Archive for July, 2016

Event Review -Sandwich Medieval Festival

Life’s a beach. Unless you’re a Harrington. In which case it’s a post apocalyptic wasteland with super mutants. But more on that later.


A small number of the Companye attended the Sandwich Medieval Festival over the weekend, hosted by our umbrella organisation, The Medieval Siege Society. After so many in the Midlands it was nice to re-connect to our southern MSS members.

South of the Thames. Smell that Kentish air!

The event itself was basically what in UK re-enactor parlance is known as an ‘ice cream show’ – where it is a modern festival at a site containing no actual historical attraction . They have their place in the calendar, but compared to the Castles & Battlefields we have been at of late then this can be a challenge. Many living historians find it hard to get motivated to portraying quality  levels of living  history interpretation when you’re next to the Nylon Knights and an ‘Epic Shop’. Mind you, the latter was fascinating, we were unsure what deserved such an accolade until the proprietor appeared sporting an outfit that even Lady Gaga might baulk at. Fair play.

That said – we could not fault the camping facilities, the enthusiasm of the site staff and local public – and…they did have dodgems… On application, we were declined the use for jousting. Spoil sports 😉

After being moved twice, we were finally pitched up in LH. The show opened with a firepower display, comprising archery, crossbows, gunnery, and the MSS trebuchet.

Then, it was time for the Knights of the Damned. An awe inspring name – clearly, there was a late ’80’s heavy metal group missing a trick there.These were a modern stunt team, complete with plastic armour, padded lances and rock music, and there was more than a nod to “A Knights Tale” in their performance which must be regarded as entertainment as opposed to any serious attempt at historical interpretation. Such fantasy interpretations are by their very nature controversial, and have been around since the late 1970’s. Medieval interpretation is of course a broad spectrum and indeed such entertainment and equestrian skills do seem to be well received by those that enjoy it, but it was a far cry from the solid lance authentic 15th C armoured jousts that English Heritage stage, and to which we had been recently involved in the productions in June.  Whilst the Companye do not joust, our opinion is that this side of medieval interpretation has had the bar raised so far on now that it is a shame other groups have not moved towards these standards

Then it was time for the the morning MSS battle. Whilst the showground itself was not on a historical location, the script was based upon the 1457 invasion of the nearby town by the french. Sandwich itself, is lovely. It has medieval lanes and is picturesque in the twee English south coast style. The local highlight is Richborough Roman Fort, where all the Roman legions marched through on their way to Britannia.

On 28 August 1457, after four years of uneasy peace in England the king presided over a wasting realm, with feudal barons lording it over the population of the north and the west.The French took advantage of the situation by sending a raiding party to Kent, burning much of Sandwich to the ground. A force of around 4,000 men from Honfleur, under the command of Marshal de Breze, came ashore to pillage the town, in the process murdering the mayor, John Drury. It thereafter became an established tradition, which survives to this day, that the Mayor of Sandwich wears a black robe in mourning for this ignoble deed.

The numbers of the MSS had been boosted by the addition of South Coast Unaffiliated Mercenaries (SCUM), The Company of Canterburie, and our old allies the Hartleys (Winner: Best Preserve 1457 – 1459). The undoubted highlight of the battle was the combined Hartley & Bayard gunnery block. Defended by pavaises, these armoured handgunners were agile enough to move and command space all across the battle field.

It was also amazing to see armoured gunners, these have been something of a rarity in UK re-enactment, and if one consults the Burgundian Ordinances they should all be equipped as follows: Sallet and bevor, breast plate over sleeved maille shirt. Handgun, falchion, buckler, dagger.

Full respect – this looked amazing, and absolutely right.

The climax of the morning battle saw the French move at pace (va va voom?) to take charge of the town of Sandwich. Soon their victorious battle cries rang out across the field… “Papa? Nicole!” “Bonnet de douche!” “Mange Tout! Mangue Tout!” etc 

It was horrifyingly hot however. By far the hottest weekend of the year, and the cloud cover had vanished in the midday sun. Those in full harness were cooking.. getting out of armour was sheer heaven.


