The 15th Light Dragoons primarily attend three types of event. Those held in the UK at country estate houses such as Petworth House or Burghley House, and those held on mainland Europe on the actual historical battlefields. Lastly our own private events such as parties and battle honour events such as the 200th anniversary of Sahagun.
At typical UK event held at a country house, we arrive the day before the public to set up our "living history" cavalry en-campment. Later that night we have good party to start the weekend off in the way we mean to continue and to catch up with one another chatting into the night. Saturday morning we take into our care the cavalry horses which are supplied and paid for by the event organisers (these are the same familier horses that we use during our winter training). During settling the horses into our historic en-campment is when the public start to arrive and interact with event as a whole. From this point onwards we take the up-most care to act as a real light cavalry regiment in war torn Europe during the Regency. This will include taking of the rum ration, setting of sentries and caring for the horses.
The Battle display is usually held during the afternoon and is a pre-concieved story or scenario. In which our cavalry, infantry and artillery work together under the orders of our officers to make as entertaining battle display as possible. A typical UK battle including the French army boasts around 500 to 600 reenacters.
Members of the 15th Hussars always try to keep their powder dry for mainland European events because they are just so good. They are so damn enjoyable because they are held on or very near the actual battlefields of the Napoleonic period.
We group together and either drive or fly to events depending on the distance. Upon arrival we set about sorting out are sleeping arrangements or bivouac. The first evening is spent socialising in the watering establishments of the local town.
On the second day we make contact with the event cavalry organisers and collect what the 15th like to call "Euro nags" or horses. We spend the remainder of the morning exploring the battlefield while riding between pubs and cafes. At some point during the day the battle re-enactment will take place. For the re-enactment battle the people of the continent go to great effort and close off whole areas including villages, towns and fields for the purpose. There is nothing quite like a running skirmish in a smoke filled Spanish town!
Events on the continent are looked forward to particularly because they are always an adventure and take on a lads holiday happy go' lucky atmosphere. Some in the regiment enjoy the added realism of the actual battlefield location and the separated bivouac gives that more excited first spotting of the enemy scouts. For others it's the chance to meet and become friends with people from all over Europe, Russians, Austrians, Germans, French, Spanish and many more.
The cost of this awesome experience is not as much as you'd think. Very often there is an event subsidy for travel to the event. Accommodation food and wine is also laid on at some events. The only things you have to pay for is your mount, some of your meals and extra beer.
We are a group of people from differing backgrounds that have come together with the common goal of making the best light cavalry regiment in the world. This is achieved by keeping the balance of hard work like getting our drill right and horse care with the enjoyment of socialising and bar games afterward. The history and horse skill is very important but ultimately we're here to have as much fun as we can!
Cavalry re-enactment put simply is; authentic drill, authentic uniform, authentic weapons, authentic bivouac, authentic food, authentic horses, authentic display, authentic friends and most importantly authentic fun!
Most re-enactment regiments hold training sessions a couple times during the winter season. However we have found it necessary to have 6 or 7 sessions to achieve the high level of advanced skill required to accurately portray the cream of the British light cavalry.
Our training sessions are held on the last Saturday of every month during the winter and are not to be missed! We gather at our cavalry training facility at around 10 o'clock with the aim of being in the saddle by 11 o'clock. We attend training in stable dress and try and keep the day military in style. Everything is done as close to the period in history that we are portraying. Re-enactment in the 15th is not just when you are in the saddle or in front of the public its the whole experience.
The training primarily consists of formation drill riding, skill-at-arms such as Tent Pegging and some sort of mounted games like Horseball. We use Janet Rogers horses at her company Film Horses. During the morning we focus on our drill and understanding of orders, into the afternoon we move onto Skill-at-Arms games such as running the Turk and tent pegging. After lunch we play a great game of horseball. We have found that games of this type dramatically increase riding ability, as riders focus on getting the ball and scoring, not on riding. After training we all head down the pub for a chat and some refreshment.
Its a full days riding with lunch included at a cost of £40 per person. You can bring along your own horse if you wish for £10 instead.
Cavalry re-enactment battles is where the value of the winter training really comes into its own. In a battle the regiment is required to play its part in the scenario and do it safely. Despite being taught to kill people on horse back as per the 1796 training manual at winter training we obviously cannot do that at a re-enactment battle. We believe good skills training is the key to staying safe with every rider an expert and knowing his job inside out. A battle consists of staying in formation, listening for the officers commands and always heeding shouts of "dressing" and "close-up" from the NCO's. Charging the enemy and engaging in cavalry or infantry melee. During a melee a good rule of thumb is to try and get on the right side of a mounted opponent and always keep the tip of your sword up while simulating combat. Remember superior riding will always beat a superior swordsman.