Sunday, 14 August 2016

Blat, Blat, ping - it's the military and flying machines show

'Setting the scene

So I attended the Militaryand flying machines show (mfm) in Romford, Essex/London at the beginning of the month. This show is a healthy mix of the medieval to the modern and everything inbetween.
As I was displaying I didn't get to see too much of the displays but parked next to me was an M6 Greyhound and a Sherman so there was plenty to see from my pitch.

I was with Jim, Lisa and Barbara and set up a mine field, large tent with examples of what the engineers did and the history of the regiment.
We had a lot of interest from collectors and historians as they had never seen US Engineers portrayed at shows before and we're proud to say we are a rare breed in the hobby. 

I was involved in the battle, described as the airborne vs the Wehrmacht they didn't notice me carrying the flag for the footsloggers.
    I'm staring down the barrel of an oncoming Stüg
The look of 'it's not going to plan'

And I'm brown breaded (dead)
It was a really great battle from the YouTube videos I've seen but the public don't realise the briefings we went through on one of the hottest days of the year. Well worth it though.

Just to close - I hired an M1 Garand for the weekend battles (hence the blat, blat, ping) and here's a vid of me clearing the last of my rounds.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

A spectrum of reenactment

It would be wrong of me to write about ww2 military reenacting without covering the politics usually involved in the hobby.

I've found that most individual reenactors can be broken down roughly to one of three groups and to try to pull them away from these groupings is a dangerous undertaking (trust me, I tried) but people do blur between them.

Breaking it down...

The reenactor: this group is the most common and comprises of people that like to dress up (usually sometimes in the right kit) and have their photo taken. They are usually the first into the battle, the ones running into the open and the last to die.
When approached by the public they can tell the tales seen in band of brothers or Saving Private Ryan but struggle with detail.
They enjoy the history and their passion for the hobby is their strongest point.

The drinking club: This group is a dying breed. Many years ago it was rare to find a reenactor that hadn't had several drinks before midday and were a danger on the battlefield.
These can still be found hiding at the back of displays or propping up bars at shows.
Usually they have the basics of a display but don't speak to the public sober.

The living Historian: Here is what every reenactor should be. They live to be part of the display and speak to the public. Their kit is good and they dread being called a FARB. 
They know the drill and respect a rank system in their group and have known to spend the night in a foxhole on their display.
They have a knack for knowing a lot about about their subject and aren't affraid to gabble on about it.

Who's the Napoleon?

The people that run groups are usually the ones that like wearing the officers uniform and holding the highest rank, so not nessessarily the best person for the job. (easiest way to wind them up is to carry some Major oak leaves with you, pop them on and watch them hunt for colonel wings)
They are sometimes the ones that are happy to take on the paperwork, purchases and initial costs for the group. (so basicly taken advantage of) 
I've found the best groups out there are run by people that have a lower rank, home of the brave are one of these and they work very well with higher ranks being part of the group rather than running it and from what i've seen they all chip in.

Final thoughts

A reenacting group is like a relationship without the mortgage or kids to worry about (despite so many reenactors being single or divorced) comprised of big kids playing soldiers. When the relationship turns sour the members are often too happy to jump ship rather than make it work.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

What I'm doing between shows...

So to keep busy and upset my Mrs as much as possible I've been picking up some odds and sods...
Here is the bible of the week by Gordon L Rottman. It's a great book that's very detailed but not overwhelming with information. 
A batch of 1/2 pound TNT blocks I'm working on (first attempt) and a German a 35 switch for a sock mine I have on the way.

Here is the repro S-mine I bought and prongs I put together that go into the ground to simulate a buried mine.

I have an original Stock mine on its way (below) and I'll set that up with a trip wire alongside a stick grenade on the correct mount (below, below)
Lessons learnt- I found some repro mines and grenades online that I'll get next month with a crate marked as 'EXPLOSIVE' and I think my display will be complete. (As if)



Temple at War 2016 - Away from home, alone.

Finally my first show. 

Temple at war 2016 at Cressing temple was a nice show in its second year this being my first visit and certainly not my last.

So day one, I set up with the help of another group because the rest of the lads couldn't make this one until Sunday (part timers).

My area of knowledge has been leaning toward mine clearance, booby traps and obstacle clearance. I only had a 20ft x 10ft area to pitch a tent and a display so I used my Dragons teeth, minefield marker tape marking S-mine prongs protruding from the ground. 

You'll need to pardon the positioning of the teeth, the organisers made me shift things about.
Here's the basic set up on the Friday evening, right on the main path into the site they said (until the organisers parked a truck shadowing me)

And here's the final set up, with marked out mines and odd infantry kit around.

I spent 2 days basically on my own patrolling around my area with the mine detector a SCR-625 H and speaking to the public about the various nasties that the Germans had hidden away for the allies during the war, offering a repro S-mine to handle.

Chris did pose for one photo though 'and the pub is ... here'

Unfortunately there aren't any pictures of me 'working', probably because I jumped on everyone before they got a chance to take a shot but I'm sure one will pop, up at some point. 

Lessons learnt... Well I enjoyed being on my own thats for sure and I came away with some ideas on how to develope my display like rather than build a bunker or more teeth (always a possibility) I think I'll put together a vineyard as described in many accounts as nightmares for infantry in Italy as they were always booby trapped and I could lead the public through the display.


Friday, 29 January 2016

Who, where, when and why?


Hello. I'm (Sgt) Liam Collins of the Rugged few - US 36th Combat Engineers living history group (LHG).

We're a small group of reenactors based in the South East of England that have been reenacting US WW2 history for many years now (12 in my case) with the last 8 of these being as the 101st airborne 502nd PIR. 

   This was us plus the Durham gents at North Weald

Last year (2015) it became clear that we needed a change of direction for a few reasons. One, that the average age of the group's members is around 35+, far to old to portray young fit airborne troops and that there are loads of airborne reenactment groups out there, probably more than were here in the 1940s.

So I thought, what isn't being portrayed, who's history are we neglecting?

The 36th Combat Engineers. Builders, Hole diggers, explosives experts, mine field clears and so solid as regular infantry, the 2nd rangers requested them to support their landings in southern Italy. 

So this blog will show you my view of the 2016 season. The group pulling together set building, purchases we make and the history of the battalion we represent from leaving the States to invading Europe. 

    These are from the first photo shoot as the 36th 

Thanks for reading and I hope you'll be back soon.