A Rifleman’s Story

Name: Rob Griffith

Age: 48

Occupation: Author

Location: Leamington Spa

Rank: Private

 

“I’ve loved the Napoleonic period ever since reading Sharpe and Hornblower as a kid. My interest developed and deepened over the years and I began to write my own historical fiction, relishing the excuse it gave me for ever more research and reading. However, even first hand accounts can only take you so far and it was while watching the 5/60th and other groups at a reenactment at Whittington Castle that I decided that I needed to experience a little of the life of the Napoleonic soldier.

 

I looked at all the various groups. I considered some of the French units, the red-coated line infantry and of course was drawn to the 95th but eventually decided on the 5/60th for two reasons. Firstly, they were based in the Midlands where I live, and secondly they were just that little bit different. I joined and was immediately made very welcome. I rapidly acquired my kit and began to attend events. As I hoped I began to get great insights into how the period uniforms felt (especially on hot August days) and what it was like to fire a flintlock, but also I discovered a great sense of camaraderie, and a real shared passion for the period, especially for the history of the battalion.

 

One year on from that decision to join and I’ve just signed a contract with Helion Books for a history of the 5/60th, so you can never tell what may come from joining a re-enactment group, but you will develop new skills, a deeper appreciation of the period, and some really fantastic friendships”.

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Name: Joe Bristoll

Age: 19

Occupation: Carpenter

Location: Tamworth

Rank: Serjeant

 

“I have loved history ever since I was a child, so the natural progression was to try and get involved with a re-enactment group. Having failed to join a group in my early teens (all the groups of interest to me were too far away from where I lived), I stumbled across an article in my local paper about a re-enactment group that had recently formed, and even better they were from my town! So I went along and the rest is history as they say.

At my first event I was  fed and watered,  warmly welcomed and treated kindly by everyone in attendance. That was three years ago now, and the family-like ethos has grown with the group. The group also keeps an extensive store of first class loan-kit for new members to use, something which really helped me considering I was still in education and funds were tight. Like most of us interested in the Napoleonic period, most of my knowledge was drawn from Sharpe, Hornblower and the Waterloo film. I personally knew nothing of the 5/60th upon my joining but soon grew a deep interest in their history and exploits. The research undertaken by members of the group alongside our development as a re-enactment group has been an amazing journey of learning about the lives and experiences of these men and their unique, quirky, elite unit.

Three years on from taking the plunge I am now the groups Serjeant, which at the age of 19 is a huge honour to be promoted to. I thought I was too young to be the groups corporal when I was promoted at 17, never mind to be made the Serjeant at age 19, but that is one of the things that is great about the 60th; the group celebrates and rewards ability but also does it’s utmost to teach each other and harness any abilities members have and to push themselves to do their best!”

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 Name: Joseph Robinson

Age: 27

Occupation: Barrista

Location: Stoke-On-Trent

Rank: Private

 

“I’d been wanting to get involved in re-enactment for a long time before I contacted the 60th. I’d always entertained the idea of  the Viking or Medieval eras, but the stunning uniforms of the Napoleonic era finally won me over.

One night, I decided to finally succumb and scratch the itch that had been bugging me for nearly a decade and I contacted the 5/60th.

At first I was petrified, in my mind such groups were always wary of new-comers but when the chairman of the group Steve Davies responded to me I was met with warmth and friendliness, and with much back and forth I was invited to my first training day at Whittington Castle in November 2015.

For several weeks I was worried about what sort of reception I’d receive, but within minutes that was all discarded. I was met with such an intense feeling of camaraderie that in no time I soon felt part of the group. This further built up training day after training day and event after event, with me being awarded the much coveted ‘Rifleman of The Year’ trophy in October 2016.

I can now say that I have never be prouder of a group of people I’ve known for a comparatively short space of time as I can about the 5/60th. I finally understand and appreciate the idea that “the battalion is family.”

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 Name: Huw Davies

Age: 48

Occupation: Photographer

Location: Gobowen

Rank: Private

 

“My initial interest in the Napoleonic era was sparked at an early age by two things: my good friend Mark had a huge collection of Britain’s Detail Waterloo figures; and my mums friend had given me the programme/booklet to the film Waterloo.

Mark had scores of British, French and cavalry from both sides so we regularly reenacted the battle on his patio. Compared to his army, I had one. A kneeling redcoat that I got free from saving up tokens off crisp packets. I pored over the film programme for hours on end, studying the images and reading about the actual battle and how it was recreated.

Jump on a few years to the mid ’90s and my interest was sparked again, with, yes, Mr Sharpe and his cohorts. I’d seen a few episodes and enjoyed them, my dad gave me a couple of books which were great reads but I always enjoyed the fact section at the end of each one. Trips to the library ensued and I kept reading history steadily from there.

Jump on to 2014, a quite village on a Saturday morning… I was taking my daughter to ballet in Whittington and who should I see at the castle but the 60th on their first event. 

I photographed the chaps on a few occasions after the initial meeting and was asked to go along to have a go at drill at the next event during the summer at at multi period event the castle. It was hard work remembering the it all but great fun.

