Saturday, 20 June 2015

Close Encounters of the Worst Kind...

Proceeded by an article by Mr. Donvil on the impact and possible changes in case of a French victory at Waterloo (the Mont Saint-Jean) I can give a humble insight of taking part in those European reenactment events. Amongst them the yearly recreation of the final Napoleonic monster battle in nowadays Belgium.


The day before: dark, rainy, evening sky. Informal 'deliberation du champ' amidst the bivouac in the orchard of 'Ferme le Caillou' With the author in dark longcoat. (photo by Stan Heerkens)
No man could ever consider my joining a new born Napoleonic reenactment group would lead me to a position with responsibility over thirty-five persons in the battlefields around Waterloo in the year 2012, the thanksgiving two decennia after Napoleons' defeat in Russia. In fact, I never intended to.

How it began. Searching for an adventurous hobby to spend time with my son, we crossed the Napoleonic reenactment in 2006. A brand new group just started off, representing the 3rd Regiment of grenadiers on foot of the French Imperial Guard. This was a former Dutch unit, lifeguards of King Louis Bonaparte of the newly formed Kingdom of Holland the former Batavian Republic. We both subscribed to be the MEM (minimal essential musicians).

Our first meetings and drills took place around historical public places such as village-parks or minor castles. Since none of us carried a musket, sabre or even a bajonet, we could do this without any government permit. The lack of proper uniforms made us look like early 19th century trash. A mixed up collection of regular French and Napoleonic Dutch uniform pieces, leatherwork and utensils. Above: the first photograph taken of the maiden initiative in front of the townhall of Neerrijnen (NL) in Nov. 2006. Author (white gaiters) and his son (eight years of age) in the middle.

The potent initiative. Within two to three years the group grew up to be a player of eminence in the Western-European Napoleonic reenactment world and a truely serious one, in the Benelux. Around 2009 and 2010 the initiative was hired about a dozen times in relation to the 200 years remembrance of the installation of King Louis Bonaparte in the Kingdom of Holland. It proved the air that really vitalised le troisième Régiment. Russia 1812 (200 years) became the new focus of things and the group willingly adapted as such.

Below: a realistic improvised shelter along the banks of an unknown Russian river stream. Mimicking  the Russian campaign and the desasterous flight from Moscow. (Hardenberg, Loozensche Linie, NL).

The stuff dreams are made of?

 People who reenact history can have various reasons for that. It covers the whole spectrum in between men (and woman) who like to play (or really think) they are in charge and individuals that fancy to camp, in such historical relevant places, you normally are not aloud to put your bicycle against a tree trunk. Leading to the conclusion not all like to fire a musket on regular basis. Most of the time these weapons are antique originals, read: quite expensive! As is the uniform coat of a French Napoleonic uniform: in this case the 'Habit Longue'. The popularity of reenacting the American Civil War in the US makes the ACW period much cheaper, as uniform pieces, leather belting and other accouterments from this period are reproduced in high quality and vast numbers. Numerous country- and unit variation divides the European Napoleonic scene in small fragments, making it a dear investment to seriously get involved in.

Waterloo 2011. A photopgraph picked up from the internet (google). Depicting the author as Capitaine of the Dutch Grenadiers (3rd Reg. foot Grenadiers of the Imp. Guard). In real, almost vanished to the last man during the retreat from Moskow (1812) but in full reenactment action every year in the re-fight at Waterloo. Youtube impression of this event can be seen here:

Underneath: In Dutch language an article by the hand of the author in the gaming magazine SPEL. Dating from 2008. Translated title: The awakening of a giant! (The French ,reenactment, army at Waterloo).

Les Grenadier Hollandais leaving 'Le Caillou' farm bivouac, heading for the battlefield. Author, far right, next to the troops. The lieutenant leading the 'Téte de Colonne'. 

Grenadiers flanked by Young Guard, Pupilles de la Garde (right), all in campaign dress. Musicians and staff are in front of this and invisible in this photograph. (Orchard of 'Le Caillou' farm, original bivouac site of the Chasseurs a Pied and Grenadiers a Pied in 1815, the night before the battle).

Happy reading! I'm available for questions, suggestions or remarks. Happy toy soldiering to all in big and small!



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