Meanwhile, in Ant’s harness..

It’s at this  point we were treated to the unedifying spectacle of Ant imitating Sarah at a convention and becoming a fan girl. Matt had failed to mention that his relative, who just so happened to be David Gemmell‘s daughter was arriving for a bit of a chat, and Ant went into a gibbering wreck of a man muttering “Druss”, “Snaga” and “Kania” before verbal diarrhea kicked in when she arrived.  She was thoroughly lovely, and always welcome in the Harrington camp – and hopefully can forgive the impact her father’s books had on 42 year old readers of heroic fantasy literature.

In the afternoon, there was a second battle – recreating the English attempt to recapture the town. Jess decided to stay behind and ‘improve’ the interior design of Marcus’ Camper Van because, well, that’s what you do – but everyone else trekked down to the battle. Congratulations to Lauren who passed her non-com test that afternoon.

charles hatless

Off to battle..

The Harringtons were outnumbered, but had two things in their favour. The first, was Sir William Harrington had now loaded up on Pseudo-Epherine to get rid of his man flu and was in Scrappy-Doo mode.  Secondly – a number of us had been on Montante courses at the recent Two Days of the Blade Seminar and were looking to practice a few things.

It was a good fight, far better than the one at Hedingham which was the last MSS one we had attended.  Combat opened with skirmish order against the much larger block. This was going well until Stan, our Archer of Wolfage Manor (on loan to the French) shot Phil in the posterior. Again. Well, we can’t let Spencer have all the fun.

Meanwhile, Ant was having some fun with the Cobham Captain who had brought a sword and buckler to a poleaxe fight. That was only ever going to end one way..

At the end, the English were victorious – but not before the French Handgunners burst out of their pavaise fortress and engaged the English, knocking them flying with the stocks of their guns. They could not hold however, and eventually Sir Martin De Reynaud was brought to his knees by six of the English.

After hours, given we were a tad sweaty it was time to hit the famous southern beaches. You know, the ones the EU have invested millions in.

Having driven south for four hours, we were unsure exactly where was best so Nick decided to seek advice from a few locals on where to go. Pierre and Marie were a bit taken aback at our strange northern accents but helpfully provided directions to the local beach.

A beach you say?

So, BBQ in tow we set off for a lovely evening swim. Our suspicions were raised when we encountered an abandoned longship, but we pressed on down a concrete emplacement, and across some torn up Tarmac and strange vegetation.


At this point, the Harrington Pioneer spirit kicked in and Marcus bravely set out to the distant water. Except it wasn’t sand. It was Mud.

It was left to Jess to voice what most were thinking.

“Listen, I don’t want to worry anyone – but has anyone played Fallout 4..? This doesn’t half look familiar.”

More pondering followed..

“Nick mate, these locals – had you offended them?”

Meanwhile, guest of honour Steph was up to her ankles in a fashionable Hollywood mud treatment, and thinking we had dragged her into some kind of 1970’s Mud wrestling affair..

(3:26 in, but worth watching the lot)

At this point it became clear the EU millions had probably been spent on Mr Junker’s hair expenses, so we beat at hasty retreat to a local pub for a swift pint of cold beer in the sun.

UPDATE: Since the writing of this review, we have been contacted to say that there are 13 EU blue flag beaches in the area and this review is unfair. To this, we would simply say – we asked the advice of local residents at the show. We would have liked nothing better than to spend the evening at a nice beach. As to why they directed us here, that would be down to their conscience not ours, perhaps it was malicious, perhaps it was a joke at our expense – either way, the camera does not lie, and we ended up where we did. If we return next year we will of course head out and try and find a decent beach!

Then, back to the event site. Settling down with a BBQ, we were delighted to hear the live band had both kinds of music – Country AND Western. The music tent & licensed bar was popular with the locals who danced through till closing time.

To complement this genre, the MSS had brought it’s own music in the form of the latest Simon Cowell boy band – 3StarsAllHeart.


3StarsAllHeart. Probably best not to count the testicles..


