Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Sealed Knot refight Cheriton
This Bank Holiday weekend the Sealed Knot refight the Battle of Cheriton for the Battlefield Trust Check out their news section for Battlefields across the world under threat from motorways etc.
If like me, you didn't go, you can enjoy the spectacle by looking at these great images

Monday, August 29, 2005

Channel 4's Trafalgar Below Decks Season
There's an article here if you missed this fairly predictable view on life in Nelson's navy. Mostly filmed at Hartlepool's Trincomalee the focus was on things like 'the ships smelled unpleasant' and 'the sailors had intimacies' on ship. Not a revelation. Best bits for me were the shots of the French sharpshooter - I wish they'd use that term in preference to 'sniper'.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Review This Guitar Kills - Jimmy Page - 'more 60s groups and sessions 1962-7'
Background; pre Led Zep Page was Briain's most used session gutiarist providing explosive solos on practically every single made in the 60s - a slight exaggeration

I got this for one track - Mickey Finn and the Bluemen's 'I still want you'. I didn't know that Page played on it as I remembered it as a slice of perfect Jimmy Reed style pop and it is the harmonica solo that slays me - is that Page? Anyway this is a good useful compilation of random pop hits interspersed with explosive guitar solos from the Young Master sounding often like Johnny Guitar Watson with pop art scales cascading chaotically over the backing to neatly finish up back in the box in time for the vocal. There's a great range here - I like Burt Bacharach's 'Trains & Boats and Planes' with its Twin Peaks style twangy guitar as well as Heinz's 'Diggin' My Potatoes' with its crazy slide guitar work. A gem and worth tracking down as well as its partner cd.
Incidentally, as this is a historical reenactmenty type blog I heard from an English Civil War Society reenactor that back in the 70s - way back - Page and some cronies turned up to take part in an ECWS weekend - in full swashbuckling gear and jammed in the beer-tent aftewards. As I'm not a Led Zep man I can't verify this story. Anyone out there have photos or first hand testimony??

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

It has to be said, in terms of reenactment, that the gun is dead. The laws supposedly coming in in October banning the sale of replica firearms is probably only one in a series of nails in the coffin that started way back when. The difficulty in young, urban people acquiring legal firearms for the purpose of a hobby means the demographic among gun groups must be getting older as less and less young people get involved. Which is why it's good to see groups out there doing the early periods doing well and thriving - and not just in the category of hitting people with sticks. One such group is The Vicus - which means a camp outside a fort or something - they recreate the period of early Roman settlement - recreating both ancient Britons and Romans. Woodland skirmishes, living history are all catered for and it looks a lot of fun. In fact I know it is as I have partaken of this group on occasion and it is just that, good fun. It's something that would appeal to my teenagers, and that's saying something. Using only spears, shields, swords etc means it is a lot easier to have access to the wilder places - the hillforts and the ancient woodlands of the UK without the presence of armed police descending on the place as they would do if you wanted to play with muskets and so forth.
So, if you fancy getting involved in something with a lot of depth and a good 'fun factor' I thoroughly recommend this group.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Franz Ferdinand's number plate?
A few weeks ago a Dutch family dropped by and whilst talking about the Great War (like you do)I was told that the registration number of the unfortunate vehicle ridden in by the Archduke Franz Ferdinand when he was assassinated, precipitating the first world war and what came after, was 11-11-18 A - the date of the end of hostilities - A for armistice. Is this true? Anyway while looking for the answer I came across this page with photos of an early 20thc artillery piece and limber in Vienna and got distracted. Perhaps if I mention Kaiser Chiefs I might get more hits on searches *grin*

The Red Army uniform of 1919 continued.
As an excuse to publish this picture - I mentioned this revolutionary uniform of 1919 below - here it's depicted on a Russian Civil War poster called 'Join Red Cavalry' from the
New York Public library digital library's
collection of artwork.

The Red Army put a lot of store in its cavalry and it was one of the military successes of the Civil war ensuring its survival as a vital part of the Soviet forces in WW2. For further reading on this arm go to
1919 Red Army Coat?

Sometimes I wish I was rich. This coat on ebay looks an amazing piece of clothing history. The 1919 Red army uniform was subject to a competition that was to involve many of the top Soviet artists and the result chosen by a committee. It is quite a futuristic uniform with a very brave pointed hat that was intended to refer back to Russia's medieval history. Anyone know anything about this particular style of coat - I was fantasising that this might actually really sell on the catwalk and my daughter - 19 - walked by and said, 'wow, nice coat, what is it?' SO there's the evidence fashion community. Only make me one first.

