Sunday to Friday last week Kate, Simon and I went to the War and Peace Show at Beltring. Essentially, 5 1/2 days of gadding about in UNIT gear (and in my case, ARVN too), ogling the tanks, APCs, Land Rovers etc, re-enactment displays, drinking too much beer and trying hard not to buy too much tat.
Got off to an inauspicious start - the PDA (and GPS controller) died, leaving me in a panic - only a vague idea where I was going, no maps printed off etc. Fortunately, I was still only at the local Tesco stocking up. Thinking about it, I've been to Beltring often enough I should have been able to get there but I'd become so dependent on the GPS that it almost felt like I'd been blinded!
Got business cards and much hard sell from MACV SOG, 1st Air Cav and 101st units to join them. The SOG one was especially amusing as one night they were going round the beer tent approaching any even vaguely oriental person to join them for a photoshoot. The fact that I was wearing an ARVN Ranger outfit was icing on the cake for them... In the end a Filippino guy from a Panzer Lehr unit (yes, really!) and I showed up and got much beer out of them for it! Also amused that one of their militaria dealer buddies initially thought my Duck Hunter kit was genuine original :-)
It's amazing how many people still don't recognise the UNIT patches and ask us what we're re-enacting ("Oh, UN Intelligence... yes, they are a bit obscure, I suspect even the Secretary General doesn't know they exist..."). Also nice to get the odd knowing grin every now and then.
The usual suspects among the re-enactment groups were present but, interestingly, the WWII US 101st Airborne guys didn't have their usual massive erection (ooh er...), certainly nothing to match the likes of the V2 launch site, Fortress Europe gun emplacement or Normandy Church. Guess that credit crunch is to blame :-(
Bumped into two LOTNA groups going round the stalls: one including Dave, silverstreamer and Kelly on the Wednesday and then tlanti's brother and sister on Friday. Guess taking a day off to go shopping at Beltring makes sense!
Main items of tat bought: a rifle rack(!), Sten AEG, some 5.11 clothing, a few ARVN patches and 6m of desert DPM material...
- Despite the obvious correlation between reenactors, military vehicles and real ale, the beer at Beltring still sucks with Kronenburg and Guiness being the least offensive things they sell. Damn, I miss the time, under previous management, when they used to serve Spitfire.
- Still no onsite ATM which they had one year
- Didn't get round to doing either Ration Roulette or posh kit night (latter due to weather)
- Having to leave before the weekend for the second year in a row to go to Kelmarsh
Festival of History, Kelmarsh
Bit of a grim drive up on the Friday afternoon due to congestion on the M25. Ended up cutting through London on the A2 up to the M1 to avoid it.
Must admit, sometimes I wonder what is up with English Heritage. Yet again, they allocated us (English Civil War Society) far too little camp space. By the time we got there in the late afternoon, the rules about 3m between tents had gone out the window - just try to avoid pitching on top of someone else's tent...
Still, first evening in the beer tent was fun. Got talking to some British WWII Airborne guys because of their chaps had spotted our UNIT patches and berets :-) Ended up with yet another invitation!
On top of that, EH seems to have got even more anal about rules for re-enactors in kit in the public area: no buying or consuming modern food (looks like they expected us to subsist on the Mystery Meat Burger Van on the plastic camping site all weekend), no carrier bags (makes shopping kind of tricky) and no taking photos when looking round other sites. Bollocks to that! Half expecting them to tell us next year that we are not to use modern toilet facilities in the public area. Not that we did, mind, the queues were so long it was faster to walk back to the campsite!
First day's battle was also a bit crap. For a start, the field was far too narrow for a group our size - really needed to be at least 50% wider. Then, the EH instructions about what they wanted to see meant lots of faffing around with point of pike rather than push and we only got 8 shots in on the musket side! Rumour has it that our regiment (Norfolkes) and Blackwells on the other side were deliberately held in reserve as we were deemed least likely to obey the No Push instructions...
Still, evening was fun. Following the usual Circle of Death, we crashed Essex's party, only I'm not sure if it counts as crashing when you're the only guys there apart from the DJ. The beer tent was also starting to resemble a con too. In addition to the usual guys in kit, there was a whole load of other costumes - Darth Maul, Shrek, Princess Fiona etc.
Going round the other displays on Sunday, I also chanced upon a British WWII Far Eastern group. Yep, the guy who ran it was very keen to recruit me for his Burma Rifles unit! And to sign me up before the Imperial Japanese Army group. Maybe I should have reassured him there was no way in Hell I'd ever join an IJA group...
Second day's battle was a great improvement. We'd been assured thing would be different but such was most people's mood, I think it was making a virtue of a necessity! Much more pushing and maneuvering, got to fire off a whole load more powder. It actually felt more like a battle rather than some poncey bit of choreography.
Main thought: fun weekend but mainly for the social side (also saw miniosiris and clare_nce briefly). EH are being a pain. *If* I go to Beltring next year *and* it clashes with Kelmarsh again, I might be inclined to stay at Beltring.
And, now, 2 days and I'm off to Royal Gunpowder Mills for more ECWS geekery...