Monday, 14 September 2015

Bradgate Park

This weekend a small event took place at Bradgate Park, Leicestershire, and Keith, Bob and I decided a day trip on the Sunday would be in order. And what an excellent little event it was, with a very good turn out from the public, and for a small event, a decent turnout of re-enactors to provide enough of a spectacle to entertain the crowds in terms of a skirmish.
The day was again great fun, in beautiful surroundings, and we engaged with plenty of members of the public at the Living History site. All were keen to know about the weaponry, the tactics, and the life of a 17th century soldier... and many were very keen to hold muskets to feel the weight, and understand the loading and firing procedure.
The skirmish itself (in which we three joined with members of The King's LifeGuard) lasted around an hour, and included us firing around a dozen shots, and having several bouts of hand-to-hand combat. All good stuff. And, I'm proud to report, the flintlock is behaving itself very well indeed. I feel as if I should give it (her? him?) a name! Suggestions welcome!

The fundamental flaw in my plans to record my re-enactment exploits for this blog will, I am sure, have been spotted by you, dear reader, long ago. Namely, that I am not in a position to take photos / videos during the action, as I'm generally in the thick of it!

However, here's a snap taken after yesterday's engagement...

Bob's post-battle euphoria is matched only by Keith's more mellow (almost philosophical) demeanour!

For those who do want to see some Sealed Knot action, to get a greater sense of what a battle looks like, in full swing, there are a number of Youtube videos of the Chester weekend which are quite something. Have a search (Chester Sealed Knot 2015), and enjoy!

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Chester weekend

Saturday dawned, and I was on the road early to pick up Bob and join the rest of the regiment (most of whom had arrived on the Friday evening) for the march into Chester.

Above: forming up for the long march.

The march was around 2 miles from our campsite to the centre of town, but the decent weather meant it was an enjoyable Saturday morning stroll! It was helped by the opportunity to visit the city's taverns...

Then it was Saturday evening back at the campsite... time for food, drink, and more singing, socialising, and good-humoured banter.

Sunday was a big day for me.
OK, so it's not a big day in life's grander scheme, but nevertheless I had my musket test... and passed. So I am now a legitimate firing member of the regiment. Thanks go to all who helped with the training, and particularly to Keith who made sure that both the practical elements of the test and the theory were well covered in advance, and I felt well prepared. Keith was probably more nervous than me as we took a purposeful amble to the Powder Issue/ Testing area on Sunday morning.

As to the battles for the weekend...
Well, since these were my first as a "firer", there was a degree of trepidation, but that soon passed in the heat of the action. Looking along the crowd line I picked out the friendly faces of David (of "wargame amateur" blog fame) and his wife Kay who had emailed to say they would be cheering on from the sidelines!
Thoroughly enjoyed both days, and we got plenty of firing done. I managed 16 shots on both days, which seemed about par for the course, so I was happy to have kept up with the pace of the rest of the guys. On the Sunday we were defending the barricades and defence works against the Scots Bde, among others.
And on the Monday, we spent much of the battle pitched against a visiting group of 17C re-enactors from Bavaria who were as hard-fighting as the Scots had been the previous day. Excellent volleys cracked out, and vigorous hand-to-hand fighting was the order of the day, with battle chants ringing out between the sides. Tough and honourable opponents all... we doffed hats, bowed and huzzah'd at the close of play. Day one was declared a Royalist victory, with day two being deemed the reverse, I think.

Other notable highlights of the weekend.
1. Marching, lots of it. We were camped approximately 1.5 miles from the battle site at the racecourse, so that gave us chance to practice our marching and singing... as well as flying the flag for the roadside crowds to enjoy.

2. The auction of some recently uncovered Brigadier Peter Young SK memorabilia. The prime items were PY's sword and a rapier. Both went for good money, and to a good home, as someone who had known the Brigadier and ben a founder of the SK was successful with his reserve bids. There were plenty of other items being auctioned off, including signed books and the like.

3. The Regimental breakfast club tradition continued on the Monday morning...
nothing to beat a full English breakfast and a bottle of claret!

"Suits you, Sir." Chris, our CO, is a leatherworker of some considerable repute in SK circles and beyond. Here seen measuring up a punter for a rather nice buff jerkin/ singlet.

