I think I’ve pretty much established my passion for World War II history on this blog. It’s been my favorite time period ever since I was little. So many of my favorite movies/TV shows revolve around it, our whole family vacation this year centered around walking in the footsteps of the famous Band of Brothers–and I’m even writing a book about an English family during the war!
It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that, we had an Adventure this weekend: we attended a re-enactment! It took place in a fairly small community not far from where we live, but the participating re-enactors often go to New Orleans and perform at the National World War II Museum. They’re an extremely knowledgeable group, and their passion for the art of living history is both impressive and inspiring.
They have an amazing collection of World War II-era artifacts and equipment, too! This ambulance, for example, greeted us as we strolled into the “Allied Camp.”
Many of the re-enactors had slept in their tents the night before. I loved this “officer’s tent.”
On display were some of the typical guns used by American troops. See the one at the bottom, the Garand? That’s the gun the paratroopers carried when they dropped into Normandy. The gentleman who discussed them with us didn’t even bat an eyelash when I said, “This was the kind of gun Dick Winters carried!” (It’s so nice to meet people who know exactly who and what you’re talking about and don’t think you’re weird for it.)
My brother, Ben, enjoyed peering through the sights of this machine gun.
We also got to watch a firearms demonstration. My ears were ringing by the end! And as you can see, in spite of sweltering temperatures these guys were in period-authentic uniforms–all of them very heavy and most of them made of wool.
You see that guy in the background, filming the demonstration with his phone? Does he look familiar to you? If so, it’s because he’s dressed up as Colonel Robert Hogan from the classic TV show Hogan’s Heroes. When I spotted him during the demonstration it was all I could do to keep my voice down as I grabbed my mom’s arm and gasped, “Mom, Mom, Mom–it’s Hogan! It’s Hogan!!!”
Needless to say, we jumped at the chance to get a picture with him 😉
I’d like to give a big shout-out to the guys who are willing to portray the German army for these re-enactments. They are good, kind Americans who are doing this for purely educational and recreational purposes, but somebody has to be the bad guy. When the staged “battle” to re-take Old City Hall began and the “Germans” put up a Nazi flag, boos erupted from the crowd.
You can’t really see them in this picture, but the “American” soldiers off to the left while the “Germans” are firing at them from the porch of the City Hall. And yes, those are motorcycles with sidecars.
While we were all absorbed with the skirmish taking place on our left at the City Hall, the “Americans” flanked the Germans on our right! I didn’t even notice them until they started firing (blanks, of course) at City Hall, right across the street from where my family and I were sitting. Good thing I’d already finished my cake batter snowball; I might’ve choked on it when that burst of gunfire started.
Finally the Germans waved a white flag and the Americans marched into City Hall. When they yanked away the Nazi flag we all erupted in cheers! We were allowed to take the spent shells, too. I’ll put mine alongside the British five pence I keep in my writing nook and roll between my fingers while I watch Foyle’s War or Doctor Who. Who needs a fidget spinner?
There’s one more thing I’d love to share about this adventure before I quit. They had a small shop full of small antique items–real WWII badges, canteens, hats, even a pair of army boots, and clothes! Some of the clothes were reproductions and very expensive, but others were the genuine article: uniforms worn by real soldiers. Some were in great shape, others not so much…but just as I got to the last rack I spotted a beautiful blue wool jacket. I took one look at the tag…and nearly lost my mind.
WRAF stands for Women’s Royal Air Force. This jacket is British. A British servicewoman just my size wore this jacket. Oh, and it was only $20.
It’s mine now. I own a WRAF jacket. And I absolutely love it.
NOW, during the war the WRAF was called the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF). Since the tag says “WRAF,” I suspect that while this definitely isn’t a reproduction it probably isn’t a WWII-era piece. The WAAF became the WRAF in 1949, and the manufacturer of my jacket, J. Compton Sons & Webb, was in business till 1978. But I don’t mind, because not only was it worn by a British veteran, but it’s at least 40 years old and probably older than that, and it still looks very similar to a WWII-era uniform. If you look closely you can even see the surname of the woman who originally owned it: “Law.”
I plan on buying myself a blue Oxford shirt and a ladies’ tie and adding the entire ensemble to my growing collection of 1940’s-style outfits. It’ll be just another way for me to honor and, hopefully, tell the story of the courageous men and women of World War II!