Oswestry is a market town on the Welsh border, just on the English side although the scene of this years campaign event hosted by the 5/60th Rifles was literally up the first turning on the Welsh side, an area of sudden hills and valleys, all covered in tall trees.
Of course its quite a tidy step, I trained it to Bath to meet a friend and we set off to stay over in Schrewsbury before the last leg next morning.
Formed into two groups, three of ourselves with the 60th whom we re-imagined as allies from the Confederation of the Rhine.. and some other rifles and Redcoats on the other side.. we started with quite a trek to find our campsite which was somewhere on high ground..
After we located the scene a patrol went out, others went on guard duty, a Light rain was accompanied by a far more dramatic thunder storm nearby. Would they come up the gully? Streaming clouds made the shadows dance. Later a Twitchy sentry would fire at our own patrol coming back.
I was part of the next patrol, down, down we went on winding paths and steps cut in the earth until we sighted what we thought was a white tent down a steep wooded slope, the enemy camp? Sure enough around the next bend were two sentries and we each in turn stepped out to give staggered fire, and back to the first man.. but we had stirred the hornets nest and withdrew.
An hour later and probing attacks came at our camp.
I peered round a corner on an uphill bend and saw two riflemen at about twenty feet and as one aimed dropped down low on the crest then shot back and retreated back down to a comrade, leaning into bushes to reload. More shots sounded.
"You must be hit by now, we only do aimed shots". Came a voice.
It hadn't actually occurred to me that participants would be expected to die at this point, unless surprised or in the open at closer ranges.. I had only seen people driven back. How did you know if you were hit? The Riflemen were confident they would hit, a rifle has better range and accuracy.. true, except at ranges like twenty feet our muskets would have been pretty much the same.. half a brick is terribly inaccurate but at ten yards it's as good as the finest javelin!
The group was scattered, some apparently were prisoners, one taken when firing forwards and a redcoat strolled up behind and tapped him on the shoulder.
The sounds of battle restarted down the valley somewhere, should we stay to defend or join the fray? Two of us elected to advance to the sound of the guns, down the winding downhill paths through the wood. We stopped to admire the sun dappled hills opposite and I went to take a sneaky photo of Simon against the backdrop but immediately I glanced round and saw.. the enemy coming round the next bend! Redcoats! I shouted as they began a bayonet charge with a yell.
I couldn't stop and fire with both hands full and was desperately trying to put camera back in bag whilst running..
Around a slight bend I dived into a shallow dip flanked by bushes and hunkered down.. maybe they would run passed and not see me.. then I could come out behind them.
They had stopped when Simon turned to give fire.
I emerged and surprised a redcoat about eight yards away. I aimed and fired. Click.
Misfire!. Merde! Emboldened the big Welshman (?) Charged but I cocked the hammer and fired just in time. Phew!
(Of course neither of these shots were at the redcoat at this range, being deliberately turned from his path of approach, but we both knew a shot at that range meant.. aaaaagh!)
Oh and did I mention the black powder grenades supplied by a chap usually an artillerymen? They were fun to behold.
it was real skirmish work, ducking and diving and going forward, which you don't see much at big events due to the terrain. It certainly made us reflect that putting on a fancy hat does not make one a voltigeur.
Sadly every weather prediction from the BBC to sheep's entrails all said a terrible rain front was coming in the night.. and the plan for raiding under the cover of darkness was dropped. I had rather looked forward to the experience of navigating through a dark forest and looking out for sentries.. or being on said duty.. but oh well. There would be beer and jollity in one camp.. nearer the parking field as folk were worried they might get rained in.
Sure enough after a night in makeshift roped up shelters small streams were running down the road ways and not a soul escaped being wet, still a fire was got up for coffee. No guns would fire in this and without a word being said it was agreed that yesterday had been a great and active day but it was time to go home.
Hope to return next year, after months of dry weather, what luck! Still many fine moments to remember. I shall probably wake in the night reliving that Welshman charging and the musket not firing.