It was the 16th of May 1992, the sports hall at Woughton Campus, Milton Keynes; I was 16 rising 17 and, as a keen role-player, I was attending the Milton Keynes Wargames Society annual ‘Campaign Weekend’.
This was 2 days of solid wargaming and fantasy role-playing games (the latter being more my cuppa tea, make of that what you will!) alongside a large market and exhibition area. As I entered the hall at what was my second ever MKWS Campaign my eye was caught by some shiny things - swords and armour - and a bloke who essentially looked like a Klingon in a felt hat and breeches!
The Klingon was called Ken Warren and although I didn’t know it at that time, I would later have the honour of borrowing the same breeches and hat for my first ever event with Prince Rupert's Bluecoats a few weeks later. Ken had a unique style all of his own, his reenacting kit included a buff-coat he’d fashioned himself from bits of an old leather jacket and a rice sack; needless to say everybody knew whose kit I had borrowed!
As well as Ken and his wife Pauline I was taken under the wing of numerous people in my early years in the regiment, most notably John Nunn, a musketeer who finished up as Ensign and colour bearer for the regiment. John helped me with my first tent and guided me toward my first set of full kit - which it took a while to accumulate what with me being a poor student (I still have a Student Grant tee-shirt knocking around somewhere thank you Nigel Oliver for that nickname!).
I was fortunate to join the Sealed Knot at the very start of the 350th Anniversary of the English Civil Wars, and all the cities and towns involved in the major battles of the period were hosting events and entering into the spirit. This drew lots of media attention, and membership was at a record high with well over 6000 members, meaning parades and battles were quite large and spectacular.
My first battle weekend was in Preston on 15 and 16 August ‘92, I’d been to some of the pub meetings in Hemel Hempstead (the company I was assigned to back when we had monthly pub-meets) and a small event at a school but this was my first full weekend away, and it would become a turning point in my life.
I started off being welcomed into the Pike Division, but I’d had my eye on being a musketeer and by the time of my third event at Newark-on-Trent two weeks later I had moved into the Shot Division. I quickly realised this was the place for me and as such I remained in the Musket for the next 22 years!
By 2002 I had accepted a promotion to Sergeant of Musket, a post which I enjoyed thoroughly, and which I held for 12 years (just as well it was fun then!). Over that time the regiment has changed, I’ve waved goodbye to lots of friends, but also made many new ones. Also as much as I often still feel like it I’m not that starstruck 16 year old kid anymore, progression up the ranks continues and with it comes the need to understand all aspects of how to run a regiment, both on and off the battlefield.
In 2014 I accepted the role of Ensign, re-joined the Pike division after 2 decades away, and had the honour of carrying the regimental colour. A short-lived honour as one year later I stepped up to Commander of Pike and in 2016 I was extremely pleased to be promoted to the rank of Lieutenant.
Putting aside the military aspects of this hobby, membership of the Sealed Knot has enabled me to have some amazing experiences over the years. I’ve visited a number of places which I would otherwise have not: historic houses, castles and palaces where we’ve often performed in the grounds and buildings, quite a privilege. I’ve been filmed, for television documentaries and drama series, staged battle reenactments at venues like Alexandra Palace and Castle Howard (who remembers Brideshead Revisited?) and I’ve even been on stage with my regiment at the Albert Hall! There aren’t many hobbies which could offer you those kinds of experiences.
I was welcomed and looked after like a family member when I first joined back in 1992 and 26 years on Prince Rupert’s Bluecoats is still a regiment which goes to enormous lengths to make new joiners feel welcome. From the practicalities of training, lending out kit and equipment while you find your feet, to the more social issues like engaging with you as friends and involving you in the fun both on and off the battlefield.
The Sealed Knot has, over the years, introduced me to some of the best people I’ve ever known, I’ve made lifelong friendships, and I even met the lady who would go on to be my wife.
When you join Prince Rupert’s Bluecoats you are coming into an extended family, and I’ll be surprised if after a couple of battles you haven’t ended up being awarded with a regimental nickname (we’ve pretty much all got one)!
Why not come and be part of the future of Prince Rupert’s Bluecoats.
Divisional Musket Commander