As King Harold said, watch those ruddy archers, they could have someone’s eye out! A re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings was cancelled last weekend by Elf n’ Safety because it was too wet. I need comment no further, so ‘nuff said. However the news did jog this old chap’s memory and I thought that I might share it with you.
A few years back I was doing some writing work for an event organising company and I got blagged into managing a re-enactment of the Duke of Wellington kicking Napoleon’s French backside. The battle was to take place on the cliffs around a Martello Tower at Folkestone.
The re-enactors were rather strange fellows who took the whole thing very seriously even to the point of living in true to life 1815 tents and cooking on open fires.
I arrived on the afternoon before the public event and the whole ensemble of troops, horses, female camp followers, even rabid looking curs scrounging around the camp. The Frog troops were on the other side of the hill. Both sides were living the whole dream in complete character. Even though there were no public in attendance. I was walking around introducing myself as the Event Manager with my jaw dropped. I don’t think anyone heard me muttering “I don’t believe it, so many oddballs all in one place.
I spoke to a Colonel in the full dress uniform of the 1st Life Guards, I complimented him on his superb turn out and learned that he was a London Transport bus driver in his real life and had paid over £1500 for his outfit. He pointed me to his leader, an authentic looking Duke of Wellington who even looked like Goya’s portrait of the great man, complete with cocked hat and his own tent.
I organised my part of the show ready for the following day, declined the kind offer from one of the large lady camp followers in her low cut calico dress, to join in the soldier’s supper of tripe and onions, and scuttled off to my hotel for dinner.
Up early the following day I organised my staff and went for a walk along the cliffs. I stood for a while watching the re-enactors marching their drill. I learned later that this particular regiment being put through their paces were supposed to be the German Brunswick Corps under Lieutenant General Prince Freidrich, Duke of Brunswick.
I then saw the Duke of Wellington, sitting on the grass leaning with his back against the Martello Tower. He was in full military dress, his horse was tethered nearby eating grass and the Duke was studying a Filofax while puffing a clay churchwarden pipe. My first mistake was to say “Good Morning Graham” obviously I ought to have addressed him as Your Grace or Sir or something equally grovelling.
I certainly shouldn’t have pointed to the poor sods sweating as they marched up the hill and then marched down again and said you’ve picked yourself a much better part than the poor bloody infantry.
His Grace cut me dead and snapped “You will excuse me Jake but I am contemplating the forthcoming battle”.
I made my excuses and left without spoiling it for him by telling the twit that Wellington won the battle. If I’d been an Elf ‘n Safety I would have cancelled his ruddy pantomime too!
You couldn’t make it up!