Your first event

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Your first event

If you decide to join the Fairfax Battalia, sooner or later you will attend your first event. So what happens?

FINDING OUT ABOUT THE EVENT

Once you are a member you'll find that early in the year you will be sent a calendar of events for the year. Some
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The Commanding Officer of Fairfax Battalia harangues Royalists soldiers during a battle at Detling in 2009.
will be organised by Fairfax and in some cases, we will be able to attend as a guest of another group such as the Marquess of Winchester's Regiment (that's an English Civil War Royalist regiment). Closer to each event you will receive a Warning Order which provides information on where the event is being held, how to get there and, usually a description of the location. Some of these are very impressive and you get a privileged view of country houses and castles.

By the way, there is no obligation to attend any event. You go to those that appeal.

WHAT WILL YOU NEED?

It may be possible to stay in a local B&B but that will often mean missing out on some of the social aspects of the event. Most people take a tent or a caravan. You'll need food and drink for the weekend and something to cook it with. You'll probably find that toilet paper and a torch will come in handy as well. Most events involve chemical toilets and many are in the country, well away from street lights.

WHAT ABOUT CLOTHES AND EQUIPMENT?

When you first join you're unlikely to have 17th century clothes but you'll find that other members will lend you what you need. It's a good idea to get in touch with one of the team named in the Warning Order in advance so that the necessary clothing and so on will be available. If you want to carry a pike, that will be provided as will a musket if you choose to be a musketeer although you won't be able to fire it until you've been properly trained.

It is important to understand that you must not wear anything anachronistic so no wristwatches, piercings or modern clothes. Most organisers also don't allow us to be seen eating ice cream or drinking tea.

ARRIVING

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The plastic camp at Chippenham in 20122.
Most events involve activities on a Saturday and a Sunday so the majority of members who are attending start to arrive on the Friday. They'll pitch tents and caravans in what is generally known as 'the plastic camp'. Some people change into period clothes (known as 'kit') as soon as they arrive. Others stay in modern clothes. A small team will be responsible for erecting the period tents for the living history area and they'll be looking for help so that's the first good way to start getting to know people. In the evening people will gather in groups. If there's a beer tent most will end up there. If not, there will likely be a camp fire with the majority of people sitting around it chatting. This is another opportunity to get to know people. If you're gregarious you'll be in your element here. If you're a bit unsure, the best thing to do is to approach people and say 'I'm new to all of this. How did you get involved?' or 'What's your role in the Battalia?' or some other question that gives the other person a reason to talk. In most cases, once they've started, the challenge will be to stop them.



SATURDAY

There will usually be a drill on Saturday morning. This is a refresher for established members and an opportunity for you to learn what you need to know before going into the battle. When you're completely new, an experienced member will go through everything with you until you're happy that you know what you need to do. At some stage during the morning the musketeers will be issued with gunpowder in a process known as 'getting bombed up'. Just before the Battalia is due to take part in the battle or drill display, the drums will sound the call and everybody forms up in their ranks and files before marching off to the display.

Drill displays are usually orderly affairs with demonstrations of loading and firing muskets, handling pikes, flourishing the colours and sounding the calls of war on the drums. Battles are altogether different and the likelihood is that you will be very confused. One of the experienced members will be designated to look after you so you won't come to any harm.
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Musketeers reload during a battle at Detling in 2009.
If you're a non-firing musketeer, you may be told to 'die' the next time the opposing forces fire. If you're not told to die but you've had enough, then you fall to the ground and stay there until you hear the commentator say 'The dead may now arise' - a time-honoured phrase that signals the end of the battle.

In some cases, there will be a living history area and members will remain around this during the day, talking to the public and doing whatever we think soldiers would have done in the 17th century. There will usually be a surgeon, an apothecary, a blacksmith, basket makers, weavers, women sewing and a variety of other activities. Take the opportunity to move around and listen: you'll learn a huge amount.

There will also be a sutlery: that's the area where the food is cooked for the mid-day meal. This is provided for participants so there's no need to bring your own.

Once the public have left the site, we all wander back to the plastic camp for a rest before the evening's social activities start.

SUNDAY

Generally, Sunday is a repeat of Saturday with the difference being that the living history team will need help packing up all the authentic tents and equipment at the end of the day.

Some people will leave on Sunday night while others will often stay overnight before travelling home on Monday.

That, broadly speaking, is what happens on a Fairfax weekend. If you're interested, why not get in touch and try it for yourself? Email us on FairfaxEnquiries@gmail.com