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Spetchley Park 11-12 Aug 2018

Spetchley Park 

We chose this event to be this year’s outing for our relatively new 3rd British Infantry Division Association.  Made up of three individual WWII British Infantry re-enactment groups ( Suffolks, Warwicks & East Yorks regiments ) we had tried this out at the Victory Show last year where it had worked well so Adam and I were looking forward to seeing another successful outing for the combined group.
Spetchley Park is a fine Georgian stately home and grounds in Worcestershire just off the M5 south of Birmingham. After an early start on the Friday evening we managed the trip from Castleford in two hours twenty minutes which appeared to be the shortest travel time for any of the attendees. Horror stories of delays and roadworks and traffic jams and one trip taking in excess of five hours suggested we had got off lightly.
After getting beds set up in the 14 man tent we spent a pleasant evening under the dining shelter and later at the beer tent. The pop-up bar ‘The Wheatsheaf’ was there again giving a representation of what the inside of a period boozer would have looked like.
This event is a multi-period event and covers re-enactors from the ancient Greeks all the way up to WWII with just about everything in between. This year they even had a group re-enacting the Texas Revolution of 1835/6. I have not seen that re-enacted before. For those not in the know this was a rebellion of colonists from the United States who joined forces with Texas Mexicans to take up armed resistance against the Mexican Government (Remember the Alamo!). It ended with Texas becoming independent from Mexico and then later Texas applying for and being granted permission to join the Union of the United States of America. Anyway, history lesson over now. What I was trying to say is that it is an event which literally has something for everybody.
In view of the event taking part in the landscaped grounds of the house, we were not allowed to dig in and show ‘troops in the field’ as our display. Instead, we depicted a tent city of troops in lockdown in holding camps prior to embarkation for Operation Overlord. It worked – a tent city it was indeed. We even had a medical aid section and the ATS working to fix a problem with the transfer box of a Jeep.
Saturday morning was intense. Parades, introductions, rifle drill and square bashing started the morning off.  With the numbers from three different groups, we had more than a full strength Platoon including an Officer and appropriate NCOs. I could tell that this was going to be a good weekend.  The morning finished with the groups splitting into separate sections and repeatedly practising the left/right flanking movements. This was time well spent and paid massive dividends later.
After lunch, we were given some time to ourselves to look around and see the other re-enactments/mock battles ours being last of the afternoon and scheduled as a ‘skirmish’. Seeing thirty plus WWII Tommies in full battle order is not something you see often and we received many comments of approval from the audience as we moved into place ready for the skirmish to begin. I thought it was probably going to be a bit one sided as there were only about twelve German Fallschirmjagers against us.  

As to how the skirmish went, well I can’t tell you from a first-hand account. I guess it was like that back in 1944 as each individual soldier only saw his little bit of something much bigger. It seemed to go well to me and I had seen the other sections moving independently under the control of the Officer. Then, after the action was over and we lined up at the crowd line for safety checks and to receive applause, the commentator on the public address system could not contain himself and went wild with appreciation.

Shortly after when we joined in with the final parade of all the re-enactors we had many complimentary and appreciative comments at what we had done.
With the public departing as the afternoon concluded the rain clouds gathered and it turned rather wet. Adam and I had intended to put best kit on to go the Beer tents. Not wanting to have to spend the following day in a damp heavy woollen serge battledress, we changed into modern (comfortable) kit. This was a wise move.
Across the evening we again received many appreciative comments regarding our skirmish. Somebody commented that it was the best WWII battle the event had ever seen to the point that we didn’t look like re-enactors. No, we looked like real soldiers.
Sunday morning started dull but brightened as it went on. After a spot of square bashing, we had a walk through how a platoon attack works with the three sections moving independently to support each other. Now I could understand how and why the public, the other re-enactors and the commentator were so impressed.

The Sunday skirmish came a little earlier and started off with us being caught in a cloudburst as we formed up, just to make it unpleasant. However, this had blown over by the time the skirmish started.  Lessons had been learned from the previous day. Adjustments were made to the shape and the events of the skirmish. Again it went well to me but this time the commentator was even more excited and enthusiastic saying it was even better than the previous day!   
 After another final parade of all the re-enactors, it was time to pack up. After saying fair well to all our chums both old and new Adam and I set off home at about 5.20pm. An early departure helped by the fact that some were staying another night and so the tents and other facilities did not need to be taken down and packed.
Again it was about two hours and twenty minutes home and after swiftly unpacking we paid a trip to the pub for a final beer before bed where we talked and talked about how good the weekend had been.
This was indeed a very successful weekend and has again proved the concept for combining groups to form a Divisional Unit. I think it is the future for WWII British Infantry re-enacting and understand plans are already in hand for similar events next year. I can’t wait!
Article by: PTE Dale Heaton. 

