By Guest Reporter Mark S.
A couple of weeks ago, Corin and I answered the call to arms ( or more exactly , the call of the MSS committee) to bolster the ranks of the mainly Bonivant sappers crewing the trebuchet at the Taunton Military Tattoo. This was a new event, aimed at raising funds for several military charities.
We arrived in good time at Taunton racecourse, where the event was being held, on Friday afternoon and put up Corin’s bell tent just as the rain started. Lack of any other activity whatsoever across the breadth of the site did make us wonder about the event, but one of the organisers assured us that everything was in hand.
The plan to put up the trebuchet that evening was curtailed somewhat by the fact the van hadn’t arrived and also that the gates to access the site were both locked up tight , thus preventing it getting in when it did arrive. The rain continued heavily for the next five hours, so instead of the hoped for convivial evening sat around the fire etc., the Harrington contingent opted for an early night as the fire was only producing light but little heat.
Saturday dawned bright and sunny and in a mad fit of keenness we started putting up the trebuchet in the arena. A very senior member of HM constabulary then approached us with a worried look on his face and asked “What do you think you are doing?” On being told, ‘Putting up the trebuchet’, he looked more worried and then asked how mobile it would be once erected. We told him it wouldn’t be and he looked even more concerned. ‘We’ll have horses in here you know….! was his now faintly panicky response. At this point an even more senior army officer appeared and having briefly assessed the situation, demonstrated a remarkable lack of skill when addressing the public by giving the order to us ‘Right, move it’
We decided discretion was the better part of valour and not really wishing a huge row to erupt, dismantled the treb, moved it out of the arena and reassembled it. After a test shot more to satisfy the newly retitled Master of Sappers than the health and safety rep (who had never seen a trebuchet before) we retired for breakfast, pausing only briefly to watch the brand new, not actually in active service yet, Westland Wildcat come in to land nearby.
As we weren’t doing our demos till the afternoon, we spent the morning, mingling with the public, handing out MSS leaflets and pretending to be a riotous mob so the police horses could look good.
We did two demos during the afternoon to quite an appreciative crowd. I started off as arm puller and then moved onto hook gatherer and passer. Corin worked as arm puller and Hook attacher. We also used Frog’s youngest daughter (4 and a half) as an enemy messenger twice, who did a sterling job of being chased, captured and then beheaded, so her head could be returned to sender via the treb. We did speed shoots against long bow and crossbowmen and the fastest time we managed to loose, reload and loose was 1 minute 10 seconds. Yes, we managed to knock a full five seconds off the time set at Naseby.
It was a good relaxed show, and worth the trip. I got back around midnight which wasn’t too bad. My thanks to Corin for doing the driving and sharing the tent. Hopefully they’ll want us back next year and we could do a much bigger living history display.