Re-en­ac­ters put out call to arms

Central Leader - - NEWS - By JESS LEE

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.’’

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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.’’

Photo: ROSS GIBLIN

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.

Photo: SELINA POW­ELL

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.

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