The Royal Sussex returned to the Hawthorne Memorial Day parade on Monday, May 29, turning out one of our largest parade showings to date! Our Lt. Colonel led a Colour Guard comprising both British and American soldiers, carrying the UK and US flags. Our VAD contingent, our strongest turn-out ever, had two new faces in ranks, while we were also joined by a period civilian contingent to represent the home-front. The regiment marched behind the 6th New Hampshire Volunteers Civil War unit, following a route of just over one mile through town. On passing the reviewing stand in front of the Borough Hall, the Colour Guard saluted with an "Eyes Right." We thank our newest member, Bethany S., for taking pictures and sharing them with us!
The North Haledon Free Public Library was once again host to one of our presentations. They had a Revolutionary War program in February which was well received, prompting a request for a Victorian talk, to which we were all too happy to oblige! All the seats were filled for the talk which ran one hour, discussing some important aspects of the early years of the Victorian era, covering subjects from domestic life, labor, military policies, and empire. Sharon and John thoroughly enjoyed themselves, taking interesting and thought provoking questions from the audience at the end of the presentation. It was particularly delightful to see a number of people in the audience a second time, having enjoyed the talk in February.
Pictures by Library Director Susan Serico and Patricia Dykstra.
Set exactly between St. George's Day and the upcoming coronation of King Charles III, the Society's early Victorians gathered to celebrate both occasions with a tea. Though the weather was generally abysmal (and British) spirits were running high. Anne, Athena, Meredith, Sharon, Kyle, Michael, Tony, Tom, Shane, and John passed an afternoon of diversions, snacks, story-telling, and a game of whist. A brief skit was also presented, with St. George and his Companion Knights giving souvenir coronation lapel pins out as well as seeing that the king was offered a toast for his reign. A fine time was had by all! A special thank-you to our members who shared their photos with us!
Once again the 35th Regiment was delighted to attend the East Jersey Old Town Village British Occupation event in Piscataway. The idea, like last year, was to present a colonial town that was occupied by British and loyalist forces. While Saturday had intermittent rain, we were still able to carry out activities and talk to the visitors. We tip our bearskins to Ray H. of the 4th Battalion NJ Volunteers Loyalists and the site staff for hosting the event. Saturday was a little rainy on and off (English weather!), but it seemed like the turnout was bigger than last year despite that. The idea was to showcase the crown forces side of the Revolutionary War and what a New Jersey town hosting or occupied by the troops would be like. The program had guard mounting duties, drills on the green, musket demonstrations, and cannon firings during the morning and afternoon. We were also delighted to be invited to join the tea party, whose gracious hostess talked about the history and culture surrounding coffee and tea in colonial America and England.
The site is a collection of historical buildings which have been preserved, framing a central green (or parade ground, depending on your perspective). Below is a list, provided by Ray, of the units represented during the weekend. Photos have been shared by Rebecca Cataldi and Jeff Bross.
Royal Artillery 4th Battalion. Capt. Anderson's Company (Lamb's)
Brigade of Guards, Grenadier Company
15th Regiment, Light Infantry Company
35th Regiment, Grenadier Company
42nd Royal Highland Regiment, Grenadier Company
4th Battalion, New Jersey Volunteers, Capt. Hayden's Company
Von Wreden's Company of Hessian Feldjägers
Von Preuschek's Company of Hessian Feldjägers
Infanterie Regiment Von Donop
Rhode Island Regiment (posing as Dunsmore's Ethiopian Regiment of Virginia)
2nd New Jersey Regiment, Helm's Company (who drilled as Loyalists)
For World War One living history programs, the last few years have been hard, as they have been hard for everyone. The ending of the centennial in 2018 meant that some of the wind had gone out of the sails in the broader community. The Great War Association maintained its private battle events in Pennsylvania, however, and commendable organizations like the East Coast Doughboys had done their part to keep Great War living history programs going. But the wind-down of the centennial, combined with the closures of the all-too-real pandemic reenactment of a century prior, put a damper on WWI living history venues as a whole. However, there have been attempts to rekindle the fires and bring the Great War back into the mainstream of public interpretation again.
Matt Moore, and the staff at Fort Mott in Pennsville, had arranged for a one-day public Great War program on March 25. Unfortunately, rainstorms were coming through, triggering a rescheduling to Sunday two days before the event. The decision was a good one as Sunday was a beautiful sunny day with temperatures in the upper fifties to lower sixties, with low humidity. Perfect "wool weather." The idyllic day also brought out a lot of visitors to the park who spoke with the reenactors and checked out the displays. The entry road, near the park buildings, was the site of the event itself, with the Entente powers on one side of the road and the Central powers on the other.