All Photographs Courtesy of David Hartland of the AFPU Reenactment Project

Pateley Bridge 28th-29th July 2018

Pateley Bridge 2018

When I set off for Pateley Bridge the weather was hot and sticky. I made the 30-mile drive in good time but the sky was looking increasingly dark and heavy.
Dave and Christine had arrived earlier and got the dinning shelter up. We quickly unloaded the jeep and started getting the big tent up. I was still dry but it was threatening rain. We then set about getting the Radio tent up. This was to be used for accommodation for Anna and the girls. Just as we put the last few pegs in the first drops of rain fell. This quickly turned into a deluge. It was at this point that I realised I had made a bad choice of clothing. I was wearing a T-shirt, shorts and sandals. I had my uniform with me but nothing else. Adam and Dale arrived and got their kit stored in the big tent. Bill also arrived and set up his radio display shelter ready for the morning
The rain persisted for the rest of the evening. Anna the girls and I stayed at the camp while the rest ventured into Pateley to sample the local beer and food.
It was beginning to get chilly sitting under the dining shelter so an early bed, but not to sleep. I was woken at regular intervals by the torrential rain battering the tent. It was so loud that I couldn’t hear Christine trying to speak. I have spent many rainy nights under canvas over the years but I have never heard anything like this. You couldn’t even hear the Sarge snoring.

It was still raining at daybreak so Anna and the girls decided to break camp and go home. While they were getting organised I breakfasted and got into kit. Slowly the clouds began to clear and eventually the sun showed its face. We got the display sorted out and we were joined by Tim Shellcock and Chris Dennington. The public soon started to arrive and we had a busy day chatting and explaining the various bits of kit. The organisers provided meal tokens and a detail was sent off to gather the supplies. It was just a sandwich and a bag of crisps but more than most organises bother to provide. About 3.30 p.m. it began to cloud over and soon it was raining heavily. This stopped the flow of public and soon we were just standing in the rain chatting to each other. We got the display undercover and Chris and Tim set off for their respective homes. Once again a small party headed out for the highlights of a wet evening in Pateley Bridge.

It quickly got cold and I made an early retreat to the warmth of the relatively dry tent. Saturday night was much the same a Friday and again it was still raining at daybreak. Adam and Dale made an early departure. We breakfasted and waited for the weather to lift. After a while it became clear that the weather was set in for the day and there were no public about, so we reluctantly decided to call it a day. We then set about dismantling the camp but still leaving something to shelter under. We got the big tent down and I had to put the jeep under the dining shelter to load it and then get the canvas upon the jeep. All my kit was put in the radio tent and then the dining shelter was taken down. I had earlier let Anna know we were calling it a day and we only had a short wait in the rain before she turned up. We soon had the car loaded and then got the radio tent down and thrown on top of the big tent in the back of the jeep. I bet we look a right sorry sight. Goodbyes were quickly said and we were soon heading for home.

A good little show spoilt by the sudden return of the British weather.

