Chalke Valley 2017 Troop Report

And so to the rural Wiltshire / Dorset border for the annual Chalke Valley History Festival – a multi-era event attended by a number of the 32nd Regiment in the past, but this year relocated to a different part of this very beautiful valley. Whilst the total number of ‘Napoleonics’ was not ‘huge’ it was still the largest ‘period group’ represented. In addition to the 32nd, the 1st (Kings) Brigade included representation from the Coldstream Guards, 2nd Queens and 2/95th whilst 2nd Brigade included 44th, 1/95th and others. The weather started warm and dry and then got warmer and warmer as the weekend progressed – although, fortunately, there was a light breeze which funnelled up the valley throughout the event.

From Friday night the 32nd were represented by Wendy, Nigel, Andy, Eddie and Bob plus Jerry & Peter in RHA – with welcome reinforcements arriving Saturday afternoon in the form of Mark plus ‘team Head’ (Kevin, wife Tracey & daughter Millie).

As a History Festival event the amount of time the Regiment was involved in formal activities was much less than, for example, a traditional NA weekend. This made for a much more relaxed occasion and the chance to take in many of the Festival’s other daytime and evening attractions.

There was, of course, still the ‘serious’ business of meeting (and defeating) the French! Reveille was still at 07:00 with flag raising duties at 09:00, powder issue at 09:30 and Regimental drill shortly after. Our first encounter with the followers of Napoleon was at midday on the Saturday – on the steep escarpment at the end of the Valley where the French had placed their cannon at three different levels, overlooking the British positions.

As a ‘show of strength’ the Allies were first marched through the festival site before then marching the full length of the valley towards the French cannon emplacements. The British then split into two separate units and began, gradually, to work their way up the steep escarpment. With a well executed ‘pincer’ movement the first cannon emplacement fell, shortly followed by the second. It was then an impressive march and final charge straight up the hill by the Redcoats, that saw the third cannon emplacement fall and the French routed.

With the French defeated and a relaxing afternoon beckoning, it was initially back to camp for that wonderfully instituted 1st Brigade ‘grog parade’ – provided and poured by our brave leader Col. Rob Yuill – thank you (hic) Sir !!

After a pleasant afternoon strolling round the festival site, a welcome cup of tea in the Naafi tent and an even better evening meal back in camp, it was time to explore the delights of the Beer tent and enjoy the entertainment provided – Saturday night was to be “a step back in time (or step forward, in our case) to the wartime years of the 1940’s. With live music from the beautiful Bombshell Belles and the Branflakes band it was a chance to swing and jive, drink and be merry !!” A good evening was had by all – including some pretty impressive dancing by some members of the Regiment.

Sunday morning arrived too quickly but, after breakfast, cobwebs were soon cleared by an excellent display of Regimental drill by the 32nd – with special commendation going to Cpl Wren for whom it was his first full event as corporal-in-charge. Well done Nigel !

After lunch, in the heat of the day, it was back to fighting a second skirmish with the French – although not so arduous a march up that escarpment! However the result was the same and we returned to camp victorious, ready to break camp and prepare ourselves for the most difficult part of the weekend – extricating our vehicles from the hillside re-enactors carpark !

Another great weekend with many thanks to Wendy for making it happen – and to all there for their camaraderie and contributions to a truly great time.

Huzzah!
Bob Birtwhistle
Ensign, 32nd Cornwall Regiment of Foot

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john 30th July 2017 Troop reports