our tussel, could I see 'a woman with a flag' who I was meant to stagger over to? No, could I see much of anything.. not much, was I sure this was 'After the first battle'?
I had practiced fighting with the helmet on but doing it when looking for someone in a park, with bodies and debris on the ground to avoid treading on, and no peripheral vision certainly made me see why few people have a visor down on a helmet.
So basically I missed the cue, but nevermind, all would be alright on the night.

I had been surprised that most of the group sleep in a gymnasium at the school just round the corner, all laid on by the town, but I predictably choose to remain in the camp.
                                            A proper hat.

I slept fairly well once the occasional beat box boy racer had gone home to mother and awoke with breakfast on my mind. 
We all got breakfast laid on although I had not seen where.. I set off clutching my wooden bowl and hoping my natural sense of free-food location would guide me. It did, and I was surprised at how few people had arrived, they were all still asleep but began filtering through by my third coffee.

I was on duty from one, split into two shifts, one will look after camp and run errands, tidy up, prepare food, etc etc whilst the rest are free, on the Sunday it changes to shift B. 
I still had time in the morning to buy some bells and get them sown on, which was also my first go at sewing, a hugely useful skill for any reenactor, only one bell fell off over the weekend so it can't have been that bad. I also got some on a leather band to tie around my ankle. 

Strangley I usually HATE jingly things, I have to re-arrange loose change in my pockets normally but in this role I actually wanted more such jingling.

           A marksman's competition and the sherperd's leap were local events now part of the festival weekend.
In the afternoon the on-shift went to help with a childrens fayre, tilting at targets, crossbow range, pretend drill, etc and I found myself in charge of the balloon-pig spearing. A balloon is tied to a board with a wild boar on it, and lots of dents. Some kids charged and popped the balloon first time, some just pushed it about for a while as it squeaked and wobbled. It does take a special sort of resolve to stand still holding a wooden board that a spear waving child is running at, but I survived, unlike about eighty balloons.  My enthusiasm for cheering was waning after the first fifty or so. Still good fun.

Before the battle I had to go and get a prostetic wound made up, this was actually made almost entirely of pork, a blood bag and some string and paste. It might not have been entirely fresh pork by saturday afternoon. I also had two halves of an arrow to place in position when a volley came over in the battle.

and so we kitted up and awaited out turn, bish, bash, bosh! being a Swordsman against bills and halberds I decided it was best to reverse the blade and stab downwards, two handedly, which was a traditional style but also meant I could join in the pike fighting as no one makes head height attacks for obvious reasons.
We fell back and over came a volley of arrows. Aaaaaah! I was down and the arrow stuck through my arm, I wondered the field as everyone diappeared and a lady from the surgeons led me away, my arm was braced in a rack as I sat across a bench and the arrow snapped and removed, Screams! und Gott in Himmel! then came the red hot iron, an actual hiss and smell of burnt flesh as it was cauterised, more screams 'Es tut mir Leid!' (I am sorrry!) and I was being led away.  I got a good view of the rest of the battle though and everyone formed up and the drummers hammered away with such a rythme that everyone was stamping or clapping along to it, it was like that bit in 'A knight's tale' with 'We will rock you' playing. Then there was some cheers and thank you and goodnight!

Next day there was only a parade in the early afternoon for us, it got underway quite quickly (having done several such they usually run late with many stops and starts) but after a short time we came off the road and waited whilst much of the parade passed us, there were leppers, dogs, charcoal burners, farmers throwing carrots and radishes into the crowds.. several troupes of flag hurlers, several bands very big on drums and trumpets, goats, horse drawn wagons, washerwomen, and of course bands of landskneckts.. whom we joined in behind and had a bit of a rumble in the main square, before tromping on to another square where we formed a pike/halberd block facing outwards... and back to the Brettan camp for a photo of all of everyone together.

Back to camp and a sit down for a while and an early dinner of cheese and bread and corn on the cob and a rest up, followed by a spot of packing up the camp by those on shift. I wondered into town to spend my last beer token, and found the Brettan camp once more, which is a space only for those in pretty full on kit and a hat, the reenactors bar really. 

Free food was put out and a barrel opened up for all, Hurrah! We were then entertained by a comedy circus-skills type duo with juggling, songs, balloon shapes, and some acrobatics performed on a grid made of pikes hoisted on the shoulders of a dozen landsknechts. 