A wide variety of displays were set up, some with tentage and large displays, others specializing in something specific, while others were "mobile," moving about the displays. The 2nd Battalion, Royal Sussex, was represented along with VAD Sharon. At the start of the street was the American Expeditionary Force along with their medical contingent; the French Zouaves in their brightly colored, North African-inspired uniforms; Matt W. as early-war Beglian; ourselves representing the British; next to us the Canadians; and at the end, the Russian Empire. Opposite the street were the Bavarians with a display of pickelhaubes, other Austrians and Germans, and the Kaiser's navy.
Our ambitions to set up the fly were checked when a support pole cracked, negating us having the shade we had planned for. Nevertheless, we kept calm and carried on. Our brazier and tea kettle got a lot of use throughout the day, with other reenactors availing themselves of Tommy's brew or heating up their rations over the coals.
The program had an early start we we arrived about 8:30 to set up. Officially, the event started at 10 and went until 4. During the course of the day, a steady stream of visitors and families came through, checking out the displays, talking, and asking questions. A particular highlight was when a Mr. Softie ice cream truck pulled into the parking lot. All in all, it felt very much like a spring day with good company, high spirits, and a renewed enthusiasm for Great War living history work. The organizers said that they hope to expand the venue to a full weekend event next year, and we look forward to that.
Thanks to the help and generosity of Erich, Samantha, and the Friends of the Passaic River Coalition, we were able to hold a "wedding tea" event at Willow Hall in Morristown to celebrate the 183rd wedding anniversary of Victoria and Albert, the royal couple which set the standard for all subsequent royal marriages. We turned out a large number of our Victorians, including bringing some new people out, and from 11 to 4 used the house and grounds for a relaxed afternoon a la February 1840. Her Majesty and His Royal Highness occupied the bay window area of the dining room while visitors and Victorians alike were able to sip tea and eat sandwiches and snacks provided by the site. Our 35th Royal Sussex soldiers kept guard and conducted drills outside the mansion and on the back parade. It was a good opportunity for trying to get some of the winter rust off and work on the Manual Exercise of 1828. Maneuvers practiced included advancing by files, forming line into column and column into line, left and right wheels, obliques, and more.
Sir John was also delighted by a surprise presentation of a birthday cake and cupcakes, slightly ahead of his actual birthday. All in all, a lovely Saturday spent in good company. Our thanks to Athena and Joe for contributing their photos, found below.
The 2023 annual Society meeting was held on Zoom and conducted in a speedy and efficient manner. The captain thanks everyone who joined us and offered their insights, comments, and questions. For those who did not attend, meeting notes are available upon request. All in all, 2023 looks like it should be a fine year for the 35th!
The 35th Royal Sussex was invited to attend the candlelight tours at Old Bethpage Village on Long Island, a familiar site for many of us who have done their Revolutionary War events over the years. This time was a little different, but a lot of fun. Christmas this year landed on a weekend and while almost all of our events are also on weekends, we made an exception and traveled out on Wednesday, December 28. As the village is predominantly mid-19th Century, we fit in well with the various houses and other volunteers on site. The entire place was lit up with hundreds of candle lanterns and while the air was cool and a little damp, a sort of fog lent a very cozy and mysterious atmosphere to the village. We were set up in the Kirby House, built in 1835, and spoke with a steady stream of visitors who came in for their tours. We had two soldiers and two ladies for the event and took shifts in exploring the village, with all its decorations. There was music and conviviality throughout. The event itself ran from 5 to 9:30 p.m. and because it was so dark, we got very few pictures.
Saturday, December 17, brought the 35th Royal Sussex Regiment to Fort Mott, a coastal fortification built along the Delaware River, for their Soldiers Christmas timeline event. The park staff hosts nighttime tours of groups visiting different parts of the fort where displays are set up showcasing how militaries of different eras and nations observed Christmas. Our early Victorian regiment was set up in the Switchboard Room along with representatives of the Revolutionary War 1st New Jersey Regiment.
From 5-9 pm, groups visited steadily and we spoke at length as to some of the Christmas customs which stem principally from the Victorian influence of Prince Albert and Charles Dickens. We were delighted to see many of our friends as well, occupying other locations in the fort, to see them before the holidays. This also wraps up our last "official" event of the 2022 season.
Our 1830s Victorians marched once again in the annual Santa Parade in Hawthorne, NJ! Though our numbers were diminished from 2021, we still had a smart showing with Sharon carrying the Union Flag while our grenadiers marched down the street with bayonets fixed. At 7 p.m. the town's Christmas Tree was illuminated, marking the official start of the holiday season in Hawthorne. Following this, we met with Tina at a local diner for a lovely dinner and to warm up from a chilly but festive night.
Pictures by Judy Kopitar.
Overview of activity, events, and other news for the Royal Sussex Society.