At the end of August, on a bit of a whim, I took myself off to an event that I've never been to before. It is called the Military Odyssey, and it occupies the Kent Showground at Detling for the whole of the Bank Holiday weekend. I just took one lens - my new 70-200, mainly to try it out some more and get used to the way of working with it.
I had no idea how big the show is. Re-enacting military history is huge. There were vast fields full of cars for visitors and exhibitors, and in the show itself, there were uncountable tents for the various living history groups representing everything from pre-history up to today. I knew that the British like to dress up in costumes and re-enact events, but not on this scale. There were areas for staging battles between groups of Vikings or Crusaders (yes, at Detling, the Crusaders did fight each other). There was also a huge battlefield where British redcoats were shooting at Boers at a great distance; so far away, the Boers were scarcely visible.
There were people representing every conceivable interest - even a pair of lads representing drunken sailors, for which they had evidently prepared with great care. Contrasting with them were a group of Victorian-costumed women, portraying harridans from some kind of temperance movement, with tambourines and a banner reading "The lips that touch liquor shall not touch ours". As if! They really did seem to be trying to keep people out of the beer tent. Parents with babies in pushchairs, all of them got up in camo gear. An elderly couple with a terrier on a lead in French Revolution costume.
I ended up chatting with some of the dedicated Second World War re-enactors. All of them were amazing to talk to. They really know their history and have taken amazing pains to get their uniforms and equipment right. Lovely people and I came away having learned a lot about their passion.
As the opening picture shows, there were troops from the 101st Airborne in Normandy leaning on their jeeps.
There were British paratroopers holed up in a battered house at Arnhem.
There was a group of Soviet soldiers, cooking their lunch (which turned out to be chilli!) resting in between fighting Nazis at Prokhorovka. (You’ll notice that this last one is slightly sepia toned. I generally resist toning like this, but the original black and white was missing something. My friend Phil suggested toning it: I think it does add something).
All black and white conversions were done in Silver Efex Pro 2. Borders were added from On1 Effects.
Stupidly, I never thought to get the contact details of the people I photographed, so I can’t pass the pictures on to them. If you are one of the people shown here, please get in touch, and I’ll send these though.