A quick thought about officers.

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Kittens-Pedro
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A quick thought about officers.

Postby Kittens-Pedro » Sun Mar 02, 2008 3:53 pm

I'm a 19 year old, new to re-enactment, trying to find a Peninsula War era group of re-enactors who will let me portray an infantry officer.

I seem to have noticed that with very few exceptions (where said people are lucky enough to be the sons and nephews of founding members) that the higher ranks in re-enactment groups are filled soley by older members.

Now, I understand that experience and seniority has a lot to do with this (probably moreso than it did in the period itself!) and there obviously can't be "too many chiefs and not enough Indians" but... surely somewhere along the line, this actually defeats the purpose of "recreating history"?

No offence intended, but it sort of gives the wrong idea when you see an ensign or even a lieutenant... even a captain who is over the age of 50... yet this seems to be the case in a lot of groups.

Such people are usually founding members/high up the administrative chain and so on, so I fully understand why they gain the rank... it just seems a bit odd.

I guess you could argue that they "know the ropes" and thus should be given the greater responsibility but honestly, it's surely the job of an NCO to be a grizzled old veteran who "knows every trick in the book" rather than a fresh-faced lieutenant who daddy bought a commission for? I can imagine that plenty of junior officers came to regiments knowing nothing about "the ropes", and as such don't see a problem with a younger less experienced member portraying one!

Okay, rant over...

...so yeah, anyone want to give me the King's commission?



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John Waller
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Postby John Waller » Sun Mar 02, 2008 5:21 pm

Where are you based? We have just commisioned a pair of new colours and are an ensign short.


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Postby Kittens-Pedro » Sun Mar 02, 2008 7:27 pm

Thanks for the speedy reply! :D

I'm in the dirty North... Scarborough most of the time, Stockton at half-term. Maybe driving by summer...

Where's the unit based? What regiment do you portray?



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John Waller
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Postby John Waller » Mon Mar 03, 2008 9:59 am

Shame. We are the 2nd (Queen's Royal) Regt (c 1809) based in Surrey.
You might be better off speaking to one of the nothern groups like the Durham's (68th) or the 33rd.

Good luck.


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border reiver
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Postby border reiver » Mon Mar 03, 2008 10:38 am

Might be worth having a word with the marines in hartlepool?


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Kittens-Pedro
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Postby Kittens-Pedro » Mon Mar 03, 2008 6:16 pm

I've dropped a line to the 33rd, the 68th and the Marines. I'll see if I have any luck there... does anyone know of any other North East/Yorkshire based groups?

It's quite a difficult subject to approach - there are probably many administrative and practical reasons for the officers of a group to be who they are, but from my point of view, it seems a silly idea to make a massive financial commitment (and it is) to portray a private soldier when that isn't what I'm interested in doing...



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Ian Harbottle
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Postby Ian Harbottle » Tue Dec 02, 2008 1:03 am

Hi Kittens-Pedro,

Just wondering how you've gotten on in your search. If you've had no luck feel free to drop me a P.M.

We'll be portraying the 3rd Foot Guards in 1815 period kit and could well be in the market for a well bred Ensign.

We are based mainly in Stockton, so we're pretty close.

Ian.


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GuyDeDinan
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Postby GuyDeDinan » Tue Dec 02, 2008 9:41 am

It's all these jumped up from the ranks subalterns, they never last long in the mess you know, best to just give them the quartermaster job.


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Ian Harbottle
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Postby Ian Harbottle » Tue Dec 02, 2008 8:31 pm

"They'd need to be able to count for that job, they just don't have the breeding you know!"


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Daniel Ezra

Postby Daniel Ezra » Sat Dec 06, 2008 9:38 am

Join the Navy.

The Historical Maritime Society.

As a note most field Napoleonic groups frown upon people "promoting" themselves, and like everyone to have started in the ranks.

Not authentic, as such, I know, though I do believe that during the period one had to still advance up the ranks, buying each comission in turn, so that you did not get teenage colonels (no offence meant K-P).

Or as a final shot if anyone can afford to pay for it (I can't) any one fancy 77th Hindoostan regiment of Foot?



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Postby Marc Middleton » Thu Dec 18, 2008 3:18 pm

As a note most field Napoleonic groups frown upon people "promoting" themselves, and like everyone to have started in the ranks.


I can confirm this position is the same in France. Groups usually have X amount of reasons to have officers and the like but in general, it is frowned upon. Having said that, I understand K-P's position.

