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Although the for the Buckinghams the seasons has already started, for the Wars of the Roses Federation 2007 started with a training event at Blore Heath on another swelteringly hot April weekend.

The Buckinghams were only in attendance for the Sunday of the event, so only the local members attended with Cleggy and Vicky probably travelling the furthest from Rochdale.
By 11 o’clock Alex, Allan, Jane, Chris, Andi, Cleggy, Vicky, Paul, Joanne and myself had arrived and congregated in the barn, along with the latest recruit to our merry band, Kyle Glover. We spent a little while chatting to Kyle about what to expect before we changed into our medieval kit. The blokes then donned armour for a short drill session to warm us up just in case the temperature of about 27 degrees Celsius alone was not enough.

By the time we had finished our drill, the rest of the Federation where ready for action, so we joined with then for some more walking up and down before splitting into two blocks for the first bill fight of the day. This took the form 2 single rays sparring against each other with assorted skirmishers to the flanks.  Considering that Kyle had not done any formal bill training and that he only had a 2 minute conversation on how to fight before the first contact, this was a real baptism of fire for him, but he coped well, his main concern seeming to be about having to hit people. To give us more of a test our block was then formed into two rays with half the frontage of the opposing line but swapping ranks regularly. I placed Kyle in the other ray, giving me the opportunity to watch Kyle from second line while not being engaged and he again faired very well for a newbie.

Finally in the first session we used a hit system, with a kill shot being a chest hit or 3 limb hits. Those deemed dead moved to one side and formed a new block that then advanced on the other two blocks once they had enough combatants. I found this quite enjoyable, the fact that the dead people where recycled meant that people took their hits, and you always had to be on your guard as there was often a new block forming up behind you, especially if your block was doing well.

By the time we finished the first fight we were all incredibly hot, and without the group awnings for shade we were forced to move a couple of the cars to give us some shelter from the sun.

One we had all recovered Allan’s idea for the second combat scenario was inspired by the recent 300 Spartans film. I have only seen the trailers for the film but I knew just from that that Allan would be a fan; I am only surprised that it was over an hour into his first event of the season before he had us all recreating parts of the film. The scenario was that the armoured men played the parts of the Spartans, defending a narrow pass, marked out by 4 bills placed in the ground. The rest of us played the parts of the Persian Immortals, attacking the Spartans in waves. It ended up as a stalemate until Allan decided to lead a Spartan charge into the Persian ranks. He selected me as the obvious weak point in the line and angled a wedge towards me. As we meet he knocked my bill down, and the point then slid inside his boot, inside his protective shin pads, and down the leg, It cut his hose with a 3 inch entry wound below the knee, and a half inch exit mark just above the ankle. Luckily it only grazed the skin, but it did swell up a lot, and I would expect Allan to have some nice bruises to show us all at Scarborough.

After the defeat(?) of the 300 Phil arrived, but we where all too tired to do much for a bit, instead we retreated to the shade by the cars and ate lunch. I took the opportunity to test out the new bell tent we had just purchased from Victor James. It seems to be a bit tardis like – bigger on the inside than on the outside, but I will only be able to tell properly once it has a car full of kit inside.

By this time the Archers amongst us where getting restless so the next skirmish included them, with Andi representing the bucks. The Buckingham’s bill men and all the archers formed up at the top of a rise, with the rest of the Federation at the bottom. They then marched towards us – the withering attack of archers reducing their numbers by a total of one person before they reached our line. After a brief spar, the scenario was reset, except we were given a few more skirmishers. The archers performed slightly better on the next assault, now they had their eye in we kindly gave the archers to the opposition. I was too busy looking at my boots when the first volley came in at us to know who loosed which arrow, and I may be defaming Andi here, but I was not at all surprised when Chris was our first casualty. We then marched down the hill for another exchange before finishing the day off with a game of capture the flag which ended in a tiring 0-0 draw.

Overall despite the heat Blore was a fun training day, light hearted enough that people enjoyed it, and energetic enough that the cobwebs were shaken out of the system ready for the forthcoming season. I am certainly feeling keen and looking forward to Scarborough.