Friday, August 19, 2005

TV review; Tales From the Green Valley
BBC2 Fri 19 Aug, 7:30 pm - 8:00 pm 30mins
'The start of a new 12 part series that turns the clock back 400 years. Five experts, archaeologists and historians, take on the challenge of running a farm for a year, as it would have been in the reign of James I'. (BBC)
Only 17thc Tools and Horses
I wasn't going to watch this - I don't normally like tv history - but Sue thought I should as it was against (her words) 'the over-poncification of history' which attracted my interest so as the sound of rustic flute drifted into the kitchen I knew I had to watch. The credit sequence was lovely - all rustic scenes and beautiful buildings... I was getting hooked. This was to be a thinking man's reality tv - no tears or emotions for the gardening strand on bbc2 - just education. In the opening paragraphs the narrator said 'due to health and safety reasons they were not allowed to live on site' so all the usual stuff of shows like the 'Pioneer House' which set people recreating 1620s colonial life were not to be there - no vomiting, no snogging - what sort of tv is this?
Stuart Peachey and Ruth Goodman both came over really well - you sensed they'd done this a million times but they came over as genuine enthusiast-slash-experts. The two labourers did not come over well though - their attempts to demonstrate emotions on camera were so faked it did not work at all and they came across as smug liars. Telling us how easy it was made it seem to me that they obviously weren't doing it right. They needed to sweat for goodness sake if they want people who still work for a living to take them seriously. Some humour was to be had in the 17thc Fanny and Johnny cooking thing and I did enjoy it - the high point for me was the oxen. That almost made up for the strange sensation of being 'spieled at' through the tv.
MY Verdict - a rip roaring success though I doubt I'd watch it again.
Russian Reenactors
Thanks to our friend in Russia, Boris Mesorgsky, who recreates the era of Peter the Great we have found some Russian Civil War reenactors in Russia -
Also check out the gallery

Russian Civil War
Just because it was a fine day and for our own amusement and yours, gentle reader, we (Reenactor Dave Allen left and I (right)) thought we'd do some photos in my garden with our new items for the Russian Civil war.

This is a new project for us - joining The 1914-21 Society
IF you want to read more about the Russian Civil War check out these links of mine here

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Great War in Drawings
This is a fantastic site - not sure how I missed it until now but it's a French webpage devoted to art depicting the 'war to end all wars' through a series of incredible drawings. Sections include 'le poilu', 'Le combat' 'Champ d'honneur' 'L'aviation' and so on

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

MAKE TROUBLE - site worth visiting of the day
Just when I was beginning to think the Astronettes were really 4 blokes masquerading as girls to sell records I find this site with lots of information on this band and other bands I love - take time to visit this rocking website

The Astronettes Astro Records FAB776
Lat of my nette net three...Not to be confused with 'Ava Cherry and the...' this is a Parisian all-girl 4 piece apparently and thats about all I know - they're pretty mysterious - appear on a few compilations but that's it. They sound like a more primitive Man or Astroman but some of the songs have real hooks that drive you to crank it up and stomp. Tracks are
Martian pyramid stomp
Movin' beyond
Hot dog food pouch
Firewaters of alpha gabba
Space party
Drinkin' and astronavigatin'
Surf into space
Quiet planet
Space silent
Space dock
Quasimoto X9.
Song of the Summer 'Dare' by the Gorillaz

This ditty featuring Shaun Ryder is definitely THE hit of the summer chez nous.
See the video here

To decribe it - lead vocal is in prissy falsetto by ex-child prodigy poshboy Albarn which is then sang over by Ryder in his Manc council house monotone. Underscoring this is a jingle reminsicent of the one in 'Good, Bad, and the Ugly'.
Lyrics if you want to sing along while you fry food etc

DAREIt's coming upIt's coming upIt's coming upIt's coming upIt's DAREIt's DARE

You got to press it on youYou just protect[?] itThat's what you do, babyHold it down, DAREJump with the moon and move itJump back and forthIt feels like you would let yourself work it outNever did no harmNever did no harmIt's DAREIt's coming upIt's coming upIt's coming upIt's coming upIt's coming upIt's DAREIt's DARE
Noticed from the Jamie Hewlett artwork that one is wearing a kepi - at least someone is remebering the Crimea

Review; The Soviettes LPIII

This is an American punk/pop band that seem to be working hard, gigging and putting out the cds... It's ok... if you like superfast pop with goodenough hooks and passable choruses then this is for you. I like the artwork, website and everything else though the music is a little too well played for my tastes - when punk is played too well it can sound too much like 'rock' and this is something a lot of US bands fall prey to. Go and see them live - if not check out the videos and downloads on their website here