So, that's the last major muster of the season. Keith, Bob, and I plan a couple more days out - probably Bradgate Park in Leicestershire, and Edgehill, both of which will be "day trips", I think.
I'll post on these as they happen.
In a few weeks, I'll also put down some thoughts on the whole experience of this first season... It's been a blast!!

And if anyone out there has been inspired to give it a go, or even just to find out more, visit the SK website... there's contact details there and I'm sure you'll find the friendliest of welcomes from a regiment close to you. At least it's worth an email to the knot to find out more. I say, Go for it! I did, and have loved every second.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Preparing for Chester

This coming Bank Holiday weekend, I'll be one of the many who trek to the beautiful city of Chester and after a couple of months of inactivity on the re-enactment front, I have to say I'm really looking forward to it.

(By the way, on the picture above, on the left, you can see one of this blog's regular visitors and commenters, Andy, of The King's Guard... looking very fierce and warlike!!)

On Saturday, there's a march through the town,
and the Sunday and Monday both involve Living History displays and sizeable battles at Chester Racecourse.

Full details are here...

So, this week I've been getting my kit out of the cupboard, cleaning thoroughly my new flintlock (which I'm rather proud of!), making up cartridges, and making a few minor repairs to various bits n bobs.
With the weather forecast being "mixed", and anticipating the possibility of showers, I decided to take extra morale boosting victuals this time and so a   special supermarket run was needed to get the supplies required for such a weekend. I wouldn't want the normal weekly shopping trolley to collapse under the weight of extra alcohol and food!
Now, I'm all set; just got to load up Shogie tomorrow, and make an early start on Saturday.

If you're in the Chester area why not persuade the rest of the family to come along and enjoy the spectacle.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Naseby - 370th anniversary weekend

The first rainy muster of the season... but fortunately I really only got wet on the Friday evening as I pitched my tent. The rain stayed off during the battles on both Saturday and Sunday, so no one had their fun spoilt.

The battles themselves were the usual mix of hurry up and form up, then wait around, then march (and these marches were unusually long), then plenty of confusion on the field... so pretty authentic!
On the final day I staged a dramatic death near the crowd line (poser!) being cut down by ironsides when our cause was lost and most others had already fled or died.
Managed to get some more practice firing in, this time with a flintlock which I may soon own (subject to a visit/ inspection of my storage arrangements at home tomorrow morning).

The Sunday morning included a commemorative service in Naseby village. Although a realistic degree of soldiers' apathy and grumblings had broken out when this was mentioned, the turnout was rather good... with a massed march to the Church green in the village where we joined the local congregation for an outdoor service. Very tasteful. And quite right too. Whilst the Sealed Knot is a hobby and all about fun, it's good to properly remember the sacrifices made 370 years ago... just as we all see fit to commemorate more modern conflicts with such reverence.

The local populace seemed friendly enough, and interested, and despite the ever-present threat of rain, our route to the battlefield each day was lined with folk wielding iPads, phones and other gadgetry to capture the spectacle and the pageantry.

Anyway, here are some pictures from the weekend...

Below: a Soldier's Life... Bob catches a few valuable zzz's before we have to     muster for action. Keith can also be seen, horizontal, on left... more zzz's!

Above: forming up. Prince Rupert's Foot regiment, with the stripey pikes of Godolphin's in the background.
Below: the pikemen of our own brigade, ready for the long march to the battlefield.

Below: members of Owen's regiment, also in our brigade.

Below: returning from battle ... "Give Way"?! The Royalist Army gives way to no one!!!

More scenes from the weekend.
Below: the start of an evening in regimental HQ! Armed with sufficient alcohol and snacks we can talk for hours... and do! Mind you, Keith's got his work cut out selling those strawberries! The Cadbury's chocolate fingers, on the other hand (excuse the pun), went in a flash!
On the Saturday evening, the chatter in the regimental tent (once the bawdy singing had abated), turned to the subject of flags. It seems that some research suggests that at some point during the wars, our regiment (at that point named Washingtons), had been issued with Infantry Colours (their role as dragoons and also occasionally as infantry perhaps mirroring our own re-enactment role which switches between the two). These colours, it is reputed, may have been green and white... Hmmm.
More news as it breaks...
Below. Breakfast Club... a Sunday morning tradition! Just 4 of us this time...
Yes, that's full English breakfast, plus a bottle of claret ... of course!.

