Wednesday, 29 April 2015

World War I Education Day at Fanshawe Pioneer Village

 Every so often (okay, twice a year), I help out at a Education Day at the Fanshawe Pioneer Village on the north end of London, ON. This is a service offered to local high schools as they learn about the so-called "Great War" at the beginning of the last century. (That's beginning to sound like ancient history somehow.) This is put on by the History Matters organization with grew out of the reenacting group I belong to. This past Monday, I assisted by taking photos. I don't have a uniform for any of the belligerants, since I'm of a large size and the prices are prohibative in any event. There's talk of setting me up as a civilian for a static display, with sounds pretty good.

The First World War was very important for Canada. It was the first conflict where Canada sent troops as an independant ally of Great Britain rather than as Imperial Colonial troops. It's been said, with some great truth, that Canada became a nation at Vimy Ridge.

The day starts with a military "fashion show" where various uniforms are displayed on the reenactors. Then the groups break up and go to stations such as "the art of the trench raid", "the soldier's canteen", "mounted cavalry combat", "Battle School", and the all-time favourite of the students, "The General Store" where much tablet fudge is consumed!

First some photos of the "Fashion Show":

Early war German soldier with the leather Picklehaub and the fur pack.

Mid-war German soldier. the Mauser 98K and the Stahlhelm have been added.

Late war German Stormtrooper (Stosstruppen)
He has had most of the trim removed from his tunic and is wearing captured British
"Ammunition" boots and puttees. He is missing the twin grenade bags carried on the chest.

Canadian Soldier. He is wearing the dress cap with the Brody helmet slung on his shoulder.
The small box respirator is on his chest and he's armed with the SMLE rifle.

Canadian trench raider.
His cap is reversed to confuse the enemy in the dark; the reversed cap looks remarkably like the
German fatigue cap. His large Mills bomb holders are on his chest.

The French Poilu in Horizon Blue with the Adrian helmet and Berthier rifle
(That rifle had no safety!)

Canadian Regimental Medical officer
A new character for this year!

Canadian Medical Orderly or stretcher bearer

Canadian Nursing Sister
These nurses were all commissioned officers. We call them "the Bluebirds."
A Volunteer Aid Detatchment woman
These were civilian women who served as laundresses, hospital attendants, ambulance drivers,
and other auxiliary positions. Her dress is grey rather than the Nursing Sister's blue.
{By the way, this reenactor is my wife!}

Civilian munitions factory worker
The women in these factories were exposed to many toxic substance, some of which
turned their skin yellow. Hence, they were called "Canaries."

The Canadian 1st Hussars in full dress.
This new station told of the role of cavalry in WWI. There was also a man in khaki who
described how the cavalry fought.

The Russian Women's Battalions of Death
One of the remarks at these Ed Days has been the lack of female presence. Discussion of the Nursing
Sisters and VAD were added, but this reenactor shows a combat role for women, particularly on the
Eastern Front. There were many positive remarks on this new addition.

A Belgian refugee... who is continually roughed up by the German road block.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission sculptor
This new station discussed the cemetaries in Europe, how they were laid out, arranged, and maintained.
This reenactor recreates a veteran now a civilian who was employed as a headstone carver.

After the "Fashion Show", the student groups followed a rotating schedule of stations to learn many of the aspects of the history of World War I.

At the battle school, the students learn to handle barbed wire (knotted shoe laces), machine guns,
toy grenades, and the ever-present and always-warned-of land mines.
(We really don't have any such thing.)

Canadian and Russian instructors put the students through the Battle School.

The Bunker on the field.
This is a styrofoam and wood construct that disassembles for transport,
'cause this is a travelin' show!

The road block in a quiet moment.
Matthew throws a big "thumbs up."

The presentor the this history of the 1st Hussars in full dress.
He is a civilian member of the parade troop that turns out for important occasions,
mounted in full dress.

The colours of the 1st Hussars.

At the canteen (estaniment), this Poilu relaxes with his hostess over
wine, cheese, and cigarettes.

Another member of the 1st Hussars demonstrating lance drill.
This gentleman is actually a major in the 1st Hussars, a reserve (militia) armoured regiment
of the Canadian Forces, which has its headquarters in London, ON.

