Saturday, 5 May 2018

Civil War soldiers prepare for battle in Castle Bromwich

LAST month, a group of Civil War enthusiasts wound the clock back more than 350 years to one of the most important periods of British history. Other Side of Solihull went along to watch...

It is a cold, grey day in April and the crack of guns echoes across Castle Bromwich.
Many of the trees are not yet in leaf, but today the Hall Gardens are awash with colour all the same: blood red uniforms, crisp white collars and the flash of metal as men aim their muskets.
Lined up on the lawn are the members of Colonel John Pickering, His Regiment Of Foote – a group who re-enact the drills, battles and lunches (camp fires are burning nearby) of the English Civil War.
If you’re not too familiar with the conflict which tore 17th century England in two, you might wonder which side has assembled here. In fact these are Cromwell’s men (and women), preparing to do battle against Royalist forces.
Or to put it precisely, as commanding officer Stephen Ball tells the crowd of spectators, they are “a Regiment of Cromwell’s Brigade within the Army of Parliament”.
This afternoon the group are demonstrating the tactics and weapons which were a central part of warfare in centuries gone by.
Key to any battle at this time was the aforementioned muskets, muzzle-loaded long guns which could punch holes in heavy armour and at this very minute are being pointed in our direction.
Fortunately for us Colonel Pickering’s finest are behind the safety of some strategically placed rope!
While this is one addition that would have been rather out of place in an encampment of the time, in almost every other respect the Regiment are sticklers for detail.
Their costumes and equipment are painstaking recreations of what combatants of the day would have worn and even this location has a ring of truth around it.
While it’s true that the real-life Roundheads would have been rather puzzled to find themselves underneath the airport’s flightpath, this area did in fact play host to Civil War soldiers.
The Midlands was a key strategic battleground and indeed the very first skirmish was fought just a few miles from Castle Brom, at Curdworth Bridge, in the summer of 1642.
With the demonstration over, the troupe march back to their camp. In among the tents we speak to Tony Bradstock, from Shirley, who joined the Regiment several years ago.
“I’ve never been in the Armed Forces myself, but I would imagine the camaraderie is very similar to what we have in the group,” he explained.
He said that the Regiment attracted people of all ages and various interests and saw them travel the country attending all manner of events.
At the May Bank Holiday, members will be heading to a muster in Bristol, where they will be re-enacting battles with other groups – including those representing the King’s men.
As far as today goes, the group have an hour to enjoy their outdoor meal and swap a war story or two
before their second demonstration starts. After all, practice makes perfect.

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