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"How Reliable are Reenactors?" Topic

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1,463 hits since 15 Dec 2016
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Personal logo Flashman14 Supporting Member of TMP15 Dec 2016 8:33 a.m. PST

Researching regiments now and noticed many have their own reenactment page on Facebook and often a website too. Much of the interpretation there differs from some of the written and illustrated things I've come across in books and online.

Is there any reason to side with the reenactors over any other source for this period? Does being a member of the Sealed Knot (Ha! Soiled Nut) imply any special claim to authenticity?

Let's stick to ECW for this – the situation may well be different for the ACW and WW2 folks.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP15 Dec 2016 8:42 a.m. PST

Based solely on their status as a reenactor, no.

Chokidar Inactive Member15 Dec 2016 8:57 a.m. PST

The vast majority look about as convincing as the Tiller Girls pretending to be Girl Guides…
Now if accuracy is directly proportional to girth….

Timmo uk15 Dec 2016 9:20 a.m. PST

I wouldn't consider anything the Sealed Knott do as a historically accurate reference point.

Timbo W15 Dec 2016 9:28 a.m. PST

I think they vary quite a bit, some very committed to maximum achievable accuracy, some blithely unconcerned.

Certainly the ECW re-enactors have to make up or guess a fair bit as the surviving information on uniforms, flags etc is patchy at best and often completely lacking. eg they have to choose a certain coat colour otherwise they'd be very chilly!

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP15 Dec 2016 9:33 a.m. PST

Wargamers care every bit as much as reenactors do about accuracy. The only difference is that they spend a bit more money on their kit than I do on figures.
We all have access to the same sources, and why should I assume theirs are any better?
Having seen some "Indians" at Living History events…
I have heard strange stories about how political some of their choices are. grin

Martin Rapier15 Dec 2016 9:39 a.m. PST

I've done a spot of re-enacting.

It runs the usual full gamut of human experience from walty farbs who all want to be be elite paratroops dressed exactly like that one photo which shows a bloke wearing their waterbottle on the left and not the right paired with a tankers holster, to nerdy stitch counters who like to demonstrate their innate superiority by reciting the dress regulations (section IId, subsection (a) revised by General Staff Order No. 28) and criticising the colour of cotton used to sew buttons on.

There are some speople who really, really like guns, some people who just roll up to spend the weekend getting completely pissed and have a fight with the locals. There are also some sensible people.

Rather like wargamers really.


HammerHead15 Dec 2016 9:47 a.m. PST

So Timmo UK have go to an ECW unit and told them that?

Old Peculiar15 Dec 2016 11:01 a.m. PST

Timmo is quite simply wrong, in so far as some of the re-enactors are fanatical about their appearance and actions. Some also engage in valuable research and experiment in weapon effect and use.

Where he is correct is that you have to pick out these folk from those who just like dressing up and playing a part!

Personal logo Cheriton Supporting Member of TMP15 Dec 2016 11:10 a.m. PST

Rather like wargamers really.

Agreed, human nature…


wyeayeman15 Dec 2016 11:34 a.m. PST

Overall not very. The big difference twixt wargamers and 'reenactors' is that our fantasy stops with toy soldiers. Some toy soldier boys do take themselves very seriously but I would say most of these historical trannies take themselves more so. The Coy. of St George being an exception (not ecw). Ge3nerally they are higher up the 'silly' scale than we are…

jdpintex15 Dec 2016 11:41 a.m. PST

Bell curves exist for a reason.

The hard part is trying to figure out where your subject is on the curve.

willlucv Inactive Member15 Dec 2016 12:22 p.m. PST

Reenactors are like Morris Dancers, they may look like they're larking about, but they take it deadly seriously.

To be honest some are better than others at research. It is worth bearing in mind that all reenactors have to put on shows, and that what you are seeing is a product of the requirement to entertain, the funds and manpower available and health and safety legislation.

