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Come on, you guys - explain it to me.


Guest wrinklyone

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Guest wrinklyone

Some guys collect train numbers. Others amass antiquarian books, or search out medals or uniforms. So, OK, different folks - different strokes. But I'm intrigued. What is the great attraction of the (apparently growing) hobby of re-enactment?

'I ask merely for information' (The Mikado).

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I can`t answer, as I`ve never even seen a reenactment. But, as a gay friend of mine once advised me, "If you haven`t tried it, don`t knock it". Not that you are, W! :) Phil B

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Each to his own I suppose but it appears to me that if you like dressing up in uniform at weekends then join the TA and get paid for it! I suppose they do promote general public interest which can only be a good thing. But I find the appearance of reenactors at Commemeration services (Arnhem) etc a bit off - it is almost like they are basking in the reflected glory of the real veterans. While there is a place for reenactment - it is in my opinion an entertainment. Services of commeration should be just that a commemeration and not 'entertainment'. This will probably upset reenactors but the realities of war are completely different to their hobby no matter how well intentioned their intentions.

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I have every respect for re-enactors as they help to create an atmosphere of Living History at many events. In my personal view, they help to explain and demonstrate what various aspects of life, both military and civilian, were like at a particular time and place in history. Re-Enactors cover a vast range of historical periods from the Roman conquest of Britain to the Jungles of Vietnam. There is an extensive representation of the WW2 period which seems to be growing in popularity, some of which has been brought about by the recent Victory celebrations. However, many re-enactors have been doing their thing for many years and have helped to keep the memories alive. I have often seen them at historical events providing a useful link between Veterans and the younger generations, which everyone seems to enjoy. They can help to provide a great understanding of the conditions people lived under in times of war and what life was like for those in Military service as well as those in Civil life. Those who Re-enact areas such as the English Civil War provide a great visual insight to the period and I applaud their efforts.

Now, there has been much debate about overweight 40-odd year olds running around in all types of military uniforms (inclusive of the Germans) and the fact that it is simply fat old men playing at soldiers. This is not the case and many re-enactors would be justifiably offended at such comments, which come from nothing but ignorance. They spend a great deal of time (and personal money) ensuring that their uniforms and equipment are historically accurate, in order to authentically re-create a moment in time. There are also a great deal of women involved in re-enactment who, again, would be greatly offended by those whose ignorance perceives re-enactors as "fat, old people dressed up in old fashioned gear".

I have no doubt that, as with all things, there are some individuals whose purpose may be questionable but on the whole I have found re-enactors a great bunch of people who have a passion for history and who are happy to share their knowledge and experience with others. A bit like this Forum.

Regards

PAUL JOHNSON

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I don't personally know anyone who does Great War re-enactments, but have a friend who does Civil War re-enactments. He does spend a lot of time and money on it, and talking to him he certainly has a good knowledge of the history of the period.

One of his main reasons seems to be the social side - and isn't that one plus of a lot of hobbies/interests?

Each to his own, I'm sure many (but not on this forum!) would be amazed at the amount I spend on books, but I enjoy this and again there is a socail side to our interest (The forum as one example!).

The other thing I probably spend a lot on is wine................no comment!

:D

Alan

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Ah well, here goes - I dont reenact WW1, I reenact a WW2 Gliderbourne troop of the 1st Battalion the Border Regiment (and occasionaly Home Guard when the show requires it) - you can see my group at www.vera.org.uk I started reenacting about 15 years ago and it began when as a new collector someone suggested I try wearing and using the kit as well as collecting it. My reason for doing what I do is in part out of respect for the veterans (all reenactors will tell you that - as to the truth behind it that varies widely) during my time with the group we have attended several Regimental reunions, and Regimental weekends - we were officially invited to attend the unveiling of the Borders monument in Arnhem last year. I have had the honour of meeting or communicating with around 30 Border veterans all of whom are very grateful of what we do - many feel Arnhem is considered a Pararachute Regiment battle and to see their badge on show and their story being told is very well received by them. As I say that is part of why I do it, but I guess the main part is just that I enjoy it - I am interested in the kit and the subject so its a chance to get together with like minded people and learn - its one thing to read about the weight of kit etc soldiers carried but actually wearing it over large distances you learn a lot - of course their is a limit to how far you can take it - you arent risking death or seeing your mates killed (and you wouldnt want to) and at the end of the weekend you go home for a bath and comfy bed but it is educational - for us and the public.

