I finally got to Newstead for the Sealed Knot Muster on the Bank Holiday Monday. The weather was rather hot and the lack of shade did make me wilt a little so it was not hard to spare a thought for all those guys and girls dressed in all that wool and armour not to mention running around all over the place.
|My Regiments Standards|
As my old Regiment arrived on the field I shouted out very loudly Huzzah for the Guard to bemused looks from the audience and the odd look of pleasure from the Guard. I will admit I was rather proud of the ranks of burgundy that passed before me.
This is a good indication of the length of a pike, one boy asked his Dad if they were heavy, I had to grin when the pillock replied "No Son, it's just bits of wood" Well sir just to let you know, they start heavy and after thrusting with them for a couple of hours they progress to BLOODY heavy and these remember don't have iron pike heads at the ends like the real ones do. It's amazing how they managed to fight for so long in the real battles.
|A packed field|
I would say the battle had about 8-900+ on the field and whilst it was not fully packed in the photo above was typical of the view of good chunks of the field. I had taken part in a lot of battles over the years I was a member but had only ever watched a small battle and was surprised at the splendour of the occasion.
|Look an open space, let fill it.|
These battles are not just thrown together, not only are Regiments and Tercio's given set areas and opponents to fight but throughout the battle the commanders are given orders such as attack or fall back etc. so that for those watching you get to see a battle unfold rather than just a swaying mob going back and forwards.
|Forget what I just wrote, this is a push!|
However all that comes to nowt when Pike get to close for a push. It's kind of reversed tug of war and from the outside it may look like it's just two bodies meeting at one point and trying to push the other back but it's a little more complex. Not only is the object to try and push them back but also it can be useful to take advantage of the terrain so if your pushing up hill you push hard on say the right whilst the men on the left only push enough to keep the block tight. This gets the push to swing round possibly giving you the hill at which point you try to push on both sides gaining the hills effect and pushing the enemy down. Of course they are also going to either resist this or keep the turn going to gain a 360 change of position.
Almost always a push ends with one block being pushed to the ground as men trip up and then take down friends with them. I have seen (and been at the bottom) of piles of men chest deep and yes it hurts a plenty.
|Guard at play|
The Kings Lifeguard is so big that it was split into two formations for the battle, this also being a Guard muster (organised by the Guard) it would have had a really good turn out. Membership of the Sealed Knot is down on it's heyday (when I was in) and even the Guard has not suffered for this but it still has a massive membership and not a few of the members who were in it when I was are still going strong.
Great news is that you can try it out to see if you like it paying a temporary membership of £10 for a weekend (refunded on joining) and unlike when I was a member this not only allows you access to the camping area and social scene but now allows you to fight in the battle. Honestly it would be the best £10 you ever spend!
Throughout the battle you have drums beating, muskets being fired on their own or in volleys and some impressive cannon fire, but it's the smell that really adds the finishing touches. Fortunately it's the whiff of the gunpowder rather than that of the pike block on day II that we were treated too.
|Fog? Smog? or Volley?|
It's not hard to imagine just how confused a battle could get with all the noise and lack of communication beyond a runner especially on a day with little or no wind. Also consider the fact that today's blackpowder is very much cleaner than that of the 17th Century making the smoke thinner and less prone to hold on to the ground.
|Adding to the pollution|
We had the Royalist guns retreat to one side of us which gave us a great view of the guns and it was fun to watch them going through their actions, and more fun watching the grass wadding being thrown a good distance away.
|Half the Kings Horse|
A little disappointing was the number of cavalry on the battlefield. Prince Rupert's had seven mounted whilst Waller's had six. I had hoped we would see double that but the cost of cavalry with gun trained horses is high so it's a limited number of people who can afford such mounts. Still they were very active, if not a devil to snap.
Not all the fighting was at the other end of the field, as Parliament started to get the better of the day they pushed the poor Royalists back down the hill and the fighting was close to our part of the field. It's just a shame no pushes were being fought at that point.
The best bit was meeting up with my old Sargent (now an officer of his own company) and lots of other old faces. I have been invited to the off season socials and a number of them want to start up roleplaying again so all in all a great day out that was made that bit better by having my family with me and their enjoyment of the day.