The reenactors prepare for rapid fire at the after-lunch "storming of Vimy Ridge."
The armed reenactors fire off one magazine of blank cartridges as a prelude to the
advance of all the students in the assault.

Our "Germans" relax in their trench before the "Art of the Trench Raid" demonstration.
The Pioneer Village permitted History Matters to dig a 200 foot trench system which was
made as authentic as possible with sand bags, corrugated metal walls, rubber rats, and a
partial skeleton of "Napoleon Blownapart."

Fake grenades, SMLE rifles, and Lewis Gun await the use by the students.

A side view of the trench.

One of the reenactors prepares his assault section on the right flank of the attack.

Corporal Brown and Private Derrick look over the "recruits."

I was dead tired at the end of the day, but it felt good to be part of this educational event. In the summer, there will be a weekend at the Village devoted to this sort of display/reenactment event, which will be open to the general public. 

A few more photos are always in order. (A few of these were taken by my wife.)

The uniformed reenactors prepare for the Assault on Vimy Ridge.

The reenactors fire off a magazine - for effect!

Our friend, Nick, explains a display of the way the war graves were laid out.
The reenactors line up for the Fashion Show.
The real enemy!
A groundhog at full speed. Their holes are everywhere!

My daughter, Katie, and my son, Rob yuck it up for the camera.
Rob often protrays a Stormtrooper although he as portrayed a Canadian stretcher bearer, here and at Newville, PA,
where there is a HUGE WWI reenactment twice a year.
Katie (or I should say "Katherina Ivanova") seemed to enjoy this role, although she got a bit chilled at times.

This weekend --- back to the War of 1812 at the Longwoods Conservation Area.

First Sergeant Goldsworthy, Croghan's Company, 17th US Infantry... at your service!

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Stranger in a strange land... of BIG, STOMPY ROBOTS!

Saturday at the Games Group was a double celebration. It was Kevin's birthday ("Hippo birdy two ewes!") and it was a special games day. The entire group played Battletech, and this was unusual since the entire group rarely plays the same thing and Battletech was something I'd never played before. I was quite interested in trying the game and I did enjoy it. There was also pizza, pop, and cake for Kevin's birthday.


Three tables were set up. One was arranged for Andy's "Clicky-tech" set-up, but that was not used. A second generic open field table was laid out and used for a game between Kevin and Martin using a Battletech-light set of rules. We'll discuss the third table shortly.

Andy's Clicky-Tech set up. I'm a bit sad it wasn't used.

Kevin's battle field for the Battle of Generica.
Martin's Mechs advanced into the forest and Kevin's heavily armed Mechs opposed him.

A view from the supporting Mech.

Martin called this one "Cauldron-borne."

I don't know what he was really doing but I insist he was berry-picking.

Two more of Kevin's Mechs - very business-like.

Hide-and-go-seek with medium lasers

A close-up fight ensued

He's looked better.

In fact, they've all looked better.

The third table was done up by Wayne... and in this writer's opinion, it was absolutely amazing!! Wayne must have worked on it for years. In short, it is a scaled down, Battletech-ready version of the city of Quebec!! Words cannot describe it, so photos are in order.

Wayne's City of Quebec - This deserved a larger photo presentation.

The Citadel and old city wall

Some forested park land

the famous Chateau Frontenac hotel with the Legislature just behind.

The St. Lawrence river with three depths!
Brown buildings were wood construction, red/pink were brick, grey were concrete,
and the variegated finish (like the Citadel) were stone.

Axis Chemicals and Petrochemicals?

Industrial areas, bridges, and the stone Armoury.

an up-hill view of Chateau Frontenac

City roads and a wooden bridge.
We all used medium weight Mechs (40-55 tons) so wooden structures couldn't hold the weight
and would collapse. Brick might (maybe), concrete and stone could hold a Mech's weight.