On Sunday it was more of the same – but even hotter. Working on the Montante moves from yesterday, a few of us omitted leg harness  in favour of mobility, and Sir William experimented with losing the lower canons on his arm harness to see if Mayer’s long staff also translated.

During the afternoon engagement, this worked really well, and Sir William held a larger force of 5 at bay through the long staff technique.

staff work

“Holding back the spears…”

Well, it did until Phil jumped into to assist a flank attack and was promptly struck. That part was not in the fechtbuch and on balance we think Montante and Longstaff to be particularly lonely weapons at times!! More practice is needed here, but the seeds are sewn.

And so, the weekend came to a close. A dry packdown, and a long journey back to the Wall and the Nights Watch. We had had an enjoyable weekend – despite the disastrous beach trip.  It remains to see if this show will be a grower, it may be worth a visit again next year.  It also left us with an appreciation of the regular travelling that Phil and Kof undertake to be part of the Companye.

Nextup, the Companye march to Ashby De La Zouche Castle, for the final foot tournament of the season.


The weekend will of course be mainly remembered for the official start of the “Haripedia” – and some fine new definitions. This will be updated in future event reviews!


Doing a Spencer – an unwelcome rear intrusion

To Demanuel –  needlessly rearranging furniture and other items to assert dominance.

Dog friendly beach – post apocalyptic wasteland. Mutants optional.




Above is just a sample of the photos from the weekend – more available at Sandwich Facebook Album

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Event Review – Delapre Abbey 2016

A subset of the photos from the event has been published below. There are hundreds available, if you have facebook access we suggest you browse to: Northampton Facebook Album

Last weekend, the Companye staged our showpiece event at Delapre Abbey to mark the anniversary of the 1460 Battle of Northampton.

This year, for the first time it was over two days (previously this had been Saturday only) and we were delighted to camp over in such a scenic – yet historic – setting.


As ever, our tournament was contested by our teams of Harrington, Pilkington, Mortimer, and Woodhall

Sir William Harrington of Wolfage Manor


Sir Thomas Pilkington


Sir John Woodhall of Odell


Sir John Mortimer of Grendon



The event opened with an archery round. Each of our teams selected an individual to score for them, and they contested three sets of arrows on the targets – with increasing difficulty. The judging was undertaken by our red coated judges, lead by the King of Arms.

Mortimer gained the advantage on Saturday, but on Sunday Chloe took 12 points from the 15 available and built a commanding lead for the gold team of Woodhall.



Our great friends in the legion of boom put on an awesome gunnery display.

No, we don’t know what Gary is doing there either. I guess the stress of being that tall has finally got to him.


In a first for the event, the Two Companyes presented an interactive display that won plaudits from the attending academics as the best educational battlefield presentation they had seen. We will do a fuller review on this in a separate article later.


The final display of the day was our showpiece Tournament of Foot. Based on research, we showcase a medieval tournament as it might have been staged in Northampton in the second half of the 15th century.

As well as the Tournament Gallery (the only one of it’s kind we’ve seen in the UK) for the first time the combat arena was made of wood, as per its historical counterparts. We’re really grateful to Marcus for making this equipment, which he made with experienced fencing practitioner Jess. We believe they had lots of fun making it.


The tournee opened with the classic combination of sword and buckler. What we know of this comes primarily from the I.33 or tower manuscript, and some of the forms and wards were on display here in this first round. 

On both days, the black team of Harrington took the plaudits (great work Spencer). 

Special mention must go to Roy, who was awarded additional points from the watching ladies due to his Cha Cha Cha! 


We had an exciting new tournament round for 2016, namely Axe and Shield.

By 1460, shields had been pretty much removed from the battlefields of Europe, and were considered obselete. However, there is some evidence for tournament usage – as can be seen from the images of the Emperor Maximillian below:


Given this, we decided we would include a shield round. An axe was chosen for this pairing, partly for authenticity purposes, but primarily due to restrictions in the MSS combat rules – it is hard to make a war hammer that does not ‘do exactly what it says on the tin’!