I like to think I am proffesional in what I do as are the lads around me in my group, but I do accept you will get lots of dressy up types for whom its just something to do - unfortunately a lot of those you see grabbing the limilight at shows and ceremonies etc are of that type.

Alistair

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I very much enjoy visiting the main military shows - Hop Farm and Military Odyssey in particular but with regard to this statement:

But I find the appearance of reenactors at Commemeration services (Arnhem) etc a bit off - it is almost like they are basking in the reflected glory of the real veterans. While there is a place for reenactment - it is in my opinion an entertainment. Services of commeration should be just that a commemeration and not 'entertainment'

I could not agree more. Very well put.

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It does have its lighter side - a mate of mine from 2 para was in a bar in Normandy for the celebrations last year and got chatting to a Lt Col from the Signals in service dress who he thoiught he recognised from the Gulf. After about 10 minutes the bloke had to explain that he was infact a reenactor although had once been a Corporal in the Signals in the 1980s! Much amusement was had. Either the reenactors uniform was very convincing or possibly my friends vision was marred by the 10 pints of french beer he had consumed.....

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AB64. Dont feel alone. I also re-enact. My interest is in the 8th USAAF of WW2. I go to a lot of events such as the War & Peace show and Twinwoods Farm where I meet other re-enactors such as you. Personally, the music of the era and the social side is great but it has also helped me to learn about the USAAF in Europe during WW2, for which I have a great interest.

My passion for Military/Aviation history, in both WW1 & WW2, is considerable and it's nice to meet others who feel the same, discuss the subject and pass on any knowledge to others. Just like this Forum.

I have met many veterans and I have never heard a bad word from any of them. Very often they make comments about the uniform and this leads to a discussion around their own service during WW2. The passing on of this information helps, in my view, to keep their memory alive and that of those who cannot tell their own stories.

For the record, I do not attend commemorative events or ceremonies in any form of uniform. I do not pretend to be a veteran (I'm far too young) and I do not wear any medals on the uniform (I leave that to the veterans).

PAUL J

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I also re-enact. My interest is in the 8th USAAF . 

Its a B*gger to park those B~17's though! :huh::blink:

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Hi,

I must admit all the replies I have had from Border veterans have been positive - ranging from "so you are the boys who are kepping the regiment alive" from a Bren gunner who was badly wounded at Arnhem to "thank you lads for remembering us" from another Bren gunner and lots in between, I have to admit though I am probably as much of a historian as well as a reenactor so I take more of an interest in them than most I have attended a veterans funeral (at his widows request) and also the funeral of a Borderer killed on 21st September 1944 but only buried last March (neither in kit I will quickly add).

I have only had 1 negative reaction from a veteran during my 15 years of reenacting, and that was a RN veterans who picked faults with me and my mates uniform even though everything we had was correct - we did the decent thing and accepted what he said and thanked him, we were both quite upset about the possibility of having upset a veteran but several other RN veterans came over congratulated us and asked us to act as guards to their standard during their march past.

I think Reenactors have a definate part to play even at commemorative events - I know when the Airborne Recconaisance veterans have their annual church service they invite "their" adopted living history group along and one of the reenactors acts as standard bearers. I think the probles come when these things become too open and anyone with any level of kit can turn up. I think reenactors also have to know their place and accept sometimes they need to leave the veterans in peace, or move into the background - and their seem to be many who dont seem able to know when these times are

Alistair

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Hi

I am a re-enactor because there are no longer any surviving World War 1 veterans in my neck of the woods, and by presenting living history displays I might just prevent somebody from binning that faded photograph or splitting up those medals, by reminding them that they were in fact flesh and blood, and not ghosts from a dim and distant past.

The military is less involved in ceremony than it used to be or the regiments so convoluted, that the presence of some uniformed representative is all but meaning less. For those who say only the military at such activities, usually ex military themselves my first question is, Are you a member of your local RBL or regimental association? Nearly always the answer is No! Which is why I am the Branch secretary of my local Royal Hampshire Regiment Comrades Association and, not somebody who served in the Regiment, sadly the younger ex soldiers it would seem can’t be bothered.

