Stranger #20 – Mary

Stranger #20 - Mary

Meet Mary

I took a walk along the beach at West Mersea this afternoon. It was very hot and sunny but there was a cool sea breeze blowing. I struck up a conversation with Mary and her husband Patrick (Stranger #21) who were sitting on deckchairs enjoying the sunshine. In case you’re wondering, this isn’t a nudist beach – Mary was wearing a rather nice off the shoulder purple sun dress! She enjoys reading her book on the sand and watching the world go by. They have a caravan behind the beach huts which they use during the summer to stay in the area. Thanks Mary for being one of my strangers – I think your glasses are very stylish and would not look out of place on the beach at St. Tropez!

Stranger #19 – At van der Vlies

Stranger #19 - At van der Vlies

Meet At

I was wandering around Heybridge Basin this evening before meeting some friends for a photoshoot. There were quite a number of foreign yachts moored up, a bit unusual for the area. I met At as he was sitting on his boat enjoying a beer in the evening sunshine. We got chatting. He’s a Dutchman who sailed over from Hoek van Holland to Harwich with his friend three weeks ago. The voyage took about 17 hours overnight, the sea was very rough and they had to cross busy shipping lanes. It was a bit scary, but At was glad that it took less time than he had imagined. His wife and daughter had joined him later (presumably arriving the sensible way by ferry!). They were staying for another week and then heading home across the Channel once more. They very graciously offered me a drink, and I was sad that I had to decline as I was going to be late for meeting my friends. Thanks for telling me your story, At – and I wish you a safe journey home!

Stranger #18 – The Unknown Soldier

Stranger #18 - The Unknown Soldier

Meet The Unknown Soldier

This guy was in the re-enactment of the battle for Arnheim, amongst the woods at the War And Peace show. He was surreptitiously using his mobile to send a text from his trench during a lull in the “fighting”, and looked a little sheepish when we spotted him – it wasn’t exactly regulation kit for 1944! He explained that he was sending a message to his daughter who was about to set off on a sailing trip across the Channel. He was rather sorry that he couldn’t be there to wave her off. I realised some time later that I completely forgot to ask his name, so he will have to go down as The Unknown Soldier.

Stranger #15 – Lynne

Stranger #15 - Lynne

Meet Lynne

Lynne was another character I met at the War And Peace show. Her husband is a re-enactor representing the Russian Army and she has gradually become more involved over the years, along with her daughter Rhian (Stranger #16). Lynne works in a doctors’ surgery in real life, so it was only natural that she chose to be a Major in the Russian Medical Corps for her events. This was the first time she had worn her new, custom-made uniform – and very smart it looked too. The sunglasses probably weren’t authentic, but I thought they added a nice touch to her character! Thanks for agreeing to be part of my project, Lynne.

Stranger #14 – Bertrand

Stranger #14 - Bertrand

Meet Bertrand

My, Bertrand was a character! I met him the War And Peace show and was playing the part of a member of the US VMF-214 Marine Fighting Squadron (aka The Swashblucklers) from WWII. It turned out he was an architect from France who had served as a Staff Sergeant in the French Marines during his National Service, and subsequently spent 2½ years living in England before going back to France to work. His English was impeccable. He got into re-enacting when he met a friend (who’s name I didn’t catch, but who was also at the event). They were really getting into their parts. It sounds like he’d lived a rather swashbuckling life himself – he explained that one of his most memorable events was when he rode a 1940’s Harley Davidson at the head of the 60th Anniversary re-enactment of the Liberation of Paris parade in 2004, a very proud moment for any Frenchman. Thanks, Bertrand, for your very enjoyable stories, you are quite the raconteur.

Stranger #13 – Jan

Stranger #13 - Jan

Meet Jan

Jan was at the War And Peace show and was dressed in authentic 1940’s clothing. The pheasant feathers and bright red lipstick is what attracted my attention! She was dressed up as she was about to go to a tea party in the ENSA tent run by her friend, in aid of a Marie Curie charity. She has been re-enacting for about 4 years and got involved because her partner is one of the regimental chefs. Thanks for posing for me, Jan.

Stranger #12 – Lesley

Stranger #12 - Lesley

Meet Lesley

I met Lesley at the War And Peace show in Kent. She was one of the few ladies I saw in costume, wandering around with her husband. He is one of the U-Boat Captains and apparently you’re not allowed near the stands if you’re not dressed in authentic clothes. So she was representing a corp of German clerks who apparently were still given smart uniforms to wear, even though they were not part of the fighting troops. She was a lovely lady to chat to. Thanks for being part of my project, Lesley.

Stranger #11 – Steve

Stranger #11 - Steve

Meet Steve

Steve was another re-enactor I met at the War And Peace show in Kent. He was representing the 4th Indian Regiment who fought many desert campaigns in WWII, and has been taking part in re-enactments for 5 years. By chance, his brother bought him a uniform with the red eagle insignia, and a few weeks later he came across a leaflet on eBay which he bought for 50p with the same emblem. The leaflet began:

It was right we should wear eagles upon our shoulders for only birds could have reached the heights and visited the lands where we fought.4th Indian Regiment leaflet

He was immediately hooked, and has been “in” the regiment ever since. Steve was a very amiable Geordie who was very willing to share his knowledge and enthusiasm.