 On viewing, this was a brutal spectacle that brought gasps from the watching crowds. The brightly painted shields suffered under the onslaught of our axe men but at the end there was only one winner. Sir William Harrington himself entered this round and beat all comers. For two days he was victorious, though he seemed to have been in a grow bag between the Saturday and Sunday!!!

We should however mention that he managed to cleave his own helmet crest off with a particularly vicious round house swing, much to the hilarity of the onlookers.


And onto the next weapon category, the noble art of the longsword.

This round was contested by our esquires and valets, and there was some excellent combat skills on display here. In particular the Saturday bout between Lee of Harrington versus Peter of Woodhall was particularly mesmerising and deserved to be the final. 

The Gold of Woodhall was victorious on both days, with an honorable mention to Lee’s helmet strike on Mark of Mortimer… 


Then the last of our individual rounds – the staff weapon or poleaxe.

This round is exclusively contested between the knights and is a full frontal assault on the audiences senses as our knights use these large destructive weapons to great effect upon their opponents harnesses of armour.

 On Saturday, Sir John Woodhall was beaten by Sir William Harrington in the first bout. 

Sir Thomas Pilkington was bested by Sir John Mortimer’s glaive, taking us to a black versus blue showdown.

Honours were even at the first, but Sir Mortimer  was not to be denied with his glaive and took the round and the points. 

Following the morning archery, Mortimer were now in the lead as we exited the individual rounds.

On Sunday, Sir John Mortimer was eliminated by Sir William Harrington, and Woodhall was bested by Sir Thomas Pilkington.  The showdown between the brother in laws was on.

This time, Sir William emerged victorious. Woodhall were in the lead still, but the Harringtons were catching up fast.


Two quick sessions of group combat here to encourage teamwork and defence. 

Pilkington made up ground on both days, but the most memorable moment came when gold faced black.

Pete B was in fearsome mode with the longsword, and penetrated the Harrington rear, much to Spencers obvious discomfort.  Black came bottom in this round, and Pete was awarded a special pilgrims badge – “the rusty sherrif”. 


The grand finale was now upon us. All four teams would lock horns in a brutal scrum of weapons and armour. . 

On Saturday, as Mortimer were leading, this had placed a large target on their head which meant they faced the remaining teams. They were soon out. Harrington were back stabbed by the gold of Woodhall, leaving White to face them. Sir Thomas’ team had played it well – and claimed the full ten points, and with it the day.

The Sunday melee opened with Harringtons leading; so they took the bull by the horns as they knew what was coming. Spencer in the black team charging the entire Woodhall team and bringing them to the floor with him in a blaze of glory, and a cheering crowd. There is a lot of him…

Mortimer were down next, leaving Gold to face White. White won the day but it was not enough – the Harringtons were victorious!!

The final scores after all this mayhem was as follows:

 Pilkington (White) 22
Mortimer (Blue) 20
Woodhall (Gold) 18
Harrington (Black) 16
 Harrington (Black) 22
Woodall (gold) 21
Pilkington (white) 20
Mortimer (Blue) 16


At the end of the tournament, our winning Knight was presented with the Sword of Honour by their Lady.

To the victor, the spoilsvictory

We’d like to thank all those who took part, our great friends in Seint Barbara, and especially Gary Drake for helping with the judging – very much appreciated.

DAPT have already reconfirmed the event for 2017, which will be even bigger than this one. Feedback has been excellent both from the public, and from DAPT.

“Thanks again for organising and delivering such a wonderful experience for everyone over the weekend. As we said yesterday you were all once again fantastic in every way – from the standards of the set displays to your involvement and engagement with the public who came along.We particularly enjoyed the essential guide – a great way to educate people about the battle, involve the public and have a bit of fun too. “ – DAPT

“The best 15th Century group out there, every time we see you you’ve raised the bar even higher” – Northampton Battlefields Society / Battlefields Trust

Some of us will be at Sandwich medieval festival this weekend, but the Companye shall march forward in numbers once more at Ashby De La Zouche Castle soon!!

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Article – Thoughts on the ‘Billmans Suprise’

By Anthony F.

Recently, I have been giving some thought to the ‘Billmans Surprise’ and how accurate this is.