Next big muster is Chester (August bank holiday... so 29-31 Aug). But might manage a couple of short outings before then.

Thanks for stopping by...

Monday, 1 June 2015

Stanford Hall Muster - 23-25 May

Another cracking long weekend - they're coming thick and fast now!
Lots of training shots fired too (20) as I await the arrival of my various licenses.
I'm at the stage where, having completed the loading sequence, I am always relieved (and somehow surprised) to hear the gun go bang!
I have to say, I'm veering towards flintlock as my preferred weapon.

The battles themselves were good fun, with around 800 people on the field I think... and this time with some cavalry on both sides.
And I'm now fully blooded too! I picked up a "war wound" on the Monday as someone whacked me on the finger with their sword... a fair bit of blood and bruising under the nail... but "only a flesh wound!" Despite suggestions from others that I should really leave the field and get it tended to, I bravely (haha!) fought on for the cause of the King!

Some pictures of the weekend, sent to me courtesy of Keith Foster...
Above: our regiment, looking sprightly despite the weekend having included "one of the most eventful night-time guard duties" anyone could ever recall.
And below: marching onto the field, with a spring in the step, regardless of the fact that on both evenings, alcohol was taken and songs aplenty were sung! A number of the unit's members are talented song-smiths. Having purchased the regimental songbook, however, I was able to join in and reduce the talent quotient to a more unacceptable standard!

Next up, Naseby. 13-14 June.
This will be the 370th anniversary of the battle so should be another great weekend.
Check out the Naseby battlefield website for details of what's happening, and come along to give your support to the event. I'm sure you would agree, it's important we keep our history alive.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Newark Muster 2-4 May 2015

It was a fine weekend... some showers, to keep the camping interesting, but on the whole the weather held and in fact it was warm on both the Sunday and the Monday for the actual battles.

Much beer was imbibed, and it was great to meet Andy (a regular commenter on this blog, also Elder Sergeant in The King's Lifeguard), who I bumped into at the beer tent, and who was kind enough to ensure I had a full glass, whilst we passed a while chatting about wargaming, re-enactment and life in general. Next one's on me, Andy!

Anyway, here are some photos from the weekend...

First up... Our regiment was detailed with creating the authentic camp in The Queen's Sconce...

and maintaining a guard/ presence there all weekend...

Many interested folk visited the site over the weekend, and we chatted about all things civil war and re-enactment in general.
On the Saturday afternoon we went mob-handed into the town...
Below... The pubs of Newark were full all weekend! This photo is just prior to us getting a special tour of the new National English Civil War Museum, situated in the town. A good visit, and I'd encourage anyone to pop in. They have a neat diorama of the sconce there, as well as many artefacts and so on.
Final shot, below, shows members of the regiment preparing for battle.
The battles themselves were great fun, and seemed to provide ample entertainment for the plentiful crowd, who all applauded throughout and showed their appreciation as we marched off at the end. I wish I could capture the action on camera, but ... you'll just have to join up if you want to get that "troops' eye view".
The highlight of the weekend for me was in being able to do some training musketry with black powder, under strict supervision on both Sunday morning and Monday morning, before the main events of the day. So far, just running through the drill has been fine, but loosing off those first "real" shots was great... a real buzz (well, more of a "bang" than a "buzz"!)
Having fired both matchlock and flintlock weapons, it's time to start considering the options on which I want to purchase.

Talking of purchasing things, one retiring member of the regiment arrived with a load of kit to sell on. A lovely sword caught my eye, and I swooped. Really pleased with it.
Roll on next event... Stamford Hall, Leicestershire, 23-25 May. The battles are taking place on the Sunday 24th and Monday 25th.
I'll be there!

Friday, 10 April 2015

Once More Into The Breeches

Thanks to those who keep visiting and commenting. Much appreciated.
Just managed a couple of hours at The International Living History Fair, at Bruntingthorpe. 
Went along to buy a couple of bits n bobs, and came away with another pair of breeches!
 How did that happen? 17th century shopp(e)ing is far more interesting and addictive than the modern version.
Also nice to bump into Dave Ryan of Caliver books, and Dave Lanchester of Lance & Longbow Soc, manning their book stands, and to "chew the fat" in an alternative context to the usual wargames shows. 
I imagine the event will be packed tomorrow, so glad to have done it on Friday instead.
Next week, back to work in earnest. However, very much looking forward to a busy couple of months on the reenactment front.
Next stop is Newark on 2-4 May...