Yorkshire Wartime Experience 7th - 8th July 2018

Yorkshire Wartime Experience 7th – 8th July 2018
This is a local event, for some of us, in Hunsworth, Bradford on the CleckHudersFax ridge. This is its 7th year of running and we’ve supported it since day 1.
Pte. Heaton and I arrived on Friday evening, to find Col Sgt. Hebden and Pte. Klejnow already there with the dining shelter up, CPL Lycett had earlier, dropped the 14 man tent off, to return later on. After a couple of beers and catching up at camp, we headed to the beer tent, Pte. Clewlow had joined us by then.
Saturday morning Privates Etherington, Wilson, Sprague, Hallet, Shellcock & Dennington all arrived in good time and we were all on site and ready with an hour to spare. We set up our display in our usual trenches. The display looked quite impressive. Cpl. Lycett used the Jeep to position the 6 pounder under the tree between the two trenches. The two 3" Mortars were sighted in the left-hand trench. The right-hand trench was used as a communications trench. Pte. Etherington had bought a couple of rounds for the 6 pounder. The trenches were then liberally dressed with ammo boxes, personal kit and small arms. Additionally this year Pte. Klejnow and I had rented a live Bren gun. PTE Hancock joined us and helped making for a very strong turn-out.
It was already warm and the heat proved to be a problem for us in full woolen uniform, even in shirt sleeve order. Tin hats had to be worn at all times and proved to be very hot. We always try to be as accurate as possible in our actions as well as our dress, so for the battle, we kitted up in skirmish order, full battledress with skeleton webbing. We had 10 men in the field and 3 LOB firming the mortars, this worked very well, the battle plan, however, as it most times does, went a little odd.
We had been asked to form up behind the Valentine DD tank and follow it out until it stopped. We were then expected to deploy left and right, go firm and put down covering fire so another unit could storm the German defenses. The problem was that the tank never stopped and we ended up almost on top of the German positions completely exposed to their fire. While we were trying to sort out this mess one of the other unit stormed the German positions and it was all over.
After the battle, we watched a superb flypast by a Lancaster bomber from our trench, sadly the fun ended there. The "Tank rides" had been going most of the day, and gotten quite giddy, by the afternoon they had started taking long corners fast and were kicking up dust everywhere. Every time they went past we were treated to a smothering dust cloud. Not only does this ruin hundreds of pounds worth of kit, it is seriously bad for our health. We suffer this as long as we could but were forced to retire to camp.
Sunday was much if the same, but we swapped Pte. Hallet for Pte. Pozniak, he brought his radio gear and sent up in the small communications trench.
Today’s battle went better but not without some excitement. The tank set off early before all the pyro’s had been fired. So we walked out into a barrage of explosions. Every time the tank moved forward we were exposed to another set of explosions, getting slightly singed and showered in debris every time. However this time we were better positioned and managed to subdue an armored car that was causing a certain amount of difficulty. The Bren performed well, with me as no.2 and Pte. Klejnoiw as no.1.The close proximity of the pyros was somewhat unsettling but made for a very authentic experience.
Again the Lancaster gave us another excellent fly past. It’s been two years since we’ve seen it, and then we get to see it twice in one weekend, a nice treat. The tank rides had taken advice from the organizer about slowing down and keeping dust to a minimum, so life was much more bearable in the trenches.  At around 4.30 it was time to pack up, the many pairs of hands soon made short work of the de-camp. At 5.15pm we were all packed up and ready for home.
A very very enjoyable weekend for us all.
CPL Heaton

Harrogate Valley Gardens 17th of June 2018

Harrogate Valley Gardens 17th June 2018

The Valley Gardens event is another one-day event, set up to help raise funds for the restoration of the Old Magnesia Well Pump Room by Friends of Valley Gardens.
Our attendance was hindered this year as Cpl Heaton decided to get married on the same day. Having said that we managed a reasonable turnout.
I arrived first closely followed by Colour Sargent Hebden, we were soon joined by Pte Dixon, Pte Pyle and Pte Sprauge. The day started cloudy and threatened to rain. C/S Hebden had brought the dining shelter which we decided to put up just in case it did. We quickly got sorted out and the public started to arrive. Pte Dixon laid out his One Man’s Kit, display which as you might infer is everything that one man would carry. This is a very effective way of getting across to the public just how much the WWII British Soldier was expected to carry.
Harrogate is always a very busy show and this was no exception. Soon we were going through the various bits of the kit to a seemingly never-ending audience.
The threatening rain never materialized and we were treated to a flypast by a Spitfire at 2.30.
In no time at all, it was time to pack up. We were all keen to get off as some of us were due at Adams wedding do later that evening.

This show is going from strength to strength and the new organisers are keen to keep improving it. 

York Army Museum 9th of June 2018

York Army Museum 9th June 2018

I had the Jeep pack and ready to go on Friday evening. I was looking forward to our annual display for the York Army Museum the next day. On Saturday morning I was on the road bright and early. I had arranged to pick Dale up en route and I was soon pulling in at the designated layby. Just as I got out of the Jeep Adam’s car pulled in behind me. We quickly got all Dale’s kit loaded on to the Jeep and we were back on the road. It was a lovely sunny morning and our spirits were high as the Jeep trundled along the road.
We got to York in good time and Colour Sergeant Hebden and ATS Mellor were already herding the geese of the display area. We had just finished erecting the dining shelter when Pte Dixon arrived closely followed by L/C Shellcock and Pte Dennington. We got the display sorted and the museum provided the first cup of tea of the day.
Very soon we were talking to many people from all sorts of backgrounds. At one point we were mobbed by a group of Chinese tourists who all decided to climb into the Jeep at the same time to have their photograph taken. One of them told me of his father who had fought in the Second World War and had been captured in Burma. He had survived that and after the war returned to China to be imprisoned by the Chinese state. I also met a Chinese Naval Captain retired. Cups of tea were regular but it was difficult to find the time to drink them. We took staggered lunch breaks just to keep the numbers on the stand up.
The event at York is a great event. You get to talk to people from all over the world. We had a good talk with a couple who had just come into York to buy some pillows. I also talked to a group on holiday from Lithuania, one of who was in the Lithuanian Army.

The display area, on the grass below Clifford’s Tower, is quirky but good with lots of exposure to the passing public. It is also a great opportunity to support the East Yorkshires Regimental Museum.