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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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