Sir Marmaduke Rawdon’s Regiment of Foote was resurrected as a group of Re-enactors and part of the English Civil War Society in the mid 1970s. The first commanding Officer was Roger Bailey, to be followed by Bob Aldridge, Andrew Stone, Sharon Johansson, and Richard Wright. I became acting-C.O. in 2007 and Commanding Officer of Rawdon’s at the beginning of 2009 – a role I have continued to fill ever since!
I first joined Rawdon’s Regiment in 1987 at the ‘Siege of Littlecote House’, after being badgered to give it a go by a friend of mine called Derrick Bradfield. I was soon drafted to the Pike Division and if I remember correctly the ensuing Battle was a bruising encounter, very rough, very hot, and very confusing – but also great fun. Naturally, I came back for more and continued as a bruised and confused Pikeman until the ‘Battle of Roundway Down’ at the end of 1993.
After a few years out, I was persuaded to return to the fold by another friend, Ian Skinner, who I happened to bump into at a Newsagent in Enfield. The first Muster on my return was the ‘Battle of Alton 2000’ in Hampshire where once again I joined the ranks of the Pike. ‘You were giving that some Welly’ one of my new comrades observed after the battle (Alan Dell: currently my Co-2nd in command), and things continued in this vein for a couple of years.
In 2003, I organised my first Event for the Regiment at the Waltham Abbey Festival and where we provided a small ‘Living History’ Encampment, Displays of Drill, and a Skirmish depicting the conflict between the New Model Army and an unholy alliance of old Parliamentary soldiers and Royalist diehards in 1648. Unfortunately the New Model was victorious; History can be very unfair sometimes.... Soon afterwards, I became the main Event-Organiser for the Regiment and have continued to be so.
I became Pike Sergeant in 2004, which as any Pikeman will tell you is the ideal role in a Civil War Re-enactment Regiment. Not only do you still take part in all the physicality of mock-combat, but you can take charge of a body of soldiers aiming to wreak havoc against your enemies, which is incredibly exhilarating. And then two years later the C.O.(Richard Wright) in his wisdom decided to make me an Officer – a Lieutenant, no less. Two years further on and the same C.O. decided to promote me to Captain and 2nd in Command. And therein lies a tale…
Now, what a lot of people don’t know is that a Civil War Officer had to dress as a Gentleman – otherwise how would the soldiers know that he was fit to command them? Officers didn’t wear uniforms in the Civil War; they wore the same suits they would have worn in Civilian life. This was true of both armies – the idea of Cavaliers in flouncy hats and lots of lace while their Roundhead opponents wore plain suits coloured black is a complete myth. Furthermore, Sir Marmaduke Rawdon had believed that a Gentleman should look the part and advised his son to ‘wear gold and winne gold’. Therefore after my promotion, the very plain mid-blue coat and Breeches that I had worn so far were no longer sufficient in order to dress as a Gentleman and meet Sir Marmaduke ’s exacting standards. And so I decided the time had come to order a new suit at the next Re-enactment Trader’s Fair in Autumn 2007, which I visited in the company of the aforementioned Ian Skinner. In my head, I had visualised a suit of dark blue with white lace trim, similar to one I had spied in the recent remake of the ‘Man in the Iron Mask’ with Gabriel Byrne and John Malkovitch. Then to my surprise, I heard Ian briefing the Seamstress (Suzie Heather T/A Cobwebs) that he wanted to order a new suit of dark blue with white trim! I should never have let him go first! And so I had to find a new colour for my imagined suit and very fast. Skimming through Suzie’s colour swatches for woollen cloth, I spied a bright shade of red...”There, that will do. At least I shall be easy to spot through the Gunsmoke!” And so the famous Red Suit was created...
One of the first Events for Rawdon’s Regiment the following year was ‘The Siege of Upnor Castle’ where we played Royalists in 1648 rebelling against the new Parliamentary regime in London (Parliament in name only, but that is another story...). I was the garrison commander in my new scarlet suit. Ian Skinner was the 2nd in Command and in his new blue suit. The junior officer was Christian Towers (now the other Co-2nd in command) and in a green suit. And for the opposition, the evil Roundhead commander was Ian Redfern (usually the Rawdon’s Gun Captain) resplendent and menacing in a suit of black. The comparison was obvious and immediate: Captain Scarlet, Captain Blue, Lieutenant Green, and the evil Captain Black and these were the names we used for the Re-enactment to the great amusement and bemusement of the spectators. I am sorry to report that eventually the Castle was taken by the New Model Army on the Sunday afternoon with much loss of life. ‘Captain Scarlet’ was shot by Firing Squad and shown to be not indestructible at all...
Imagine my surprise when a few days later a new Facebook group appeared on social media – ‘The Captain Scarlet Fan-club’, with most of Rawdon’s Regiment as its members and featuring a lot of photo attachments of my adventures in Re-enactment. The fame of ‘Captain Scarlet’ spread and the page soon recruited further members, some of whom I had never even met. There was a Swedish woman who wanted help with some historical research for a Novel she was writing – hence my one contribution to the publishing industry when I proof read an error where the male protagonist of the Story was wearing a coat that kept changing colour from grey to blue and back again. And a very nice Australian lady Property-Developer who seemed very interested in what we do, but as she lives on the other side of the world so has never been able to come and watch us!
Meanwhile, Rawdon’s Regiment has gone from strength to strength and we now have over one hundred members, making us the 2nd largest Regiment in the English Civil War Society. We are always happy to welcome new members: we have plenty of spare kit and costume to loan out, we even have spare tents for our campsites. And while we greatly enjoy the History and the Battling, ultimately most of us remain involved because of the great friendships we have made. Certainly, my best friends are those I have made in Rawdons over the last 25 years – and that really is why I still Re-enact and why I am C.O. of the Regiment.
Thank you for reading,
Alistair North – Sergeant-Major, Sir Marmaduke Rawdon’s Regiment of Foote