Our Victorian branch is the second-largest after our American Revolution branch. The Victorian aspect of the Royal Sussex sprang up in 2005 and made its debut appearance in 2006. We went into it fumbling in the dark a little, but we found our footing and soon enough, build a good, solid core of Victorians. British Victorian military reenactment in the USA is virtually unheard of, but it is there. It's very niche, but has been growing over the last ten years, not just in our organization, but other groups as well. We are no longer the only kids on the block, but we remain the premier Victorian regiment in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Ours is an 1880's unit. The men and women of our group primarily look to the period of about 1882 but once a year we also do 1900 for the 2nd Anglo-Boer War which we host in conjunction with the wonderful people at Ringwood State Park in Ringwood, NJ. Once a year, in the summer, we host what has become the largest (and perhaps the only) Anglo-Boer War encampment and skirmish in the country. Originally, in June of 2006, Sharon A., Tony S., Dan C., and myself set up a single table one afternoon near the grounds of Ringwood Manor. We had a tripod with a cooking pot, a few items on display, myself in scarlet, Dan in khaki, Sharon in a simple day dress, Tony in fatigues, and we fired off a few Martini Henry volleys for visitors, frightening all the Canadian geese in the vicinity. That was it. We didn't expect that in 2007 we would have a full-on battle event. Apparently, Victorian reenactors were out there but just needed to come out of the woodwork and congregate somewhere. We worked together and put on what was, in hindsight, a remarkably farby event, though one which was also a lot of fun. But it got better each time. You learn from experience, after all, and now we have a really first-rate event. People wanted it to continue, so we kept doing it. A few years ago, I had once entertained the thought of hanging it up but met with very strong resistance, so the show must go on. The GVT, as we call it, was first envisioned not as a Boer War event, but as a "Grand Victorian Tactical"--something vague and Victorian, a demonstration of period arms and uniforms more than anything else. The Boer War concept solidified soon after, however, since it was determined something more grounded in history should be done, rather than a shooting pan-Victorian exhibit. One of the challenges our group faced is that we went into 2nd Boer War as an 1880's unit. This means doing double-duty if people want to do both (most do). I myself would be quite supportive if someone, somewhere wanted to host a 1st Boer War event (1880-1881) so we could utilize our red uniforms and Martinis, but as yet, that has not happened. If anyone does, please let us know! Hosting and running one big event a year is enough for me, personally, so if anyone does take up the task, I wish you the best in your endeavor. Anyway, so here we are, ten years after that first little table, having tea and scaring the ducks. We have bell tents, flies, cooking equipment, good uniforms, good kit, and most importantly of all, great people. If we continue to enjoy the level of support and enthusiasm as we have, I would not be surprised if we continued the GVT for another ten years.
It has been a while since the Captain's Blog was used. There are a lot of items of interest to cover since 2015.
The year started off with the earliest representation of the regiment to date: the War of Spanish Succession. Sharon A. and John V.V. went to Deerfield, MA, for their 1704 Raid on Deerfield event, an event which only happens once every four years. We were very happy to stay at our friend Eleanor's house for the night and enjoyed the event itself. Deerfield was attacked by French and Indians and many of the townspeople were taken away as captives in Queen Anne's War, as it was called in the colonies. They had a number of lectures and programs going on, along with a skirmish in the recreational field. While cold, the weather was not unpleasant at all. At night, they treated us to a lovely dinner in a magnificent old colonial house. All in all, a great success. The WSS kit also re-appeared along with other 35th representations at the Proprietary House's timeline event in Perth Amboy.
The Society's First World War branch has really taken off. We now have four soldiers and four VAD nurses! The WWI section debuted this year at Monroe's Museum Village and then came out again for Fort Mott's First World War living history day. At Museum Village, the captain presented a lecture on chemical warfare to the audience, which included the consul-general from Belgium and his wife. The consul was born in Ypres, where the first western front chemical attack took place, and found the talk very engaging, which was most gratifying to hear.
The 35th was split between the Rev. War Battle of Monmouth and the Cold Spring Village timeline in Cape May, NJ. At Monmouth, the 35th was represented by light infantry under the command of Cpl. Kish on Sunday and acquitted themselves well on the field. The day before, Saturday, in Cape May, the 35th was represented at the timeline event rather heavily. Our organization had a Rev. War grenadier, two Rev. War ladies, a WWI soldier, a WWI VAD, and WWII ATS woman. Also in attendance was our sister organization, the F&I 35th Regiment based out of New York. So, all in all, June had the 35th out in force!
The Fourth of July weekend was a busy one for the regiment. The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia hosted a number of Rev. War groups to talk and mingle with thousands of visitors, many of them international tourists, as they came to see the sights at the birthplace of American independence. The 35th Regiment and the 1st New Jersey Volunteers stood for Great Britain and we are happy to report a very receptive and welcoming crowd. On July 4th itself, Sharon A., Tina I., Kim G., Tom C., and John V.V. were present at Ringwood Manor's 17th annual Independence Day celebration. We were a tiny island of red in a sea of rebellion and sedition but did our utmost to uphold British honor. As usual, the watermelon was excellent and the people a lot of fun to interact with.
Coming up next will be the tenth time we host the Grand Victorian Tactical. We are anticipating a large turn-out and hope the weather complies as well.
Overview of activity, events, and other news for the Royal Sussex Society.