More of the Free company arrived and we took over the big main table under a canvas, one of our bearded veterans, Keith, was proclaimed king as he had found a crown somewhere. Later in the evening our youngest trooper was accused of soiling the royal tablecloth without due respect or repentance and I was clerk of the court as a charge was brought up, he was sentenced to running the gauntlet and grew upset. The sentence was suspended until next year. 

At this point signs went up at the bar 'Queue here for EU citizens' and 'Queue here for non-EU citizens (back in half an hour)' , I told them we came from Austria which they seemed to find highly amusing, and we got served (that was never in doubt). I may have stood on a bench and given a short speech in my fantastic German at this point about how much I love Germany and Europe and many of us wanted nothing to do with Brexit. 'Nicht in meinem Namen' (not in my name) has strong connotations in Germany.  My oration did at least get me bought a drink from a local fraulein. Probably out of pity. 

          Due to my phone getting cracked on Saturday evening, here is an artist's impression of events.

Another highpoint of the weekend was that we were then officially presented with a full size Brettan flag as a sign of gratitude for the group supporting the event for the last twenty years and I spent the rest of the evening glued to it, and shielded it when we came under attack from flying bangers! 
By now dawn was in the air, the sky turning blue, this is also something of a Brettan tradition for some of the Free company as it means you can then sleep really well on the coach and be oblivious for a good portion of the long return journey. It worked for me. 

                             I save having a bath until I get home!

oh lovely Brettan! the date of next years event is already out so I might have to book as soon as I am able. Definitely going to become a regular thing and maybe the only chance I get to bring out the full on Landskneckt kit once a year, bells and all. 

Memories are made of this. 

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

& now for something completely different (Ein).

Well, not completely.

In the lull after Waterloo last year and accompanied by seeing several events I could not get to I began to think of extending my reenacting to doing another era, a new interest and a host of different shows I might be available for.

What though?  Nothing black powdery because it would be too similar and I cannot get another firearm without getting a gun cabinet, World war two? Maybe a bit too recent, English civil war? Very popular and I knew someone who was involved who offered advice.. but it didn't quite float my boat, bit too linear and with a lot of politics and turnips. Medieval? certainly different and a bit more free reign, and some friends in the Sappeurs do it and so here was information and events I could share. Yeah, go!

Slowly buying stuff.. as with starting in Napoleonics it was good to have someone to ask and I was soon pointed to Sir William Harrington's companye whose website has a PDF of source material and information on everything from headwear to pants, and how to wear them.

It was still a tricky path and I had already impulsively bought a pair of stripey breeches that will have to go and live in the fancy dress fun box. Half the problem was the freedom. No uniforms, no social/rank order that says you are a peasant, no regulation book, and often a wider period, with the French I have a window of 1806-1812 ideally, the wars of the roses went on for thirty years and saw regional differences and foreign troops enter the fray, with a few changes it can also do for the Hundred years war.
English trade was built on wool and the law encouraged all good English folk to wear it..  so think twice about buying linen.. black dye seldom took and was expensive.. red was a traditional soldierly colour, especially for soldiers trousers.

Another problem was LARP. So many online stores advertise themselves as Medieval reenactment/larp shops (Live action role play) and whilst a fantasy warrior can certainly turn up in authentic hoes and kettle helmet a Wars of the Roses guy can't turn up in a wolf faced knights helmet with a pair of scimitars over his spiked leather shoulder pads.

         'What?  is it the bootlaces? damn, it said it was a reenactment site where I bought them, would they be okay if I was Lancastrian?'

After a few months I had gathered a basic outfit, complete with red wool hoes, pointy shoes and a Sallet helmet from reenactment supplies but it seemed likely my first event was going to be the Peter und Paul fest in Germany, a town besieged in 1504 and defended by a small army of mercenary Landskneckts. I do love the look of landskneckt garb, it make the war of the roses look positively drab.

Feathers, big hats, stripes, slashed sleeves, bright colours! at a time when peoples dress code was just that, limited by class and profession, the landskneckts.... whose lives were deemed quite rough and often short were granted the freedom to wear jolly well what they wanted and they certainly took advantage of it in the showing off department.

A hat! a big feathery hat would come first, although I ended up buying a pack of ostrich feathers separately.. I stumbled upon this trader kokoszowa maufufaktura who had a good range, later I would buy a wappenrock, a knee length, quartered, slashed sleeve surcoat.

Roll on July..