Hartlepool United Community Sports Foundation's Dean Cartwright brings us another of his unique reports from a day trip with our Armed Forces Veterans.
Last week saw the HUCSF Armed Forces Veteran’s programme visit the Royal Armouries in Leeds and a great day was had by all.
The trip for the group began with all the eagerness and expectation associated with a school outing to Scarborough back in the day. Everyone racing to the back seats for high jinks and a few verses of “Charlie had a pigeon”, packed lunches opened within minutes and cries for a toilet stop before we’d crossed the borders of Teesside.
Despite the presence of Terry Phillips and his navigational expertise from his days in uniform, we still managed to get lost once we got into Leeds but, by engaging with more modern means (SatNav) we arrived safely with the biggest cheer of the day coming from the group when we were informed that it was free entry.
The Armouries is committed to its role as guardian of the national collection of arms and armour whilst promoting an understanding of the causes and outcomes of conflict throughout the ages. More importantly, the exhibit has a specific focus on the innovative designs and superb examples of craftsmanship that resulted in the diverse range of weapons on display.
The weaponry dated back as far as 400BC to the Roman Empire although we all struggled to find anything on display that preceded Paul Jenkins’ jokes and the search continues to this day.
The building itself comprised of 5 floors of exhibitions, based around a wide range of topics such as War, Tournament, Oriental, Self Defence and the Hall of Steel, and it was wonderful to see all of our old faces lighting up like children in a toy shop as we ambled through the museum.
There were shows on the hour every hour including two-handed long sword fighting, a presentation on the Battle of the Somme and the Saxons and Vikings renewing old rivalries with elegantly choreographed jousting being juxtaposed with some good old-fashioned, down and dirty street fighting.
The group also had the opportunity to test themselves on the crossbow range but, regrettably, Mick Male proved to the world that even the finest weapons are no remedy for a poor aim. Hopefully, he’ll have more luck on our next outing to the countryside when he attempts to hit a cow’s behind with a musical instrument.
The most uplifting aspect of the day was seeing the latest intake of Infantry, from the training centre in Catterick, present as they learned about the evolution of weaponry and development to modern day warfare as part of their basic training.
In true school excursion fashion, we all hit the museum shop before departure and bought loads of things we don’t really need ranging from key rings and pencil sharpeners through to letter openers and, in one instance, a musket!
The energy and excitement of the journey to the Armouries was replaced with a more subdued atmosphere on our return, leading to Ray Caldwell doing his impression of Sleeping Beauty on the back seat. Unfortunately (or fortunately) for him there was no handsome prince to lure him from his slumber and he slept soundly until we hit the road works outside the College of FE.
All in all, we all had a great day with the group showing it’s gratitude to organizer and bus driver John Dauncey by collecting a whole 50p in a whip round, although I believe I heard someone later asking him for change.
We look forward to the next excursion; here’s hoping it’s as much fun as this one.