Thursday, 1 September 2011

Summer 2011 in the 15th Century

Well that's the end of the summer holiday for me, back to school in a couple of days. Loads of action, not much rest. After Dover castle it was off to a quiet gig at Hatfield Forest in North Essex with COJO (the Company of Saint Joseph) a 15th Century group who focus on craftsmen and artisans. A splendid event was had by all. Lovely venue and very appreciative public. Although most of the weekend we spent concentrating on skinning and hunting there was time for a Man At Arms demo where I got to hit my friend John quite a lot. After Hatfield I had to go back down to Dover Castle for one day to film for BBC1 show National Treasures Live. Ant and myself spent the day at the castle with a couple of other re-enactors teaching presenters, Dan Snow and Sian Williams all about Medieval missile weapons. We spent a great deal of time 'hurry up waiting' but the whole process was very interesting and we were guaranteed getting out mugs on the TV as it was a live show. At the end of a great but windswept day we did our bit. Sian finally managing to shoot Ant's crossbow and hitting the butt, and Dan firing the pole gun I was crewing. Stardom beckons... I think not. Right then, from Dover Castle to Bodiam Castle. An MSS gig at one of the finest castles in England.

I wrote the scripts for this weekend, and having picked up a niggling wrist injury at Dover Castle I decided not to fight (A first for me) and commentate instead. It was great fun. Writing a script is rather like writing a roleplaying scenario, the only difference is that real play it out in front of you. The other challenge at Bodiam was that the script needed to focus on the siege of Bodiam in 1483, a rather anticlimactic event that lasted probably 15 minutes and resulted in no loss of life. My script had to last at least half an hour with loads of bodies. It did both days and for the first time on a medieval battlefield I watched archery in action as it should be. Usually archery consists of one volley of of arrows every now and then from opposing blocks of archers. Now each block shoots four or five arrow volleys at a go resulting in hundreds of arrows falling continuously throughout the battle, very cool!
A week after Bodiam, was the Battle of Bosworth. A trek to Leicestershire to fight in the War Of The Roses Federation event with the Tyrrell's retinue (The martial arm of COJO) This is a four battle weekend. We fight Tewkesbury in the morning and Bosworth in the afternoon, a 2, 2 draw for us. I tend to be the shouty bloke for Tyrrell's a sort of Sergeant At Armes, I get to get stuck in but also have to keep our block in order, which this year involved, on more than one occasion, wandering across the field to some wayward warriors and saying to them "My Lord Tyrrell, requests the pleasure of you fighting in our fecking block!" Just like a real battle it can get confusing out there. This was a brilliant weekend, as usual. The fighting is hard with the Fed, and the addition of cavalry and lots of guns really give it a battle feel. Added to that my wonderful wife was invited by a friend to go out and gun as she has had a shoulder injury that has kept her off the field. The upshot of which, is that we may well be ordering medieval pieces over the winter, gonna need that gun cabinet now:0)
Saturday evening was completed with NERF mayhem on the battlefield with a free for all Zombie Apocalypse game, which meant we were forced to take extra kit and 'double tap' the undead!

The week after Bosworth saw us return to the MSS fold for the biggest event in the MSS calender, The English Medieval Festival at Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex. This is a great event, last year our Household entered the Living History competition and did very well. The down side to this was we saw very little of the event, so this year we chose not to compete, juts do what we do. The main feature of Herstmonkeys (as we call it) are the two battles fought in the morning, outside the castle, and the afternoon on the field out the back of the grounds. Again I wrote the scripts for this event and my household ended up with a central role (writing scripts has perks you know?)

I took the role of the Duke Of Suffolk and laid siege to the castle. Although this is a MSS run battle we have many guest groups who also take part. This boosts the numbers on the field and gives us different people to fight. The battles went pretty well, but we did suffer from communication problems (The Fog of War) which led to cannon not firing when they were supposed to and arrows not always going where they should. However the battles on the Monday, the third time we fought them, went really well with some brilliant elements including the best flat shooting I have seen. The Hartley household, armoured in plate from head to toe, taking arrows shot at them as the advanced across the long bridge over the moat. Every arrow found a mark and the guys in tin looked terrifying.

The weekend was topped off by Heidi making her first appearance on the battlefield in combat, this year, in her brigandine (that she has made herself, more of that over the winter) wielding a pollaxe and scarying the BeJesus out of our opponents, good to have her back:0)

So that was my summer. Somewhere I was supposed to stop and take it easy. Didn't happen really. But we did have a brilliant time. Made a whole bunch of new friends and reaffirmed some old friendships too. I am fortunate to be involed in various groups so the variety of events keeps the whole thing very interesting. Our household is at full strength and we move towards the last two events of the year with relish. Gonna have to start on some wargaming stuff soon.

(Must thank Pat Patrick for the photos from Bosworth and Hertsmonceux, some great shots)


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