My knowledge of reenacting was limited to seeing the Sealed Knot and a few WW2 folk at an event in town so it was in at the deep end. Its been a great experience so far, with highlights being my first eye opening event at Spetchley Park (what a great night in the pop-up RAF bar), marching through London at the Lord Mayors Show, filming with Sean Bean at Fort Amherst (what a night in the Tavern!) and of course, the once in a lifetime experience at Waterloo.

Since joining I’ve made some good friends and learnt some new skills along the way. Its also great to see all the research being done by members into the history of a somewhat overlooked regiment. You can read as many books as you like, but, to actually get kitted up, drill and handle the rifle makes the leap from the page to the physical reality.

 I blame you Mark.

Celer Et Audax.”

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 Name: Paul Brinkley

Occupation: Solicitor

Location: Sutton Coldfield

Rank: Acting Corporal

“I’m Paul and I’m a Solicitor in Staffordshire.  I’ve got 3 children and my eldest James comes along too to events.  But I have yet to persuade my wife!  Is that good or bad?

Additionally I got into it back in 2014 only to accompany an under 18 to Waterloo for the big commemoration. I was going as a civilian but it was suggested very accurately and wisely that I would have a lot more fun if I went as a Rifleman.  So the training began!  The rest is history as they say.

I never thought that at 48 that I would camp in a field, experience baking hot days in a wool tunic and then other times freezing nights of minus 2 this year in Shropshire and like it!  But these experiences are some of the most vivid and rewarding that I’ve ever had.  Such as marching into fields of rippling green corn with 6,000 other re-enactors at Waterloo in 2015.  And firing in Brigade volleys of 400  men at a time in a blaze of gun smoke with dusk coming on over the battlefield.  But whether it’s 6,000 or 60 the excitement of the camp, the skirmishes and the orders to make ready present fire always make the adrenaline run.

The smell of the wood fires, the bacon cooking and black powder as well as some of the stunning locations at stately homes that we  visit are great fun.  So too is the banter with people from all walks of life.  Yes the rain and the mud can get everywhere and packing up wet gear is not always the high point lol!  But it makes you realise what a soldier’s life or Georgian life would have been like; and that is something I have regarded myself as very lucky to experience and understand.

Riflemen are not all Pomp and Pipe clay like the older Red Coat tradition but they aim for skilled mobile warfare.  In that sense they are depicting the elite and the revolutionary elements of Wellington’s Army.

It is an experience that tests you, even if only for a weekend.  It is also extremely rewarding to meet members of the public who are so impressed and pleased to see the displays and hear the stories. 

This summer I hope to go to Spain to relive a siege at Ciudad Rodrigo and to link up with the Spanish 5/60th group who are our arms and colleagues in Spain.  We are actively hoping to attend another Iberian event in 2018 if at all possible with the whole group attending.

Can you muck in, stop moaning and put up with discomfort of 21st century luxury for 48 hours?  If you can, the adventures and experiences will begin!”

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Name: Mike Parsons

Age: 23

Occupation: Pastoral and Learning Support Schools

Location: Coventry

Rank: Private

“I have always possessed an interest for Military History however it took until the summer of 2016 to have the opportunity to experience the real, day to day living of a Napoleonic Era Rifleman. During the preceding weeks I had noticed a number of 60th Rifles recruitment posters on Facebook which I had skipped past until one day I came across the Facebook page and noticed that the 60th Rifles was local to my area. I noticed that there was an event at Middleton Hall that very weekend and took the plunge to contact Steven Davies who responded to all my many questions and made me feel at ease.

My first event passed in a breeze, as anyone will know, attending a group for the first time where you know nobody can be quite nerve racing but within minutes of arriving I was greeted and made to feel at home straight away. I was able to get involved with the 5/60th Rifles straight away due to the generous loaning of kit and at the end of the day made an appearance as a French Army deserter. From that moment on I was determined to become a member of the 5/60th.

A number of weeks later I was able to join the 5/60th as they garrisoned Fort Amherst along with the 2/95th and 33rd Regiment of Foot. This was a unique experience to live in barracks and experience garrison life along with food, fun and camaraderie.

Joining the 5/60th Rifles has given me a whole range of new skills, a friendship group who share the same interests and a unique experience and understanding of life as a Rifleman in the Napoleonic Era.”

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Name: James Brinkley

Age: 16

Occupation: Full Time Education

Location: Sutton Coldfield

Rank: Private

.“I joined the 5th/60th because I enjoyed the history behind them, such as their origin and where they served. I think that the group had very welcoming members and they made me feel at home. They are very professional and they made every possible effort to get me up to standard for Waterloo which was a great privilege to be part of as I was very young then and had been in the group for only 6 months.

The best things about the group are the historical/military aspects because I enjoy history very much and I have learnt things through the group that I wouldn’t have learnt in a history lesson. I enjoy learning new things about the group’s history such as the Vinegar Hill where they started right through to the Peninsula with Badajoz and Toulouse.

Then I also enjoy the social aspect as the group is like a family away from family as everyone helps each other with things such as cleaning guns to going through drill with each other. I have also met some very good new friends and met some very interesting people. I hope they have enjoyed meeting me as much as I have enjoyed meeting them.

The events I’ve liked the most have been Rufford Abbey because it was a multi-period and I enjoyed looking at the other groups like English Civil War and World War II.

I especially loved Waterloo because it was the 200th anniversary and it was the biggest battle I have ever been in. I also liked meeting people from other countries like the Germans and the Dutch.”

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