Re-enacters put out call to arms
From nine to five Callum Forbes and David Gunson are just your typical whitecollared workers. But take them away from the office and hand them a uniform and they become a medieval jouster and a World War II soldier.
The men are part of a growing number of people from across the country taking part in historical reenactments.
Mr Forbes has been jousting for about 30 years and admits it is a somewhat unusual hobby.
‘‘It’s not something you get to witness every day – the horses, the colour, the action,’’ he says.
Jousting sees two armoured riders engage each other at speed with lances.
The weapons, armour and action are all very real, Mr Forbes says.
He is club captain of the The Order of the Boar, based in Upper Hutt.
The club is best known for its annual jousting tournament which attracts thousands of spectators and competitors who travel from England, Sweden, Norway and France to take part.
The original tournament format is used to recreate jousting as a modern sport.
‘‘Jousting was like a version of our Super 14 back in the Middle Ages. Jousters were like the All Blacks of their day,’’ he says.
Mr Forbes drifted into re- enactments through interest in martial horses and history.
The group is made up of people from a range of occupations, backgrounds and ages, he says.
‘‘You can’t put a label on us. I guess the period has still got huge appeal, lots of people have an interest in that kind of thing from movies and things.’’
It’s not a cheap pastime, with equipment costing upwards of $3000.
Safety and animal welfare are taken very seriously, Mr Forbes says.
‘‘Our armour is custommade because you’re taking solid hits from solid bits of wood.’’
While Mr Forbes is adding a modern flavour to the medieval times, David Gunson is keeping the memory of those lost in World War II alive.
The central Auckland resident is one of the founding members of the WWII Historical Re-enactment Society which formed in 1995.
‘‘What we do is not a parody of the war,’’ Mr Gunson says.
‘‘It’s actually breathing some life into the uniforms and equipment that has just been catching dust for many, many years.’’
The society recreates the struggle of New Zealand, its allies and enemies by collecting items and wearing uniforms to represent soldiers from the period.
It is not glorifying war, Mr Gunson says.
‘‘World War II was fought by real people. We go to pains to point out that these
people had a hard and difficult life and that it doesn’t just exist on movie screens and video games.’’
The group gets together regularly for training and events, including those held at Motat.
Safety and sensitivity are paramount, he says.
‘‘You’ve got to be sensitive, particularly for the re-enactors playing Germans. They’re historically accurate but they’re not pushing any kind of agenda.
‘‘Basically the reason the Germans exist within our hobby is so that the New Zealand troops have someone to fight.’’
The society’s youngest members are aged 14 while its oldest is 65.
Those under 16 can’t handle firearms so they act as medics and loaders or carry ammunition for others. Equipment is sourced from army surplus, antique shops, Trade Me or passed down through families.
‘‘It’s good when it comes into our hands because we know what it is, how it was used and it can actually still have a life.’’
Real action: Peter Lyon, left, and Callum Forbes aim well in a practise run ahead of the World Jousting Championships and Medieval Tournament.
Camaraderie: Spencer Bott, left, and Dan Gilmour of the WWII Historical Re-enactment Society’s US 82nd airborne unit.
Good fun: Order of the Boar club captain Callum Forbes with his jousting steed Monty.
New life: The WWII Historical Re-enactment Society aims to breathe some life into wartime uniforms and equipment.