For example a friend of mine is a 'Viking Age' reenactor. Most combatants in this era were spearmen, spears being cheap and easy to use for relatively unskilled men. The problem is you have to be very skilled indeed to avoid serious injury to the other party in a mock battle so his group use swords instead.

HammerHead15 Dec 2016 1:12 p.m. PST

…and its VERY often forgotten that many re-enacters travel hundreds of miles to get to an event, several time a year, only to be scoffed at by wagamers like Timmo Uk.

My thoughts are that if the senior ranks in re-enacting showed some leadership and interest, the whole set up would be more satisfying.
Someone said the glory days of re-enacting is in the past, only if the committee wants to be.

mollinary15 Dec 2016 1:14 p.m. PST

How long is a piece of string? If you are concerned over accuracy you need to interrogate your sources, and judge between them. For the ECW there are huge gaps in our knowledge, some of which have been filled by enthusiastic re-enactors. The growth of re-enacting has meant that lots of local archives and collections have been examined which would not otherwise have seen the light of day. That said, because the best is good, it does not mean that all are equally reliable. Keep your eyes open, and ask for sources.


Personal logo Cheriton Supporting Member of TMP15 Dec 2016 1:56 p.m. PST

Reenactors are like Morris Dancers, they may look like they're larking about, but they take it deadly seriously.

Agreed, again. Hmmm, hoping Captain DEwell isn't lurking about. Morris Dancers you know evil grin

If you are…lurking about…season's best to you and yours. and yet another debit chit on a pint!


Personal logo Baccus 6mm Sponsoring Member of TMP15 Dec 2016 1:58 p.m. PST

Mmmm…not a great deal of love lost for reenactors from those who push little toy soldiers around make believe battlegrounds…

The answer to the original question is, 'it depends'. Some reenactors and groups are incredibly well researched and go to great lengths to get what they do 'right'. Certainly more effort than a wargamer reaching for an Osprey and asking on TMP which Vallejo colours work best. Others, are pretty poor and a source of poorly researched Bleeped text on the subject. The trick is sorting out the wheat from the chaff. I could suggest some groups at the expense of others, but as I've found out in the past, to do so, incurs the wrath of those who don't pass the 'Peter-o-meter' of period accuracy.

I cannot stress too highly the contribution that ECW reenactors and those associated with reenacting have made to wargamers. Without the in depth research of people such as Peachey, Prince, Scott, Reid, Foard and Tincey, you'd still be buying Parliamentarian foot figures in Lobster pot helmets sporting stripy sleeved buffcoats. Our knowledge of the colours carried by the regiments and what patchy evidence for coat issues and uniforms we do have would remain unfound or unpublished and our practical knowledge of period weapon handling would remain based on second hand theory.

In my own case, the accuracy of my ECW ranges and the postures of the figures were based directly on my reenactment experience which has also informed the range of flag sheets what we carry and the period rules that I have written.

Yes, you may dislike reenactors, but to be honest, wargamers and reenactors are just two sides of the same coin and that is the end of it.

Pan Marek Supporting Member of TMP15 Dec 2016 3:06 p.m. PST

Baccus gets it!

Piyan Glupak Inactive Member15 Dec 2016 11:42 p.m. PST

Another agreement for Baccus from me.

I used to be an ECW re-enactor, quite a few years ago now. It was Baccus's ECW range that got me trying buying, painting and playing with figures.

Personal logo Dale Hurtt Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member16 Dec 2016 12:06 a.m. PST

I have no experience of reenactors, but I make my own miniatures. I have done far more research on uniforms, poses and such since doing that than I ever did for purchasing and painting wargaming figures. With making miniatures you research what equipment is on the figure, for example. With buying and painting, well you buy what they decide to put on it and paint what is there. That is pretty much it. If anything you are asking about what color to paint for this or that and when you pick up an Osprey and find out that the figure COULD have had a haversack, but doesn't, you think "great, one less thing to paint!" Rarely do you find the people that say "now I have to make one out of green stuff for all these figures I bought!"