For my part, I am willing to acknowledge an officer if the person can actually perform his duties and keep to his representation. I run a Napoleonic French Infantry school in France since 2006 and one of the things we teach is to properly portray a role within a living-history event.

For the officer side, this is dedicated study of the 1791 Infantry Drill Manuel from the School of the Soldier, to the School of the Company and the School of the Battalion.

Candidates must first of all know their soldier's drill and that is the starting block for all. Once they have mastered the arms drill, they must then master the company drill. Upon completing the company drill, they then study the position of the men that make up the supernumery rank and guides at Company level. Once this has been mastered, they have to get to grips with the Battalion school. All this time, they are equally given lessons and seminars about how to behave as an officer at the time and how to interact with other re-enactors at events.

Finally, once this is mastered and understood, they gain a sort of "capacity certificate" which acknowledges that they have passed these points to a satisfactory level and that they have the capacity of carrying out this role. Naturally, this certificate is not an official international re-enactement certificate (such things will never exist) but it is recognised amongst the groups of the Living-History Charter in France to help out with their events.

Strangely enough, we notice that it isn't so much learning the drill and studying the uniform which seems to be the most difficult part for candidates, but it is actually trying to keep in role as some people naturally start to get way too friendly or familiar with their men or start to cook/wash up, etc.

We've recently had a 20-year old starting out to become a 2nd Lieutenant. He's actually in his second year of study and already masters both soldier and company schools very well and has now taken on the battalion school.



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wurzul
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Postby wurzul » Thu Dec 18, 2008 9:12 pm

We operate a similar system Marc. Since an Officer must have mastered drill before taking the role (attending private drill school was a period requirement), and have a grasp of several other manuals (required period reading for an Officer), it is unlikely that someone who has not 'served' with the group for a few years will have the required nous. The myth of the ill-informed junior Officer of the early 1800s is more apposite for the militia and volunteers than the Regulars. I think the depiction of volunteers in period literature and prints is largely responsible for this. And perhaps Sharpe?
Good luck to the OP, there are several new British Napoleonic units doing start up at the moment, (In Cornwall/Devon and Gloucester) but persuading strangers to accept you as their Officer is going to be an uphill struggle I fear).
Looking at my unit, if we all played a role that was appropriate to our age and health, we would probably portray an invalid battalion...



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Postby Marc Middleton » Mon Jan 05, 2009 3:30 pm

Strange that I find myself agreeing with Wurzul on this one.... :D

Any news about your search, PK?



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Ian Harbottle
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Postby Ian Harbottle » Fri Jan 09, 2009 1:44 pm

Marc, Daniel, and Wurzel have summed it all up in a nutshell. I couldn’t put it better. We have an officer already but are finding that having an Ensign also would be to an advantage. Due to the expense there are currently no others in the group who want to take the role on. Whoever does become an Ensign does not just face the expense of the uniform but also has to acquire all the knowledge and skills mentioned above.

The officers of regular regiments where very professional and knowledgeable and this would have to be portrayed in the role, as well as their social background and upbringing. Officers have other responsibilities also. At re-enactment battles there tends to be more officers than needed as units are brigaded. Surplus officers become quasi safety officers. As such an officer will need to be trained in heath and safety, musket drill, safe handling and safety awareness of black powder weapons in addition to holding the required certificates for black powder weapons. As our secondary officer alongside our NCOs’, once competent, training and instruction of new recruits will also feature prominently. It’s for all of these reasons that groups prefer time served re-enactors to become officers as the process to train someone from scratch will take several years. Occasionally (and it is very occasionally) does a situation like ours occur, which can be very rewarding for someone willing to put in the work.


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John Waller
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Postby John Waller » Fri Jan 09, 2009 2:11 pm

Ian Harbottle wrote:The officers of regular regiments were very professional and knowledgeable .


Not always. Read Cobbett for his opinion of officers during his service in the 1780-90s. When he was RSM he had to write order crib sheets for his officers. I doubt a newly commisioned teenage ensign would have much of a clue about anything and learned on the job - no Sandhurst in those days. Don't see why a reenactment group could not do the same if they or the individual is willing to invest in the kit. Now that my group has finally bought a set of colours after ten+ years of arguments we need people to carry the bloody things!