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Bicentennial Battles
Well with the information that the Battle of Trafalgar was reenacted this year with a 'blue' team and a 'red' team to not upset the French I now look to the Czech Republic who are hosting this year's other bicentennial 'Austerlitz' this December to improve on this. Looking at their webpage
it looks better though in an auditorium
Album review
Pretty in Black
The difficult third album sees this Danish punk/country band showing the influence of their tours over in the US by sounding a little bit too country at first for my taste - in fact by the second track you may be shouting 'life's too short - eject this nonsense' but 'Love in a Trashcan' hits the soundwaves and the record stays on. Thankfully there is still a little of their 'lets rip off the Jesus and Mary Chain' styling to make this listenable but the Everly Brothers style harmonies and clean echoey production doesn't help the dodgy songwriting. I wish I was Danish and then I could sing (totally deadpan) 'Somewhere in Texas, by the Yellow Sand'. I think they're trying to be the new White Stripes. Why? We only just got rid of the last ones. Listen to excerpts etc here
Coming soon reviews of the Astronettes and Soviettes in a Nettenet scoop

Is this the most obscure period being reenacted?
History is a very geographically related subject; just to prove it this must count on an international basis as the most obscure period reenacted - the 10 days war of 1831 - in the Low Countries. Chances are, like me, you'v never heard of it and I don't suppose many people out of the area know it at all but it does look pretty.
The group doing it are here
For further information on this refreshingly short and sweet war go here

I think it's great and wish them well - in fact I think we in Britain should form two societies to do this - and then both societies can hate each other and have nothing to do with one another

Monday, August 15, 2005

I recently watched this series, narrated by Kenneth Branagh which was a follow up to WW2 in colour - though this time the pictures are 'colorized' in a strange way that makes it quite compelling viewing though probably for the wrong reasons - one of which is seeing them get it wrong. Well, in the preamble they do talk about painstaking research and that must have been pretty sketchy given the poor rendering of camouflage and of course the legendary red trousers worn by the French - I know they wore overalls but a lot of the footage was pre war. So to rectify this crime of poor coloration I thought I'd throw some links of some real colour - firstly of the French in WW1 at - very strange to see such beautiful images of such horror.
Even more impressive is this site ALBUM MILITAIRE SC├łNES DE LA VIE DU SOLDAT (see above pic) which shows the French army in the 1890s in a series of studies of military life
Another excellent site on the French Army of the 2nd Empire and Belle Epoque is - a real treasure trove of photos of the French army.
To finish off this thread a link to an article about the French uniform of 1914 from a site called before 1919.

A Very Long Engagement

This French language movie now out on dvd is without doubt a classic and is definitely in my all time top ten war movies - of course it isn't a war movie as such - it's a romance set against the backdrop of World War One but it is very good and historically interesting so it's here in all its glory. Details here

The plot revolves around a crippled orphan girl played by Tatou of Amelie fame searching for her fiancee who was supposed to have been killed in no-man's land for self-mutilation. It traces her search detective fashion through the lives of the other condemned soldiers telling their tales along the way. Jeunet touches abound from inset animations and strange overhead camera work alongside the stunningly evoked Breton countryside. Several set-piece scenes such as railway stations, markets and of course the trench scenes are so well done as to be almost a distraction but you know director Jeunet is fascinated with the period and you can't help loving every drop of it. An odd cameo from Jodie Foster is a distraction but otherwise an almost perfect film. When else are you going to be able to watch a film about WW1 in the company of your wife or girlfriend and not wish you hadn't.

Previous French offerings like Life and Nothing But - concerning the search for the unknown soldier and the aftermath and the film about the officer who had facial surgery have been pretty gloomy to say the least but this is a really heart warming tale if that doesnt spoil the ending. Worth 'shelling' out for!
'Steamboy' Review imdb facts here
Set in Victorian England (1866) this is a fantasy based around wonderfully futuristic inventions that are all steam based, if that makes sense...? The hero, Ray Steam, is a boy genius inventor whose father and grandfather, also inventors (and rivals of Stephenson) have been working for the evil O'Hara corporation creating weapons which are being unveiled at the Great Exhibition in London. This movie has been eagerly anticipated and its worth the wait. Hardly a commercial subject for a family film this has enough steam powered robots, flying machines and tanks to keep any steam enthusiast happy though you might get a little tired of the 'she's going to blow' type scenario. A well rendered film that will have your jaw droppping at times. If you dont believe me buy or rent a copy and see for yourself. Try one of these online rental free tryouts if your local store wont have it. Im sure they are the way forward for watching foreign movies. This is my favourite film this year so far after 'A Very Long Engagement' which I'll review next.