I would think there are two types of reenactors too: those who buy their stuff off the rack (or make whatever the hell they want) and those that research it out and make it themselves.

Lapsang16 Dec 2016 12:54 a.m. PST

Just in case some of you are unaware – an awful lot of Re-enactors are also Wargamers. So those people you are slagging off as 'Historical Trannies'are just as likely to be those standing opposite you at the Dining Room Table/ Wargamers Battlefield.

TimeCast Sponsoring Member of TMP16 Dec 2016 2:45 a.m. PST

Everything about re-enactment here:


Warning – probably NSFW and will certainly offend someone…


Mac163816 Dec 2016 3:16 a.m. PST

You need to remember that most of the best figure designers have been and are re-enactors,
I have been on re-enactment fields with Tony Barton, The Perry's and Pete Berry I know that they have been influenced by their time as re-enactors.

Sandinista16 Dec 2016 3:39 a.m. PST

Ha ha, I love the snobbery from us geeks!

I have done both, and still wargame. It was through meeting people like Stuart Reid that I developed my love of research.

Steve stanley Inactive Member16 Dec 2016 4:13 a.m. PST

Wargaming/re-enacting…..Think either 'dissing' the other is a case of people in glasshouses…..Both have good researchers AND competitive 'It's only fun' types……..

Martin Rapier16 Dec 2016 5:26 a.m. PST

As noted above, re-enactment encourages far more in-depth research on obscure aspects of uniforms and equipment than painting them does, which can be quite useful.

However geeky wargamers and re-enactors are, we have nothing on railway modellers. (ducks)

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP16 Dec 2016 7:20 a.m. PST

I see little snobbery here. What I see is similar to what I said above. That is, that neither bunch can claim any innate superiority over the other. If that causes offense, then go and adjust your medication.

badger2216 Dec 2016 9:11 a.m. PST

The old comment about virtue between Bleeped texts would seem to apply here. not unlike my father laughing at me and my friends pushing Airfix Napoleonics around on the floor, as he headed of to hes train room.

And remember to the rest of society we are indistinguishable from each other.

willlucv Inactive Member16 Dec 2016 9:15 a.m. PST

What Winston said. I don't take my 'little men' hobby too seriously, and although experimental archaeology or reenactment has its uses it also has it's limitations.

Fine if you understand those limitations but problematic if you don't, as you end up with logic trains eg; medieval people weren't as strong as modern people, so medieval people could use medieval warbows.

ScottS16 Dec 2016 9:54 a.m. PST

I do both. Both have their own limitations. Both have good groups and bad groups. Neither is better than the other.

Okiegamer16 Dec 2016 2:28 p.m. PST

Having been an ACW reenactor for 46 years I can say that the participants truly do run the gamut from very serious to definitely not the vast majority being in the latter category!

When you do both, you run across some things in one that just don't add up based upon your experiences in the other. As a wargamer, my big beef with reenactors is the silly stuff like women in the ranks, children in camp, and the general "carnival" atmosphere at events. As a reenacting officer, you can't always depend on your men to go where you tell them to go, and stay there 'till you're ready. Miniature soldiers are infinitely more obedient they just stand there patiently and wait until you tell them what to do. Reenactors almost NEVER do that!

When it comes to wargamers, my biggest complaints as a reenactor are the lack of knowledge of drill and material culture. This is understandable due to the lack of physical contact with the stuff. But many uniform plates by supposedly well-informed sources are wildly inaccurate. In the ACW, and probably in other periods as well, there was no such thing as "march column." It was simply a unit marching by its flank with its "front" still being the original facing direction. I tried writing some miniatures rules that reflected that and got nothing but bewilderment from the wargamers in our local club. They just couldn't wrap their heads around the concept, and strongly advised me to drop it from my rules as it would cause no end of problems, especially at cons.