A substantial bridge

The Citadel and the Plains of Abraham

Another view of the Armoury in the lower city.
There were ten players (including Brian's two children, both of whom were out to "get Daddy!), each with a medium Mech (40-55 tons) and the goal was "Last Man Standing" aka "King of the Hill." Some alliances were surreptitiously made, but they'd get broken at some time. Initiative was rolled every turn with lower being better. Wayne pulled off a few "snake eyes" rolls and was dismayed. A later move allowed you to observe what your opponents were doing. All firing was simultaneous.

My Mech "posing" - a Clan OmniMech "Viper" with a particle cannon, two small lasers,
and a short range flamer. Fast and manoeuvrable.

Tom's choice - very spider-like
(I should have called it a "cockroach" at the game but I was stunned.)

Had this place caught fire, it would've been a mess.

Tom's cockroach crawling over buildings. The die shows what would be added to the
die roll of someone firing on this Mech.

On my second move, I jumped over the river and hid in the small park.
The bridge couldn't hold the weight of the Mech.

My Mech climbing the road. The nails allowed to place a figure without it sliding down
the hill and also serve as "punji stakes" for jumping Mechs.

Brian's Mech on the Plains of Abraham.

Kevin's Mech lurking in the concrete canyons

Bear's Mech about to climb the hill.
It'd be hard to write a real AAR since there were eight Mechs in play and I couldn't see the ones on the other side of the mountain. Basically we all headed up the hill except two players whose Mechs walked along the bottom of the St. Lawrence for a few turns. Wayne's slightly heavier Mech jumped up onto the Chateau Frontenac while Tom and I squared for an old West gunfight. I lost when Tom shot out my engines. He then took fire from Bear and Kevin and his "cockroach" went belly-up.

Taking a refreshing dip in the effluent of the petrochemical plant.

Martin's "Hunchback" (which impressed everybody in the know) clobbers a Mech on the river bottom.

Tom and I square off.
"This town ain't big enough for the both of us!"

Tom ran past me and I had to turn around, which led to the destruction of my Mech's engines.
Because I had to turn around in the hex, Tom did not suffer any reduction in his firing.

Brian was momentarily "King of the Hill" when he stood atop the Citadel.

Martin's Mech climbs the hill.

An up-hill view of Kevin's and Bear's Mechs as they riddle Tom's cockroach
with laser-fire and other assorted goodies.

Kevin's rather elegant Mech doing a victory jig.

Martin and Brian fight on the Plains of Abraham.

Wayne's Mech, atop a concrete building, prepares to bring the pain to a Mech on the street.

Bear's Mech hides from Brian's, using a hospital for cover.
So much for the Geneva Convention!
I had to leave before the game completely ended. (I was knocked out early.) I enjoyed the game, and I'd have to play a few more times to get the hang of it. I'll play it again, but I won't go out and buy a bunch of mech figs. Besides, everybody who played had at least two dozen Mechs, so could easily borrow one or a few for a game. Kevin said it's easier to learn the game on more open terrain, and I'm sure he's right. Still to play on Wayne's Quebec board was great fun, very colourful, and quite intense. He was surprised that we only smashed ONE building and that came about from a Mech jumping and landing on it. It was a wooden building and it collapsed from the Mech's weight. I guess I never thought of blowing up buildings since what hides you also hides me in such a tight environment.

One of Wayne's home-made Mechs, set for the urban environment.

Condos... cheap, quick, out of the line of fire.

My Viper takes cover near the old city walls. Didn't help me.
A crash and a wooden building lay in ruins... with a toppled Mech in the mess.

Industrial property... will rebuild to suit buyer... or will blow it up as Mech-fodder.

Another view of the Great Iron Bridge showing the river depth steps.

Reenacting season will begin next week with the "Battle of Longwoods" (War of 1812) at the Longwoods Conservation Area, west of London. Two weeks from then will be the "Road to Culloden" (Jacobite rebellion of 1746) event at the Backus-Page House. Monday I'll attend the World War One Education Day at Fanshawe Pioneer Village just outside of London. I don't have a formal part, so I may just take photos.

If you can make it, stop by the American camp and ask for the 17th Infantry, Croghan's Company.

Love to see you if you can make it. I'll be one of what's referred to as the "Traitorous Scots Militia" on the Government side.

Farewell to Quebec!