My First Event Caporal Steve Page
If any of this seems too subjective then it’s because it’s based on memories from 1990 and not on how things “should” be by the book.
I had been interested in military history for many years prior to actually joining a re-enactment society and apart from a brush with the old Sabre Society in the mid seventies I had done nothing about taking my interest in the Napoleonic period a step further until I read about the Waterloo 1990 event in one of the many “hobbyist” magazines available. At the end of the Waterloo article was a list of several units and as I wanted to be “French” and needed to find a group which recruited nationally the 21eme fitted the bill.
After writing to Chris Durkin in July 1990 I received the “starter” pack which contained, if I remember correctly a list of events, a drill instruction tape and a brief set of do’s and don’ts regarding mainly what to wear in order to take part on the field.
Forewarned is forearmed and equipped with black lace up shoes, painters overalls and white shirt I found myself driving in to a car park at Audley End Saffron Walden in early September 1990. I had taken two friends with me as moral support and leaving my camera with them to take photos of the camp site and battle I ventured into the ‘French Camp’ and then to the 21eme’s tent lines.
In a process that has become a familiar routine I was swiftly kitted out with depot gear and then sent off to have some basic drill instruction firstly as an individual and then part of a squad and if I remember correctly I took part in ‘peloton’ drill before going on the field as part of the French Brigade opposed to the British Brigade of the N.A.
As I mentioned before, my friends who had travelled up to the event with me took some photos in the camp and of the ‘battle’ they show a 21eme the N.A. both very much the same as they are now and also very much different. There are faces very familiar and also many who are long gone and sadly missed. My most vivid memories are of singing (in my case whistling the tunes) as we went into ‘battle’ and the dreaded cry of ‘non-firers’ go down (since heard at every British event) then getting ‘shot’ by the 68th, falling in front of their line and being dragged back to our rallying point along the floor by the legs.
In spite of my surprise I was soon back in the ranks and marching off past the public and back to the camp where I found myself pledging to return the next day (which I did) and thus beginning 18 years of putting my gaiters on the wrong legs, forgetting peoples’ names, turning ‘gauche’ instead of ‘droit’ (even when I’m giving the order) getting locked in the portaloos and singing in the rain.
Long may it continue. God willing