Lastly, now that I am in my 60's, I can definitely say that wargaming is much better for us old geezers. The accommodations at cons are heated hotel rooms as opposed to wet blankets on the cold ground, and the food is definitely much superior. I'll take hot dogs over hardtack and fried "sowbelly" any day!

Timmo uk16 Dec 2016 2:31 p.m. PST

OK I didn't say ALL re-enactors I only wrote that I wouldn't use the SK as a source of ECW historical fact because they invent flags and coat colours for regiments who colours and coats aren't known. And yes I have paid to see the SK many times and they have told me exactly what I'm saying here what they don't know they make up to be plausible but take it with a pinch of salt.

As an example, SK have units with blue and white painted pikes. Anybody got first hand source to confirm that as a historical fact or that Cornish regiments carried a flag with a black field with a white cross on it, or that they wore Cornish blue suits?

I have also written on line and in print that actually re enactors are often very useful when it comes to studying historical uniforms and how they can inform our painting.

The re enactment group that impressed me the most are the UK based ACW group.

I'll also add that one Napoleonic British regiment tried to recruit me at a show they were at and when they asked me why I was so interested I told them I was a wargamer. The response I got was 'oh you're one of those weirdos,' so it cuts both ways I guess.

RJBAJB16 Dec 2016 2:40 p.m. PST

ScottS I do both as well and quite agree

Mac163819 Dec 2016 3:58 a.m. PST

As a member of the ECWS I do not wish big up the SK but there are groups/regiments trying to get past the Victorian rose tinted glass but only take one group/regiment to get it badly wrong and we all get tars with the same brush.
The case in point blue coated regiment each one has to have a uniform that is different from each other, a blue coated regiment is much like any other blue coated regiment Royalist or Roundhead.

I have come across the blue and white pike thing, I be Bleeped texted if I can remember where, it doesn't say how they where painted.

As more research has been carried out reenactment have got better, as have the figure manufactures remember Minifigs 25mm Roundhead rang of foot (pike and shot) in triple bar lobster helmets and the musketeers sporting a back and breast with tasets.

mashrewba Inactive Member19 Dec 2016 4:32 a.m. PST

It's all good -after all when any hint of my hobby comes out with 'muggles' the response is always the same -"Is that Warhammer' -I always say yes lol

Personal logo Weasel Supporting Member of TMP01 Jan 2017 12:28 p.m. PST

Mashrewba –
As an exasperated teenager, I adopted the stance that to the non-interested, all video games are nintendo, all miniatures games are warhammer and all roleplaying games are D&D.

Saved a lot of time over the years :-)

Timbo W02 Jan 2017 10:04 a.m. PST

Re Grenville's blue and white pikes, this has been niggling for so long I've tracked down the quote (assisted by a tipoff from Victor Judge!).

Extract from Thomason Tract E.114.6
I presume i neede not runne over the particular passages of this weekes businesse at Bodmin, how Sir Bevill G. after the first warrants under the hands of thirteene Comissioners for a muster (hearing of the peoples backwardnesse) about monday gave out a second, where he injoynes them to appeare upon paine of death; nor how at last he came to the race Posts upon Bodmin-downe, with 140 or 160 men, some of which he got out of Devonshire, and 80 were armed with his own proper Armes, very discernable for that the Pikes and Rests are all painted with white and blew;

19th August 1642
From: The True Proceedings of the severall counties of Yorke Coventry Portsmouth Cornewall with an abstract of a letter, sent from one of the Earle of Warwicks Gentlemen, concerning divers Weighty Matters. 22 August 1642

So this says that in August 1642 Grenville mustered about 150 men at Bodmin Down, 80 of whom had pikes and rests painted white and blue.

It is of course up to the wargamer and/or re-enactor to decide whether he kept this colour scheme when he raised a full regiment as afaik the sources are silent on this matter. I think I would go for it though!

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