This is not sour grapes on my part – although I was hit this way at the weekend – rather it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while now.

Firstly let’s set the context. Tournament and field use.


Daggers were not used in tournaments at the time. Really, they can only be used by grappling and finding the squidgy bits, and to quote Ben Godden – “That was considered extreme, even back then”.

There is only one illustration I can find that is possibly in a Tournament usage, and that is by the Emperor Maximillian. It shows a single dagger, not used in conjunction. 

I’ve already removed daggers from Harrington tournaments (I have staged a single round with only daggers before now, but not in onwards melees). 

Partly, for authenticity, but also for spectacle – which is what a tournament was about, even in the 15th Century. 

On playtesting, when participants had multiple hits, people were ‘drum rolling’ daggers on them and I remained unconvinced they had the lethal character I identify with a good strike. Certainly, not enough impact to trouble someone in a tournament back then.

To be fair – we are not always using prescribed tournament weapons in tournees (there are no usage of bills for example, which are a staple of the U.K. Battlefield). According to Rene of Anjou swords were square edge and designed so as not able to pass through the helmet grills, and leather clubs for maces. We don’t used these as standard. Later illustrations from the Beuchamp pageant seem to show rebated blades and narrower slits – which is more akin to our modern field equipment.

But again no daggers.

True, Talhoffer shows daggers in arenas, but examining the context, these are judicial combat and not tournaments. And again, single hand usage – not in conjunction with a second weapon like a spear.




This usage is interesting. Daggers were worn, but I have seen no evidence either in manuals or period illustrations for a dagger in the rear hand on a staff weapon. 

Indeed, if we look at what daggers were used for, most of the fight books I’ve seen then they are in a civilian (unarmoured) context. 

Once armour is worn, then it becomes grappling, and forcing open visors, up beneath the breastplate etc. A dagger is clearly going to do very very little to a man in even a small amount of armour unless you can find an opening.

In terms of experimental archeology, what is happening at UK reenactment events however, is combatant A is in half harness or above, and encumbered. Combatant B, is lightly armoured, using a bill in the spear mode, with a dagger in the rear hand. Whether they are truly in control of the weapon is I think down to the individual’s strength, weapon length, and grip.

The billman (Combatant B) carries the dagger because they know someone is going to get past the point and close. Rarely, are they actually using the bill as it would have been used (ie. short haft) – but let’s go further.


Combatant A closes, binds and moves in and cleaves him with his longsword. Combatant B hits him on armour with the dagger, and under our rules then a good hit is struck by both. Perhaps our dagger man is quicker and takes the score. But Armour is there so we go to work on a monday morning. Let’s take a step back.

When this happens in a demo with all eyes watching it looks dire. Why? Because we’re propagating a re-enactorism that a man in armour can be taken out with a long knife. HEMA, and oriental arts also mention ‘acceptable outcomes’ – most of us would take a cut from a dagger if our opponent was split down the middle.


No, of course we are not going to start wrestling to the ground and jamming daggers in through the visor, but I think we need to change the status quo because we are educating people on something which is clearly wrong, and promoting an inaccurate combat philosophy. 

The Billman should be working towards striking their opponent with their Bill. If they can’t do this then it’s probably because it’s too long for them to use in a way a bill should be used, and they are relying on a dagger to compensate for the fact that the weapon head is too far away to readjust once displaced.


Going forward, I see four possible future approaches:


1. Status Quo – do nothing


2. Allow them in a *battlefield* context only. Remove from any demo which is run as a tournament.


3. They only count if they do not hit plate armour (similar to Hartley tournaments, and the ‘Naseby variant’ of the Harrington Skirmish rules). The flip side is this approach could encourage injuries from the untrained, and thrusts to the arm pit are technically above the bottom of the sternum and hence off limit under most rules.


4. Allow daggers to be ignored by those with an armour level of 3 upwards (see the RTO armour weightings for reference). Dagger length would be defined as per the Mss agm resolution. 


As a community of living historians, I think we should discuss these in order to challenge this reenactorism.

Personally, I like the idea of option 4, both in a tournament and battlefield context.

All opinions are welcome! 



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