I also have fallen family members in both World Wars, so as far as I am concerned I will go where I like, attend what I like, when I like, wearing uniform if need be, to pay homage to the finest generation of men it was my pleasure to meet, and if that upsets some ex soldier, I am sorry but my family also paid the butchers bill, and I don't think I have any less respect because I wasn't in! Most of the Great War soldiers were civilians anyway!

As part of my living history I have started two memorial services a year to the Isle of Wight Rifles, now attended by both the RBL and the TA. Our archive has about five enquiries for family traces a week, and I give talks to local adult and youth organisation about the Great War.

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I am the membership secretary for our local branch of the RBL and, like T8H and many others, also have fallen members in my family.

The acts of rememberance vary widely but all of them are important. Re-enactors have their part to play as long as their representation is historically correct, respectful and non-political.

PAUL J

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In my border region of New Brunswick, Canada, there are a number of Civil War re-enactors who are part of the 20th Maine Infantry. This was the unit under Chamberlain which won fame at Little Round Top and appear prominently in the movie "Gettysburg". From what I understand there were quite a few Canadians (or should I say British North Americans from the Maritimes, as Canada wasn't created until 1867) in the real 20th Maine.

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Don't knock the re-enactors. They and everyone else had a great time at Zonnebeke recently

I also recall a group of them march out through the Menin Gate into the night about an hour or so after the LP Ceremony. Absolute magic.

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How do reenactors decide what rank they`re going to be? Do you decide to be a staff captain and just turn up dressed accordingly or do you start as a private and somehow earn promotion? Are there vacancies in certain ranks to choose from? What`s the highest rank that appears? :rolleyes: Phil B

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In all the Groups I have seen there is a fair representation of Ranks. Usually, you find an officer, an NCO and several other ranks, bit it does vary.

You won't find a whole unit of Captains, if that's what you mean.

The highest rank I have seen has been a Colonel. Most re-enactors represent fighting combat units, so there are no Generals or staff officers, that I've seen.

Here's a link to WW2 Re-Enacting. I am sure they would be happy to answer any questions you have through their own Forum, which is very informative.

WW2 Re-Enacting.co.uk

Regards

PAUL J

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Most people starting out just come along as privates, and I guess like in the real Military some people just show themselves to have a bit of leadership potenmtial and kind of gravitate to rank - in the group I am in we have 1 Liuetenant who started for about 5 years as a private, but as he was a bit opsh and as the group had reached a level where an officer was appropriate it seemed natural for him to fill the role - as well as being correct for our size it opens up another aspect to our displays to show differences in kit etc. Some people do just come along as officers and look to join units, but most groups will knock them back and only allow entry at the lowest rank. It isnt unknown to have groups form with rank structures that are totally incorrect - 1 Captain, 1 Sergeant, 2 Lance Corporals and a private for the rest of them to boss around but they usually either coma and go quickly or realise the error of their ways and reshape to a more realistic structure. At some shows you will get odd (probably the right word for them) high ranking officers wandering around on their own - I am not really sure of their motivation - I guess in some cases its trying to feel important, or just that officers kit seems more available.

Alistair

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I am not sure from the above responses, but I think I may be the only American WWI reenactor responding. Apologies if I am incorrect. WWI reenacting in the States is mostly run by the Great War Association. We own about several acres of land in rural Pennsylvania with two permanent trench systems. There are generally two events a year one in the fall and one in the spring (there is also a summer one, but that is usually a small attendance b/c who really wants to run around in the summer wearing an entirely wool uniform :D ). These events are entirely private i.e. no spectators.

Unlike Civil War reenacting we do not reenact a particular battle, but more of a melange of the war as a whole ie we share the trench system with a Russian unit. It is really more of the WWI experience if that makes sense. With the exception of real death and danger everything is pretty faithfully followed. The is artillery in the form of mortar rounds and rifle grenades, gas is apporximated with the use of smoke grenades and smoke cans, both sides are wired in tight, there are MG bunkers with real MGs. We sleep in the trench and everything that enters the trench sytem has to be appropriate for the time. Everyone goes all out.