Review; STEAMBOY - from the makers of Akira
posters and images

New to DVD this is a much anticipated film


Well here goes with the first in a series of musings and reviews of things vaguely historically oriented with music and movies, comics and so forth thrown in. Mostly I will be writing about pretty deadly boring stuff but thought I'd start with a quick mention of the Albion Comic by Alan Moore which issue one by DC is out in the shops now. A collector's item of the future, no doubt and now that Ive mentioned that you all know how hip I am I can move onto some more boring stuff.
The Crimean War. I have been mostly musing on this subject for the last weekend or so thinking back into my childhood as I often do and trying to assess my feelings about it and all that. Why? Well we're into the 150th anniversary of this campaign and it is obviously famous for its countless blundering and its Victorian stupidities. WHy my childhood? Well as a child of the 1960s I can squint back into those days and find myself surrounded by images of this conflict and I have to conclude that this was quite a fashionable era back then. Obviously the classic movie 'Charge of the Light Brigade' by Tony Richardson had something to do it but there must have been more behind it than that? The whole Victorian era was lampooned in the 60s but in a way that also enabled the satirists to also suck a bit of the general glamour too - witnessed by Hendrix wearing Nolan's pelisse, and the whole 60s Victorian uniform obsession. Anyway where it started I don't know - maybe Schlesinger's 'Far From the Madding Crowd' with Terrance Stamp's portrayal of Sergeant Troy - who knows? Maybe it's just me - I've looked on the web for stuff on the 60s obsession with the early Victorian era but have found nothing yet. Any thoughts?

My interest in the Crimea started as a young lad, seeing the movie and having the rub-down action picture book of the 'Charge' - (does anyone else remember these Letraset things? Big, some of them were - foldout scenes of the Wild West or similar). Anyway without digressing too much I kind of find myself a little disappointed to see that there isn't much in the way of stirrings from the UK reenactment scene on recreating this war which is a damn shame - there has been some good cavalry recreations on the British side but nothing else. Why not? There's plenty of interest from the Historical community and the media, probably but nothing seems to be forthcoming. So, maybe I think, I ought to appeal to people out there with an interest in military history to maybe think about the period and whether they want to help get this period off the ground in this country. The trouble is if we want to catch the end of the anniversary, say organise an event to coincide with the anniversary of the end of the war, then we'll have to get moving. I've set up a guestbook and am hoping to get a few friends interested in trying to recreatae Russian Militia and sailors - as depicted in the Sebastopol panorama. Have a visit at and leave a message - especially poistive ones. If you want a few reasons why - to coin a phrase - think how many Europeans recreate the American Civil War during the summer - wouldn't they so easily be able to 'do' British, French and Russian troops? Some like Zouaves are ready already but if people went for greatcoat order it would be great. Another reason; cantiniere and vivandiere uniforms? This was an era of some of the most dashing female uniforms ever made and these women often went into battle too. There's a photo of one particular lady in Lawrence James' The War with Russia from contemporary photographs NY 1981 - a lovely book - a copy I saw on ebay for a few dollars
Anyway, that's enough about the Crimean war for now. I will review a couple of things vaguely related - the first being the Soundtrack of the classic horror thriller 'The Wicker Man'. This is now been redone from studio recordings rather than just taped off the film as the last soundtrack was, and includes some new to me tracks in particular Christopher Lee and Ingrid Pitt duetting - this is such a brilliant album. Composed by Paul Giavanni - it seems to be some sort of faux folk music filtered through a 70s pair of shades. With lewd lyrics. Sort of flared rustic it conjures up summers never had in this lifetime anyway. I love these songs and I am not surprised to hear there is to be a stage musical of the movie which it practically is. If you dont know the Wicker Man movie it is probably the best British thriller/horror film of the 70s with Edward Woodward playing a policeman investigating a disappearance on a remote neo-Pagan community under Lord Summerisle.
Not last nights movie though - this was CLERKS X - the special tenth anniversary edition of this classic slacker comedy by Kevin Smith. This is a low budger black and white affair that stormed the Sundance festival with its witty take on New Jersey youths. It brought to the worlds one of the great twosomes - Jay and Silent Bob and if you're a fan you mgihty want this expansive but inexpensive version - got mine for 15 quid from Fopp. So much better than Kevin Smith's more recent Jersey Girl with Ben Affleck being all schmaltzy as a single parent bringing up baby with ocasional support from Liv Tyler. Maybe its a date movie - maybe its a no-brainer but it certainly sucked. Bigtime as idiot-savant Silent Bob would say