The battles and displays in which we take part vary in size and type. Some are large re-enactments of specific historical battles on or near the original battlefield; others are fictitious representations of a typical battle or skirmish from the English Civil Wars. The events we put on are known as 'musters' by the Sealed Knot membership and can be broken down roughly into three categories.
Regimentals are small events: sometimes just an afternoon's entertainment, involving the host regiment and other local Knotters. These events are held in all sorts of locations, from village fetes and school open days through to castles and historic sites. They vary from living history displays where a presence in 17th century costume is required, to a small display of arms and drill/combat styles, or even a fully-scripted small skirmish. They are a good chance to 'ham it up' in close contact with the public, taking part in cameos with witch-burnings, hangings, and other violent family fun! These events can be more informative and educational for the public than a larger event as the audience will have more opportunity to get up close to the participants and directly ask the soldiers any questions they have. At these small events we try wherever possible to involve the children if they want to take part.
For events that span two days there will always be camping available, and for the one day events we will always endeavour to provide camping somewhere in the area. This serves two purposes: it enables us to socialise in the evening as a regiment, and the following free day is a good chance to drill, both training new recruits and reminding the old hands what they are supposed to be doing at the mini and major battles during the year.
As the name suggests, mini musters are small scale battles with all the thrill of fighting and the adrenaline rush that accompanies it. These events as a rule will have fifty to two hundred participants, normally made up of individuals and regiments based in the surrounding area. However, this does not mean that some members will not travel long distances to get to minis as they are great fun! As we are fighting against other regiments or units, regimental prides kicks in for everyone concerned, and as a result the battles are usually hard fought. These events are ideal for your first time on the battlefield as you get the feel of a large battle but without the pressure of a full scale major.
The atmosphere on the campsite is normally more intimate than at majors, and off the field, minis offer a great chance to mingle and make friends with members of other regiments—even the Royalists! You will often see the same faces over and over again at mini events as they are more regionalised than the majors.
Depending on the scale of the muster, you will sometimes find a beer tent and catering stalls on the campsite. In the absence of a beer tent we can often be found sitting round BBQs and campfires on the campsite, or visiting the local ale houses. This provides a chance for members old and new to tell stories of the day's heroics or how they could have been prime minister, if only they had worked harder at school.
Major musters involve the whole membership and will regularly see more than two thousand combatants taking to the battlefield. A major muster provides the Sealed Knot the opportunity to entertain the public with its many battlefield and civilian attributes, and put on the largest re-enactments in the country. You will find cavalry, cannon, foot soldiers, living history, civilians and the theatrical cameo performers along the crowd line, making a major muster a truly spectacular event.
Rather than fighting on our own as a regiment, at majors we will often fight as an association. Birch's are part of Cromwell's Brigade along with three other regiments. Fighting in these bigger units provides a great physical aspect to the battle and you still get the same fighting spirit and camaraderie as any other event. The noise, intensity and adrenaline of the battle create an electric feeling for everyone taking part: you won't notice the public or even the rain! As a result the nights in the beer tent (child friendly) afterwards are great fun, with drink flowing freely, live bands and lots of singing, dancing and banter. Outside there are assorted caterers and traders selling 17th century equipment, clothes and arms, as well as 21st century essentials. You will also find small groups enjoying a quiet chat away from the beertent, having BBQs, campfires (on some campsites) or visiting the local pubs and restaurants.
As the major musters are often held on bank-holiday weekends, there is always plenty of time for visiting the local attractions. The Apprentices at Armes meet at every bank-holiday event and will often be seen taking part in the pre-battle displays. Often there is extended camping for these events, and as a result many members will make use of this opportunity and have a mini holiday based around the muster.