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We’ll meet again

We’ll meet again

At the time of writing this the country is in an unprecedented state of lockdown as the world faces a pandemic medical emergency never before seen in living memory. To combat the Coronavirus outbreak countries have imposed severe restrictions on social gatherings and asked businesses to close. We have all responded well to this and complied by staying in our homes, because we know it is for our collective welfare. This has meant that all re-enactment activities have been suspended, museums closed, and militaria fairs cancelled. Disappointed as we may be, we all know and understand it is part of the way in defeating the spread of the infection.

However, not everything is at a complete standstill and through social media sites online it is easy to keep in touch. Re-enactment groups have their own Facebook pages through which members can keep in contact and there are Forum pages where questions can be asked along with exchanges of ideas and points of view. Technology allows us to keep in contact at the touch of a button and some people have come up with very imaginative ways of keeping one another amused during this period of isolation by recreating famous historical scenes in their own homes.

Kit and kaboodle

The main challenge for most people is how to keep occupied and achieve something constructive. From the point of view for re-enactors and militaria collectors there is no end of things to keep them busy, such as sewing up that item of uniform you’ve been meaning to repair for last seven seasons but never quite got around to fixing. Collectors can research items and spend as much time doing so as they like. Although events have closed that does not mean military enthusiasts are unable to continue with their interest. Many traders and companies supplying items of reproduction kit to re-enactors are still conducting business online and posting out orders just as normal. For example, Epic Militaria based at Ceredigion in Wales (epicmilitaria.com), has issued an official statement to the effect that it is still open for business online. The company says that all orders will be processed and dispatched within 24-hours.

Likewise, Soldier of Fortune, (sofmilitary. co.uk) which also supplies re-enactors, has confirmed that it too will continue to conduct business online. The Warehambased supplier of Civil War Sutler (civilwarsutler.co.uk) in Dorset is also open for online business to supply items of kit for the American Civil War. Another specialist supplier of reproduction uniforms to re-enactors is Bournemouth-based Sutlers Stores (sutlers.co.uk); not to be confused with the Civil War Sutler. A quick check with them confirmed they are also continuing to conduct business online. The company supplies WWI uniforms but the department ‘19th Century Tailoring’ really specialises in 19th Century uniforms, which includes Victorian army, Napoleonic and American Civil War. Because the manufacturing base is in the UK, Sutlers says it should be able to meet orders. The only possible difficulty they could foresee which may lead to a delay, would be if there was a disruption in the delivery of textiles to produce the uniforms. These are just a few examples of suppliers doing their level best to keep things operating as normal as possible and we could not ask more than that. Of course, other people and groups will have their own preferred choice of suppliers, but it is just a reminder that, to paraphrase the wartime poster, we should ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’, but at a safe distance.

Keep collecting

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It’s not just suppliers of uniforms that are continuing to trade online in these difficult times. Collectors of militaria have seen venues close, but they are not being forgotten. A check on a cross-section of militaria dealers who have Websites, including Waterloo MIlitaria, North East Medals and the London Medal Company, show they are continuing with mail orders. It is at times like this that technology really is a benefit, allowing collectors to view purchases online, place their order and make payment. A few days later the item is delivered to your door. No need to leave the house. Specialist online auction sites, such as eBay, will be much used over the next few months and Amazon will also be kept busy delivering books purchased remotely online.

For the time being at least, all the big events stopped for this year, including Southwick revival and the Dig for Victory Show, including all the vintage steam train events such as the Buckfastleigh event in Devon which is popular with re-enactors, vehicle owners and collectors. Some event organisers are remaining optimistic by announcing on their website that decisions are being daily ‘reviewed’, whilst others are, as yet, still non-committal. Patience is the order of the day, but we have to be realistic and most people know that these events will be cancelled. It will be worth while keeping an eye on the websites to see what is happening.

Don’t panic, Captain Mainwaring!

Museums and historic sites from castles to battlefields and stately homes, such as Dunster Castle and Old Wardour Castle, which are in the care of English Heritage and the National Trust, are closed. These locations and many others serve as backdrops to re-enactment events and will do so again when the crisis is over. The gatherings organised by either the Military Vehicle Trust or Invicta Military Preservation Society are also cancelled and some owners will no doubt make the most of the break by spending time on maintenance of their vehicles and perhaps applying that paint job put off for so long. These are all things that can be done in isolation.

As disappointed as everybody is, we know these measures are only temporary and have been implemented for our own long-term health. We all know that cancellations and closures are in effect all across Europe and further afield. Knowing how re-enactors take such things, groups and individuals are making the most of situation and even now making plans for next year when things get back to normal. After a year off I’m sure we can look forward to seeing some great new displays next year, along with uniforms and presentations to commemorate 80th anniversary events such as American Lend Lease which helped Britain, Germany’s attack on Russia and, of course, Pearl Harbor.

Museums and other organisations, such as Historic England are organising things to keep us entertained online through their websites. Historic England (historicengland. org.uk) has loads of interesting features and items to read about historic figures and events and you can sign up for a free electronic newsletter. The Imperial War Museum (iwm.org.uk) also does an electronic newsletter and the National Army Museum (nam.ac.uk) has gone one stage further and visitors to its website can enjoy an ‘electronic’ visit. The Tank Museum (tankmuseum.org) at Bovington in Dorset has cancelled this year’s Tankfest, but it has arranged lots of interesting features on its website. The museum shop is also selling a range of items online from books to models and jigsaw puzzles. Other museums are also organising similar facilities online, such as Royal Armouries (royalarmouries.org.uk) and the Imperial War Museum. There is something for all interests, all it takes is a search and you’ll be surprised at what you find.

Look to the future

Together we have faced many problems over the years, ‘swine flu’, ‘avian or bird flu’, SARS and foot and mouth disease, which restricted travel, and whilst they were bad they were nothing like the current situation. This is another one to add to the list of trials and tribulations which we have had to face and together we will get through it. When it is all over, and it will be defeated, the thing is to remain positive and look ahead to planning bigger and even better re-enactments with lots of great surprises. For now, keep well and stay safe.

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