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Debut Action - Basing House

Yesterday was the big day, and we set off early for Basing House, in order to arrive in plenty of time for Keith and Bob to draw powder (I'm not yet licensed to fire.... "licensed to kill", maybe!). We also wanted to have a little drill session before lunch and before getting onto the field of action.

With just the three of us from our regiment attending, the intention was to join the musket block of one of the larger units, and so it was that we found ourselves defending the earthworks atop the hill along with Newcastle's Whitecoats, and Tillier's regt. We also had Rawdon's and Godolphin's as allies in fighting for the King.

Ranged against us...
... were various Royalist regiments acting as Parliament for the event (this was a Royalist training weekend muster, so all Royalist units at this one), chiefly Prince Rupert's bluecoats, and sundry others.

We played to the script...
... fired off a few shots, whilst the pike blocks mashed each other and shoved and huffed and puffed all across the hill top position. We did a bit of hand-to-hand stuff, and then fell back, before we all played dead, allowing the Rebels to repeat history (to a few boos from the crowd, which was encouraging!).

All in all, great fun. And the weather couldn't have been better... any warmer, and it would have made life quite uncomfortable in the woollen coats and breeches.

Now, what did I learn?
From a wargaming perspective, very interesting.
1. Clarity of commands above the noise is essential, and therefore junior officer/ NCO level control is critical, even at this low level action (there were probably only 300 participants).
2. Once it "kicks off", your awareness of what is happening beyond your own unit is VERY limited (apart from the units immediately to your front). At one point, one of our adjacent musket blocks moved away to take up a new position, and I had been so engrossed in what our little block was doing that I didn't even notice till some 10 minutes later.
3. Once in hand-to-hand combat, it really is fog of war, and awareness of the rest of the field, even of your own unit officers, drops to zero.
4. If unit officers and NCOs get embroiled in the hand-to-hand action, they completely lose control of the unit, and understandably their focus zones in to just their individual combat with the person opposite.

and other lessons:
5. There's nothing like fresh air, a warm day, and the smell of black powder, to bring on a healthy ale-thirst!!
6. The SK are a good bunch of guys, everyone is very friendly, and safety and the enjoyment of all participants is paramount.
7. It's a spectacle that can draw a crowd - it interests and informs the public, who are very encouraging and genuinely keen to know more.

And so, to a few pictures..

Above: Keith and Bob unloading from the back of my car - a horse called "Shogun". OK, so it's not like we're real dragoons dismounting before entering the fray!
Below: the queue starts to form for the issue of powder. 
Above: yours truly, during the pre-match warm up/ drill session.
Below; the three of us, posing (ready to loose off a "Swedish salvo") for a passer-by to take pictures... I've switched to a Montero cap for this shot (this picture, courtesy of Keith Foster ).

Roll on next time...

Friday, 3 April 2015

About The Regiment

Now, I know a number of readers and blog visitors are eagerly awaiting photos of me in kit (some are merely wanting to "take the mick", but...), and that may soon happen, when I get ready on Monday for the first muster of the season. However, in the meantime, I thought it would be appropriate to give a little background to Prince Maurice's Dragoon regiment. Note; like Rupert, Prince Maurice raised 3 units... one foot, one horse regiment, and one dragoon regiment. It's the latter we are referring to here.

Prince Maurice's Dragoons was originally raised in early September 1642 by Colonel James Ussher in the South Midlands, it's officers and men being primarily drawn from Leicestershire, Warwickshire, and Worcestershire.
It is possible that it was present at the first action of the war, Powick Bridge.
What is certain is that the regiment played a significant part on the Royalist right wing at Edgehill where they cleared the enclosures and hedgerows to their front of Parliamentarian commanded musketeers, and secured that wing to allow Prince Rupert to launch his famed sweeping cavalry attack.

The regiment is often referred to as Washington's Dragoons (Lt Col Henry Washington taking full command following Colonel Ussher's demise at Lichfield in April 1643).

