Adrian, a member of staff here at Epic Militaria, has been re-enacting for the last four years after research on his Great Uncle propelled him into the hobby. Here he writes about how he got involved and his experiences of re-enactment.
I have been involved with the hobby for around four years. I’ve always had an interest in military history, but it was a friend of mine who first got me involved with re-enactment. At the time I had been doing some research into my Great Uncle, L/Bdr Bryce ‘Topper’ Hollis, who was an Anti Aircraft Gunner with the Royal Artillery. I found his story incredibly interesting, which began with him serving in Britain protecting RAF airfields, before moving on to the Far East where he was captured by Japanese Forces in March 1942. He survived the war, but unfortunately I did not get to meet him.
After Discussing my Great Uncle’s story with a friend, he suggested I look into Living History as he thought it would be something I would really enjoy. The first event I ever attended was at the Crich Tramway Museum. I borrowed some of my friend’s uniform and equipment and went along as a British Paratrooper. I didn’t look great looking back at it, but this first experience had got me hooked! From here, I started to gather a British uniform together to portray my Uncle. Already I was enjoying my re-enactments and having a lot of fun, but at the same time I was learning his story more and more as I continued my research. I started attending events all over the country, as well as fundraising for the British Legion and local charities. I also organised some 1940’s dances as well!
After working on my British portrayal for around a year, my research had started to expand further afield. Having learned about other members of my family who had served during the Second World War as RAF personnel, Royal Navy Mechanics and Air Raid Warden’s, I then came across my Grandfather’s Brother-in-Law. His name was Capt. Del ‘Toggle’ Meier and he was a C-47 Pilot with the United States Army Air Force.
Capt. Del ‘Toggle’ Meier flew with the 314th Transport Squadron, 31st Transport Group, moving supplies, personnel, equipment and fuel… basically anything that the Army needed moving! After D-Day, his squadron were one of the first to land in Normandy behind Omaha Beach where they began bringing in more equipment as well as evacuating the wounded.
I began to put together both the smart ‘Class A’ uniform as well as flying kit, based on that of ‘Toggle’. I have attended various events with this impression, including the Victory Show, where we were fortunate enough to have
a real C-47 as part of our ‘Airfield Display’. In 2014 I also took part in the D-Day 70th anniversary commemorations in Portsmouth, and was fortunate to meet many veterans, an experience which I will never forget.
I have also put my USAAF impression to good use through fundraising for the 490th Bomb Group Memorial Project which I am a passionate member of. The project was built upon the aim of raising funds for a permanent memorial to be erected on the site of RAF Eye in Suffolk, for the American airmen who were based there during the war. After a great number of successful fundraising events I am pleased to say we will be having the memorial unveiled this May (2016)!
I am now beginning to look to the future, and have just begun to create my next portrayal. This will be a Luftwaffe Feldwebel Air Gunner, as I thought I would try something different. I have not been working on this portrayal for long, but already I have learned so much I didn’t know before.
Living History is a fantastic way of making new friends and learning about history, as well as, in my opinion, keeping the memories alive of those brave young men and women who sacrificed so much so that we can live the lives we do today.
Do you have a story to tell? We’re always happy to welcome any contributions from Epic customers who want to share their re-enactment experiences, and would love to share some of your stories on our Blog. If you’re interested, please send an email to email@example.com for more information.