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Ian Harbottle
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Postby Ian Harbottle » Fri Jan 09, 2009 3:01 pm

Not always. Read Cobbett for his opinion of officers during his service in the 1780-90s. When he was RSM he had to write order crib sheets for his officers


Sorry, I was generalising. I'm aware of Cobbett's example, and, as I've heard on countless occasions 'behind every good officer is an excellent sergeant'. Once the ropes had been learned we had pretty good standards especially among the company officers.

Don't see why a reenactment group could not do the same if they or the individual is willing to invest in the kit.


I completly agree with you John, this is the approach we are going for and it would be interesting to see the impact of a younger and more energetic officer. :lol:


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m300572
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Postby m300572 » Fri Jan 09, 2009 3:49 pm

I doubt a newly commisioned teenage ensign would have much of a clue about anything and learned on the job


Talk to the average sergeant major nowadays and they'll tell you that not much has changed.


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John Waller
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Postby John Waller » Fri Jan 09, 2009 4:28 pm

Our current ensign only took the job on the understanding that he would have no 'management' responsibility. He is happy to look the part and carry the colour. He is happy and we are happy with that arrangement. Our captain and sergeants run things on the parade square and in the field. But what works for us may not work for other groups. It would be nice to introduce a youngster to the role now that we have a pair of colours.


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Postby Havercake Lad » Fri Jul 10, 2009 10:55 pm

New recruits are always welcome in the 33rd, though promotion is never immediate or guaranteed.
The 33rd require a member who wants to become an officer to be proficent with drill , be active in the unit for at least two years, get elected to post by members and be able to meet a standard of kit comparable with rest of the unit ( and consent to dropping down to private at least once a year for an event ). A young lad as Ensign or Lieut who could meet this criteria would be a great asset.
I agree many young and inexperienced officers in the Napoleonic Wars were thrown in at the deep-end. That said, surely a re-enactment society has a duty to ensure officers are competent , for the safety of participants and spectators alike ! Sadly lots of re-enactors portray officers with sub-standard or wrong kit and no idea of drill ( and worrying safety in a few individuals case ).
I have seen some apparantly arrive late to an event and enter the field not knowing the script, command structure of the day, lie of the land, pyro-locations but assume that as they are officers they can just jump in an order bodies around. Likewise two officers putting several individuals in the field not aware of how and when to cock and half cock their loaded pieces.
Urge to dress as officer, without experience and competence of drill is , I suppose, fine for drinking clubs and specific ' high society vignettes, but not what re-enactment needs.
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Postby Havercake Lad » Tue Aug 18, 2009 9:50 pm

Daniel Ezra wrote:Join the Navy.

-P).

Or as a final shot if anyone can afford to pay for it (I can't) any one fancy 77th Hindoostan regiment of Foot?


Typo here in this old post ~ :shock:
77th Foot was East Middlesex Regt. and it was the the 76th that had the title 'Hindoostan regt' around 1807-1812
Some confusion on other forum threads but this WAS NOT a regiment of native Indians but a British unit that was paid for by the East India Company.
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Havercake Lad
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Postby Havercake Lad » Tue Sep 01, 2009 8:23 pm

Havercake Lad wrote:
Daniel Ezra wrote:Join the Navy.

-P).

Or as a final shot if anyone can afford to pay for it (I can't) any one fancy 77th Hindoostan regiment of Foot?


Typo here in this old post ~ :shock:
77th Foot was East Middlesex Regt. and it was the the 76th that had the title 'Hindoostan regt' around 1807-1812
Some confusion on other forum threads but this WAS NOT a regiment of native Indians but a British unit that was paid for by the East India Company.
348 White

Some types of re-enactor would love it , the chance to have four colours carried in one unit !! :D


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Postby Foxe » Sun Sep 06, 2009 7:04 pm

Ah goody, the old 'officers' debate!

My opinion, FWIW is that it depends entirely on whether the event is living history or arena/combat. In a battle reenactment I'd like to know that the chaps telling me what to do have the experience and knowledge to ensure a safe and enjoyable battle.

At a living history, when the orders that may be given don't actually mean anything, then officer roles (strike that! ALL roles) should be played by whoever can carry them off best.

Case in point, some years ago we had a new lad in the group, bout 14ish, who really wanted to play a Midshipman. Fine. We specialise in living history, so the fact that our (apparently) senior officer was the youngest and newest active member of the group was no problem. When he took command of the boat though (and thus had real responsibility), the Master's Mate or Gunner took the stroke oar and quietly muttered instructions to him.


...and further this Informant saith not.

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