The regiment was active throughout the first civil war. In fact, it stoutly defended Worcester during its 2-month siege at the end (Washington surrendered that city on 23 July 1645), making the regiment the longest serving unit in the war.

For more information on the regiment, both the historical unit (including uniform and flag details as well as service history) and the re-enactment version, see the Prince Maurice website in the links on the right.

Right, better get warmed up for Monday's muster!
Have a happy Easter!!

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Getting Kitted Out

Firstly. Thank you to those who commented on the first post and those who joined the blog by following! I really appreciate this. And if my experiences, shared here, can encourage anyone who fancies a go at re-enacting to do so, then that's great.

So, on with the story so far...

As luck would have it, I live only a few miles from the venue of TORM (The Original Re-enactors Market) which took place on 13-15th of March this year.

Well, what an array of stuff!... and despite the good, sensible, and sound advice of my regimental colleagues, that I shouldn't dive headlong into buying too much gear at this early stage, I got stuck right in!!
I think Keith and Bob were quite taken aback at my "all in" approach to kit buying.

In short, I came away with:
singlet (waistcoat),
red soldiers coat,
Montero hat,
and bucket-top boots (I'm playing the Dragoon card here),
along with belt and leather pouch (for keeping wallet, iPhone and other valuables in!). 
And, I treated myself to a cloak, for those cold evenings down at the pub after a hard day's mustering.

Since I have an aversion to contact lenses, and since it's probably a good idea to be able to see whilst I'm engaged in this lark (I want to be able to see what I'm aiming at), I also placed an order for some period specs! Yes, I didn't know spectacles were around in the 17th century, either, but seemingly...
These arrived today, prescription fulfilled!

In the meantime, I've found a wide-brimmed felt hat - from a high street store, so stretching authenticity a little, but which I have doctored up by replacing the hat-band with some twisted cord to make it look more "in period".

I also have a rather good knapsack that Mark Allen (formerly a re-enactor of some distinction, he tells me) donated to the cause.

So there you have it... I'm all kitted up and ready to embark on my first muster.
This will take place at Basing House on Easter Monday. Although the event is on all Easter weekend, we'll only be going on the Monday... a perfect way to introduce myself to the fray. If you're there, look out for me - I'll be the one holding the musket wrong way up, marching out of step, and generally disobeying/ misunderstanding every drill move!
I may even succumb and post some pictures next time ... you never know!

And after that, I'll be sending off for my various licenses and wot-not so that eventually I can own my own musket!! Now, that will be fun!!

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Joining Up

Many moons ago, probably in about 1977 or thereabouts, I saw a group of "English Civil War" re-enactors performing a display in Coventry precinct prior to holding one of their battle musters the next day at Coombe Abbey.
As a 13-14 year old (ish), I was transfixed, and wanted to find out more.
Over the intervening years, I've seen the Sealed Knot (and others) in action on a few occasions, always wanted to give it a go, but for one reason or another, never did.
Until now...

And so it was at the start of 2015, that I decided, "why not?!"
So, that's just 37 years later...!
Well you're only here once, eh?!

And so, I got in touch with "The Knot" by email, and simply asked if there were any Royalist regiments (wouldn't want to be a Rebel now, would I?!) based in the area, or at least with members in my area.

Lo and behold...... within 48 hours I had received 4 responses from Royalist CO's.
Several email exchanges and exploratory phone calls ensued, and I can safely say a nicer, more helpful bunch of guys I couldn't have hoped to meet.
In the end, it came down to having someone only a couple of miles away (let's call him Keith, on the grounds that that's his name) who came round for a chat one Sunday afternoon.
I joined up - Prince Maurice's Regiment of Dragoons.

It wasn't painful.
Or at least it hasn't been yet. But then, I haven't been "on the field" yet... That starts next Monday - more of which anon.

This blog is simply my observations, ramblings and I hope a few interesting notes on all things ECW re-enactment. I'll even throw in some stuff on battlefields and history for good measure.
Join me on the journey as I try to make some sense of this whole re-enacting hobby in the coming months...
I'll be posting more over the next couple of days... and I promise not to put too many olde-worlde e's on the end of words in the name of "authenticity". That's just naffe!