Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Forward into the past! WWI Ed day at Fanshawe.

I beg the forgiveness of Firesign Theatre fans for the title of this blog.

Last week, all of my family - Beth, Katie, Rob, and I - helped the History Matters organization with the annual WWI education day at Fanshawe Pioneer Village in London, ON. Quite a few members of the King's Company of Historical Reenactors assist this group in teaching high school students about the First World War. (Photos courtesy of Beth and of Jeff Brown)

As the students arrived they were met with a vignette of a Russian medical station. Nick was the doctor, Joe played a wounded NCO, Katie was a volunteer from the Women's Battalion of Death, and two Village volunteers were the nurse and the wounded soldier.

Joe says "it's only a flesh wound. I can wait!"

The doctor and the nurse apply the dressings while a comrade supports the wounded.

The Canadian Army Medical Corps casualty clearing station.

Inside. The Canadian medical corps pioneered transfusions as a medical procedure.

The "Angel of Mercy" applies the dressing.
Russian military nurses wore brown.
Katie draws her Shaska to pledge blood revenge on those who woulded her Tovarich!

 A second vignette awaited the students. A few Canadian infantrymen were pinned down by German marksmen. This helped the students get used to hearing the firing of blanks during the day.
"Keep low, lads! There might be a few of them!"

Glenn looks for the muzzle flash to give away the marksmen.

There they are!
The program began with a "military fashion show", displaying the uniforms and attire of the soldiers and civilians of the period.

Katie as an unterofizer of the Russian Woman's Battalion of Death.
This is a favourite of the female students since they'd never seen female
combat soldiers in other settings.

Your humble blogger as a munitions worker.

Rob in German kit.
Why the soft hat? Actually, no helmet fits him!
We both have the same problem.


Joe as a Russian infantry senior NCO or junior officer.

Lyle and Justin as French poliu.
Justin wears the full greatcoat and Adrian helmet.
Lyle is in the tunic with the forage cap.

One of the village's volunteers as the British Land Army or a Canadian Farmerette.
These women kept the farms going while the men were at the front.
Various stations displayed equipment, showed tactics, or drill.

"Military By Design" where we discuss the equipment of the major combatants.

A new addition -  a Russian gasmask carrier, with instructions.
A student who immigrated from Russia gave us a rough translation.

Russian Shaska for a machine gun company NCO.

French military cemetery based on a drawing.

Nick leading a stretcher bearer party.

Peter showing cavalry equipment.

... and later led lance drill with the students.

This was a new station and a very "hands on" one.

Adding this had been talked about for years.
At mid-day, following the lunch break, all the students and the bulk of the reenactors go to Tecumseh Field for a battle reenactment. This is usually a rerun of Vimey Ridge, but this time French and Russian troops were added. The students "assault" a German position. The Russian company was "women only" which caused some grumbles from the boys.

The Germans prepare for the assault.

Unterofizer Ivanova surveys the barbed wire.
It's actually knotted shoelace, but it looks real.

A marksman in a sandbagged position

The Canadian padre (Nick as Canon Scott) and the Russian nurse

A German soldat (Rob) goes to his position.

Ruins in styrofoam

Stretcher bearers up! Carry high!

the Women's Battalion of Death under the command of  Poruchik Josef and Unterofizers
Katherina and Candace.
The All-female unit (execpt for Joe) were given wooden rifles.

Sweeping the left flank of the German positions, the Women's Battalion of Death
captured the bunker and took prisoners.

A different view of the capture. ("Kamerad!!")
When the students left in their school buses at about 2pm and all the major props were packed away, we all went to a debriefing session which included a late lunch/early supper of home-make lasagna! Every time we do this we debrief and fine tune things for the next event.

This education day is almost always well received by everybody involved. I can't afford a uniform of any of the powers, so Beth and I do the civilian thing. An event like this open to the general public is scheduled for the summer. You might see more of this then.


  1. Cool colkection of pics John! Its great to see others recreating history....well done to all involved.

    1. Thanks, Ray. It makes for a good if tiring day. The majority of the students appreciate it.