For most, myself included, reenacting is a way to get a little closer to the men who fought and died in the trenches. Is it entirely accurate? No of course not, but its as close as one can come without actually being in danger. There are times that you almost forget where you are and are transported to that time. At my first event we were preparing for a night atack on the German lines. The air was thick with the fumes of gun powder and smoke, the sky was alight with flares of every color and I can remember crouching at the foot of the trench gripping my SMLE and waiting for the moment to go over. Just then a piper began to scurl a mournful tune and the whistles blew. At that moment and only for an instant I was on the Western Front.

I would also like to point out that these units and people take the history very seriously. Our unit's website was recently referenced by The New York State Military Museum http://www.dmna.state.ny.us/historic/reghi...07thInfMain.htm.

I apologize for being so long winded, but I think reenacting is an important and vital way to keep the memories of these men alive.

Jon

PS plus it is a ton of fun

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Guest wrinklyone

Thanks, guys, for your contributions on this - for the most part reasoned and good humoured, although there was a whiff of testosterone in one or two replies.

My own thoughts? As I wrote - different folks, different strokes. After all, if Becks really does like to wear Posh's frillies (even though they must be desperately constricting), that's entirely up to him.

I do, however, share the discomfort someone expressed about re-enactors wearing such uniforms at solemn commemorations.

Also someone has already conceded that re-enactment (as distinct from collecting and/or wearing the uniforms) can only be a pale approximation of what conditions were really like. I hope spectators' appreciation isn't progressively dulled by not realising that, e.g. that there are no rats or lice.

And I guess very few of the Sealed Knot actually stink. Everyone is so frightfully clean!

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Are you a member of your local RBL or regimental association?  Nearly always the answer is No!  .... sadly the younger ex soldiers it would seem can’t be bothered.

I keep an open mind about reenactors. I think there is a useful educational role and the dedication to detail is impressive.

However, I think that if I relate a couple of experiences I had with the RBL it may explain the reluctance of recent ex servicepersons to become involved.

Firstly, while still serving in the early 80s I took 2 members of the Gurkhas to an RBL in west London and received racist remarks - which is why I have never joined.

Secondly, when I was signed in as a guest at my local RBL it turned out that me and the guy that signed me in were the only ex servicemen in there! The rest were associates. I don't feel the need to join a drinking club full of people with whom I have no common experience.

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I don't feel the need to join a drinking club full of people with whom I have no common experience.

As an ex-regular, I have to say - Here, Here, to that.

No doubt the re-enactors play a role in keeping history alive, and that in itself is no bad thing, but on the odd occasion I see them, in whatever period they specialise, I can't help but feel they're people who have an urge to bask in reflected glory, and thus demonstrate a certain falseness within the human spirit.

That said, as a writer of fiction (but not a joiner of any club) I do understand this human falseness; when writing a scene I'm actually there, living the scene (inside my head, of course). So, I suppose, in an abstract way, the only difference between us is the fact that I don't need to dress the part to live it. Each to their own, and may that always continue. Vive La Difference!

Cheers - salesie.

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I have reenacted the US Civil War for over 20 years. I have spent $1000s to get my impression as close as possible..the material for my uniforms is hand woven..natural dyes ect..I started as a Private and eventualy became the Provost Marshal for the 1st Div ANV..we have 3000 members as well as 35 full size Cannon and around 100 Cav. I wrote the saftey regs that are now used through out the hobby in the US. Reenactments run from "dog and pony" shows ( Which my Div does not attend) up to the largest reenactment that I know of..that was Gettysburg some years back with 28,000 reenacters on the field!!! our "Pickets" Charge was 400 men less than actually made the attack. Reenacters run the full gamet.from those that just show up in poor unforms and get drunk..to those that are "hard core".. Many reenecdters take the time to give talks at schools and Historical Societies as well as help in Preservation. I have given talks at the Canadian Forces Staff School as well as assited with a trip to Gettysburg that the Canadian Forces Staff Collage took part in... There may have been as many as 55,000 British North Americans that served during the Civil War..29 recieved the CMH...After many years of Research I found that the "Chief Of Provosts" for the ANV was a Born British North American...from what is now Ontario!!! what a fluke!!

I enjoy the comradeship as well as teaching the public..I think if reenacting is done well it is worthwhile..However I hate hearing those reenacters that know little or really have the facts wrong talk to the public..thats the down side..there is always room for improvement..and many keep up grading to get it right.

Dean Owen

Whitby Ontario Canada

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