Military Odyssey

Kent County Show Ground Detling

26th August 2013

Scribe Mike Boxall

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In The Bright Sunshine

 

In the bright sunshine of a January 1879 morning lines of scarlet-jacketed infantrymen fired volleys from their Martini-Henry rifles and retired in good order. The attacking 20,000 Zulus could not be halted though and by 3 o’clock 591 officers and men of the 24th Regiment lay dead at the foot of Isandlwana mountain.

 

In the bright sunshine of an August 2013 morning lines of scarlet-jacketed infantrymen fired volleys from their Martini-Henry rifles and retired in good order. The members of The Diehard Company re-enactment group, in 1880s uniform, arms and equipment, were taking the crowd at Military Odyssey through the stages of the Battle of Isandlwana, fortunately without the help of attacking Zulus.

 

The Military Odyssey event at Detling over the August Bank Holiday weekend has long been a mecca for re-enactors. Billed as 2,000 years of history in action, with battles, arena demonstrations, living history displays and restored military vehicles, it also features indoor and outdoor collectors’ markets -everything for the military history buff on one showground.

 

Thanks to the Cinque Ports’ resident military history buff, Ray Downes, we were appearing on the final day of the event. Having been given a ‘roving brief’ by the organisers, the Drum Major had arranged for us first to head the Diehards’ morning parade around the camp.

 

So it was that a little after 10 o’clock we sallied forth – 6 side drummers, a tenor drummer, a bass drummer and a cymbalist, 8 Bb flutes, 2 F flutes and an Eb piccolo. Side drummers Zena Byrne and Mark Lidinson were taking their customary ‘second instrument’ on cymbals and bass drum respectively, but a surprise new switch saw Mike Cheeseman on Bb flute. At last we’d converted a side drummer!

 

One of Mike’s stronger tunes is The British Grenadiers, which was lucky as we must have played it about half a dozen times on our tour of the camp. The march at the head of The Diehards was a great way to see the site, though, and we finished our tour by playing The Rogues March (not a comment on The Diehards, obviously…)

 

After a short break we re-joined The Diehards to march them to the arena for their Zulu War display. We then fell out for lunch and descended eagerly on the various food stalls.  

Lunch over, we re-assembled for the short march to our other engagement of the day – supporting The Veterans Charity. This charity was founded in 2008 to provide support to Veterans of all generations. It focuses on providing 'modest' help, like household items and communication equipment that can be delivered without red tape or delay. (See the Links section for The Veterans Charity’s website URL.)

 

Fronting up in two ranks opposite the charity’s stand we played through our standard display routine at the halt. At appropriate points a large collection bucket was waved under the noses of the assembled crowd.

 

For the benefit of two ‘Wehrmacht’ clad onlookers we added Prussia’s Glory to our routine, though it wasn’t clear from their reactions that their re-enactor research had got as far as recognising Prussian march tunes.

 

After a round of applause from the crowd and a round of teas and coffees from the Veterans Charity stand, we finally formed up again to march off to Sussex By The Sea.

 

In the bright afternoon sunshine we got out of our scarlet jackets and packed up to leave the Military Odyssey looking back on a great day supporting The Diehards and the Veterans Charity. Hopefully we can look forward to this becoming a regular odyssey for us in the future.

 

Mike Boxall

 

 

 

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